"While the effects are just beginning to be seen in our hatcheries, the oceans are now changing faster than they have ever changed over the last 200 million years," said Richard Freely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has been studying ocean acidification for 20 years.
"The effects can be seen in the weaker shells of oysters, clams, mussels, lobsters and shrimp. Smaller-shelled creatures, such as those at the bottom of the food chain, which most fish eat, are also dwindling away," said Freely. "Corals have a hard time forming too." Ocean acidity, said Freely, threatens the entire $2 billion U.S. shellfish industry.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, if carbon emissions continue on a path of business as usual, scientists predict vast areas of the Pacific, Arctic and Antarctic Oceans will become so corrosive that shellfish will dissolve, causing ripple effects throughout the food web.
"We're risking something that will really change the way the oceans are for the rest of human civilization," said Standord's Caldeira.