As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic, diminishing the amount of available carbonate. Because carbonates are the building blocks that reefs and other marine species need to grow and maintain shells and body structures, ocean acidification poses a grave threat to these species.
Though often miniscule in size, shell-bearing, bottom feeding creatures like pteropods serve as the base of the food chain for many economically important species such as salmon.
And acidification isn't just limited to the tropical areas. The Arctic's frigid waters are acidifying faster than anywhere else. Scientists estimate that by 2020, 10% of the Arctic is likely to reach corrosive levels. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.
Even if humans stop emitting all carbon dioxide today, the oceans will continue to acidify because we've already loaded so much into the atmosphere and oceans are a major carbon sink.
In the absence of a global agreement on reducing carbon emissions, many scientists are advocating for the use of existing laws to reduce environmental stressors and build up the ocean's resilience.
For more than a decade, Earthjustice has been spearheading efforts to use the law to increase the health and resilience of the oceans. (Learn how.)
Learn about four key environmental stressors battering the ocean ecosystem, and how Earthjustice is working hard to reverse course on an impending environmental catastrophe: Stemming The Tide: Ocean Stressors