Carbon dioxide emissions are harming oceans and threatening food supplies

» By | Published 25 Sep 2012

Another international group has come out with a report highly critical of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, saying the rapid increase in greenhouse gas is threatening ocean-based food security because of acidification.

The report by Oceana, an organisation focused solely on ocean conservation and protecting marine ecosystems, said Monday that the world needs to reduce CO2 emissions and end fossil fuel subsidies.

Its report, “Ocean-based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World,” noted that while fish and seafood are a primary source of protein for more than one billion of the poorest people on Earth, rising carbon dioxide emissions are causing the oceans to warm and become more acidic.

“The oceans absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions each day. As a result, their pH has declined by 30 [%] since the Industrial Revolution,” the report said.

“This rapid change in ocean chemistry, called ocean acidification, is already threatening habitats like coral reefs, and the future of shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels is also in jeopardy. This means that nations that rely heavily on threatened types of fisheries as a primary food source could be hit hardest.”

Using a computer model that looked at the 1,066 species of fish and seafood that are commercially caught, the report noted that by 2055 losses of up to 40% of catch potential can be expected in the tropics while some areas near the North and South Poles would experience gains.

It also came up with a list of the top 50 nations in terms of combined vulnerability to food security threats from climate change and ocean acidification impacts on seafood availability.

The top three nations were Comoros, Togo and the Cook Islands. The only European nation on the list was Croatia at number 16.

In a section called “Solutions,” which was accompanied by a photograph of offshore wind turbines, the report said, among other things, reducing CO2 emissions is the only way to address ocean acidification and is also the primary path to ending climate change. “Governments need to establish energy plans that chart a course for shifting away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy production.”

It also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, saying they prevent the needed transition to clean energy. “Optimally, we would invest in technologies that promise solutions rather than creating them.”

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has long lobbied for a drastic reduction in the global CO2 emissions caused by fossil fuels and a rapid move towards a green economy based on wind power and other renewables. Part of this necessary transition, EWEA believes, is an end to subsidies for coal, oil gas and nuclear. The International Energy Agency has said that for every $1 of government support given to renewable energy around the world, at least $5 are given to fossil fuels.

In a letter published in the Financial Times on Friday 21 September EWEA Communication Director Julian Scola pointed out that “governments across Europe could save themselves a lot of money, and hasten the phasing out of support for increasingly mature renewable technologies like onshore wind, if they first removed longer-standing subsidies for more established technologies like nuclear and coal.”

Categories: Climate change