When the Seas Turn Sour

Just in case you didn’t have enough to worry about, the New York Times reports there is growing concern about the impact of CO2 levels on the oceans:

The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate changeby absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally.

The panel, comprising 155 scientists from 26 countries and organized by the United Nations and other international groups, is not the first to point to growing ocean acidity as an environmental threat, but its blunt language and international credentials give its assessment unusual force. It called for “urgent action” to sharply reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

Other recent research suggests that warming might deplete oxygen levels, with severe impacts on aquatic life:

With warmer temperatures reducing its ability to absorb oxygen, much of the water would become barren and lifeless. Oceanic food chains could be profoundly disrupted.

“What mankind does for the next several decades will play a large role in climate on Earth over the next tens of thousands of years,” said geochemist Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen.

These studies just reinforce the message that greenhouse gases threaten profound global changes that we are just beginning to understand.

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