Ocean acidification: COP27 event highlights IAEA capacity building to help African communities at risk

Scene from the IAEA side event on Ocean Acidification Adaptation and Resilience in Africa, held at its #Atoms4Climate pavilion at COP27. (Photo: A.Evrensel/IAEA)

The ocean plays a major role in the carbon cycle and absorbs about 30 per cent of all human-made CO2 emitted into the atmosphere each year. Over the last few decades, the amount of CO2 released due to human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, has drastically increased. As a result, the chemistry of the ocean is changing, which can have lasting effects on the health of marine organisms and ecosystems, and subsequently for populations who depend on these for their livelihoods. 

Nuclear and isotopic techniques can help assess the impacts of ocean acidification on the livelihoods of coastal African populations, participants heard at an IAEA event on the sidelines of the 27th Annual UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, today.

Coastal areas that already face issues such as overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction are at high risk of being affected by ocean acidification. In Africa, fisheries and aquaculture currently contribute around USD $24 billion to the economy, employing more than 12 million people and providing sustenance to millions of people around the continent. Additionally, demand for fish and ocean products has increased significantly and is expected to further increase 30 per cent by 2030. The combination of already delicate ocean health and ocean acidification puts communities that are heavily reliant on fisheries and ocean products – mostly rural coastal African populations – at significant risk.

“Isotopic techniques are very powerful methods to assess ocean acidification risk to marine organisms and ecosystems,” said Jana Friedrich, Head of the Radioecology Laboratory at the IAEA Marine Environment Laboratories. “Accurate data allows us to better equip regional communities with the means necessary to address the impacts of ocean acidification, for example on local seafood species and their habitats.”

Ellie McDonald & Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, IAEA, 12 November 2022. Full article.

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