Ocean acidification may be fastest in 300 million years
The world’s oceans are turning acidic even more rapidly than during a monster emission of planet-warming carbon 56 million years ago.
Posts tagged carbon dioxide.
- CO2: USA, 5.2 billion tons per year. Global rank: 2
- Consumption footprint: USA, 6.15 billion tons per year. Global rank: 1
Public enemy no. 1
Global carbon output is higher than ever. New figures released by the Global Carbon Project show that 2012 saw a record jump in emissions from fossil-fuel burning, thanks mostly to unprecedented leaps from developing nations. Here, some numbers from the report:
- 510 million
Extra tons of CO2 pumped into the air in 2010, “almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003,” says Justin Gillis at The New York Times.
- 9.14 billion
Total tons of CO2 pumped into the air in 2010
Average percent that global emissions of CO2 rose each year during the 1990s
Average percent that global emissions of CO2 rose each year during the 2000s
The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That’s an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.
It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of, said Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian State University, who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past.
— Seth Borenstein, “Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases,” AP, 4 November 2011
The findings of a major study on the health of the world’s oceans have been released to coincide with the COP15 climate conference. The report, which was compiled by The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, highlights the direct link between manmade CO2 emissions and the rising acidity levels of the world’s seas.
The study found that around a quarter of all carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities, has been absorbed by the oceans. Without this absorption the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be markedly higher and the effects of global warming more severe. Although this process may have bought some time, the report states, it has not been without a cost: rising levels of marine acidity.
At current rates, the report estimates ocean acidity will increase by 150 percent by 2050, a rate of acidification 100 times greater than anything that has occurred in the last 20 million years. This will leave little chance for adaptation by marine organisms and cause the widespread dying off of the world’s corals. In addition, shelled organisms will not be able to survive the increased acidity, which will likely lead to a wide scale collapse of the marine food chain.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention gave this warning: “Ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years, and substantial damage to ocean ecosystems can only be avoided by urgent and rapid reductions in global emissions of CO2.”
The report stresses that the precise effect on marine life cannot be known, but says there is an emerging body of research that suggests the effects will be variable and complex. In particular it is thought that micro organism at the base of the food chain, such as pteropods, coccolithophores, as well as larger calcifying organisms such as mussels, oysters and crabs will be worst affected.
Dr Tomas E.Lovejoy, Biodiversity Chair of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and Environment notes in the preface to the report “This publication on the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity is very timely and germane, as it confirms again how great the stakes of sustainability are in the climate change negotiations.”
In November Dr Jane Lubchenco, the Obama appointed head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) described ocean acidification as “global warming’s evil twin” and stressed that it was equally as important a problem. Lubchenco was picking up an honorary doctorate from the University of Copenhagen for her work on sustainability when she made her remarks, adding that the aim of COP15 should be “To reduce emissions as much as possible as fast as possible.”
Asked whether the problem was a scientific or a moral one, Lubchenco told The COP15 Post “We owe it to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren to tackle this problem head on and fix it.”
We also owe it to the world and the oceans inhabitants.
Not only do we owe it to the world, we NEED to do it. We cannot have life on land without healthy oceans.