Different audiences have different levels of comprehension of the fact that ocean acidification compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Much of the general public is still unaware of the large problem posed by ocean acidification, let alone its effect on the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Furthermore, of those that are familiar with the concept of ocean acidification, even fewer realize the multitude of ramifications from the decreasing pH of the world’s oceans. Scientists are of course much more familiar with ocean acidification than the general public, especially those who study the ecosystems of the sea. However, many scientists tend to focus more on the consequences for marine life than the compromisation of the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. Although some policymakers are aware of the issues posed by ocean acidification, many seem to focus more on the more widely known issues that gain more public attention in order to gain greater political standing. It seems that major legislation regarding possible remedies for or regulations pertaining to ocean acidification never occurs, so policymakers definitely do not prioritize the effects of ocean acidification of ocean ecosystem services. On the other hand, fisheries must be very aware of ocean acidification’s ramifications, as the lowering ocean pH affects fish populations and thereby the business of the fisheries. Some commercial fishing companies even direct research to determine the extent to which ocean acidification affects their business and ways in which to avoid business disruption.
There are many possible changes that could be implemented in order to further understanding and communication concerning the extent to which ocean acidification compromises the sustainability. Teaching about environmental issues such as ocean acidification in school could raise awareness and interest in younger people and also in their parents. Also, the government could concern itself more with ocean acidification. For example, congress could pass guidelines concerning carbon emissions and other practices that contribute to ocean acidification. Congress could also pass legislation calling for measures to remedy acidification rather than just limit it. In addition to helping stop acidification, the simple discussion of such measures by the government would raise nationwide awareness of ocean acidification and its effects. Additionally, local museums or learning centers could design programs to reach out into their communities and educate the public about the dangers of ocean acidification and how the falling pH of the ocean compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem services. With a combination of any of all of these measures, public awareness would begin to grow, and the general population would become more interested in the issue of ocean acidification, subsequently beginning to do their own research to learn more and possibly contribute to a remedy for acidification. This new knowledge would also lead to a newfound sense of responsibility that would compel people to try to do their part to save the world’s oceans.
Compared to global warming and climate change, ocean acidification is still a less familiar topic to the general public. Although there has been increasing coverage in the media, such as newspaper and magazines, about this ongoing environmental issue, many people are still not aware of its causes and consequences. Since people by nature tend to pay more attention to immediate and tangible effects of certain issue, we can safely guess that even fewer people truly understand that ocean acidification compromises the sustainability of ocean ecosystem, threatening the survival of our future generations. Given this lack of awareness, we can hardly expect any major policies or social movements coming up to tackle this problem. Therefore, I believe the first step to solving the problem of ocean acidification in long-run is to raise the public’s awareness about how it can reduce marine sustainability and lead to decline of well-being of human beings in the future.
So far, there has been an uneven distribution of information about ocean acidification among different groups of audience. Scientists who specialize in ocean chemistry may know how acidification can lead to less sustainable ocean ecosystem in every detail, whereas people living in the interior part of the country whose sore relation with the ocean is buying fish from the supermarket may not have even heard about ocean acidification at all. The problem is that scientists usually publish their papers on scientific journals such as Science magazine, whose target audience are other scientists. Only a small portion of the general public will read those journals and the contents are often too professional for layman to understand. This hinders information flow from scientists to the general public, results in less effective communication between them and reduces understanding about ocean acidification among the public.
Here, we can try to figure out the solution by reviewing how global warming and climate change have become so well-known to public. It is not difficult to realize that the popular media, politicians and education actually played a huge role in ensuring strong presence of the two issues among the public. Al Gole’s Inconvenience Truth presented global warming to the public in an impactful way. Mainstream media such as CNN and BBC regard climate change as a hot topic to draw the public’s attention. Global warming is included in most of the textbooks when talking about greenhouse effects. It is through these ways that the general public is kept in contact with the information about the two issues.
Similarly, I believe raising the public’s awareness about ocean acidification requires efforts from politicians, popular media and educational sectors. Scientists should take the responsibility to first make the policy makers fully aware of the problem of ocean acidification, so that they can possibly become strong advocates. Mainstream media should also focus more on sustainable ocean ecosystem and introduce ocean acidification as a serious environmental issue that will affect our future to the public. Besides, more knowledge about how ocean acidification may cause less sustainable ocean ecosystem can be included in textbooks to make the issue known to our young generation, building solid foundation for solving this problem in the future.
As more research is done on ocean acidification it is becoming ever clearer that the majority of marine organisms are going to be increasingly negatively effected as the pH of the ocean drop.
Thus, with most of the marine life being affected than any interaction humans have with the ocean will also be affected. Incomes based on marine tourism will fall to next-to-nothing if all coral reefs disappear, and with them the plethora of exotic organisms which currently attract many people globally; Communities based around (subsistence) fishing will be affected if the fish they are rely on for food and income start to decrease in size, as they will then need to increase their catches; international fishing corporations will have to utilize more and more dramatic methods to harvest the thousands of tonnes of fish they are currently accustomed to providing to a fish-hungry world, and this in itself will only lead to further destruction of habitats.
These are only a few examples of what will probably happen over the next few decades, and not a single change sounds sustainable.
If we (as a planet) wish to keep the oceans as the valuable resource they are currently, then a lot of work needs to be done, and fast. One major obstacle is publicity; Ocean acidification is not a well-known problem. Global warming is caused by many of the same factors, and has an impact that is in the same league as ocean acidification, but the widespread knowledge of the two is incomparable – nearly every single person with some sort of education will have heard of global warming, where practically the reverse is true for ocean acidification! This problem is probably one of the most important. If the majority of people were to be educated about ocean acidification and it’s severity then it would be a fairly straightforward next step to press for immediate action. There are enough scientific studies in existence (and presumably countless more being currently undertaken) to convince the majority of sceptics that ocean acidification is truly happening, and a huge problem. This is where ocean acidification differs from global warming, which even now is still viewed as somewhat of a controversial issue.
Once the educated public knows of an issue as dire and immediate as ocean acidification clearly is, it is a (relatively) simple matter of creating pressure groups to demand change at a policy level of the government – whether this be increased investments to the scientific communities to come up with more ways to combat ocean acidification, or stricter goals set on cutting carbon emissions, with the appropriate change in pace to accommodate these goals with any sense of realism.
It may be too late to save some of the most delicate of species in the ocean, but if this issue were to be taken seriously by the global population, then it is definitely not too late to start making changes.