Climate regulating ocean plants and animals are being destroyed by toxic chemicals and plastics, accelerating our path towards ocean pH 7.95 in 25 years which will devastate humanity.
19 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2021 Last revised: 2 May 2022
Date Written: June 5, 2021
Marine plants and animals should be thriving in ocean waters because of the current high concentrations of carbon dioxide and nutrients along with slightly elevated temperatures - but they are not. We have lost 50% of all marine life over the last 70 years; this decline is continuing today at a rate of 1% year on year. The GOES team has used its collective professional and academic experience to undertake analysis of peer- reviewed and published data to explore the reasons for this decline and its implications for climate and humanity. In our view, this loss of marine life is directly related to the presence of toxic chemicals and plastic which started to appear with the ‘chemical revolution’ in the1950’s.
There is no doubt that tiny ocean planktonic plants and animals are key to regulating our climate, but this keystone of the planet’s largest ecosystem seems to be ignored as one of the tools to address climate change. Every second breath we take comes from marine photosynthesis, a process which also uses 60-90% of our carbon dioxide. Now that we have lost 50% of a key climate regulator, surely it is time to stop, take a fresh look at ocean chemistry and biodiversity and ask ourselves some fundamental questions: Why have we lost this level of marine life? Why is the decline continuing? What does this mean for our climate and humanity?
Of particular concern from a climate change perspective is the level of carbonic acid in the oceans. This carbonic acid is created when atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves into the oceans. In the 1940’s, ocean pH was 8.2, but in 2020, pH had dropped to 8.04, indicating that the oceans are becoming more acidic. If there are not enough plants to use up carbon, the unused carbonic acid moves the pH downwards. Reports from respected institutes around the globe flag an acceleration of the ocean acidification process. This decline will result in the loss of more marine plants and animals, especially those that have carbonate shells and body structures (aragonite) based. These same reports forecast that in 25 years (by 2045), pH will drop to 7.95, and estimate that with this, 80% to 90% of all remaining marine life will be lost. The GOES team’s opinion is that this is a tipping point: a planetary boundary which must not be exceeded if humanity is to survive. No ecosystem can survive a 90% loss; the result is a trophic cascade collapse. We will lose all the corals, whales, seals, birds, fish and food supply for 2 billion people – an outcome worse than climate change.
Let’s be clear: If by some miracle the world achieves net zero by 2045, evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) BIOACID report  demonstrates that this reduction will not be enough to stop a drop in ocean pH to 7.95. If the level of marine life (both plant and animal) is reduced, then the oceans’ ability to lockout carbon into the abyss is depleted. It is clear to the GOES team that if we only pursue carbon mitigation strategies and don’t do more to regenerate plant and animal life in oceans, we will reach a tipping point: a planetary boundary from which there will be no return, because all life on Earth depends upon the largest ecosystem on the planet. Humanity will suffer terribly from global warming, but it must be understood that the oceans are already showing signs of instability today at pH 8.04, (the start of the tipping point) and in 25 years when the pH has dropped to pH 7.95 represents the end point, the point of no return.
Keywords: ocean, acidification, marine, climate, change, extinction
JEL Classification: Q54, Q56
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation