Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Marine Life

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide rates are now higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years. According to a study conducted by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere has not been this high since Earth’s average temperature ranged from 2-3 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Carbon Dioxide is a gas that absorbs heat, it also releases this heat gradually over time. As more fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are burned annually for energy, the CO2 is being released at a higher rate, thus heating up the earth more quickly, and contributing to climate change. The NOAA predicts that this increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely responsible for two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.

Throughout the NOAA’s report, they explained how Carbon Dioxide plays an interesting role in Earth’s system because it dissolves into the ocean. When CO2 reacts with these molecules of water, it produces Carbonic Acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean’s pH has shifted from 8.21 to 8.10. This ocean acidification drop of approximately 0.1 is extremely vital in the survival of marine life. This very small change in pH creates a 30 percent increase of acidity to the ocean.

Ocean acidification goes into the idea of measurements we had previously discussed in class. Looking from an outside perspective, without knowing the consequences, we would assume that a 0.1 acidity increase is virtually nothing. However, it’s effect is more detrimental than we think.  The 30 percent acidity increase makes it more difficult for marine life to extract calcium from the water to build their shells and skeletons. Therefore, through our study of scales and measurements, the context of each situation is extremely important when analyzing sustainability issues.



Source: Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

4 thoughts on “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide’s Effect on Marine Life

  1. This information about the ocean’s pH level is extremely interesting to me. This summer there were more whales that washed up on the coast of Boston than any other summer before.There were rumors explaining why the sea animals were dying so frequently, but after reading this post I wonder if the pH levels played any part in this as well. I guess I just didn’t realize how large of a role carbon dioxide truly plays in our ecosystem.

  2. This article is fascinating due to its inclusion in the rise of pH levels in the oceans since the industrial revolution. I also like how it includes just how detrimental a shift of 0.1 is towards the survival of marine life. As well as how the levels can affect the levels of calcium in the water, which makes it difficult for certain animals to build shells to protect themselves. This article is very informative because it shows that Carbon Dioxide doesn’t just affect the atmosphere, but it can destroy marine life as well.

  3. I am worried about the shells and skeletons of marine life. The marine ecosystem needs to be kept in line with checks and balances. It is going to become increasingly hard for this these animals to thrive and reproduce if they are dying due to CO2 related causes. The question I have after reading this post is can the acidification of the ocean be reversed? I hope it can be!

  4. What an interesting article! I honestly had no idea the effect that CO2 was having on the oceans, let alone that the change has been so dramatic. The statistic you point out about two thirds of the energy imbalance found on earth is due to the meteoric rise of CO2. I do think that there needs to be more publicized research about the effect CO2 is having on our oceans. The vast majority of the news surrounding oceans and marine life has to do with plastic waste, also a very important issue that we need to address as a society, but I think this article raises the fantastic point that our marine life and oceans are also being attacked by a different enemy.

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