Carbon emissions have a clear impact on Earth’s atmosphere, trapping heat and contributing to global warming, which is one of the various facets of climate change. However, a lot of that carbon also gets absorbed by the water bodies on Earth, especially the oceans, where it contributes to increasing the acidic component of their waters.
Oceans cover 70 percent of our planet, and seawater is actually basic, not acidic, but as an estimated 30-40 percent of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to human activity is dissolved in the oceans, the basicity of seawater reduces and moves toward being pH-neutral, like pure water. That process is referred to as ocean acidification.
Increasing acidity is problematic because the vast amount of life in the oceans and seas is not suited to live in that kind of water. It contributes to bleaching and disintegration of corals, and also affects metabolic rates and immune systems of many organisms.
To combat what has been called “global warming’s ‘evil twin,’” leaders from the United States and the world came together Tuesday to launch the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification.
According to its website: “The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. However, drastic changes are occurring in our oceans — from oyster hatchery die-offs to coral reef bleaching — that are being felt by coastal communities around the world.”
Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Alliance in San Diego, California Gov. Jerry Brown said: “Climate change degrades our oceans and coastline. Today, California’s taking additional steps to reduce ocean acidity, boost renewable energy and prevent further coastal oil and gas drilling.”
Along with some states from the U.S., the Alliance currently has local or federal government representation from Canada, Chile, France and Nigeria.
Current ocean acidification is a byproduct of human activity, but natural phenomena that aren’t well understood caused a massive ocean acidification event over 250 million years ago that contributed to the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event.
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