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What is Ocean Acidification and What We Can Do At Home To Help

By Kaeley Sterkel

What is Ocean Acidification?

This is the act of the ocean becoming more acidic due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere motivated by human acts. The increased process of ocean acidification can be found as far back as the beginning of the industrial revolution, this was the start of burning mass amounts of coal. When carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere 60% of it gets absorbed by the ocean, with normal levels this act balances the atmosphere and the ocean but with the rate abnormally high there is only harm being done. When CO2 is absorbed by the ocean it reaches all chambers of the ocean. CO2 eats away as calcium carbonate which makes up shells that are used as homes for crustaceans and coal which is a lifeline for the majority of species in the ocean.

How Do We Know CO2 Levels are Rising?

Every year research is conducted from water samples of CO2, this gives us a wide range of data but only in the modern years. Scientists have now been able to take measurements on stationary moorings, which gives us long-term and high-resolution data from only one location. This allows researchers to collect data from the last 800,000 years extracting from ice cores, corals, tree rings, and marine sediments such as fossils. Because we are able to get pH levels and calcium carbonate reading we can compare them to today’s findings.

What Is Being Done?

Ocean acidification can be closely linked to climate change because of the same human rooted problem of burning fossil fuels. This is helpful because we know the root cause of this harmful process and we can work to reverse it. There are many organizations who have dedicated time and energy to solving this problem. The Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is involved in a legislative commission on ocean acidification to combat the chemical reactions that occur with the increased CO2 concentration in the ocean. The ocean acidification commission report lays out a pathway for Massachusetts,

  • Creating policies that reduce nutrient pollution, restore coastal wetlands by planting more marine algae to absorb CO2 and adding waste shells to increase carbonate concentrations.

  • Invest in research to monitor shell fishing industries in the state and commercially.

Ocean acidification is not an unsolvable problem if everyone commits to small acts such as riding your bike instead of driving and working together to protect our oceans across the country.

Ocean acidification is likely the most important environmental issue on the planet today, yet most of us don’t know about it.

EPA is working to reduce two categories of pollution that cause acidification: carbon dioxide emissions and excess nutrients. Furthermore, EPA is collaborating with federal and non-federal partners to monitor ocean and coastal acidification. Read more here.

What You Can Do At Home To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

-Eat less meat

-Use less energy at home

-Conserve Water

-Reduce Your plastic addiction

-Drive and fly less, carpool, ride bikes and take public transportation. Buy less stuff

-Refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, repair, rot, recycle. Landfill is very last.

Make Smart Consumer Choices

  1. Refuse to use single-use plastic bags, utensils or straws and campaign to ban single use plastics in your community.

  2. Learn about what else we are dumping into our oceans that destroy ecosystems. Plastic pollution is a global travesty for sea life, and is a growing source of chemical pollution in the ocean. Plastic never goes away. There’s plastic creating its own continent in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, catastrophic oil spills, untreated feces from open net fish farms… the list goes on.

  3. Never buy coral products, even if the producer says it’s vintage or farmed. That’s just not good enough—we’re losing coral reefs too fast as it is.

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