Although it may not often be discussed, ocean acidification is one of the biggest problems facing humanity (and the environment) today. Increasing ocean acidity is not only damaging biodiversity and marine ecosystems, but is also affecting human industries that depend on ocean resources.
While the best way to stop ocean acidification is to reverse climate change, there are other smaller steps we can take that can make a difference. This guide will provide you with 5 ways people can help combat ocean acidification.
Why is ocean acidification occurring?
So what is causing ocean acidification? Ocean acidification occurs when atmospheric carbon dioxide increases. This excess carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, where it undergoes a chemical reaction that ultimately raises the ocean’s acidity level.
Ocean acidification is also caused by runoff from industry and agriculture, such as pesticides and fertilizers, which reach the ocean. When these chemicals get into the water, they not only increase acidity, but can become more toxic under acidic conditions.
Even small increases in acidity can have a large impact on marine life. For example, increased acidity kills organisms at the bottom of the food chain and makes it difficult for shelled creatures to build shells. Acidification also destroys an important ocean habitat, coral reefs, as it is harder for corals to build their skeletons. The entire ocean food chain, and thus the entire ecosystem, is thrown out of balance by ocean acidification.
In turn, these impacts on marine life affect humans. Many humans and industries depend on ocean resources for their livelihoods. It is estimated that ocean acidification will result in a loss of more than $140 billion.
It’s not too late; the National Climate Assessment explains that if we act now, we can avoid damaging the ocean and our fishing industries. Here are some ways you can work to slow ocean acidification.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint
The best way to stop ocean acidification is to emit less carbon dioxide, so the ocean doesn’t absorb the excess. There are many small steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, including (but not limited to):
Drive less : cars are a major emitter of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. When possible, carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation.
Water conservation: believe it or not, the processes that bring water to your home emit greenhouse gases. Use water wisely and intentionally, and try not to waste too much water unnecessarily.
Buy sustainably made products: before buying anything, it pays to do a little research on the habits of that company. Some companies emit large amounts of greenhouse gases without making an effort to be more efficient, while others are committed to reducing their carbon emissions.
Buy fewer items: the production and sale of consumer goods can generate a large amount of carbon, so buying less will help reduce those emissions. If you must buy something, try to buy an eco-friendly version with a smaller carbon footprint. For example, buy clothing made from recycled materials.
Read more about how to reduce your carbon footprint in our article, ” Is it possible to prevent global warming? “.
2. Use natural fertilizers and pesticides
Because all water on land eventually leads to the ocean, harmful chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides reach the ocean, causing ocean acidification and chemical pollution.
If you have a garden, be sure to use natural fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, rather than releasing those chemicals into the ocean through runoff. For example, consider using a homemade vinegar-based herbicide, instead of toxic sprays like RoundUp. This is not only better for the environment, but it’s also cheaper!
Support pesticide-free farming practices by buying organic produce. Reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture is also an important step we can take to combat ocean acidification. While some argue that reducing pesticide use would harm the agricultural industry, several studies have found that less pesticide use can actually increase crop yields.
3. Support responsible businesses
Runoff from industry, sewage and illegal dumping of chemical wastes can contribute to ocean acidification and pollute the ocean with toxic substances. Supporting responsible businesses is an excellent way to contribute to the fight against ocean acidification.
It can be difficult to know if a company is being responsible with its waste. If a company is not in compliance with any environmental regulations, an environmental audit will bring it to light.
Some companies also place “green” seals on their products showing that they were produced sustainably. There are a number of different green labels, including Green Seal , which shows customers that a company meets high safety and sustainability standards.
4. Support non-profit organizations working to combat ocean acidification.
There are a number of organizations doing important work to combat ocean acidification.
Some organizations, such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science , focus on researching ocean acidification and its impacts. Research and knowledge gathering is an important step in stopping ocean acidification, as we need the information to know how and what to focus on.
Other organizations such as Oceana and Ocean Project focus on ocean conservation and help reverse some of the effects of ocean acidification.
The Ocean Foundation’s Ocean Project International Acidification Initiative helps both scientists and policymakers understand, monitor and address ocean acidification on local and global scales.
Donating money is not the only way to support these organizations, although it is always appreciated. Consider finding an organization that needs volunteers and spend some time contributing in that way. Even something as simple as signing your name on a petition makes a difference and takes just a minute out of your day.
5. Contact your legislators
Finally, consider contacting your legislators to ask them to pass legislation to combat ocean acidification and, by extension, climate change. For example, carbon taxes on corporate carbon emissions can be an effective way to reduce overall carbon emissions.
Other government policies that can help address ocean acidification include providing funding for ocean acidification research or regulating chemicals used in pesticides.
Call or write your local or federal government representatives to ask them to take action on ocean acidification.