The ocean’s acid test

Changes society is forcing on the ocean may be larger than any inferred from the geologic record of the past 300 million years. And it’s already underway.

The most immediate example of climate change’s impact is found not in hurricanes, glaciers or water wars. It’s the humble swimming sea snail.

The tiny pteropod has difficulty growing a shell in a warmer planet’s acidified ocean waters. Given the snails role at the base of the cold-water food chain, its struggle threatens the entire polar ecosystem, from salmon to whales.



The problem is one of many associated with ocean acidification already underway as a result of warming that has already happened and fossil-fuel emissions that have long since been dumped into the atmosphere.

In absorbing those emissions the oceans have buffered humanity from the worst effects of climate change. But in doing so they have acidified to levels not seen in 800,000 years.

The result, according to a new report issued today by Oceana, is that today’s ocean chemistry is already hostile for many creatures fundamental to the marine food web. The world’s oceans – for so long a neat and invisible sink for humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions – are about to extract a price for all that waste.

Douglas Fischer, Environmental Health News, 11 November 2008. Article.

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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