Global Change

Global Change

Emissions of carbon dioxide are causing ocean acidification as well as global warming. Scientists have previously used computer simulations to quantify how curbing of carbon dioxide emissions would mitigate climate impacts. New computer simulations have now examined the likely effects of mitigation scenarios on ocean acidification trends. They show that both the peak year of emissions and post-peak reduction rates influence how much ocean acidity increases by 2100. Changes in ocean pH over subsequent centuries will depend on how much the rate of carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced in the longer term. Largely as a result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels for energy and land-use changes such deforestation, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now higher that it has been at any time over the last 800,000 years. Most scientists believe this increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide to be an important cause of global warming.

The oceans absorb around a third of carbon dioxide emissions, which helps limit global warming, but uptake of carbon dioxide by the oceans also increases their acidity, with potentially harmful effects on calcifying organisms such as corals and the ecosystems that they support,” explained Dr Toby Tyrrell of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES) based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

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