Oceans and Coasts Under Climate Change Impacts

Executive Summary

As the average temperatures of the world have been rising, scholars project that climatic conditions will worsen if management strategies are not in place to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The increasing global temperatures owe their existence to pollution, particularly emissions of greenhouse gases. Thermal expansion and melting of ice increase the amount of water in the oceans, and thus, cause water levels to rise, a factor that results in various negative impacts on oceans and coastal regions. Some of the impacts include displacement of coastal dwellers, contamination of the coastal ecosystem, tsunamis, heat waves, and floods. In addition, the death of marine fauna and flora comprise the impacts of climate change on oceans and coastal regions. Reduction in the use of fossil fuels, constructions of seawalls and dykes, as well as the reduction in the use of agrochemicals, are among the main management measures used to control the impacts of climate change on oceans and coastal regions.


Climate change is a contentious subject in contemporary times. Essentially, climate change implies the alteration of climatic conditions of a region. Over the recent past, several human activities have initiated various changes in the overall climatic conditions of the world. Some of the major human activities that led to changes in climate include emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, fluorine, and chlorine, which are not eco-friendly. Issues such as global warming, glaciations, rising water levels, and the acidification are among the main effects of climate change. The rising water levels pose a risk to the oceans and coastal regions; therefore, several scholars and conservationists root for mitigation of negative impacts of climate change. Thus, it is within this background that this essay explains the impacts of climate change on oceans and coastal regions and identifies the probable management actions.

Climate Change

Climate change is the alteration of the weather conditions and the climatic patterns of a region that have existed for a long period. Globally, climate change can imply an increase in the temperature commonly known as global warming or a decrease in temperature a phenomenon known as global cooling. The most common change of climate witnessed in present times is global warming, as it owes its origin to the extensive emission of greenhouse gases that increase the average temperatures of the world. According to Gullett, Schofield, and Vince (2011), the average temperatures of the world have been rising since the 20th century and will continue if human activities that results in the emission of greenhouse gases are not controlled. As a result, the changes in global temperatures such as global warming lead to glaciations and a subsequent increase in water levels. The increase in water levels owes its emergence to the increased amounts of water flowing from polar areas when the ice melts and flows into the oceans.

Coastal regions and oceans are the main subjects of global warming and rising water levels. When water flows from rivers, estuaries, and other small water bodies, they end up in the oceans. Therefore, an average increase in the number of water results in a reflective rise in water levels in the oceans. When the water levels in an ocean rise, they extend the shoreline into the coastal areas and cover the terrestrial environment. Gaan (2008) highlights that global warming continues to pose a risk to dwellers on the coastal regions as the rising water levels threaten to displace them. Moreover, global warming causes migration of aquatic animals and the destruction of flora due to changes in temperature and acidic conditions of the water. As a result, climate change is one of the issues that require urgent control and management for the sustainability and long life cycles of marine and aquatic ecosystems.

Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change leads to a rise in the levels of water in the oceans, which in turn, result in several negative impacts. Some of the negative impacts that occur due to the rise in water levels include displacement of coastal dwellers, contamination of the coastal ecosystems, tsunamis, and floods. In addition, the death of marine fauna and flora such as fishes, planktons, and coral reefs comprise the impacts of climate change on oceans and coastal regions. A rise in the level of the ocean reflects an increase in the volume of water in the ocean, and thus, the need for more space to flood. Therefore, when water levels rise, the initial shoreline diminishes, and a new shoreline develops. The new shoreline that develops after the rise in the levels of water occurs in a terrestrial environment and destroys the ecosystem. When the ocean water takes over the dry land, it displaces the inhabitants living around the region. Gullett, Schofield, and Vince (2011) explain that one of the most significant effects of global warming is the rise in water levels, especially in the oceans and seas. Displacement of coastal dwellers is a phenomenon that has also affected hotels and accommodation facilities found around or adjacent to the water bodies.

When water levels in oceans rise, some of the water floods into nearby regions destroys plants and kills some animals. Evidently, flooding occurs because the water in the oceans increases due to thermal expansion and melting of water in regions that have ice caps. Thermal expansion refers to the expansion of water when exposed to heat. Therefore, the amount of water in the oceans increases and exceeds its normal capacity; therefore, spills over to the coastal areas and terrestrial environment. Hardy (2003) asserts that the frequency of floods experienced by several coastal regions across the world has been increasing since the 20th century and will continue to increase if appropriate interventions will lack. As a result, various areas around the ocean experience floods that owe their emergence to climate change and global warming.

An intrusion of ocean water into the mainland results in the acidification of freshwater supplies and resources that are adjacent to the shoreline. When water levels increases in the oceans, the water that advances to the mainland seep into the ground, contaminate water supplies, and acidify the soils. The outcome from the acidification of freshwater supplies is the contamination of the resources and freshwater and death of terrestrial flora and fauna. The rising water levels in oceans have led to limited availability of fresh water, especially in coastal areas (Gaan 2008). Additionally, the charging water levels of the ocean increase the frequency of hurricanes and tsunamis on the coastal regions and oceans. As a result, the coastal region experiences frequent life-threatening tsunamis and hurricanes, which at times result in loss of plant and animal lives.

