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Ocean Acidification

By Suri Zheng

Have you ever felt the ocean and noticed it felt warmer than, let’s say… a few years ago? Well, the leading cause of that might be ocean acidification. 

The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s triggered an escalation of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which has continued to climb ever since. Atmospheric CO2 levels are 50% above pre-industrial levels, the problem is getting worse. Studies have shown that the open ocean is 40% more acidic than before the industrial revolution. Since the late 1980s, 95% of open ocean surface water has become more acidic. 

What is ocean acidification exactly, and why do we need to care about it? Oceans absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide we produce. But the problem is, if we keep producing more and more CO2, the ocean can only “hold” in so much CO2. This process is known as ocean acidification. The Reduction of PH over time in the ocean is mainly caused by CO2 in the atmosphere dissolving in the ocean. So the lower the PH the worse the condition is, if the PH is lower than 7 that means the water is acidic and that’s bad for you. Or to put it blankly, it’s when the ocean changes properties that harm the plants and animals of the ocean. 

Why is ocean acidification bad? These are some examples of how ocean acidification is harming the world. Ocean acidification can seriously break food chains and many marine life animals, harming and killing them, for example, coral, oysters, crabs, and urchins. It can harm fishing and shellfish harvests, leading to a rise in consumer prices. And lastly, for human health, many algae release harmful toxins and bloom faster in more acidic water. 

What is ocean acidification like now? In late 2022, an article released by EPA says that the ocean PH was 8.2 before the industrial revolution. Now it is at 8.1. This might not seem like a huge difference, but the relationship between pH and acidity is not direct. Each decrease of one pH unit is a ten-fold increase in acidity.

How can we mitigate ocean acidification? One way to mitigate ocean acidification is by understanding the situation, not only ocean acidification but also greenhouse gasses and climate change. Understanding how we are impacting the ocean and being aware of the differences we are making. We can also mitigate the situation in more tangible ways, for example, by using less plastic, keeping beaches clean, being aware of the seafood we eat, and many more. 

Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution in putting an end to ocean acidification but we can all work together to reduce its harmful effects slowly. 

About Suri Zheng

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