Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ocean Acidification - Global Warming's Evil Twin

As Charles Clover writes in today's Times Online, there are other consequences of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, in addition to global warming.

Approximately 25% of the co2 produced each year is absorbed into the oceans. This has lessened the impact of global warming, to be sure. However, the down side is that this has caused an increase in acidity of the oceans of about 30% since the beginning of the industrial age.

NOAA states in their May 2008 "State of the science fact sheet for ocean acidification" that:
"The oceans have absorbed about 50% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released from the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in chemical reactions that lower ocean pH. This has caused an increase in hydrogen ion (acidity) of about 30% since the start of the industrial age through a process known as “ocean acidification.” A growing number of studies have demonstrated adverse impacts on marine organisms, including:

  • The rate at which reef-building corals produce their skeletons decreases.
  • The ability of marine algae and free-swimming zooplankton to maintain protective shells is reduced.
  • The survival of larval marine species, including commercial fish and shellfish, is reduced."
Since increased acidity is only one of the problems facing the oceans, many of the ecosystems are in dire straights. The situation with the coral, for instance is already critical - many say beyond hope.

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