Deep CO2 Cuts May Be Last Hope for Acid Oceans


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But when it comes to the impacts of climate change on the oceans, the only solution is a global agreement to sharply reduce emissions. While Lundin is optimistic there will be a deal in Copenhagen, he acknowledges some countries will put their self-interest first and foremost, and the global recession will make it difficult for politicians to agree to significant emissions cuts.

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Deep CO2 Cuts May Be Last Hope for Acid Oceans

  1. 1. Deep CO2 Cuts May Be Last Hope for Acid OceansUXBRIDGE, Canada, May 15 (IPS) – Ocean acidification offers the clearestevidence of dangers of climate change. And yet the indisputable fact that burningfossil fuels is slowly turning the oceans into an acid bath has been largely ignoredby industrialised countries and their climate treaty negotiators, concluded delegatesfrom 76 countries at the World Oceans Conference in Manado, Indonesia.Oceans and coastal areas must be on the agenda at the crucial climate talks inCopenhagen in December, they wrote in a declaration. “We must come to therescue of the oceans,” declared Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonoat the opening of high-level government talks on Thursday in the northern city ofManado.It is fair to say most international climate negotiators aren’t aware of the impacts ofclimate change on the oceans, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the IUCN’s GlobalMarine Programme.“Very few people understand that carbon emissions are making the oceans acidic,”Lundin told IPS.Over the past 150 years, burning of fossil fuels and deforestation has put morecarbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The oceans have absorbed more than one-third– about 130 billion tonnes – of those human emissions and have become 30percent more acidic as the extra CO2 combines with carbonate ions in seawater,forming carbonic acid.
  2. 2. Each day, the oceans absorb 30 million tonnes of CO2, gradually and inevitablyincreasing their acidity. There is no controversy about this basic chemistry.This increased acidity is affecting coral reefs and shell-forming organisms likeclams and many types of plankton. Newer research suggests that it may also affectbasic physiological functions for many types of marine organisms.Rising levels of acidity may also increase the size of oceanic dead zones – areasthat have too little oxygen to support life, according to research published inScience magazine Apr. 19. Dead zones, such as the one in Gulf of Mexico, havedramatically increased in number and size around the world in the past threedecades.“Climate change will have a huge number of very serious impacts on the oceans,”said Duncan Currie of Greenpeace New Zealand.“What we do in the next 10 to 15 years (regarding carbon emissions) will affect theoceans for thousands of years,” Currie said in an interview from Manado.And that is why Indonesia, a country made up of 17,508 islands, is hosting theMay 11-15 conference and wants to send a message to Copenhagen about theimpacts of climate change on the oceans, he said.The Copenhagen talks under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) are expected to result in a new agreement on reducing carbonemissions by a set target for all developed nations by 2012, when the KyotoProtocol expires.Participants and experts at the conference spoke about tropical forests receiving farmore attention while there was little awareness in the global community about thebroad impacts of climate change on the oceans.There is also little awareness that coastal mangrove forests soak up large amountsof carbon from the atmosphere, protect shorelines and are “fish nurseries”.Protection of mangroves is essential and restoring coastal forests are “win-win”situations that must be encouraged and supported under a future climateagreement, Currie said.“The role of coastal mangrove forests has not been part of the climate debate at theclimate meetings,” agreed Lundin.
  3. 3. Some coastal plants can increase their size by 10 percent per day, a rapid growthrate that exceeds land-based plants. “What are the benefits of CO2 capture andsequestration? I think coastal species offer an excellent opportunity to capturecarbon,” he said.IUCN is working with experts to collect data on this and will soon be able toquantify the carbon capture potential, he said. “Right now no one is talking aboutthis,” Lundin added.There is also little awareness that oceans and coastal zones have been in steepdecline for the past few decades.At the conference, the international conservation group World Wildlife Fundreleased a report showing that 40 percent of reefs and mangrove in the CoralTriangle have already been lost. This 5.7 million sq km area, considered theAmazon of the ocean with 75 percent of all coral species, spans eastern Indonesia,parts of Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and theSolomon Islands.The 40 percent is probably an underestimate, said the report’s chief author, OveHoegh-Guldberg, a coral biologist at the University of Queensland, Australia.Much of that decline is not due to climate change but result from pollution,overfishing and damage done to coastal regions such as chopping down mangroveforests and inappropriate coastal development.“…These are destroying the productivity of ocean, which is plummeting rightnow,” Hoegh-Guldberg said according to media reports. And since oceans absorbabout 40 percent of carbon emissions, damaging that enormous carbon capturesystem will make climate change far worse.“To preserve ocean health we’re calling for 40 percent of the oceans to beprotected,” Greenpeace’s Currie said.Greenpeace is campaigning for a global network of fully protected marine reserves– off limits to all fishing – that would include large areas in the high seas wherethere is little management. Daniel Pauly, a renowned fisheries expert at theUniversity of British Columbia, has called for protection for at least 60 percent ofthe oceans.
  4. 4. Lundin says the IUCN also wants large areas of the oceans protected to helprestore the health of fish stocks, protect ocean life from habitat destruction andcollapse so that they can better withstand climate change.But creating Marine Protected Areas is not enough – ecosystem-basedmanagement of these and even larger regions is needed. Current fisheriesmanagement on a species by species basis has been a disaster, leading to collapseof fish stocks like tuna, Lundin said.Major reforms are needed, among them the creation of regional oceansmanagement organisations based on ecosystem principles, he said.But when it comes to the impacts of climate change on the oceans, the onlysolution is a global agreement to sharply reduce emissions. While Lundin isoptimistic there will be a deal in Copenhagen, he acknowledges some countrieswill put their self-interest first and foremost, and the global recession will make itdifficult for politicians to agree to significant emissions cuts.“We have to realistic in our expectations about the emission targets that will beagreed to,” he said.Find More Information visit our site: