The effects of global warming and built up greenhouse gasses can be seen every where from the melting of ice caps down to the basic chemistry in our oceans water.
We’ll start in the beginning, at the boom of the industrial revolution in the early 1800’s, when industries began pumping out excessive emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through fossil fuel-powered machines. A sight of progress and future, once a upon a time ago.
And today we’ve got a carbos problem! A pretty serious one. It is reported that at least one-quarter of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by burning coal, oil and gas dissolves into the ocean from our atmosphere. And the ocean makes up 71% of the world’s surface, can you image how much CO2 is being absorbed daily. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed and thus, leading to a higher acidity in the water.
Initially, the discovery that our oceans were absorbing CO2 was seen as a heaven sent solution to our greenhouse gas problems. But as we all know, problems don’t just disappear. Instead they manifest into something else.
In this case, it’s throwing our ocean’s pH balance out of loop. For tens of millions of years, earth’s oceans have maintained a relatively stable acidity level. But that’s all changing now and at such an alarming rate too, in the last two centuries the acidity in the ocean has increased by 30% and this sudden change is threatening marine ecosystems and organisms that just simple do not have the time to adapt.
Marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons will have a hard time growing in more acidic water. This is because the chemical reaction that lower the oceans pH also reduces the availability of the kind of calcium carbonate building blocks that these sea creatures need to build with. This goes for reef building coral to marine creatures with shells such as mussels, clams, sea urchins and starfish. Some have it even worst, like oyster larvae that fail to even begin growing their shells before the acid in seawater eats away at their shell.
This lead many to link Ocean Acidification to the massive oyster die off in Northern America between 2006 to 2008, which saw many coastal communities and companies swallowing great losses at their failure to cultivate oyster and shellfish.
A tiny drop in our pH reading, 0.1 pH units to be exact, may seem small in digits but it has had horrible effects so far, and it’s effects are stretching much further than simply in the waters.