World Oceans Day 2022: What is ocean acidification?

The IAEA celebrates the United Nations World Oceans Day, 8 June, to raise awareness of the benefits derived from the ocean. While the livelihoods of more than three billion people depend on oceanic resources, the ocean also provides a large fraction of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs greenhouse gases, mitigating their effects in the atmosphere. This year’s theme, Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean, highlights the importance of working together to restore the health of our oceans. At the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, 27 June – 1 July, the IAEA will host a side event, in cooperation with the Circulate Initiative and the Incubation Network, to discuss actions to address marine plastic pollution.

Playing a key role in the Earth’s climate and weather systems, as well as in the global carbon cycle, the ocean is an immeasurable force of nature. However, human activities have fundamentally altered the ocean’s chemical composition. Since the late 1980s, 95 per cent of open ocean surface water has become more acidic. Oceans absorb about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) we produce, reducing the pH of seawater. This process is known as ocean acidification. With atmospheric CO2 levels 50 per cent above pre-industrial levels, the problem is getting worse.

Joanne Liou, IAEA, 8 June 2022. More information.

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