Lethal carbon dioxide and ocean acidification threaten marine life

On Monday, Congress was called on by a leading environmental organization to address the increasing threat to sea life that has been caused by decades of warming ocean temperatures and C02 pollution.

The action by Center for Biological Diversity included submitting a detailed letter to the House of Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.

The Center’s letter asked for a hearing focused on solutions that would curb carbon pollution, which threatens fish, corals, sea otters and other marine life; from the smallest microbes to the largest whales.

Moreover, ocean acidification threatens the world’s shellfish and seafood supply, which many people around the globe depend on for food and income.

Ocean acidification, referred to by scientists as the evil spawn of global warming— because emissions from burning coal and fossil fuels get trapped in the atmosphere— is caused when too much carbon dioxide is absorbed into the world’s seas and oceans.

Too much C02 throws off the water’s pH balance.

“The havoc wreaked by ocean acidification is unfolding faster and more severely than anyone thought it would. Coral reefs are collapsing, and food chains may break apart as our oceans go through a dangerous transformation,” said Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director at the Center. “If we’re going to stop this crisis from getting far worse, we’ll need national leadership at the top levels of our government.”

According to the Center’s report, in September, 540 of the world’s leading ocean acidification researchers gathered at a conference in California to discuss the latest scientific findings.

They warned that ocean acidification is already rapidly occurring and will dramatically alter our oceans. The Center’s letter listed the following highlights to Congress:

Coral reefs are near a threshold of collapse and will cease to exist later this century unless ocean acidification is curbed.

  • Wildlife on the Pacific Coast is already exposed to seasonally corrosive waters that were not predicted to occur until the end of the century, and California’s surface waters will be corrosive to shellfish year-round as early as 2030, with a tenfold increase in intensity of acidification by 2050.
  • Ocean acidification magnifies fivefold the toxicity of harmful algal blooms — or red tides — that are responsible for poisoning fish, shellfish, marine mammals and people.
  • Reef fish, like the clownfish in the movie Finding Nemo, and mollusks suffer brain malfunction due to ocean acidification. Some fish lose their ability to avoid predators and instead are attracted to them, making the fish five to nine times more likely to be eaten.

The Center’s letter requested that Congress either hold a hearing on ocean acidification during this session or make it a priority for the next Congress.

Additional facts included for Congressional review:

Every day 22 million tons of carbon dioxide from factories, cars, power plants and other human sources are absorbed by the world’s oceans, causing them to become 30 percent more acidic since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Jean Williams, examiner.com, 23 October 2012. Article.

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