Everyday we hear about the problems of climate change. Over the past 12 months, we have witnessed the warmest temperatures recorded over a sustained period time and raging wildfires that have destroyed thousands of acres of land and the homes, lives and possessions of so many hard-working citizens. Our communities are now inundated with garbage and landfills full of discarded electronics and junk that will never decompose. Increasingly, we are faced with higher taxes and penalties imposed by municipalities to address the problems of aging sewage and water-flow treatment plants no longer able to support the increasing demand on these systems. Now we have been blindsided by the announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that rising acid levels in the ocean pose a major threat to coral reefs. Dubbed “the osteoporosis of the sea,” this phenomenon threatens everything from “food security to tourism and livelihoods”.
As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the acidity of the water is increased. Scientists are concerned about the effect of the higher acidity on sea life, particularly reefs, because the growing acidity negatively impacts the formation of coral skeletons, which ultimately will lead to deterioration of the reefs. Previously, scientists assumed that the carbon dioxide absorbed by the water would be diluted as the shallow and deeper waters mixed. Unfortunately, the majority of the carbon dioxide and its subsequent chemical changes have remained in the surface waters.
These higher acidity levels have impacted sea life in a very harsh and sometimes unpredictable manner. For example, they have posed a major threat to oyster populations because the acid slows the growth of their shells. Study results also reference the deleterious effect on clown fish and other sea life. One experiment in particular has shown that the increased acid levels have dulled the sense of smell of some sea life, resulting in these creatures swimming towards predators, as opposed to away from them.
The reduction of carbon emissions has become a matter of urgency to ensure the viability of both land and sea. Our waters are a source of food, entertainment and livelihood for our planet’s occupations. To protect them, let’s live green, be green.