The dissolution of marine life… with every degree celsius

What happens to CO2 released into the air following the burning of fossil fuels for energy, deforestation (either releasing CO2 gases by forest burning or simply removing our natural filters of carbon dioxide since trees are plants – the only species that breathe them in), and industrial processes?

Good news is – only 46% of the CO2 remains in the air to create our so-called greenhouse effect. But we really don’t want to gloat over the other 54% that seeps into our soil and oceans. Whatever goes into the soil, other than changing the chemical composition of arable lane, also gets washed into our water bodies. So, ultimate, our oceans tank a large bulk of CO2.

To simplify things – CO2 is essentially what you’d pump into water to make soda water. It makes water fizzy and bubbly. And acidic. That’s the same thing that happens when CO2 molecules in the air interact with H2O molecules that make up our oceans. Oceans become acidic and that shift in chemical composition causes distress to marine life. Sea creatures that otherwise depend on their senses to catch prey and avoid predators lose the ability to do so. Shell fish lose their calcifying abilities to produce the shells needed. Planktons that make up the foundation of marine food web fail to reproduce.

It’s like how we suffered headaches, asthma attacks, skin problems, etc. upon the annual haze visits. That’s the conditions we are subjecting marine life to, only worse. We’re placing them deep in Sumatra, fumigating their existence.

What does this mean for us? We don’t live in seas, so isn’t it good that the CO2 goes somewhere we don’t dwell in? That’s what scientists thought as well.

First and foremost – does the argument above even make sense? Just because we avoided harm at the peril of another species doesn’t sound like like noble aspirations.

Granted that many do not aspire to be noblemen, I’ll save elaborating on the need for varied wildlife and a diverse ecosystem for planet earth to be considered alive. the threat to marine species does indirectly impact us. Gasps. Think of the seafood we love putting into our mouths. The many livelihoods and communities that depend on fishing.

I stumbled upon this really cute video which can really help one visualise ocean acidification. Note the part where it emphasises a 30% increase in acidity of the ocean. Was there not a saying that we can’t change the oceans? Well, with a concerted effort across generations, we have.

The magnitude of ocean acidification is at unprecedented levels and there are not enough studies to show how it impact the earth. But it definitely contributes to this 6th extinction wave – of, ultimately, the human race, by the human race. Anthropocene will cause an end in itself.

How can we help? We help by not making it worse. Leave the undoing to scientists and experts.

  1. Stop being energy-consuming brats. Turn off lights, air conditioning, and other energy-consuming items in your home and offices when they are not in use. Sounds like what they tell you in Primary school but it would also really help in reducing your monthly bills. (I’m also trying to get into that habit – the paradox of convenience.)
  2. Make gradual shifts in everyday habits. You love cuddling up under the blanket in a room of 18 degree celsius? Try turning it up to 19… then 20… and slowly, you’ll realise how unnecessarily oxymoronic it was to enjoy the warmth of a blanket at man-made 18 degrees. I think the ideal temperature is somewhere between 24-25 degrees celsius. (I know there are some people who need 20 and below to not feel like they’re being baked. I never understand that because I used to wear gloves in my office because it is too darn cold.)
  3. Save water. Energy is spent pumping water.
  4. Eat less meat. Just because we spend so much energy and resources breeding livestock that a reduction in its consumption can channel resources somewhere else. Because we grow plants to feed animals which in turn feed other animals that we prefer to eat. If we could just focus more on eating lower in the food chain, then there wouldn’t be the need for resources to feed into something, then into another, and into another before it reaches our stomachs. “Meatless Mondays” is a pretty good habit to adopt. And it’s cool. (Because it alliterates.)

Of course, there are many other causes that individuals can contribute to – driving less, buy less, reuse more… At the end of the day, it is about mindful living. And we should all strive to live with as little negative impact on the earth as possible. Rid that sense of self-entitlement. The earth owes us nothing. We owe – to it – everything.

Here’s a longer, more scientific illustration of the problem of ocean acidification. About how the hydrogen molecules actually combine with water molecules in the sea and how it prevents calcification needed in shell organisms. Check it out if you’re interested!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. mark lim says:

    So sciency! Best geography lesson I’ve had in the past decade. And the top tips for greener living – true gems 😀


  2. tacomob says:

    In that same context humankind is facing another challenge hitting Earth’s ocean. The one of coral bleaching.
    This latest article in the Straits Times has more on that:
    In it one marine biologist suggests that “corals may have adapted to deal with thermal stress”. Really? In such a short period? Is nature really that amazing in adapting? I do have my doubts.


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