get the oceans some tums

The world’s oceans may be becoming more acidic due to the burning of fossil fuels, say researchers in the Sept. 25 Nature. Ken Caldeira and Michael E. Wickett from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California used a computer model to predict what would happen if carbon dioxide emissions remained at current levels over the next few hundred years. As fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released in the air, most of which is dissolved by the ocean, forming carbonic acid and lowering its pH. The researchers believe that this change in the ocean’s pH could harm marine life, particularly coral reefs and other organisms whose calcium carbonate shells and skeletons may dissolve in a more acidic environment. The researchers warn that “unabated carbon dioxide emissions over the coming centuries may produce changes in ocean pH that are greater than any experienced over the past 300 million years, with the exception of those resulting from rare, catastrophic events in Earth’s history,” such as a giant asteroid strike.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 10/07/2003.
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