These top 20 companies - including Coal India - responsible for acidification of one-fifth of oceans
A study suggests that around 88 of the largest gas, oil, cement and coal companies are responsible for the acidification of half of the ocean since 1880.
A new research paper has highlighted the effects of carbon emission in the past few decades by companies around the world.
The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, suggests that around 88 of the largest gas, oil, cement and coal companies are responsible for the acidification of half of the ocean since 1880. The top 20 list of these companies also includes Coal India and the Saudi Oil company, Aramco, which have caused one-fifth of the ocean acidification.
Switching emissions analysis from nations to companies can inform societal consideration of carbon producer responsibility for current & near-term risks of further loss & damage to human communities dependent on marine ecosystems & fisheries vulnerable to ocean #acidification pic.twitter.com/DCIAz7Vk7D— Scott Doney (@ScottDoney1) December 11, 2019
What is Ocean acidification?
As the name suggests, ocean acidification is the increase in the acidity of the oceans. The acidity is measured on a pH scale of 1 to 14 where 1 is the most acidic and 14 is the least acidic. Seven represents neutrality.
Studies suggest that in the last 200 years, ocean water has become 30 per cent more acidic, a faster change in acidity than has been seen in the last 50 million years.
Oceans are 26 per cent more acidic as compared to 1880. The pH of the ocean has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 since the industrial revolution and is expected to fall by 0.3 to 0.4 points by the end of the century.
Climate scientist Rachel Licker says, "We've known for several decades that burning fossil fuels is by far the largest driver of ocean acidification, but we weren't able to track how much any one fossil fuel company contributed to the problem, and in what way. Scientists can now quantify how much more acidic the ocean has become as a result of each fossil fuel company's products."
The reality behind the numbers:
The number as seen above might look small but is logarithmic. This means a drop or increase in 1 point is a ten times increase. So, pH 5 is ten times more acidic than pH 6.
The study warns that if we continue adding carbon dioxide at the same rate, seawater will drop by 120 per cent by the end of the century. This would bring the pH level to 7.7 or 7.8 which is the highest seen in the past 20 years.
How carbon dioxide gets added to the ocean:
At least one-quarter of the carbon dioxide that gets dissolved in water is released from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Once CO2 dissolves in water it creates more and more hydrogen atoms.
These hydrogen ions bind with carbonate (CO3-2) present in the ocean which makes it less abundant in the ocean. The lack of carbonate ions creates a problem for corals, oysters, mussels, and many other shelled organisms that build shells and skeletons using calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
What will the impact be?
Biogeochemist Scott Doney from the University of Virginia says, "The organisms at risk from acidification form the foundation of the marine ecosystem food chain - including some types of plankton, algae, shellfish, and coral that may struggle to grow and survive in a future warmer, more acidic ocean."
Only one day after this report was released, Saudi Aramco became the most valuable listed company in history.