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Statement from 70 National Science Academies Calls for Inclusion of Ocean Acidification in Copenhagen Agenda

Ocean acidification, a direct consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, must be part of the agenda at the United Nations Copenhagen conference, the world’s science academies warned in a joint statement published by the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP). 70 national science academies signed the statement.

Ocean acidification is an important climate change challenge and is expected to cause massive corrosion of coral reefs and dramatic changes in the makeup of the biodiversity of the oceans, and to have significant implications for food production and the livelihoods of millions of people.

Over the past 200 years, the oceans have absorbed approximately a quarter of the CO2 produced from human activities. This CO2 would otherwise have accumulated in the atmosphere leading to greater climate change. However, the absorption of this CO2 has affected ocean chemistry and has caused the oceans (which are on average slightly alkaline) to become more acidic.

The average pH of oceanic surface waters has been lowered by 0.1 units since the pre-industrial period. This represents a 30% increase in hydrogen ion activity. Hydrogen ions attack carbonate ions which are the building blocks needed by many marine organisms, such as corals and shellfish, to produce their skeletons, shells and other hard structures. This loss of carbonate ions produce lower saturation levels for the carbonate minerals, aragonite and calcite, which are used in many shells and skeletons. Carbonate ion concentrations are now lower than at any other time during the last 800,000 years.

Ocean acidification is irreversible during our lifetimes and those of many generations to come, according to the IAP statement. Minimizing the risk of these large-scale and long-term changes to the oceans requires curbing the the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations by reducing emissions from human activities by at least 50% by 2050.

Recent scenario studies have estimated that stabilization of atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 550 ppm will produce enough acidification to be disastrous for sensitive oceanic ecosystems in many parts of the world. Even at 450 ppm, more than 10% of the world’s oceans will be impacted including large parts of the Southern, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans.

Mitigation approaches such as adding chemicals to counter the effects of acidification are likely to be expensive, only partly effective and only at a very local scale, and may pose additional unanticipated risks to the marine environment. There has been very little research on the feasibility and impacts of these approaches, the IAP noted. Substantial research is needed before these techniques could be applied.

There has been much talk among the science community over the past few years about ocean acidification and its potentially catastrophic consequences, but it has failed to receive the political attention it demands. Its absence from discussions to-date is of immense concern, and we call for its immediate inclusion as a vital part of the climate change agenda.

—IAP Co-Chairs, Chen Zhu, Minister of Health, P.R. of China; and Howard Alper, Chair and President, Science, Technology and Innovation Council, Canada

The statement calls for world leaders to explicitly recognize the direct threats posed by increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions to the oceans and its profound impact on the environment and society. It emphasizes that ocean acidification is irreversible and, on current emission trajectories, suggests that all coral reefs and polar ecosystems will be severely affected by 2050 or even earlier.

The implications of ocean acidification cannot be overstated. Unless we cut our global CO2 emissions by at least 50% by 2050 and thereafter, we could be looking at fundamental and immutable changes in the makeup of our marine biodiversity. The effects will be seen worldwide, threatening food security, reducing coastal protection and damaging the local economies that may be least able to tolerate it.

—Zhu and Alper

The statement was issued during the UNFCCC conference in Bonn this week that will ultimately shape the Copenhagen negotiations, where agreement must be reached on carbon emission reduction targets needed to avoid dangerous climate change.



This should make it easier to tackle AGW, it's not just about issues of scientific uncertainty and atmospheric gases. Pollution and CO2 emissions are not just potentially harming the greenhouse balance.

We really need to shift the focus to pollution reduction and efficiency. If anyone still insists that emissions from coal-fired power stations are harmless, they and their family will be invited to live free right next door to a brown coal-fired power station. They would probably decline.


Yes indeed, stop all use of fossil fuels, wind farms, nuclear and hydro power.

I'm certain even the most extreme eco freaks would decline if they and their families were asked to freeze in the dark.


We could shut down every coal plant in the US and drive nothing but electric cars starting tomorrow and it wouldn't make one drop of difference. By Labor Day we will have 6.8 Billion people on the planet. We are currently adding a net 215,000 people per day, every day. We are losing our staus of inhabitant and quickly becoming a parasite.


For a country with 5% of the world's population that uses 25% of the oil, I think the U.S. can and should do its part to reduce fossil fuel usage.


SJC - that is a strawman argument, try equating to GDP instead of population.

60% of the worlds population have never used a telephone.


Joseph - a better measure would be energy usage against quality of life.


Ah yes... the final collapsing frontier for the AGW alarmists. Now we know the earth is cooling, sea level rising steadily about 8cm/century, CO2 fertilizing plant life yielding larger crop and native growth - the last gasp is acidification.

But the science just won't cooperate. Here are several peer reviewed studies showing that ocean pH has risen and fallen, since year 1700 between 7.95 and 8.15 (Pelejero et al. 2005) and the past 7000 years between 7.95 and 8.3 (Liu et al. 2009) and year 1800 between 7.7 and 8.2(Wei et al. 2009). The variation occurs naturally and LONG before man-made CO2 from industrial activity:

"the dominant feature of the coral δ11B record is a clear interdecadal oscillation of pH, with δ11B values ranging between 23 and 25 per mil (7.9 and 8.2 pH units)," which they say "is synchronous with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation."

No. The science has clearly demonstrated that AGW and it attendant alarms are about socio-engineering NOT science. So, alarmists, regroup, restructure and re-propose your social change program - only this time get honest, get reel, and argue your case on sociological terms. That is ask for your $two trillion dollar$ tax for some other reason. Because the science angle is... dead.


Oh good, I was wondering where our comic relief was hiding.



We could have a large and growing GDP without using 25% of the world's oil. I do not understand why people think the only way to a large economy is to waste oil.


I am very much against wasting oil for several reasons, and yes we need to improve efficiencies. However, the US is roughly 25% of the worlds economy and uses roughly 25% of the oil. If you added all the european countries together they would equal roughly 25% of the worlds economy and for some strange reason they use roughly 25% of the worlds oil too. The US is no longer the worlds worst polluter. With half the economy of the US, China is the new #1 polluter, followed by India, then the US with the EU nipping at our heals. The US is going green faster than most.

ai vin - quality of life is very subjective.


We still can have a growing economy while using less oil. If we just make the effort, we can do it. 8 years wasted being told we can not must come to an end.


Ah yes but Joseph you have to remember how much stuff America imports from places like China and India. Some of "their pollution" is actually yours. This is of course true of any country with a trade deficit.


"published by the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP)."

Clearly not a science based organization. And should it not be the acronym: IAPII?? Sounds more accurate.


"Some of "their pollution" is actually yours. This is of course true of any country with a trade deficit."

Or any country that trades. Be it Euros, dollars or wampum. Canada exports the vast majority of their lumber, oil, gas and coal. So, all those emissions/pollution actually belong to China, Malaysia, Japan, etc.


"Canada exports the vast majority of their lumber, oil, gas and coal. So, all those emissions/pollution actually belong to China, Malaysia, Japan, etc."

Speaking of which - the US also imports energy from Canada so the carbon costs of their production also belong to you. We supply you with more oil&gas than anybody else and we're not trying to kill you either, so try to be nicer, OK?


"Clearly not a science based organization"??? Read it.

IAP is composed of such organizations such as the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of the UK.

Of course it is nothing compared to the inbreed groups and blogs that are kept being refered to as science after all they publish all the time for peer review (yah right).

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