It makes sense that ocean acidification is bad for marine life. But who knew it could have far-reaching effects on human health as well?
A new report by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) shows that ocean acidification is threatening global food security by hindering the growth of clam, oyster, and other mollusk populations – staples in many nations’ diets.
Without healthy and reliable mollusk populations, countries may be forced to switch to aquaculture. Countries like Haiti, Senegal, and Madagascar, however, lack the ability to make this switch and are thus especially vulnerable to the impacts of mollusk shortages. And of course, problems like this never exist in a vacuum; even developed countries such as the U.S. will feel the effects via a potential drop in GDP.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a theoretical problem – the deleterious effects can already be seen in both ecosystems and economic realms alike. In Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists have observed that coral growth has slowed, and Pacific Northwest oyster farms have already experienced declining economic yields. Further effects, which will no doubt be broader in scope, will probably be seen in 10 to 50 years if we do not make a concerted effort to halt ocean acidification.
Worst of all, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Ocean acidification is a problem caused by humans and the excessive release of CO2 into the environment due to our dependence on fossil fuels. Once CO2 inevitably makes its way into marine ecosystems, it sets off a chain reaction that impedes shell and skeleton growth in a variety of marine organisms.
So what’s the solution? The only way to curb ocean acidification in the long run, scientists say, is to transition away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy alternatives like wind and solar energy. What are we waiting for?