It’s not just climate — Pope Francis is also warning about the health of our oceans

With the release of his encyclical “Laudato Si” on Thursday, Pope Francis made headlines for recognizing the threat of human-caused climate change.

But the encyclical also called attention to the world’s oceans, affirming just how vital they are to “our common home.” In Laudato Si, Francis talked about the unique threats marine environments face in a planet changed by humanity. (…)

Ocean acidification

“Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness…an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.”

The ocean absorbs at least one quarter of emitted carbon dioxide, which increases the acidity of seawater through chemical reactions. Many marine species are highly sensitive to these changes, as they can only tolerate narrow ranges of pH. Oysters, clams and other shellfish are especially vulnerable because acidification make it more difficult for them to form the calcium carbonate that comprises their shells. Corals also struggle to build their skeletons in acidified water, to the detriment of the highly diverse array of species that depend on coral reefs. (…)

With a reminder that “the oceans not only contain most of the planet, but also most of the wide variety of living things,” Pope Francis’s encyclical is a wake up call for all humanity to serve as responsible stewards not just of our lands and atmosphere, but of our vast blue realm as well.

Elise Shulman, Climate Progress, 20 June 2015. Article.

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