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A shifting tide: GHG emissions exacerbate ocean acidification


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11 September 2014 – Carbon dioxide emissions, which have reached a record high in 2013, are too great for oceans and the biosphere to soak up at their usual rate.

The World Meteorological Organization, in the lead-up to the 2014 Climate Summit, has urged the international community to take a concentrated action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) latest annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide caused a 34 per cent increase in the global warming in the last 10 years.

The Bulletin, which focuses on the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and its impact on the climate, for the first time includes a section on ocean acidification. “It is high time the ocean, as the primary driver of the planet’s climate and attenuator of climate change, becomes a central part of climate change discussions,” said Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The preliminary data in the report indicates that dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels was possibly related not only to the steadily increasing CO2 emissions but also to reduced CO2 uptake by the earth’s biosphere. Oceans cushion a quarter of total global CO2 emissions, as they become saturated, the risk of adverse effects on marine life and biodiversity is heightened.

“Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years and in the ocean for even longer. Past, present and future CO2 emissions will have a cumulative impact on both global warming and ocean acidification. The laws of physics are non-negotiable,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“We have the knowledge and we have the tools for action to try to keep temperature increases within 2°C to give our planet a chance and to give our children and grandchildren a future. Pleading ignorance can no longer be an excuse for not acting,” concluded Mr. Jarraud.

At the Third International Small Island Developing States Conference on the Pacific island of Samoa, United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change Mary Robinson reminded everyone, “There's no 'them' and 'us' anymore. It's all of us.” The acidification of oceans, the changing biosphere and other nefarious effects of climate change hold dire implications for small and developing island states. “This is about people, it's about survival,” the envoy told the UN New Centre.


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