How are humans causing ocean acidification?

How are humans causing ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification is occurring because too much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is nothing new, and its presence in moderate quantities is not a concern.  The rate at which we are pumping it into our atmosphere is a concern, however.  There are two major sources for this influx of atmospheric CO2: fossil fuel emissions and deforestation.

Fossil fuel emissions are the gases that are spewed out of most cars, airplanes, power plants, and factories that are burning fossil fuels (coal, oil or gas).  Since the industrial revolution, fossil fuel consumption has risen exponentially to create many climate change-related issues, including ocean acidification.

Deforestation is a two-fold issue.  Burning down forests is similar to burning fossil fuels, it emits a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  Forests are important because large expanses of plantlife (even in the ocean) are known to be "carbon sinks",  taking in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.  Historically, carbon dioxide levels have been balanced; the CO2 being produced was in turn being absorbed.  Deforestation not only creates more CO2, but it also destroys one of the very things that helps absorb it!

The silver lining here is that ocean acidification is just one more symptom of ailments that people are already aware of.  Most people know that deforestation is bad for the environment.  And most people know that they should try to drive less, and consume less energy.  Ocean acidification brings the problem into the ocean, and to a world many people are not familiar with.

  • "Acid Test" is a video narrated by Sigourney Weaver.  It does a fairly good job of explaining how people are responsible for ocean acidification, as well as providing some urgent calls to action.
  • "Ocean Acidification: Coral Reefs in the Balance" features human causes right at the beginning.  Pages 3-10 of the pdf document focus on where all this excess CO2 is coming from, and shows the relative amounts that are coming from emissions and from deforestation.
  • "Switch Energy Project: Oil" is a succinct film about why we rely on oil as the main source of transportation fuel.
Lesson Take Away: 

The rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 is being caused by human activities.  These activities include the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and vehicle emissions.  We are putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than can be absorbed by the earth's natural processes, which is leading to a CO2 imbalance.

Last Updated: December 18, 2013
This is a lengthy pdf document of a powerpoint presentation that accompanies a talk by Dr. Dwight Gledhill with the Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Science.  It is a good resource for background information about ocean acidification...

This is a lengthy pdf document of a powerpoint presentation that accompanies a talk by Dr. Dwight Gledhill with the Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Science.  It is a good resource for background information about ocean acidification because it covers chemistry, carbon cycles, CO2 emmission, and focuses on the impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs.  If you are looking to fully understand these concepts, check this out.

Oil goes into myriad products that have transformed our modern world, but none so much as gasoline and diesel. They provide a level of mobility for people and products never before known, creating the first global economy, which is now so dependent on...

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Oil goes into myriad products that have transformed our modern world, but none so much as gasoline and diesel. They provide a level of mobility for people and products never before known, creating the first global economy, which is now so dependent on oil that price shocks have global impacts. A wise economic response is to diversify into other transport fuels. This could also bring environmental and political benefits.

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