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Ocean Acidity Prompts Calls For Urgent Action

January 30, 2009

The oceans of the world act as a shock absorber for the effects of climate change – absorbing a sizeable amount of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, according to a New York Times report.

However, this assistance comes with a price: as the gas dissipates, it causes the seawater to become more acidic. As a result, an international board of marine scientists state that this acidity is growing so rapidly that it hurts the chances of the continued existence of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web.

This group, which includes 155 scientists from 26 countries and was put together by the United Nations and others, are not the first people to indicate that the increasingly acidic oceans pose an environmental threat, but its frank candor and international credentials the panel power. They demanded “urgent action” to stridently decrease carbon dioxide emissions.

“Severe damages are imminent,” the group wrote Friday in a statement outlining their considerations.

The statement stated that the growing acidity is proving to be meddlesome with the expansion and development of shellfish and is deteriorating coral reefs, developments that will ultimately have an effect on marine food webs.

At present, the group insists that there have been obvious reductions in the numbers of shellfish, shell weights and intrusion in the expansion of coral skeletons.

Jeremy B. C. Jackson, a coral specialist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, insists that “there is just no doubt” that the acidification of the oceans is a huge dilemma.

“Nobody really focused on it because we were all so worried about warming,” he said, “but it is very clear that acid is a major threat.”

Carbon dioxide, mainly produced from the burning of fossil fuels, is the leading constituent of greenhouse gas emissions, which have gradually increased since the start of the industrial revolution of the 1700s.

Oceans soak up a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions, the group noted, but as the gas liquefies it creates a carbonic acid.

The group wrote that this acidity in ocean surface waters has grown by 30 percent since the 1600s.

“The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable,” states James Orr, who lead the symposium’s scientific committee.

According to the panel, “ocean acidification may render most regions chemically inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050.”

The group added that the acidification can be restricted only by preventive future actions. Other approaches, counting “fertilizing” the oceans to support the development of tiny marine plants that soak up carbon dioxide could eventually worsen the problem in some areas.

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