Ocean Acidification: A Problem for Policymakers

Ocean Acidification: A Problem for Policymakers

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8401-8.ch006
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Absorption of CO2 by the waters of the oceans is making them acid, which is then detrimental to much ocean life like corals. There are technological solutions to the problems of the oceans; action is possible. Nevertheless, whatever is done it must be watched very carefully. This monitoring effort will take big data taken from space and from the air, but it will also take a major hands-on effort by people right at the water's surface. This chapter's story, “The Captain's Tale,” looks at what might happen when an effort that is closely watched by a great number of people runs into problems.
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Topics For Discussion

The following discussion points come from information covered in this chapter:

  • 1.

    The coral reefs of the Earth’s oceans are suffering from global warming and acidification of the water by carbon dioxide. Who does this hurt? What can be done?

  • 2.

    There is always the possibility that things will not go right. Is there a story in this effort to get things right? Is there a story in the conflict that occurs when things go wrong?

  • 3.

    It takes a village to raise a child, but what does this mean in a digital age?



Water acidification is mainly caused by CO2 emissions which, when dissolved in water, generates carbonic acid. It is a process very similar to what occurs for the production of carbonated mineral water. The result is that the chemical composition of water changes, with negative consequences for the whole marine ecosystem.

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, besides being one of the main causes of the increase in global temperatures, is also affecting the equilibrium of marine ecosystems. In fact, the oceans absorb between a third and a quarter of all the CO2 released each year in the atmosphere. While this phenomenon contributes to slowing down the negative consequences of the greenhouse effect, on the other hand it makes the waters increasingly acidic.

The negative consequences of water acidification on the marine ecosystem are manifold: coral reefs at risk, reduction of fishing resources and marine habitat compromised are some of the results that the change in the chemical composition of the seas involves.

Coral reefs are submarine forests. Moreover, forests that are rich in living species. Consider that at least 25% of all marine species in the world live in the waters of coral reefs. Moreover, what most upsets and attracts tourists is the magnificent combination of plants and fish that can be found in these places.

The majority of the coral reefs in our ranking ˗ and in the world ˗ are actually made up of many smaller elements, connected in a single ecosystem. The most important coral reefs in the world are:

  • Great Barrier Reef Australia: This ecosystem reaches 2300 km in length and includes thousands of coral reefs and hundreds of islands with over 600 types of hard and soft corals. The barrier is home to countless species of colorful fish, mollusks and sea stars, as well as turtles, dolphins and sharks.

  • Red Sea Coral Reef: These were formed by vast coral fields, which in turn are made up of tiny coral polyp colonies.

  • Coral Reef of New Caledonia: This is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2008 as “Lagoons of New Caledonia”. It boasts more than 9,300 marine species.

  • Mesoamerican Reef, Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala and the Islands Of Honduras Bay: A World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1996, it is the largest coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean. This coral reef extends almost 1,126 Km. Over 500 species of fish and 65 types of coral live within this great barrier system. Coral reef fisheries include snappers, groupers, and lobsters.

  • Coral Reef of The Maldives Islands, Indian Ocean: Besides the corals, there are a large quantity of fish species: anemones, crustaceans, mollusks, clams and octopuses. The echinoderms are also very widespread.

  • Coral Reef of Apo, Philippines: It is the second longest continuous coral system in the world and the largest in the country. The barrier and the waters that surround it are protected areas in the area administered as Apo's coral reef nature park.

  • Belize Barrier Reef, Caribbean Sea: This coral reef is protected by the UNESCO program. It is the largest coral barrier in the northern hemisphere and second only to the great Australian coral reef. Also part of the natural system of the Belize Barrier Reef are atolls, beaches, lagoons, and mangrove forests. There are endangered species such as manatees, sea turtles, and American crocodiles.

  • Saya De Malha, Indian Ocean: This marine habitat facilitates the life of particular species such as turtle and blue whales.

  • Coral Reef of Andros, Bahamas: It is famous for its deep-water sponges and large schools of red snapper. It is also the only place in the world with more than one Nassau grouper aggregation, marlins, sailfish, stingrays, reef sharks, lobsters, turtles, moray eels, octopi, and game fish.

  • Florida Keys, United States: It is the third largest coral reef in the world with about 1,400 species of marine and animal plants, including more than 40 species of rocky corals and 500 species of fish.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Iron Seas: A fictional organization that is testing the seeding the oceans with iron to sequester carbon.

Big Moon Dig (BMD): A fictional grassroots space movement with the purpose of building a settlement on the Moon. It is a MOVE organization. Historically Apollo to the Moon provided an enormous number of people with a vivid, positive vision of the future. Such a vision would be a major asset in addressing the great problems of the 21 st century if it can be reestablished. The Big Moon Dig’s top-level purpose then is to rebuild that vision.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): The intelligence shown by machines or computer software. An AI in some ways can mimic human intelligence but does not have to match it feature for feature. The interface avatars of the AIs are important characters in these stories.

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