Sea snails are dissolving, and fish are getting lost — all thanks to greenhouse gases.
This is Lil' Dipper, and he's scared to swim in soda.
If things keep going the way they are, we're going to make Lil' Dipper's worst fear come true.
It sounds like a joke, but it's not. As we focus on combating climate change, there's a question we need to ask ourselves: Would we like for our oceans to be sparkling or still?
We've got a big problem called ocean acidification.
The huge amount of CO2 we produce is polluting the air and affecting our planet's climate. Most of us have heard that the oceans are getting warmer, but there's more to it than that, and it's called ocean acidification.
A video by Grist explains that what's happening to our oceans is a lot like one of those homemade soda machines. It works by squirting a cartridge of CO2 into the water, adding the acidity needed to make soda.
We're basically doing this to the ocean — only on a much larger scale.
Over the couple of centuries we've spent filling the air with CO2, the oceans have absorbed a quarter of those emissions. As a result, their average pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1.
That doesn't seem that serious, but the pH scale is logarithmic, not linear.
So that means even this one-tenth drop in pH is a nearly 30% increase in acidity. Yikes.
What about the ocean life?
This has consequences for the ocean's plants and creatures. Ocean acidification is stressing out some species of fish, causing them to get lost easily and have more trouble finding food.
It also makes it difficult for certain ocean lifeforms to grow their shells. So instead of doing this:
They do this:
Coral reefs, the backbones of many ocean ecosystems, are particularly in danger from this effect. As coral polyps struggle to grow their exoskeletons, reefs stop growing or even begin to shrink, depleting a source of food and shelter for the numerous species that depend on them.
So what can we do about it?
There's one particularly promising solution to stop ocean acidification: pump less CO2 into the air.
Yep. Whether we like it or not, we don't have a better alternative than cutting the CO2 emissions causing the problem in the first place. Our next best ideas are planting seagrass meadows or straight up dropping Alka-Seltzer in the ocean.
If we're going to stop this, we also need to keep Big Oil from drilling in fragile environments for more fossil fuels.
The Wilderness Society is fighting to keep BP out of the Great Australian Bight, a rich underwater ecosystem that has greater diversity of marine life than the Great Barrier Reef.
(Lil' Dipper would sign, but he only has fins.)