Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Could Violate EPA Ocean-quality Standards Within Decades

Date:
September 20, 2007
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
A large team of scientists state that human-induced carbon dioxide emissions will alter ocean chemistry to the point where it will violate US Environmental Protection Agency Quality Criteria (1976) by mid-century if emissions are not dramatically curtailed now. This is the first recognition that atmospheric CO2 emissions will cause ocean waters to violate EPA water quality criteria.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Scientists believe atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions will cause ocean waters to violate EPA water quality criteria by mid-century, unless a concerted effort is made now to protect the oceans.
Credit: Photo by Michele Hogan

In a commentary in the September 25, 2007, issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), a large team of scientists state that human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will alter ocean chemistry to the point where it will violate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Quality Criteria [1976] by mid-century if emissions are not dramatically curtailed now.

Related Articles


This is the first recognition that atmospheric CO2 emissions will cause ocean waters to violate EPA water quality criteria.

The paper also says that carbon-dioxide induced "changes in ocean chemistry within the ranges predicted for the next decades and centuries present significant risks to marine biota" and that "adverse impacts on food webs and key biogeochemical process" would result.

An international team of twenty five leading researchers described the evidence to date regarding the effects of CO2 emissions on the acidity of the world's oceans.

"About 1/3 of the CO2 from fossil-fuel burning is absorbed by the world's oceans," explained lead author Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology. "When CO2 gas dissolves in the ocean it makes carbonic acid which can damage coral reefs and also hurt other calcifying organisms, such as phytoplankton and zooplankton, some of the most critical players at the bottom of the world's food chain. In sufficient concentration, the acidity can corrode shellfish shells, disrupt coral formation, and interfere with oxygen supply. "

Most of the research today points to a future where, in the absence of a major effort to curtail carbon dioxide emissions, there will be double the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (760 parts per million, or ppm) by century's end. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations could reach 500 ppm by mid-century. Pre-industrial concentrations, by comparison, were 280 ppm and today's concentration is about 380 ppm.

The acidity from CO2 dissolved in ocean water is measured by the pH scale (potential of Hydrogen). Declines in pH indicate that a solution is more acidic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [1976] Quality Criteria for Water state: "For open ocean waters where the depth is substantially greater than the euphotic zone, the pH should not be changed more than 0.2 units outside the range of naturally occurring variation ..." The euphotic zone goes to a depth of about 650 feet (200 meters), where light can still reach and photosynthesis can occur.

"Atmospheric CO2 concentrations need to remain at less than 500 ppm for the ocean pH decrease to stay within the 0.2 limit set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [1976]," remarked Caldeira. "If atmospheric CO2 goes above 500 ppm, the surface of the entire ocean will be out of compliance with EPA pH guidelines for the open ocean. We need to start thinking about carbon dioxide as an ocean pollutant. That is, when we release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, we are dumping industrial waste in the ocean."

Keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 500 ppm level would require a rapid global transition to a system of energy production and consumption that releases very little carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The study was led by Ken Caldeira of Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology. Included are researchers from Norway, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Japan, Monaco, and the United States.

Co-authors of the study are:

  • David Archer, University of Chicago, USA 
  • James P. Barry, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, USA
  • Richard G. J. Bellerby. 1 - Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway 
  • Peter G. Brewer, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, USA 
  • Long Cao, Carnegie Institution, USA 
  • Andrew G. Dickson, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA
  • Scott C. Doney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA 
  • Harry Elderfield, University of Cambridge, UK 
  • Victoria Fabry, California State University San Marcos, USA 
  • Richard A. Feely, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA 
  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso, CNRS, Laboratoire d'océanographie de Villefranche, France 
  • Peter M. Haugan, University of Bergen, Norway
  • Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Queensland, Australia 
  • Atul K. Jain, University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), USA 
  • Joan A. Kleypas, National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA 
  • Chris Langdon, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, USA 
  • James C. Orr, IAEA Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL), Monaco 
  • Andy Ridgwell, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK 
  • Christopher L. Sabine, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA 
  • Brad Seibel, University of Rhode Island, USA 
  • Yoshihisa Shirayama, Kyoto University, Japan
  • Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK 
  • Andrew J Watson, University of East Anglia, UK 
  • Richard E. Zeebe, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Could Violate EPA Ocean-quality Standards Within Decades." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070919175542.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2007, September 20). Carbon Dioxide Emissions Could Violate EPA Ocean-quality Standards Within Decades. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070919175542.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Could Violate EPA Ocean-quality Standards Within Decades." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070919175542.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins