Science bodies warn on acidic seas

The oceans are becoming more acidic, in a climate-change trend that could endanger sea life and be irreversible for thousands of years, Reuters reported, citing national science academies. Seventy academies from around the world urged governments currently holding talks in Bonn to take more account of risks to the oceans in a new United Nations climate treaty.


“To avoid substantial damage to ocean ecosystems,” the Inter-Academy Panel said in a statement, “deep and rapid reductions of carbon dioxide emissions of at least 50% (below 1990 levels) by 2050, and much more thereafter, are needed.” If current rates of carbon emissions continue until 2050, computer models indicate that “the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years”.

Rising amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) were being absorbed by the oceans and making it more difficult for sea creatures to build protective body parts, the academies said. CO2 is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, emitted mainly by human use of fossil fuels.
The CO2 increase disrupts ocean chemistry and attacks the “building blocks needed by many marine organisms, such as corals and shellfish, to produce their skeletons, shells and other hard structures,” the statement said.

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, the British science academy, said there may be an “underwater catastrophe”. He noted: “The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging the local economies that may be least able to tolerate it.”

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