climate change

The world’s oceans are heading towards peak acidity

A bleaching coral is seen where abandoned fishing nets covered it in a reef in the protected area of Ko Losin, Thailand. Photo credit: Reuters / Jorge Silva.

By Anders Lorenzen

Our oceans are acidifying. A new report has warned that the level of acidity in the world’s oceans is higher now than it has been for the past 26,000 years.

Scientific data from the United Nations (UN) body the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has indicated that last year the world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic on record. 

Their annual ‘State of the Global Climate’ report indicated that the accelerating pace of climate change was to blame for acidification and that the melting of ice sheets contributed to pushing sea level rises to new heights in 2021.

The WMO report comes hot on the heels of the latest Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC’s) climate reports, about the increased urgency of cutting emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. 

In a statement, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said “Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come.” 

How the oceans absorb carbon and store the heat

Oceans bear much of the brunt of the warming climate and increasing climate emissions. The bodies of water absorb around 90% of the Earth’s accumulated heat and 23% of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activity. The temperature of the world’s oceans has warmed increasingly faster over the last twenty years and is expected to become even warmer in future; a change that will take millennia to reverse. 

The fact that oceans store most heat and a large portion of CO2 emissions has contributed to them being more acidic than they’ve ever been for the past 26.000 years.

And in just the past decade global sea levels have risen 4.5 cm. The annual increase from 2013 to 2021 is more than double the increase between 1993 to 2002.

Talas expressed concern that the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine seemed to be the priority of world leaders currently. He also added that it is only a matter of time before the world can record yet another warmest year on record.

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