Ocean Acidification- More than just a sour taste (pt.3)

Ocean acidification is a feedback mechanism, affected by a change in atmospheric CO2 levels. As such, reducing the amount of atmospheric CO2 will then reduce the amount of carbonic acid in the oceans, and there’s not really any other way to fix this issue globally.

How can we achieve this? Well, Limiting deforestation and the use of fossil fuels would be a good start- Coal, Oil and Gas are carbon sinks from millions of years ago, which we have turned into a present-day carbon source. At the same time we have been cutting down forests for our own use- a shorter term carbon sink, on the scale of centuries at most, but a carbon sink nonetheless.

Alternatively, we could pump CO2 from power plants and other key producers deep into the ground, where they would reside in the pore space between grains in sedimentary rocks. This is called carbon sequestration, and could allow future use of fossil fuels while more long term solutions are put into place. However it could have more significant risks and consequences.

sequestration

https://energy.usgs.gov/portals/0/Rooms/co2_sequestration/images/carbon_sequestration_illustration_full_thumbnail.png

As shown in the above example, the cavity or area to act as the store needs to be contained- there are many geological features such as faults or layers of permeable rock, which could allow gas to seep back into the atmosphere, as well as those which help ‘trap’ the gas; such as layers of impermeable rock which have then been folded. Sequestration sites would also therefore need constant monitoring to ensure no leakages occur, a massive responsibility and an ongoing cost.

As well as practical concerns, there are both economic and political factors that could affect the effectiveness of reducing atmospheric CO2 in these ways- for example, oil is a major export of many wealthy countries and if demand was largely reduced, this large source of income would be cut off. It is understandable therefore that leaders of these countries would be reluctant to make such a change so suddenly.

A complete switch to renewables such as wind and hydroelectric energy would also mean massive changes to infrastructure, and the loss of many jobs in oil exploration and drilling. Such changes would therefore have to be spread out over time to soften the blow on communities.

Sources:

Ocean Acidification solutions – revolution (no date) Available at: http://therevolutionmovie.com/index.php/open-your-eyes/ocean-acidification/solutions/.

Workman, D. (2017) Crude oil exports by country. Available at: http://www.worldstopexports.com/worlds-top-oil-exports-country/.

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