12 July 2012
Robert F Service
The burning of fossil fuels emits some 35 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That has already begun to change the fundamental chemistry of the world’s oceans, steadily increasing their level of acidity. On page 220 of this week’s issue of Science, scientists report projections from a new high-resolution computer model showing that over the next 4 decades, the combination of deep-water upwelling and rising atmospheric CO2 is likely to have profound impacts on waters off the West Coast of the United States, home to one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems and most important commercial fisheries. The new computer model is only one of several recent warning signs. Numerous laboratory and field studies over the past few years underscore rising concerns that ocean acidification could devastate marine ecosystems on which millions of people depend for food and jobs.