Global Warming’s Evil Twin

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By now, everyone has heard of global warming, or climate change in one way or another. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has even established that it is caused by humanity’s continuous emissions of fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide. Global warming would cause more intense and more frequent stormy weather and of course the rising of the global sea level, by melting the polar ice caps.

Another effect of anthropogenic or “man-made” climate change is Ocean Acidification (OA). Both historical and ongoing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions flow from our smokestacks to the atmosphere. As the atmosphere constantly balances itself with the world’s oceans, any excess of CO2 in the air will quickly (in a matter of one to two years) end up in the surface seawater. If it would not be for our oceans sucking up a LOT of CO2, we would be in real trouble. However, because the oceans store such enormous amounts of CO2, the seawater is slowly acidifying.

Marine organisms have adapted and evolved over millions of years and are dependent on the chemistry of the seawater being within certain bounds. It is difficult for them to respond to rapid changes in its chemistry, such as is happening nowadays. Mainly organisms that produce calcium carbonate, those being calcareous body parts, are threatened by Ocean Acidification (OA). Shellfish and corals are among the best known that suffer from OA, but there are many other organisms that are under threat in an ocean that turns acidic ever more rapidly.

As our seas are souring up, Global Warming’s Evil Twin is not only threatening all sorts of marine organisms, it also decreases the ocean’s capacity to take up (more) atmospheric CO2, so effectively diminishing our planet’s self-regulating carbon-storage.

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