Ocean acidity

We have all heard about the burning of fossil fuels and climate change. Climate change, or as it is commonly referred to as “global warming” resulting from carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, is real and impacting our world in a multitude of negative ways. We must act now to reduce these emissions.

While the focus is on controlling carbon dioxide emissions to mitigate climate change, there is another, perhaps more insidious, way carbon dioxide is affecting the environment, and we are beginning to see its effects. Yet we really never — or rarely — hear it mentioned. This problem is ocean acidification, the ongoing increase in the acidity of the Earth’s oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide produced as a result of fossil fuel combustion. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an increase of acidity of about 30 percent has occurred since the start of the industrial revolution.

The chemical processes causing acidification are well understood and documented. Acidification of the oceans adversely affects marine organisms, making it more difficult for coral reefs, calcareous plankton and other organisms to form and maintain their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.

Aside from the potential long-term impacts acidification will have on the natural carbon cycle and climate, it will have profound impacts on the overall health of the oceans and on the fish and shellfish resources much of the world depends on. It is essential that the United States and other nations work seriously to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in an expeditious manner.

Jerry L. Coalgate, Daily Press, 26 October 2009. Article.

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