Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and account for 97 percent of its water. They play a vital role in the natural carbon cycle and provides a home for over one million species of plants and animals, with another estimated nine million living in the depths left unexplored by humans. Billions of people rely on the ocean’s rich diversity of resources for survival, and its picturesque beauty provides a calming refuge and source of recreation for people around the world.

Plastic trash and other forms of pollution have turned the once pristine waters into a toxin-filled soup, but that’s not the only threat our oceans and marine life are facing. The earth’s levels of carbon dioxide, which the ocean absorbs from the atmosphere as part of the natural carbon cycle, have increased significantly. The excess carbon is lowering the pH levels of the oceans, causing acidification that is killing off coral reefs and threatening fish and other marine life.

Why It’s Happening

Our Oceans Are Becoming More Acidic and What it Means for Fish and Marine Life

Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere, but the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas has caused levels to skyrocket. According to data from the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency, carbon emissions “have increased by about 90 percent, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011.” In addition to these sources, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent. In 2015, carbon dioxide was responsible for 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions. Globally, it was responsible for 65 percent of greenhouse emissions in 2010.

The ocean is currently absorbing an estimated 22 million tons of carbon dioxide each day — and approximately 550 billion tons over the…