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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

The Acidification of our Oceans

2016 November 14

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 released into the atmosphere each year. Initially, this was viewed as a positive outcome, as it was removing some of the greenhouse gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

However, scientists now realize that when large amounts of CO2 are absorbed by the ocean, it chemically alters the structure of the seawater. It reduces the pH carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of calcium carbonate minerals. This is important because these minerals compose the structure for the shells of many crustaceans and skeletons of other marine organisms.

The process of the ocean absorbing this excess CO2 is called ocean acidification (OA) and is causing the ocean to become undersaturated with these essential minerals.

NOAA marks the Industrial Revolution as the point when humans started releasing significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Since that time, the pH of the ocean has decreased .1 pH unit. While this may sound insubstantial, it actually equates to about a 30% increase in acidity.

As President Barack Obama described it at the Our Ocean Conference in September of 2016, “The ocean acts like a sponge, absorbing most of the extra heat caused by our greenhouse gases. And it's been growing warmer and more acidic for decades now. In other words, the very chemistry of our oceans is changing, which is risking marine life and rippling all the way up the food chain.”

This issue didn’t really break ...

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