Addressing ocean acidification as part of sustainable ocean development

Many of the declarations and outcome documents from prior United Nations international meetings address ocean issues such as fishing, pollution, and climate change, but they do not address ocean acidification. This progressive alteration of seawater chemistry caused by uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is an emerging issue of concern that has potential consequences for marine ecosystems and the humans that depend on them. Addressing ocean acidification will require mitigation of global CO2 emissions at the international level accompanied by regional marine resource use adaptations that reduce the integrated pressure on marine ecosystems while the global community works towards implementing permanent CO2 emissions reductions. Addressing ocean acidification head-on is necessary because it poses a direct challenge to sustainable development targets such as the Millennium Development Goals, and it cannot be addressed adequately with accords or geoengineering plans that do not specifically decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Here, we will briefly review the current state of ocean acidification knowledge and identify several mitigation and adaptation strategies that should be considered along with reductions in CO2 emissions to reduce the near-term impacts of ocean acidification. Our goal is to present potential options while identifying some of their inherent weaknesses to inform decisionmaking discussions, rather than to recommend adoption of specific policies. While the reduction of CO2 emissions should be the number one goal of the international community, it is unlikely that the widespread changes and infrastructure redevelopment necessary to accomplish this will be achieved soon, before ocean acidification’s short-term impacts become significant. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach must be employed to address this growing problem.

Cooley S.R. & Mathis J.T., 2013. Addressing ocean acidification as part of sustainable ocean development. In: Chircop A., Coffen-Smout S. & McConnell M. (Eds.)., Ocean Yearbook 27. Leiden: Brill (Martinus Nijhoff). ISBN: 9789004250451. p. 29-46.

Submitted version available through the Woods Hole Open Access Server: Contact the chapter authors for more information.

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