Study: World’s coral reefs likely to ‘dissolve completely’

Unless carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are reduced, coral reefs around the world will start to dissolve completely in just a few decades, according to a new study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The impact on coral reefs is due to both ocean acidification (caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide into ocean water) as well as rising water temperatures. “Globally, each second, we dump over 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and, each second, about 300 tons of that carbon dioxide is going into the oceans,” said study co-author Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology last month. “We can say with a high degree of certainty that all of this CO2 will make the oceans more acidic – that is simple chemistry taught to freshman college students.”

Other studies had shown that rising CO2 will slow coral growth, but this is the first study to predict that coral reefs should start dissolving worldwide in just a few decades, unless emissions are cut deeply and soon.

“Our fossil-fueled lifestyle is killing off coral reefs,” says Caldeira. “If we don’t change our ways soon, in the next few decades we will destroy what took millions of years to create.”

Doyle Rice,, 12 March 2009. Blog post.

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