as the ‘dark side of global warming’ or the ‘nasty little brother of climate change’. It is causing huge problems for sensitive marine ecosystems throughout the world’s oceans, and is one of the biggest threats to the continued existence of coral reefs.
A brief recap of ocean acidification and its causes
Basically, ocean acidification is caused by human pollution. It is one of the less well known problems associated with global warming. The oceans absorb a huge percentage of humanities carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This CO2 reacts with seawater to create carbonic acid – a process which reduces the concentration of the carbonate ion and increases the acidity of the water¹.
Unfortunately, this reduces the ability of corals and shellfish to build their skeletons and shells respectively, as they rely on carbonate ions. The problems caused by ocean acidification are especially evident in the colder waters of the Arctic and Northern Pacific, where the effect on shellfish is already becoming obvious¹.
There is no quick solution to ocean acidification. Nor will we stop the process and reduce its effects until we can bring our carbon emissions under control and stop polluting the earth. However, it is important that we do whatever small things we can to prevent ocean acidification.
Ways to prevent ocean acidification
Although we can not stop the process, there are a number of preventative strategies which we can implement to reduce the effect of ocean acidification. Most of these center around reducing carbon emissions and stopping climate change.
Reduce the carbon footprint of your personal life
By making informed choices and being aware of your carbon emissions, you can help prevent ocean acidification. By eating less red meat, you are contributing less to farming emissions – which, on a global scale are actually greater than transport emissions. Save electricity and water wherever you can within your home. You can do this by fixing leaky taps or pipes, installing a solar hot-water system, turning off appliances and lights when they aren’t in use, and using energy efficient appliances and light-bulbs². Use less plastic, buy less material objects, and reduce, recycle, and reuse things in your everyday life.
Adopt more environmentally friendly power generation methods
As we all know, renewable energy is the ideal form of electricity generation. However, there are also a number of other things we can do. Coal-fueled power plants can be changed to natural gas, which emits half of the greenhouse gases coal does when it is burned. Emissions can be filtered more efficiently to reduce the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere. Eventually, all fossil fuel fired power plants should be closed, and other fossil fuel uses – like in cars, boats, and other motors – should be reduced as much as possible³.
Educate, educate, educate
The key to knowledge is education. Many people would be horrified if they knew the effects that their polluting lifestyles were having on the oceans. However, since they don’t know, and have never learnt, they don’t care. You can begin with talking to your friends and family, joining a local ocean conservation agency, or simply talking to strangers over the internet to raise awareness about this hidden issue⁴.
Pressure the government
Ultimately, the government holds the power to make large policy and educational changes to reduce carbon emissions and prevent ocean acidification. You can ensure that you vote for the party which has the best environmental policies, and can pressure your local council members to make small changes. Send emails or letters, join protests, and rally for the ocean to let the government know you care⁵!
Make smart life choices
When you have time one day, sit down and think about the emissions associated with your life. Do you work in a field or for a company which doesn’t value environmental protection? Does your job involve carbon intensive or unsustainable activities? If so, then you should think hard about whether you are in the right job, and/or do what you can to make your company less polluting⁴.