Ocean Acidification An ethical climate issue

Image 1: Healthy coral reef vs. coral reef affected by ocean acidification
  • Ocean Acidification is the the reduction of pH in the ocean caused by the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (Hoffman et. al, 2010). It is most often a result in the burning of fossil fuels releasing excessive amounts of CO2 (Hoffman et al., 2010).
  • Our human dependence on fossil fuels effects more than just people, it also has detrimental implications for marine wildlife and the ethical treatment of these animal and organism should be considered.
  • Ocean acidification has the potential to completely change the makeup of the oceans, causing damages to the foundation of marine ecosystems. As anthropogenic climate change is the main contributor to rising acidity in the ocean (Hoffman et. al, 2010), it is the responsibility of all people to make efforts to mitigate it.

Environmental Justice

  • Environmental hazards such as pollution and waste are resulting in increased ocean acidification. As a climate change issue ocean acidification has the potential to effect all populations especially those who rely heavily on healthy marine environments which are also often developing and poor countries. This would only increase environmental inequality.
  • As humans we have a responsibility to other organisms and our actions are unjustly damaging their ecosystems. Respecting the dignity and moral and legal rights of animals is essential because they are rarely given fair weight in decision making (Swart, 2008).
  • We are already seeing its damaging affect on coral reefs and marine environments. Without mitigation of our output of greenhouse gases, specifically CO2, the future of marine ecosystems is in great danger.
  • By 2050, all of our coral reefs could be gone if we do not make significant strides towards mitigating climate change as a whole (Zeitvogel, 2011).


  • Increasing public awareness that this issue can affect everyone could be a way to support mitigation efforts.
  • Reducing our use of fossil fuels that result in increased atmospheric CO2 levels as well as developing technology to absorb CO2 that we have already released.
  • Considering the moral responsibility we have to marine organisms, we can create policy ensuring our development does the least amount of harm and encourages the use of alternative energy, with little pollution.

What healthy coral reefs can look like with proper climate change mitigation:

Image 2: Healthy coral reef and dependent ecosystem

Local Strategy Opportunities

  • As local decision makers and communities have the best knowledge of the environment and impacts of climate change, they have the ability first hand to see the changes that ocean acidification has on essential ecosystems.
  • Using a collaborative process allows for community involvement ensuring that the most important issues are addressed (LEK ppt., 2015).
  • Integrating local and scientific knowledge helps to give credibility to the challenges (such as damaged coral reefs from ocean acidification having less of an ability to protect inner lagoons and channels resulting in communal damage) and the science helps to backup and drive the support to make change (LEK ppt., 2015).


Hofmann, G., Barry, J., Edmunds, P., Gates, R., Hutchins, D., Klinger, T., & Sewell, M. (2010). The Effect of Ocean Acidification on Calcifying Organisms in Marine Ecosystems: An Organism-to-Ecosystem Perspective. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 41, 127-147.

Image 1: Hot Oceans Are Killing Coral Reefs Around the World. (2015, October 08). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/hot-oceans-global-coral-bleaching-19528

Image 2: Coral Reef Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://coral.org/what-we-do/where-we-work/fiji/

Swart, J.A.A. (2008)The Ecological Ethics Framework: Finding our Way in the Ethical Labyrinth of Nature Conservation Commentary on ‘‘Using an ecological ethics framework to make decisions about relocating wildlife’’. Sci Eng Ethics.14: 523. doi:10.1007/s11948-008-9085-2

Zeitvogel, K. (2011) World's coral reefs could be gone by 2050: study. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://phys.org/news/2011-02-world-coral-reefs.html

LEK ppt.(2015). Local Ecological Knowledge. Northeast Ethics Education Partnership. From https://unity.instructure.com/courses/2075737/files/103677076/download?wrap=1

Cover photo: Peter Weafer

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.