‘Urgent action needed’ to curb acid oceans

Marine scientists from around the world have called for governments to act urgently to cut CO2 emissions to avoid severe damage to marine life.

In a document known as the Monaco Declaration, more than 150 leading experts warned that the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of absorbing ever-increasing amounts of CO2.

They believe ocean acidification could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050 if CO2 levels continue to increase, and commercial fish stocks could also be severely affected, threatening food security for millions of people.

“The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable,” said James Orr, of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Marine Environment Laboratories.

“The questions are now how bad will it be, and how soon will it happen?”

Dr Orr chaired last October’s international symposium on The Ocean in High CO2 World organised by UNESCO, the IAEA and other organisations – an event which gave birth to the Monaco Declaration.

“In order to advance the science of ocean acidification, we need to bring together the best scientists to share their latest research results and to set priorities for research to improve our knowledge of the processes and of the impacts of acidification on marine ecosystems,” said Patricio Bernal, executive secretary of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

The declaration has been backed by Prince Albert II of Monaco, whose environmental foundation supported the symposium.

According to the declaration, the ocean is absorbing more than 20m tonnes of CO2 a day – a quarter of what is emitted into the atmosphere – which dissolves in seawater, forming carbonic acid.

Surface ocean pH has already dropped by 0.1 units since the beginning of the Industrial revolution, exposing marine organisms to a rate of acidification that scientists believe has not been seen for many millions of years.

Read more about the declaration here.

Kate Martin

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