Science academies urge CO2 cuts to protect oceans, reefs

Carbon dioxide emissions are turning the world’s oceans more acidic, endangering coral reefs and fisheries, the science academies of 70 nations warned today in a joint statement.

The effect could be irreversible for tens of thousands of years, the academies said. They urged countries attending U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, this week to cut the world’s CO2 emissions at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, with additional cuts after that.

Without such action, the consequences will be stark, the academies said. “At current emission rates models suggest that all coral reefs and polar ecosystems will be severely affected by 2050 or potentially even earlier,” they wrote.

Some climate models suggest that, at current CO2 emissions levels, 80 percent of Arctic waters could prove corrosive to clams, pteropods and other species at the base of the polar food chain by 2060, the new statement said.

If the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaches 550 parts per million — compared with the current 387 ppm level — “coral reefs may be dissolving globally.”

Lauren Morello, The New York Times, 1 June 2009. Full article.

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