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September 15, 2010

Acidic Oceans

BY: Brussels Office



Climate change has been connected to some of the biggest natural disasters of the past few years – the flooding in Pakistan, the destructive hurricanes slamming the US coasts, wild fires wiping out swaths of forests, crop failures around the world, etc. But one of climate change’s most devastating side effects is rarely talked about: Ocean Acidification.

As we continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere, our oceans, which act as filters are absorbing far more than they are capable of dealing with. This is where the problem begins –when seawater absorbs CO2, it lowers the pH of the ocean, making it harder for many marine organisms (including corals, crustaceans and some types of plankton) to build their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. As shell and skeletal growth become increasingly difficult, the animals’ natural protection from predators and disease is damaged. Worsening acidity will turn vibrant coral reefs into rubble and can also disrupt the ability of marine animals to breathe, grow and reproduce.

Many of these organisms are the base of food chains for thousands of species. Therefore, their disappearance poses a significant threat to both the ecosystems and those populations that depend in some way on those ecosystems.

If we don’t turn the tide on CO2 emissions and ocean acidification, its impact on our already overexploited seas will be devastating.

Oceana supports the stabilization of CO2 emission at 350ppm – the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is. For more information about the 350ppm limit, I urge you to check out www.350.org – and get involved in a local event!

So what’s the solution? There isn’t an easy one. We all need to make changes in our own lives, but above all we need a serious and binding commitment from developed AND developing countries, implemented according to advice of the scientific community.

For more background information on ocean acidification, check out the following articles and links:

Our Dying Corals — and How to Save Them: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2014101,00.html

Ocean acidification: The other carbon-dioxide problem: http://www.economist.com/node/16479264

Coral doctor sounds the alarm about more acidic seas: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/23/coral-acidic-seas

For more information about what we’ve been doing, check out the resources on our website: https://europe.oceana.org/en/eu/our-work/climate-energy/acidification/overview