September 7, 2009

Our Oceans & Our Food

The chief scientific advisor to the British Government gave an important speech yesterday on the challenges we face over the next 20 years.

It is well worth reading, I've attached a short excerpt about an idea that I hadn't heard before. He makes the connection between ocean acidification and our ability to feed ourselves.

As many of you know, when we increase the CO2 in the atmosphere, the oceans absorb an increasing amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and this acidifies the ocean. Coral reefs are very sensitive to the acid levels in the ocean.

Here is the quote from Professor Sir John Beddington.

"The other area that really worries me in terms of climate change and the potential for positive feedbacks and also for interactions with food is ocean acidification….

As I say, it's as acid today as it has been for 25 million years. When this occurred some 25 million years ago, this level of acidification in the ocean, you had major problems with it, problems of extinctions of large numbers of species in the ocean community. The areas which are going to be hit most severely by this are the coral reefs of the world and that is already starting to show. Coral reefs provide significant protein supplies to about a billion people. So it is not just that you can't go snorkelling and see lots of pretty fish, it is that there are a billion people dependent on coral reefs for a very substantial portion of their high protein diet"

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