Ocean acidification: a policy gap to address at Rio+20?

A study due to be published in Nature Climate Change journal (released to press) suggests that the current rate of ocean acidification, caused by increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, could be up to two orders of magnitude greater than that at the end of the last Ice Age. This has serious implications for ocean ecology, contributing to the ‘bleaching’ of coral reefs as well as apparent physiochemical effects on fish.

However, despite the severity of its potential impact, ocean acidication is relatively poorly covered in international policy. It had not yet emerged as an issue when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was established in 1992 and, consequently, is absent from its contents. Meanwhile most treaties concerning the ocean focus on matters such as shipping access, fisheries and localised pollution.

The upcoming Rio+20 conference could provide an important platform to redress this policy gap and actors including Unesco’s International Oceanographic Commission are pushing for ocean acidification to be made a priority issue on the agenda. The first draft of the conference agenda – the ‘zero draft’ – is available to view online.

Text based on original article by Richard Black, Environment Correspondent for the BBC