Tag: CO2

Carbon Dioxide and Ocean Acidification

Ocean Acidification: “The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem”

Infographic on carbon dioxide and ocean acidification. Ocean acidification occurs when atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater. The average pre-industrial pH of the oceans was 8.2, and it’s projected to fall to 7.7 by 2100. A drop of 1 pH unit represents a tenfold increase in acidity. When atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater it reacts to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid dissociates, and hydrogen ions produced by this increase acidity. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide ultimately results in more hydrogen ions and lower pH. As ocean pH drops, hydrogen ions react with carbonate ions, which can affect shelled organisms and coral skeletons. Negative effects on these organisms could have impacts higher up the food chain. Ocean acidification can also affect the molecules that marine organisms use to communicate with each other, with potentially detrimental effects.
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Ocean acidification is often referred to as ‘the other carbon dioxide problem’. We’re all quite rightly concerned about the effects that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels may have on climate, and the potential consequences of climate change are well documented: more frequent instances of extreme weather, and higher global average temperatures to name but two. Ocean acidification gets comparatively less press, and as such is sometimes misunderstood – but its effects could be equally serious.

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