Journal article Open Access

Oceanography: Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH

Caldeira, Ken; Wickett, Michael E.

Most carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels will eventually be absorbed by the ocean, with potentially adverse consequences for marine biota. Here we quantify the changes in ocean pH that may result from this continued release of CO2 and compare these with pH changes estimated from geological and historical records. We find that oceanic absorption of CO2 from fossil fuels may result in larger pH changes over the next several centuries than any inferred from the geological record of the past 300 million years, with the possible exception of those resulting from rare, extreme events such as bolide impacts or catastrophic methane hydrate degassing.

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