As scientists continue to show, the oceans absorb CO2 and keep it from going into the atmosphere. Thus, they help to protect against global climate change. However, this is looking to be perhaps an even bigger problem than climate change!
When oceans absorb this CO2, it makes them more and more acidic. “Since the industrial revolution, the ocean acidity has increased by 30%,” according to Lisa Suatoni, Ph.D. If we continue polluting CO2 as we are now, “ocean acidity will double by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times. That is a big problem.”
A beautiful short video of the issues related to this, the oceans, and the challenge we are facing follows. It includes commentary from leading scientists and narration by Sigourney Weaver.
One of the best videos I’ve seen in a long time!
The greater acidity in some areas of the ocean is already strong enough to dissolve seashells. Without quick and strong cuts to CO2 emissions, this level of acidity is likely to spread to much larger areas of the ocean in the next few decades. This does more than dissolve seashells, though.
It is expected that greater acidity may eradicate numerous ocean species, especially the smaller ocean species that larger ocean animals (and, indirectly, land animals as well) rely on. Thus, it may eradicate a lot of the species in the ocean and on land.
Coral reefs, home to a major portion of the ocean and world’s species, “are particularly sensitive to ocean acidity,” according to Ove Hoegh-Goldberg, Ph.D. “We may lose those ecosystems within twenty or thirty years.” About one million species are estimated to directly live on coral reefs — “one in every four species in the ocean, lives on a coral reef.”
According to the NRDC, “Marine life that might withstand warming temperatures or rising acidity, may succumb, when confronted by both.”
The call is clear. Halt CO2 emissions, or cause the extinction of more species than in millions upon millions of years.
Hopefully, we will hear the call and respond.
1) Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions Trends — 1990, 2000, 2008
2) Oceans’ Ability to Absorb Carbon & Protect Against Climate Change Weakening
3) 1st High Seas Marine Protected Area in Southern Ocean — More Diverse than Galapagos Islands
Image Credit: JLambus via flickr under a Creative Commons license