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Ocean acidification the final straw

Monday, July 21, 2014

Take a breath. You are making history. It’s been quite an achievement to get here. Over the last 400,000 years atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has hovered between 180 parts per million (ppm) and 280 ppm. Then humankind figured out how to use the energy stored in wood, coal, oil and gas to ignite the Industrial Revolution, causing CO2 levels to soar.   


Congratulations. You are the first of your species to breathe air with a concentration of CO2 more than 400 ppm. We have to dig deep into history, about three million years ago, to find a time when there was that much CO2 in the atmosphere. 



We have meddled with the chemical composition of our atmosphere, which has resulted in changes in the chemistry of the ocean. About 26 per cent of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels and deforestation ends up in the ocean. When CO2 is mixed with water it forms carbonic acid, leading to higher acidity in the sea. This is called ocean acidification.