Dropping pH in the Oceans Causing a Rising Tide of Alarm

One of the most unexpected consequences of global climate change may well turn out to be one of the most severe in terms of impacts on life on earth. As continued carbon emissions accelerate global warming, the carbon dioxide contained in those emissions is able to silently yet dramatically reduce the alkalinity of the oceans. And as the pH drops, marine organisms that produce shells and carbonate skeletons grow weak and die off.

The discovery that carbon dioxide emissions can lower global ocean pH is very recent, even though chemists and biologists have for long known that when carbon dioxide dissolves in water, carbonic acid results. However, the sheer volume of water in the oceans has always been assumed to be so vast as to be safe from changes in chemical balance brought about by small scale inputs. In effect, it is just plain hard to imagine that atmospheric inputs of any kind could significantly alter the chemical composition and nature of over 1.3 trillion cubic kilometers of ocean water. Thus when intrepid oceanographers and marine ecologists set out to address the question of how changing atmospheric conditions that lead to changes in pH could affect marine life, they raised alarms about the possibilities of very large scale impacts.

Tundi Agardy, The W2O Observer. Article.

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