The media, throughout the history of the modern United States, has had a profound influence on people’s view of the environment, both in local, American ecosystems, and those abroad. Recently, the hype has been about, as the uninformed call it, “global warming,” however better and more accurately known as climate change. There are several distinct causes that are said to have induced this climate change that we experience today as radical weather changes, decreased rainfall, and species loss, including the emission of greenhouse gases that result from the burning of fossil fuels and release of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are so named because they deplete the natural “greenhouse,” metaphorically speaking, cap, also known as the ozone layer, that separates the earth from the scorching rays of the Sun, absorbing most of the ultraviolet light it emits and diffusing it, producing a substantially less harmful UV shadow on the Earth. Scientists have been working for many years now to find remedies that could save our Mother Earth from being burned to ashes and the media continues to cover these new findings on the basis of their implications of climate change. Where coverage of climate change is flawed, however, is in its outreach; the current coverage of climate change almost completely overlooks its adverse consequences on the latter 66% of planet Earth: our oceans. The carbon released into the atmosphere because of the burning of fossil fuels in “global warming” makes its way into our oceans by way of the water cycle (remember from fifth grade? Evaporation/transpiration, condensation, precipitation, runoff, accumulation) and detrimentally affects our oceans in what is known as ocean acidification.
Based on what you know about the ocean’s pH levels (or if you didn’t, the ocean is mostly basic), you would think that ocean acidification, according to the laws of pH, would make the ocean closer to neutral and further down on the pH scale. This misconception is a driving force behind the exclusion of the ocean in general climate change discussion. The carbon emissions that cycle in the water cycle become carbonic acid in the ocean that is extremely harmful to nearly all of the ocean’s species. Many of the oceans’ plants, animals, and microbes depend on the steady pH of the ocean and these radical changes in pH in recent years have had catastrophic consequences.
Among others, the tropical coral in oceans around the world are most affected by the greenhouse carbon gas emissions. The carbonic acid (CaCO3) that forms when the carbon dioxide (CO2) reaches the oceans, if in large amounts, makes the ocean increasingly acidic and the healthy levels of calcium carbonate ions (basic, used in the formation of shells of corals and other molluscs) decrease, leaving these animals with de-strengthened shells and vulnerable to natural erosion by the acidity of the ocean and eventually, death. This phenomenon in corals specifically is known as coral bleaching and is responsible for the recent development of large areas of, what looks like skeleton, on the ocean floor where there used to be vibrant and thriving coral reefs.
So what can we take from damages like these? It all comes down to greenhouse gases and emissions. Though the effects of these harmful substances are most noticeable in large amounts that are not typically the responsibility of one individual, you can still make a difference by being more conscious of your own carbon footprint. It doesn’t have to be as profound as buying a hybrid car or utilizing solar panels; even remembering to turn the lights off when leaving the house or not leaving the sinks running can, in one year of awareness, make such a large difference. We need not be entirely focused on our immediate surroundings that are subject to damage by climate change, although they are nonetheless important, but on the occurrences on more of our Earth’s surface; we need to be cognizant of how our carelessness in our abuse of our environment affects our wonderful oceans.