Ocean acidification refers to an ongoing change in the chemistry of the ocean caused an increase in the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The ocean absorbs about one third of human-created carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a ‘Greenhouse Gas’ produced by the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is produced. This is slowly increasing the acidity of the oceans which can have a range of harmful consequences, such as depressing metabolic rates and immune responses in some organisms, causing coral bleaching and affecting the ability of some organisms to build the calcium carbonate shells that protect them. These changes pose new risks for a vast range of ocean life, from clams and coral reefs to crabs, shrimp, lobster, krill, sea urchin, sea snails, and some kinds of plankton, to name a few.
For an animated crash course on Ocean Acidification by the PEW Charitable Trust see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogZkV-Yj7Hc
You can help reduce ocean acidification today by finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Many of these options will also save you money!
What Can We Do?
Tip 1: Explore transportation alternatives. Could you walk, bike, use public transport, carpool, car-share or drive an electric vehicle to get around?
Tip 2: Choose an energy efficient vehicle and keep your tyres properly inflated. Correctly inflated tires can boost your miles per gallon anywhere from 4 to 40 percent.
Tip 3: Adapt your driving style. Speeding and unnecessary acceleration reduce mileage, waste fuel and money, and increase your carbon footprint.
Tip 4: Telecommute whenever possible rather than, for example, driving or flying for meeting people.
Tip 5: Use hot water more efficiently. Wash clothes in warm or cold water, lower temperature settings of heaters, use water efficient faucets and showerheads.
Tip 6: Reduce your energy use at home. Make sure your home is well insulated, especially in the roof and around windows. Remember to turn off the lights, replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting alternatives, unplug power sources not in use, and use shorter cycles on your dishwasher and washing machine.
Tip 7: Carry out a home energy audit. Evaluate the efficiency of your appliances and lighting, check insulation, and look for air leaks around doors, pipes and windows to discover how you can save energy.
Tip 8: Conserve water. It takes a lot of energy to pump, treat and heat water so saving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Also, remember that often what goes down the drain ends up in rivers and lakes, which all run into our ocean.
Tip 9: Waste less food. Agriculture and food production uses vast amounts of carbon dioxide. Each year, food that is wasted is responsible for adding an estimated 3.3 Gtonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere.
Tip 10: Eat less red meat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport”.
Tip 11: Buy less. Manufacturing products and transporting them burns a lot of carbon. Think “Do I really need this?” before you buy. This will also save you money!
Tip 12: Buy locally produced and seasonal food to minimise carbon emissions of transportation.
Do you have any more tips? Let us know at #OurOceanOurHealth
- Teaching / Outreach and Education Activities: Want to teach your students, friends or relatives about ocean acidification? Find inspiration for exciting events, downloadable information and materials on the Sea Change Online Directory for Ocean Literacy Resources < http://seachangeproject.eu/seachange-media-4/sea-change-database> . Type ‘acidification’ in the Description field.
- For some specific tips on how you can help prevent ocean acidification, explore this list from the Natural Resources Defence Council: http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/what-you-can-do.asp.
- There are numerous online calculators available where you can calculate your carbon footprint (This article gives a comprehensive review of just some of your options: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/feb/19/carbon.web).
- Check out this snappy video by Grist that explains ocean acidification in two minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAkhuETYn5U.
- For some great resources on understanding ocean acidification, see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) webpage: http://www.education.noaa.gov/Ocean_and_Coasts/Ocean_Acidification.html.
- Take a look at these educational resources on ocean acidification from NOAA: http://coralreef.noaa.gov/education/oa/ and http://oceanacidification.noaa.gov/AreasofFocus/EducationandOutreach.aspx.
- For more energy saving tips related to heat and energy see: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/citizens/tips/index_en.htm.
- Try out the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s Five Step Energy Saving Plan: http://www.seai.ie/Power_of_One/The_Steps/.
- There are some great carpooling initiatives available (e.g. see Rideshare: http://www.rideshare.com/About_Rideshare/).