A few years back when I heard the term ‘climate crisis’ I used to think about a number of things. Extreme weather, failure of harvests, sea level rise, mass refugees and hunger. However, these things are all mostly related to land. How the area of land is decreasing, how the land itself is changing and the consequences. However, the climate crisis doesn’t just affect the land. It also affects the oceans. Today I want to discuss a massive problem concerning the oceans: ocean acidification.
Now, onto the explanation of the problem I wanted to discuss. Ocean Acidification. Ocean Acidification is one of the 9 planetary boundaries. And so, ocean acidification one of the 9 biggest problems we face today. Acidification is the proces of the oceans on the planet becoming lower in PH value. The lower the PH value, the more acidic the oceans become. Over the years the value has become lower and lower. It is now reaching dangerous levels, it is seriously threatening sea-life. Most important is that this proces is not a natural process. Humans cause the acidification of oceans.
How? As I said, oceans absorb CO2, they’re a carbon sink. Without humans emitting too much CO2 the PH value is in balance. However, since we humans are emitting insane amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, the oceans keep taking up more CO2. It’s the same problem we have with the atmosphere, that’a another carbon sink. We emit too much CO2, we create the greenhouse effect. Oceans take up about one third of the CO2 emitted and so this creates another problem with the same cause. The more CO2 we emits, the lower the PH values of the oceans become.
The biggest effect of acidification right now is that sea-life can’t sustain calcium carbonate. Corals, shells, lobster and more, they rely on calcium carbonate. Their skeletons are made out of it. When the oceans get more acid, skeletons of all kinds of sea-life literally disappear. They vanish because of the high PH levels. Shells will literally dissolve. But also corals, which are the basis of life for fish.
However, this acidification also has other consequences. The acidification also affects the bodily functions (like blood circulation) of fish and makes some specific species thrive (which misbalances the eco-system, the reason why the amount of jellyfishes is exploding). Acidification also goes along with the oceans getting warmer in general which causes the flows inside of the oceans to stop functioning. This then again means a misbalance in the distribution of nutrients. Too much CO2 just means the destruction of the eco-systems in the oceans. Simple as that.
We Depend on Oceans
As I said, I learned about the problem of acidification much later in my sustainability journey and it isn’t the first thing most people think of when they hear the term ‘climate crisis’. I think the reason for that is that humans don’t live in the oceans. For most of us it’s one big mystery. For most of us it’s also an endless dump or endless resource. We take as much fish as we want and we dump as much waste as we like, to name some examples. We think it won’t affect us. It’s the ocean, we don’t live there.
However, we don’t see how much of a problem we have when we destroy the oceans. Yet, we depend on the oceans. The oceans support 80% of life on earth, it’s a fantastic eco-system. 85% of our oxygen comes from this eco-system. It’s also a huge carbon sink (but we still release too much CO2) and so much more. When we are destroying the oceans, we are destroying ourselves.
We humans are the problem and so we’re also the solution here. And the biggest solution is the one I mention for soooo many problems on this planet: go vegan. I keep on being surprised by the new kind of damage we find from the fact that we eat animals. Why go vegan? Two reasons regarding this problem (but 1000 reasons in general). 1. Fish make the PH value of the oceans stabilize. They excrete calcium which makes the PH level go down (till a certain level, we can never have too many fish because the eco-systems in oceans sustain itself).
And so we harm double: we cause the climate crisis which causes the acidification. But at the same time we also literally eat the solution for the problem in insane amounts (most non-vegans eat 17 kilo of fish each year, multiple that by the amount of people who live on this planet …). The second solution is of course to lower our emissions to an acceptable level. On a personal level this means that we’ll have to live eco-positive, within the capacity of the earth (for the average Dutch person this again means that going vegan is part of the solution, because meat is at number 2 of the list of behavior that causes the most emissions. This is an average, sometimes meat is even number 1). We need more fish in the oceans and less CO2.
Did you know about the acidification of the oceans?
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