Scientists warn acid is killing oceans

RISING carbon dioxide emissions are turning the oceans acidic in an irreversible process that threatens coral reefs and food security, the world’s scientific academies have warned.

Seventy academies, including the Australian Academy of Science, urged governments meeting in Bonn for climate talks to tackle the issue in the new United Nations treaty on climate change to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

In the past 200 years the world’s oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities, and the current rate of acidification is much more rapid than at any time during the past 65 million years, the scientists said in a joint statement.

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society in Britain, said that unless global carbon dioxide emissions were cut by at least 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 there could be an “underwater catastrophe” and loss of marine life.

“The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging local economies that may be least able to tolerate it,” Professor Rees said. “Copenhagen must address this very real and serious threat.”

Deborah Smith, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2009. Full article.

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