One of the many things that people do not often think about is the effect of their everyday lifestyle on our environment. As living, breathing creatures we exhale CO2 (carbon dioxide) as a part of our natural cycle of life. What we forget though is that CO2 is also a by-product of many of the other activities we undertake.
Fossil fuel burning is a major contributor to the high levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, and when we talk about fossil fuel burning we are not just talking about the emissions from our cars we drive around, but also all the emissions that come from all those industries and activities that rely on fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, to operate. Ninety-five percent of the world’s power is generated by using fossil fuels.
People can easily see CO2 emissions when they see the smoke rising from the chimneys of industrial buildings and the exhaust pipes of cars and trucks. Therefore we become concerned for the sky and the air around us because we can actually see the CO2 emissions. What is not so visible is the effect that these CO2 emissions have on our oceans and the organisms that live there.
There have been numerous studies done on the effects of CO2 on our oceans. From the results of these studies, there is a firm belief that since the industrial revolution and the exponential growth in fossil fuel use and burning, a large amount of CO2 has been absorbed by our oceans. Some studies indicate that the amount of CO2 emissions since the start of the Industrial revolution is as much as 500 billion tonnes.This also takes into account the deforestation that has taken place during this time.
Because there is continuous gas exchange between air and water emissions into the atmosphere, C02 finds its way into the oceans at some stage. This is good news for land dwellers because this helps remove some of the CO2 from our atmosphere. However, this is bad news for the oceans because it increases the acidic nature of the seawater and in turn affects the different ecosystems and living conditions for all ocean life. This means the conditions for survival of all ocean creatures is in a precarious state and the ocean itself is in danger.
We are already starting to see reefs affected by acidification. Marine plants and animals growth is stinted and fragile, and in some places where there is too much acid, there is no marine or plant life.
If we don’t do something soon, the things that we take for granted when we look at the sea and the ocean may not be so easy for our great grandchildren to see or find. What is worse is that if the ocean is unable to function as it has done for billions of years, life on land may be affected adversely and the world of our future generations is at risk.
Trees are a huge part of the organic machinery of nature and they absorb a lot of the CO2 that we emit. However large scale deforestation and industrial logging that is non-sustainable contributes even further to the large quantities of CO2 that are now being emitted into the atmosphere. Replanting of forest lands and programmes of reforestation go some way towards addressing these issues but we all need to work together to understand what is happening and what we can do to help.
So if you would like to read more about Ocean Acidification and make your own mind up about what could be happening to our oceans, we have included a few links to articles and discussions to help you.
Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and ecosystem research: http://www.imber.info/C_WG_SubGroup3.html
National Geographic April 2011 pg 108