Every 8th of June people are invited to stop what they’re doing and think about the Ocean, what it means to us, and what we can do to help protect it.
Ocean Unite and the AXA XL Ocean Risk Initiative’s work is centred on the Ocean every day, so we don’t need to stop. Instead we wanted to celebrate and share the story of our work together to help regenerate ocean health.
Ocean Unite and an insurance company may seem unlikely partners, but in fact we have a lot in common. We are both future-focused, data and science-led, and alarmed by the unprecedented changes happening in the ocean and what they mean for the future. We also both know that dealing with challenges of this scale will take multidisciplinary action and alliances.
Human activity is now changing the ocean faster than at any time in the past 65 million years resulting in major threats to communities, economies, and ecosystems and the resulting vulnerabilities and risks will have significant consequences over time. The ocean has absorbed about 30 per cent of our C02 emissions and around 90 per cent of the heat from those emissions.
New research shows that the rate of ocean warming has quadrupled since the late 20th century, with increasingly more heat finding its way down into the deep ocean. The knock-on effects of these changes are huge, particularly given that the ocean is home to some 80 per cent of all of Earth’s biodiversity. Fish stocks are moving, habitats and ecosystems are being degraded, storms are increasing in intensity and sea levels are rising – in fact, it is projected that by 2050, 800 million people will be at risk of coastal flooding and storm surges. This will have lasting impacts on food security and population stability.
These emerging and intensifying ocean-based threats have created a whole new category of risk: Ocean Risk. Coastal communities in small island developing states, developing countries and other low-lying areas are especially vulnerable. And these changes also are not gender neutral. They have disproportionate impacts on women and girls, so gender-based solutions are critical. We need to identify where and how the impacts of these hazards can be reduced by taking pre-emptive action that reduces exposure and vulnerability and builds resilience to these changes.
Insurance is by definition an investment to guard against potential future risk. The insurance industry is constantly seeking out data and knowledge to model forward and price emerging risk. AXA XL launched its Ocean Risk Initiative in 2017 to generate research, communicate the impacts of the changes we’re seeing in the ocean and to identify and develop effective solutions.
With just 30 per cent of economic losses caused by natural disasters currently covered by insurance – and as little as 5 per cent or less in emerging economies– closing the so-called protection gap is a priority for governments and the insurance industry in order to prevent catastrophic levels of loss that can wipe out decades of development and are impossible for vulnerable communities to recover from.
Ocean Unite and AXA XL (XL Catlin at the time) alongside other partners, including the IUCN convened the world’s first Ocean Risk Summit in Bermuda in May 2018, bringing together leaders in politics, finance, academia, science, the ocean community and insurance to deepen our understanding of the challenges we will face from ocean derived hazards and cultivate collaborative solutions. We explored issues from national security and migration to food security and global health, and what was absolutely clear was how important it would be for these different sectors to come together, and to develop a common understanding and language to combat ocean risk.
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©cover from Getty images