The oceans of our planet are a constantly changing and intricate ecosystem that are essential to maintaining life on Earth. However, ocean acidification, a major issue, weighs over our oceans. Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are having a substantial impact on seawater chemistry in nations all over the world. Many nations will experience food and economic insecurity as acidification progresses, as well as a reduction in coastal hurricane protection and revenue from tourism. Communities that depend on fish and shellfish or depend on coral reefs for protection are particularly at risk (The Commonwealth, n.d.). Small island developing states are particularly at risk.
“The non-stop emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is bound to lead to enormous alterations to land ecosystems and will hit marine species used for food and have knock-on effects on coastal communities, especially in developing countries,” said Richard A. Feely, a senior scientist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, in Seattle at the U.N. climate talks.
The socioeconomic effects of climatic occurrences inland have been extensively studied with climate change, but the impact of what is occurring offshore has gotten little consideration (Teveras & Armand, 2021). The ocean is changing as a result of CO2 emissions from humans. In addition, the ocean's oxygen concentration has significantly dropped and worldwide sea surface temperatures have increased. Fish supplies have been steadily declining over the past few decades as a result of climate change, industrialized and habitat-destructive fishing, pollution, and coastal urbanization (Golden et al. 2016, Bayramoglu et al. 2019). Toferry Primanda, an Indonesian delegation spokesperson told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Warsaw that numerous reefs and fish species are perishing throughout the Indian Ocean as a result of warming waters and acidification (Shaikh & Tunio, 2013). Numerous commercially significant fish species that rely on the services provided by reefs will also be in jeopardy when they disappear. By the end of this century, scientists predict a huge global extinction of corals if nations do not significantly reduce their emissions (Oceana, 2009). Food and long-term economic security are at jeopardy, as well as commercial fishing and tourism. Coral reef ecosystems alone are predicted to cost countries $1 trillion in economic losses (The Commonwealth, n.d.). Understanding the effects of human activities on the ocean is essential for ensuring global food security because more than three billion people rely on marine biodiversity as a primary source of food (Sala et al. 2021).
Figure 1. Erosion on Coral Reefs (Smithsonian Magazine, 2019).
Impacts on Nations
People who rely on the ocean's ecosystem services – often in developing countries – are especially vulnerable. And coastal communities in Asia-Pacific and South Asian coastal communities are no exception,” said Jorge Luis Valdés, head of Ocean Sciences at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.
Both coral reefs and shellfish, which are significant food sources, will be severely impacted by increased acidity levels, which are expected to stop all new coral reef growth by the end of the century (Shaikh & Tunio, 2013). Poor coastal communities will be hardest hit by this change, especially those in small island states where fishing and coral reefs are vital to survival.
“Poor communities are highly reliant on sea resources for their food and livelihood needs but have limited options to mitigate effects if their current lifestyles become not sustainable due to what is called ocean acidification,” said Carol Turley, a senior scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the United States at a side event at the climate negotiations.
According to the ministry's report, fishing supports 2.5 million jobs directly and nearly 914,000 indirectly. Rachmat Witoelar, the Indonesian presidential special envoy for climate change, warned that the country's demand for fish may exceed the nation's availability and that up to 40% of fishermen may lose their sources of income. Given how strongly their populations rely on fish for sustenance, this is especially important for low- and middle-income nations (Teveras & Armand, 2021). Fish accounts for 17% of all dietary animal proteins worldwide. This number averages 26% in low- and middle-income countries, reaching 50% or higher in Southeast Asia and tiny island developing nations.
Figure 2. Worker drying fish on mats (The Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 2013).
Ocean acidification is a worldwide problem with profound impacts on nations all over the planet. Future economy and the fishing industry are expected to suffer greatly from ocean acidification, according to many estimates. However, it has already had a noticeable and demonstrable impact on socioeconomic progress. The United Nations (2019) emphasizes the need to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development" (Sustainable Development Goal 14), (Teveras & Armand, 2021). Only by working together can we possibly hope to safeguard the priceless resource that is our planet's oceans and guarantee a sustainable future for all countries.