Seventy National Science Academies from around the world have issued a joint statement today warning of increasing oceanic acidification in advance of a conference of governmental representatives from around the world in Bonn, Germany this week to discuss climate change. The Academies urged the participants to include acidification on the agenda for the governmental talks on climate change scheduled for Copenhagen later this year.
Often referenced as “the other CO2 problem”, oceanic acidification refers to the rapid absorption of carbon dioxide by the world’s oceans. The pH level of ocean waters is changing as CO2 is being added as a result of industrial emissions faster than ocean currents can carry surface level carbon down to the depths. This change in pH can have significant impacts on ocean life, particular those that require calcium carbonate to grow and survive, a category that includes the world’s coral reefs, the home of a large percentage of the world’s ocean specifies.
“The implications of ocean acidification cannot be overstated. Unless we cut our global CO2 emissions by at least 50% by 2050 and thereafter, we could be looking at fundamental and immutable changes in the makeup of our marine biodiversity. The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging the local economies that may be least able to tolerate it.”
– Chen Zhu and Howard Alper, Co-Chairs, InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP)
Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have changed over thousands of years, enabling the cycling of carbon from the surface to sediments on the ocean floor and providing ocean-based life time to adapt. However, industrial emissions and rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide content are happening so fast, ocean currents cannot compensate, and species cannot adapt fast enough.
This significant influence on the oceanic ecosystem can have dramatic impacts on entire food chains and the human societies that depend on them.
- Ocean acidification must be on the Copenhagen agenda, world’s
scientists warn – Press release, InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP)
- IAP Statement on Ocean Acidification – InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP)
- The Ocean Acidification Network
- PMEL Ocean Acidification Home Page – NOAA
- Ocean Acidification – European Project on OCean Acidification (EPOCA)