Economic Costs

Carbon Capture and Sequestration is one way to deal with CO2 emissions, but could make ocean acidification worse. Credit: Greenpeace.

The integration of social science and economic research is essential to the ocean acidification research agenda, particularly because there are two important ways in which ocean acidification will affect humans. The first way in which it will affect humans is through the impact it will have on climate change, simply because the ocean is a huge carbon sink, taking up about a third of CO­2 emissions. Because the acidification of the oceans reduces the carbon uptake capacities, it would become more expensive to mitigate the effects of CO2 on climate change.

The service that the ocean provides for the world simply in terms of CO2 sequestration is between $90-600 billion per year, given expected future carbon credit prices of $30-200 tons of CO­2 (Makarow et al., 2009). A long-term strategy to alleviate the consequences of ocean acidification involves limiting CO2 emissions and/or removing the extra CO2 from the atmosphere. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology which could accomplish this, but it has its possible consequences, namely the risk of leakage.  (Makarow et al., 2009)

But the costs involved with the acidification of the ocean are far greater than those associated with ocean sequestration of CO2. The ocean is home to a vast array of living organisms that are an important food source to a large portion of the human population. While the effects of ocean acidification on fisheries is not known, something that has been sufficiently researched is the effect of ocean acidification on the shells of marine organisms; ocean acidification reduces the calcium carbonate precipitation, so basically, organisms such as shellfish crustaceans, and corals, are not able to make shells. Coral reefs are of tremendous economic value- they serve as habitats for many fish, natural barriers for coastlines, and provide people with recreation opportunities. Coral reefs provide a global economic value of $30 billion per year. The loss of coral reefs will amount to tens of billions of dollars per year, or 0.18% of global GDP in 2100 (Makarow et al., 2009).

Research needs to include figuring out the costs of both marine ecosystem adaptation and human adaptation policies in order for the effect on the global economy to be known (Makarow et al., 2009).


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