Climate change initiates the death of aquatic plants and animals in coastal regions and oceans in a number of ways. When the temperatures increase through the process known as global warming, some aquatic animals like fishes, which cannot withstand the high temperatures, migrate to other places, while others that cannot migrate to other places die. According to Poloczanska, Hobday, and Richardson, migration of animals to other places takes place because of thermal expansion caused by global warming and is a factor that affects the biodiversity of coastal regions or oceans. Frequent waves, hurricanes, and floods destroy the fragile coral reefs and delicate planktons. The destruction of the death of plants and animals in oceans and coastal regions is among the main effects caused by climate change.

Alternative and Varying Views on Climate Change

Various scholars and researchers advance a wide range of opinions and suggestions concerning the impacts of climate change on coastal regions and oceans. While others state that climate change is not the main reason for the rising water levels in the oceans, others believe that climate change is responsible for the increasing water levels. For instance, Ball (2010) states that climate change is not the only cause of rising sea levels since subsidence or sinking of the land also significantly contributes. In this view, water levels in oceans and seas rise because of the combined effect that transpires due to melting of ice caps, thermal expansion, subsidence, and sinking. These views are different from the views of other scholars, who believe that climate change is the root cause of the rising water levels and the present impacts that affect the coastal regions.

Conversely, other scholars challenge the views and opinions held by scholars like Ball (2010) and outline that climate change is the main cause of the effects that coastal regions and oceans are experiencing. According to these scholars, climate change occasions melting of ice and in turn increases the amount of water that flows into the seas, lakes, and oceans through rivers and canals. Some of the scholars, who hold the view that climate change is the main cause of rising water levels include Gaan (2008), who highlights that climate change has initiated the present challenges experienced by coastal and oceanic regions of the world. The varying views of scholars imply that there is a need to undertake extensive research regarding the issue.

Management Actions

Some of the probable solutions that are practical in management of climate change and the problems it occasions in coastal regions, and oceans include minimisation of the emission of greenhouse gases and construction of seawalls and dykes. Apparently, the major management action that is very instrumental in curbing the rising water levels, displacement of coastal dwellers, contamination of the coastal ecosystem, as well as tsunamis and floods are minimised use of fossil fuel products. If nations and states reduce the levels of emissions released by their industries, the average global temperatures will reduce. According to Poloczanska, Hobday, and Richardson (2012), the reduction in global temperatures results in global cooling, and thus, the amount of water flowing from the polar areas decreases. Additionally, thermal expansion, which leads to increased water levels, is manageable through an effective reduction in the use of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases.

Construction of seawalls and dykes comprise a short-term solution to solve present problems facing several inhabitants of the coastal regions. Seawalls and dykes are very important as they help in the management of life-threatening tsunamis, hurricanes, and floods. Seawalls and dykes do manage not only the effects of climate change like the rising ocean water level but also reduce the speed of water and the magnitude of damage. Seawalls and dykes are also useful in the management of floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis presented by the advancing oceans (Hardy 2003). Conversely, the construction of seawalls and dykes is expensive, and thus, several developing countries may not afford them. As a result, the use of seawalls and dykes to manage and curb the impacts of climate changes is temporary and is useful in solving the current impacts of climate change as nations strive to minimise the emissions from processing plants.

Minimisation of agrochemicals that are not eco-friendly is a management action that helps reduce the number of pollution chlorofluorocarbons, which contributes to climate change. Ball (2010) highlights that several pesticides used on farms to control pests are in the form of aerosols, which contain chlorofluorocarbons as greenhouse gases. When farmers reduce the use of Agrochemicals such as pesticides, which contain chlorofluorocarbons, the level of pollution reduces and the harm on ecosystems decreases. Farmers need to employ other ways of pest control, which are eco-friendly strategies such as biological control. The significance of using biological control is the reduction in the extent of pollution, both on the terrestrial and marine ecosystems.


Climate change is one of the major challenges in the contemporary world. The emission of greenhouse gases is the main causes of climate change. The rising global temperatures have led to the melting of ice and thermal expansion of water bodies. When the level of water in oceans increase, the shoreline advances and displaces inhabitants, who live in coastal regions. Some of the negative impacts that occur due to the rise in water level include displacement of coastal dwellers, contamination of the coastal ecosystem, tsunamis, and flooding. Moreover, climate change owing to global warming causes the acidification of water, migration of aquatic animals, and deaths of vulnerable flora and fauna.


Ball, 2010, Global Warming and the Risen Lord, Russell Media, Sydney.

Gaan, 2008, Climate Change and International Politics, Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi.

Gullett, W, Schofield, C, & Vince, J. 2011, Marine Resources Management, LexisNexis Butterworth, Australia.

Hardy, 2003, Climate Change: Causes, Effects, and Solutions, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Poloczanska, S, Hobday, J, & Richardson, 2012, Marine Climate Change in Australia, Impacts and Adaptation Responses. 2012 Report Card, Web.