House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming To Hear About The Impacts Of CO2 In Oceans

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

On April 29th, 2008, a House panel will examine the impacts of rising carbon dioxide emissions in oceans.

Excess CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels and land-use change is absorbed by oceans.  There, the dissolved carbon dioxide is incorporated into the exchange of carbonic acid, bicarbonate, and carbonate which eventually leads to a decreased overall pH.

Scientists have learned that ocean pH has been decreasing at a faster pace since the industrial revolution and less basic oceans present dangerous impacts for calcifying organisms.  Ocean pH has fallen from about 8.2 to 8.1 on the 14-point pH scale.  In other words, the world’s waters are 30 percent more acidic than they were in the mid- to late-19th century.

The full ecological consequences are uncertain, but reduced calcification and enhanced dissolution present multiple concerns.  Molluscs, corals, and some plankton may suffer because they depend on building mineral-rich shells. Additionally, rising ocean temperatures can shift or destroy habitat and trophic cascades may occur as predator and prey relationships are interrupted.

National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle, marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, coral expert Joan Kleypas, and Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of the Ocean Conservancy will testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.


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