“We’re acidifying the oceans,” said Mark Green, a professor of environmental science at Saint Joseph’s College in Maine. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to survive and what’s not, but there will be extinctions.”
Ocean acidification is sometimes referred to as “the other carbon dioxide problem,” and it’s exactly what the name implies: the gradual increase of acid in the world’s waters. It’s fueled by the burning of fossil fuels and the massive amounts of carbon that releases. A good chunk of that is absorbed by the world’s oceans, making the water more acidic.
Additional acid makes it hard for some species to develop the shells they need to survive. And that’s instilled fear in government and fisheries leaders around the country.
Also… I’ve read that, when the oceans reach the maximum amount of CO2 they can absorb, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere will increase more rapidly.
From my understanding, ocean pH levels have dropped over the past two centuries from 8.25 to approximately 8.05-8.00 on the scale (the lower the number, the higher the acidity). Although the percentage decline appears small (roughly 3%), it actually represents a dramatic increase in hydrogen ion (H+) accumulation in the world’s oceans (calculated in 1994 to be about 30%). The rate of acidification appears to be unprecedented in the geologic record, and it’s posing an immediate threat to marine invertebrates, ecosystems, and eventually to Earth’s entire biosphere.
However, the acidity threshold for marine life – and by consequence, for all higher organisms on Earth – will be breached long before the oceans can no longer chemically absorb atmospheric CO2 (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification#Saturation_state).