Monday, November 21, 2011

Climate Change Threatens Ocean Life - Ocean Acidification

For years we have been hearing about the negative effects of climate change. One aspect you may not be aware of is the impact of climate change on the health of oceans. Ocean acidification is a global environmental issue caused by the man-made release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Ocean acidification is often called the "evil twin" to climate change, because both issues are rooted in carbon dioxide emissions. 

Fundamental changes in seawater chemistry are occurring throughout the world's oceans. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from humankind's industrial and agricultural activities has increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year, so as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, so do the levels in the ocean. Initially, many scientists focused on the benefits of the ocean removing this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.  However, decades of ocean observations now show that there is also a downside — the CO2 absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater, a process called OCEAN ACIDIFICATION.

While the oceans are becoming more acidic, they are still on the basic side of the pH scale (basic - neutral - acidic). It is highly unlikely that the oceans will ever become actual acid. However, even small changes in the acidity of the oceans can result in severe ramifications. As they become more acidic, corals and other organisms will find it increasingly difficult to build new skeletons and shells and those that already exist may begin to dissolve.

The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar. elizabeth grossman

A new study says the seas are acidifying ten times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred. And, the study concludes, current changes in ocean chemistry due to the burning of fossil fuels may portend a new wave of die-offs. carl zimmer


  1. Thanks for reminding me about the connection between air and ocean. Scary stuff. It makes me that much more committed to getting away from fossil fuel.

  2. A very thorough post Ben. No wonder you have 16 followers! lol I remember watching something on the nature channel that related this topic to the destruction of coral reefs. I wonder what the impact has been for sea life from all of the floating trash that is in our oceans?

  3. Ben,

    Thanks for expanding my understanding of a topic that i only started learning about last year in Foundations class. i hope that through advocates like you, we're able to realize and restore the delicate balances of all of Gaia's systems and the interconnectedness of all things before it's too late! i also appreciate that you had multiple links and media in your blog.

    Good work, my friend!

  4. Awesome post, Ben. It makes me wonder why we hear so much controversy about climate change, and very little about its evil twin? Is it because there is no controversy? In other words, are there any groups out there that contest whether or not the ocean is becoming more acidic or what the causes are? As someone who appreciates both sides of the conversation, I can't help but wonder if this issue even has another side, since it seems quite easy to test and measure, at least compared to climate change. I suppose the effects are debatable, but at the very least this seems like a solid way to counter a skeptic re: the role humans play in the condition of our planet.