IUCN policy brief: “Oceans and climate change (III) – Ocean acidification and other stressors”

  • As carbon dioxide (CO2 ) dissolves in sea water, it forms  carbonic acid, thereby decreasing the ocean’s pH, leading to a suite of changes, a process collectively known as ocean acidification.
  • Present ocean acidification occurs approximately ten times faster than anything experienced during the last 300 million years, jeopardising the ability of ocean systems to adapt to changes in ocean chemistry due to CO2.
  • Ocean acidification has the potential to change marine ecosystems and impact many ocean-related benefits to society such as coastal protection or provision of food and income.
  • Increased ocean temperatures and oxygen loss act concurrently with ocean acidification and constitute the ‘deadly trio’ of climate change pressures on the marine environment.
  • To combat the worst effects of the deadly trio, CO2 emissions need to be cut significantly and immediately at the source.
  • Sustainable management, conservation, restoration and strong, permanent protection of at least 30% of the oceans are urgently needed.

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