The evil twin of climate change

2015 could be the year that mankind united and rises above national grievances and takes action against a threat that we all face. Climate change is upon us and our actions have already led to significant and irreversible changes to our planet. The climate summit in Paris in December will be the last chance to seriously address the problem – inaction now and we will not be able to meet the critical 2 degree target. If the planet heats more than 2 degrees we are in unchartered waters, waters that will very dangerous for all species on this Earth, not only humans.

The doomsday scenario that usually is painted by the media might be distorting the picture, but only to an extent. By instilling fear in the general public two possible outcomes will occur; action or inactivity. However, this usually only deals with climate change, leaving other important environmental issues aside or deemed as less important. Less could be further from the truth. This article will shed some light into the ‘evil Twin’ of climate change – ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification is directly connected with anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide. The oceans work as a enormous carbon sink, absorbing the vast majority of our emissions. However, this is not without its consequences. As the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the pH value of the oceans drop. This is a direct feedback from our emissions with potentially catastrophic consequences for not only maritime life, but for humanity as well.

When the oceans become more acidic anything with a shell, be that corals or clams, will struggle to build up its shell as the building material disappears. We have already lowered the pH value of the global ocean to a degree that is damaging coral reefs across the globe, but the problems we are currently seeing with dying coral reefs will only get worse as the carbon dioxide levels increases in the atmosphere and forcing the pH values further down.

Many tens of thousands of individual species are relying on coral reefs and the destruction of them would be a truly catastrophic environmental event. Not only would we lose these truly magnificent reefs, but this would also affect the wider marine biosphere as many species that do not spend their lives at the reefs as still dependent on them during parts of the year.

This would obviously also have detrimental effects on humans, throughout the world. A wider collapse in the marine environment would damage fishing communities, as well as the tourist industry. Mankind might see itself as above any other species, however we are all interdependent, like it or not. We can only stretch Mother Nature ever so far, eventually we will have to pay the price. A change in our approach – combating our ever-increasing carbon dioxide emissions and assuming responsibility for our unsustainable use of the planet is a good first step. It is high time we acknowledge our role.

In its vastness the oceans might seem unalterable and indestructible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Vast sways of the ocean are still less explored than the surface of the Moon, yet our influence can be found everywhere.

Scientists have reported seeing plastic bags in some of the deepest places of the ocean – ghostly reminders of that everything is interconnected. The same goes for the ‘evil twin’ of climate change. Ocean acidification shows just how our emissions are causing greater damage than most people are aware off.

Our would is truly interconnected in many senses and fighting climate change is not only about fighting global warming and increasing sea levels, but also about preserving the great biodiversity that planet Earth is housing. We simply cannot afford to fail with our stewardship of our home – the consequences of failure for all of us, man, animal or plant alike, would be unfathomable.

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John Lindberg 32 Articles
John Lindberg is a former policy adviser to Sir Jamie McGrigor MSP and a self-declared science geek. His main interests are energy and environmental issues, with a burning passion for nuclear power. He recently graduated with a First from the University of Glasgow, MA (Hons) in Politics.

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