Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported today that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million (ppm) at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii for the first time in human history. These are the highest atmospheric CO2 levels that have occurred in 800,000 years, and this level exceeds the 350 ppm that scientists consider to be safe for society and the environment.
In response, Oceana released the following statement from Jacqueline Savitz, deputy vice president for U.S. campaigns:
“This is a bad sign for our oceans and our society as a whole. Carbon dioxide has a variety of harmful effects, including making our oceans more acidic. Unless we can level off at about 350 ppm in the atmosphere, we can expect continued acidification of our oceans, along with major impacts on corals, shellfish and other marine animals. Due to rapid CO2 absorption, the oceans are now 30 percent more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution, and the rate of change in ocean pH, called ocean acidification, is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Ocean acidification threatens marine animals like oysters, mussels and clams as well as coral reefs, fish and more. Ocean acidification has already caused massive die-offs of oyster larvae at the Whisky Creek oyster hatchery in Oregon, shrunk the shells of pteropods in the Southern Ocean and caused coral growth to slow on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. If we continue with our current rate of emissions, we could see the next mass extinction in this century.
This measurement is a stark reminder that we need to reduce CO2 emissions dramatically in this decade by transitioning away from fossil fuels. That means shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy. The oceans can be part of the solution if we develop offshore wind energy instead of offshore oil and gas. The U.S. can act upon this historic CO2 milestone by phasing out subsidies for Big Oil and other fossil fuel companies, which perpetuate pollution rather than taking us into the clean energy future.”