Imagine you’re the ocean. For eons you’ve absorbed carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Since the Industrial Revolution you’ve been working overtime to keep up with the vast amount of CO2 emitted by humans burning fossil fuels. The thing about you and CO2 is that together you form carbonic acid.
In the past couple hundred years your acidity has increased 30 percent and frankly, you aren’t feeling great. If your acidity continues to rise, shellfish, corals and many other organisms could have trouble forming their shells and skeletons, including tiny creatures at the base of your food web. You’re overwhelmed with fear that you might not be able to hold it all together.
Role-playing aside – we cannot ignore the fact that the ocean’s chemistry is changing. The problem is a matter of simple chemistry. Reducing global CO2 emissions would curb both rising ocean acidity and climate change, its ugly twin.