Been wondering how to bring up climate change with your skeptical uncle? Want to talk to that co-worker who just can’t bring herself to believe the Artic is melting? I’ve got the icebreaker for you: ocean acidification, aka “the other carbon problem.”
Although not all global warming skeptics and deniers are as extreme as Sarah Palin — who calls studies supporting global climate change a “bunch of snake oil science” — what deniers lack in overzealous folksy phrases, they make up for in numbers. A study this year found two in five Americans don’t believe global warming is happening.
You and I know the science of global warming is sound, but we also know that some of it is pretty complex and that global warming deniers are used to punching (imaginary) holes in it. The trick about ocean acidification is that, compared to global warming, the science is easier to grasp and the consequences are easier to picture. Unfortunately the solution is essentially the same.
Here are some talking points about the science of ocean acidification. It’s nearly as simple as it devastating (very):
- The ocean absorbs about a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions
- This has caused the acidity of ocean water to rise by 30 percent over the last 250 years
- At this rate, the acidity of the ocean is expected to more than double by 2100
Next, some ideas to get you started on the risks ocean acidification poses:
- Increasing water acidity lowers the levels of the mineral carbonate
- Shellfish and corals need carbonate to form their shells and skeletons
- As ocean acidity rises, shells and coral skeletons are more fragile and slow-to-develop
- High enough acidity would actually cause shells and corals to dissolve.
Coral reefs, of course, provide homes to countless animals, and shellfish are an integral part of the food chain. If we can’t get our act together on carbon dioxide emissions, it’ll be a devastating blow to marine ecology — not to mention industries like fishing and tourism. Here’s a self-propelling cycle to ponder: coral reefs, which can be damaged by carbon dioxide emissions, offer coastal communities protection against storms and hurricanes – storms and hurricanes expected to get worse as global warming worsens.
Carbon dioxide, ocean acidification, and global warming are intricately related. But whether or not everyone believes in global warming and worsening storms and hurricanes, ocean acidification is an issue we can all stand behind. Beautiful oceans cover about 70 percent of our gorgeous planet, and saving them means reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.
Want to protect our oceans against acidification? Sign the Care2 petition.
Photo by Matt Kieffer