Ocean Climate Policy: Building the Blue Economy in the Twenty-First Century

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 6-24-2021


The global effort to create a blue economy – the creation of wealth from the oceans including the maintenance and growth of wealth from environmental and ecosystem resources – will be severely disrupted by climate change. Existing ocean industries will have to adapt to rising sea levels, warming, and ocean acidification. Attempts to repair damages to ecosystems from past activity will be made more difficult by shifting baselines. Beyond adaptation, ocean economic activity must participate in the global effort to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But climate change will also bring some new opportunities for economic growth, including technological innovation and the opening of the Arctic. The policy responses to climate change’s effects on the blue economy will be dictated by a complex mix of global and local actions. Climate change’s effects are likely to cause disruptions that occur faster than existing institutions are designed to handle, necessitating organizational changes as a prerequisite to effective action. Information needs will escalate dramatically in the fields of physical, biological, and social systems and the interactions among these systems. There will also be a tendency to concentrate on local scale actions for adaptation, but if mitigation of climate change is not successful, most of the adaptation actions will prove temporary.