Increased release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making seawater more acidic and is threatening ecosystems and species. It is also reducing the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and regulate climate. According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), deep and immediate cuts in emissions are needed to stall the acidification of oceans and prevent mass extinction of marine species.

There can be little doubt that the ocean is undergoing dramatic changes that will impact many human lives now and in coming generations, unless we act quickly and decisively. Previous episodes of ocean acidification were linked to mass extinctions of some species and it is reasonable to assume that this episode could have the same consequences.

The ocean provides about half of the Earth’s natural resources and humankind takes direct advantage of this through our fisheries and shellfisheries. The ocean also absorbs 25 percent of all the carbon dioxide we emit each year, and produces half the oxygen we breathe.

Ocean acidity has increased by 30 percent since industrialisation began 250 years ago. If CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, sea water acidity could increase by 120% by 2060 – greater than anything experienced in the past 21 million years. By 2100, 70% of cold water corals may be exposed to corrosive water.

Given the lag between CO2 emissions and a stabilisation of acidification, it could take tens of thousands of years before the ocean’s properties are restored and even longer for full biological recovery. This demands immediate and substantial emissions cuts and technology that actively removes CO2.

“There is an increasingly real and very urgent need to dramatically cut emissions. The ocean is what makes Earth habitable and different from anywhere else we know in our solar system and beyond – now’s the time to act to minimise the impacts on our life support system while we still have time,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme.

Further Reading
Ocean Acidification – The Facts.

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