Science and Health

CO2 Emissions Rapidly Acidifying Oceans

Scientists predict a 170 percent increase in ocean acidity by the end of this century, a change a third of ocean life won't be able to survive.

CO2 Emissions Rapidly Acidifying Oceans
Flickr / Bill Dickinson

Oceans are becoming more acidic at an unprecedented rate, and according to a group of leading oceanography experts, carbon dioxide emissions are to blame.

In a report released Thursday, researchers say human activities like burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of an ocean acidification rate faster than at any time in the last 300 million years.

The report, released by the United Nations and several scientific research organizations, combined the individual research of 540 experts from 37 different countries on climate change and global waters from 2012 with additional, more recent, research.

It predicts a 170 percent increase in ocean acidity — levels that approximately one-third of ocean species won't be able to survive in — by the year 2100. (Via International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme)

Originally, environmentalists were happy the oceans were absorbing CO2 because it meant less was being stored in the atmosphere.

However, under current theories, certain species can only live in certain sections of the ocean, with precisely the right range of temperature, acidity and oxygen levels. (Via NBC)

Marine scientists fear that as the acid levels, and subsequently pH levels, change, environmental sweet spots for marine life will become few and far between — impacting several commercial and ecologically important organisms vital to biodiversity, the fishing industry and food availability in some nations. (Via YouTube / sciencentral, BBC)

"As the oceans become more acidic, animals like plankton and mollusks and crustaceans will find it harder and harder to create their own shells, and without shells, they cannot exist. We could see the collapse of global ocean fish."​ (Via BBC)

The researchers are very confident that this rise in ocean acidity is a direct cause of climate change fueled by man-made CO2 emissions. They hope the looming crisis will ignite change. (Via CNN)

But in the meantime, other scientists are attempting to fortify the ocean's most fragile ecosystems, experimenting with "super coral" — coral able to withstand higher levels of CO2 with the help of human-assisted evolution. (Via Mother Nature Network)

The study will be presented at global climate talks in Poland next week.