Ocean acidification threat

As talks in Copenhagen enter a critical phase, UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has warned of the threat that ocean acidification has to marine life and global food supplies.

He said that acidification provides a “powerful incentive” to cut carbon emissions.

A recent report by the UN has warned that the world’s biggest insurance policy against rapid warming are soaking up carbon at such a rate that acidity could increase 150% by 2050.

The dramatic increase is 100 time more that at any time over the last 20m years.

“These blue spaces are just as important as our green spaces,” said Benn.

“The increasing concentration of CO2 is making [the oceans] more acidic. The water is more corrosive. It affects marine life, it affects coral. That could then affect the amount of fish there is in the sea. 1bn people depend on fish as their principle source of protein.”

Ahmed Djoglaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity said that rapid action must be taken.

“Ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years, and substantial damage to ocean ecosystems can only be avoided by urgent and rapid reductions in global emissions of CO2,” he said.

Experts writing in the December edition of Public Service Review: Science and Technology have also given stark warnings.

“Currently the state of marine biodiversity is still worsening,” write Catherine Muir and Boris Worm of the Future of Marine Animal Population Project.

“Future changes will be determined in large part by our ability to curb the rate of climate change and over fishing respectively.

“Coral reefs [could be reduced] to small remnant populations. Emissions reductions and a move towards a carbon neutral economy will be required to stabilise and eventually reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere and the ocean.

“Close cooperation between scientists, policy-makers, researchers and industry is required to promote such rebuilding efforts and ensure action is taken to limit the speed and magnitude of global warming,” they said.

publicservice.co.uk, 14 December 2009. Article.

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