The atmosphere is a combination of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and carbon dioxide. Recently, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been swiftly rising. We are not currently facing Apollo 13 style asphyxiation because carbon dioxide is captured by water to form carbonic acid. As it happens, the oceans of planet Earth are made of water.
Ergo, we are turning the world’s oceans into seltzer water! The results of such ocean acidification are devastating to the ocean’s inhabitants–as became tragically apparent this week when 10 million Canadian scallops died due to the rapidly dropping PH levels along the west coast of Canada. The shellfish farming company “Island Scallops” lost three year’s worth of scallop harvest when the PH dropped from 8.2 to 7.3 in their scallop beds of the Georgia Strait. Scallops have shells made of calcium carbonate—which dissolves in carbonic acid—so the creatures are unable to fight off predators and disease.
Of course most scallops and other sea creatures are not owned by Canadian farmers—so nobody notices when they go missing (because they have perished…or dissolved). Most of the newspapers and news sites covering the scallop die-off have concentrated on what a blow the loss is to seafood lovers and fish farmers, but, it seems to me that this narrow financial approach ignores the fact that the majority of Earth’s surface is covered in ocean.
Of course acidification of the oceans is only one part of a combined attack: the poor oceans are also being overfished, polluted, and subject to rapid temperature changes. The oceans are the cradle of life, and they remain crucial to all life on the planet. Our amphibious ancestors climbed out of the sea long ago but the photosynthesizing algae that live there still remain critical to all life on Earth (unless you are an extremophile bacteria). These tiny creatures are part of a vast web of life which is being torn to pieces and destroyed. So join me in mourning the dead scallops.