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Science Academies Warn of Ocean Acidification

Scientific academies have joined forces to stress the dangers of ocean acidification to world leaders. The Interacademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), which has members representing 69 countries, issued a statement today recommending that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognize the threats posed by ocean acidification, in time for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December.

Researchers are worried that as the world’s industries spew carbon dioxide into the air, the oceans are absorbing a quarter of emissions, increasing their acidity and harming marine life. “Ocean acidification is a distinct problem” from climate change and may require distinct solutions, says James Wilsdon, director of the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society in the United Kingdom, one of IAP’s member academies. Wilsdon notes that if atmospheric carbon dioxide can be stabilized at 450 ppm, one possible target that has been discussed by politicians, only 8% of existing tropical and subtropical coral reefs will still be in waters at the right pH level to support their growth: “Negotiators need to be aware of this,” he says.