According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic at a record rate. These changes are linked to an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, which has resulted from human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels. So why is this happening? And what can we do about it?
What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification is a process in which the ocean absorbs more CO2 than it can easily release. This excess CO2 accumulates in the ocean as calcium carbonate minerals are dissolved, absorbed and broken down by marine organisms. The problem is that this adds to the CO2 already in the atmosphere, which has a negative effect on sea life. The most at-risk species are coral reefs, oysters and other molluscs, and some species of fish. The main reason why the ocean is becoming more acidic is because CO2 is being released into the atmosphere faster than it can be absorbed by the oceans. This is a result of the oceans absorbing about half of the CO2 released by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. This is why ocean acidification is one of the symptoms of the increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Why is ocean acidification happening?
The oceans are becoming more acidic because CO2 is being released into the air faster than it can be absorbed by the oceans. CO2 is an essential component of seawater, and without it, the seawater would be too acidic for many marine organisms to survive. Regrettably, the oceans absorb CO2 from the air at a rate that is about half of what our society can naturally produce. As more and more CO2 is released into the atmosphere because of human activities, the amount in the atmosphere increases and enters the oceans, causing them to become more acidic. This is a one-way process; once CO2 enters the ocean it can’t leave.
How does ocean acidification happen?
Ocean acidification happens when CO2 is absorbed by seawater, making it more acidic. In fact, the oceans absorb about half of the CO2 that is released by human activities; this means that there’s a lot of extra CO2 floating around in the atmosphere. When the ocean absorbs this CO2, the water becomes more acidic, lowering the pH and making it harder for marine organisms to build their shells and skeletons. This is why ocean acidification is linked to an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. As the oceans become more acidic, marine organisms have to expend extra energy to build their shells and skeletons, making them less fit for survival. This also means that species that rely on these organisms to reproduce are at risk of going extinct.
How can we help stop ocean acidification?
The first step toward stopping ocean acidification is to understand it. Next, we need to reduce the amount of CO2 we release into the atmosphere. We can do this by switching to cleaner forms of energy, such as solar power and wind energy. Environmental organisations, such as the World Wildlife Fund, have created a list of recommendations, called the Climate Change Commitment, that people can turn to, to reduce CO2 emissions. This includes things like driving a less fuel-efficient vehicle and turning off appliances when not in use. There are also actions that people can take on their own, such as planting trees, turning off lights and appliances when not in use, and taking shorter showers.
The facts are that the oceans are becoming more acidic at an alarming rate, and this will have a serious impact on marine life. However, some steps can be taken to help reverse this trend. These include switching to cleaner energy sources and reducing emissions by using less fuel, turning off lights and appliances when not in use, and taking shorter showers.
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