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Oceans Acidification & Climate Change

Before the industrial revolution, the average amount of global CO2 emissions was 280ppm (parts per million), these atmosphere levels broke 400ppm in 2013. In 2020 it stood at 417ppm (NOAA research). The reduction of CO2 emissions or GHG (Green House Gases) is the responsibility of each one of us, everywhere.

Trees and earth are not the only big carbon sequesters, oceans play a huge role in absorbing CO2. Although oceans are extremely deep and cover over 70% of our planet be aware, they have been absorbing dangerous emission levels since the industrial revolution. These ever increasing high levels have very negative effects on oceans and marine life.

Did you know that the oceans absorb 25% of the worlds CO2 emissions? The high levels of carbon dioxide react with the saltwater and form carbonic acid. This acid causes the PH balance of oceans to increase and become more acidic. This is called ‘ocean acidification’. There are several other effects this triggers, notably the acidification promotes the growth of coral smothering algae, it weakens hard corals and marine life are finding it almost impossible to keep up with the changes.

On top of acidification oceans absorb almost 90% of the excess heat GHG are causing, as our climate warms up, which is compounding the problem. Warmer oceans mean coral reef ecosystems can’t function properly and when sea temperatures rise over 29ºC for periods of 2 months coral 'bleaching' occurs. This is a term used to describe when hard coral formations (like the one in the heading photo) can't live with the temparature so eject their host enzymes zooxanthellae and without them the coral dies. When it dies it loses all its colour and truns white and will never recover.

If global warming reaches 2ºC, more than 99% of coral reefs are projected to decline to the point of extinction. Corals can only survive higher sea temperatures for a limited amount of time (a months). If coral reefs carry on dying from these ecosystem changes at the current rate, we are in great danger of losing the only natural habitat and breeding grounds for our fish. So much marine life relies on coral reef habitats there is a very chance if we don't get to grips with global warming within the timeframe set out by scientists marine life could be lost forever.

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lucy@gogreensustainability.com

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