Humankind’s assault on the oceans continues apace. A short time ago, we considered the loss of 40% of the phytoplankton in the oceans since 1950. In my post How We Wrecked The Oceans, marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson explains why he believes the sea will be devoid of fish and other large marine organisms sometime in the 2040s. [WHAT?!] And now comes the “other” carbon problem—acidification of the oceans.
As we burn fossil fuels, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. Everyone knows that part, but what they often don’t know is that the oceans act as a enormous carbon “sink” which absorbs as much as 1/3rd of the released carbon dioxide. So the CO2 is no longer acting as a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which sounds good, but unfortunately, we have shifted the problem of dealing with the excess gas from the air to the oceans. Through some fairly simple chemistry, the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result. In other words, through a natural process, the ocean becomes a giant waste dump for our fossil fuel emissions.