• Using the Planet


    Even before the advent of agriculture, Homo sapiens kicked off an entirely new process of planetary change. Earth would never be the same. Instead of mere centuries, Erle C Ellis advances a broader view of the Anthropocene, over many millennia, and what that means for land stewardship.
  • Lessons from a simulated civilisation


    The rise and fall of the ancient Maya has
    intrigued historians and archaeologists for decades. Now, Earth-system scientists are taking a keen interest. Scott Heckbert asks: what role might environmental conditions and trade play in the growth and eventual collapse of a civilisation?

Published: November 14, 2013

Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers 2013

This summary for policymakers reports on the state of scientific knowledge on ocean acidification, based on the latest research presented at The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, held in Monterey, California, in September 2012. Experts present the projected changes from ocean acidification for ecosystems and the people who rely on them, according to levels of confidence for these outcomes. 

Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers
Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World

Download the full pdf.PDF (pdf, 4.9 MB)

High resolution A3-size jpg of pH infographic (4.9mb)

High resolution A3-size jpg of aragonite infographic (4.7mb)


Download the summary here, as well as the infographics that illustrate the problems that ecosystems and humans face as ocean acidification increases over the next century. The summary addresses outcomes based on whether humans continue to emit carbon dioxide at current rates to the atmosphere, or what could happen if policymakers take action to mitigate these emissions.

Ocean pH in 2100

The average pH of ocean surface waters has fallen by about 0.1 units, from 8.2 to 8.1, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This corresponds to a 26% increase in acidity. Please see original infographic for sources and further information.

Ocean pH in 1850

Compared with preindustrial levels shown here, the projected increase in ocean acidity is about 170% by 2100 if high CO2 emissions continue (RCP* 8.5).

Atmospheric CO2 and ocean pH

Observations of CO2 (parts per million) in the atmosphere and pH of surface seawater from Mauna Loa and Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) Station Aloha, Hawaii, North Pacific.

Credit: Adapted from Richard Feely (NOAA), Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends) and Ralph Keeling, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (scrippsco2.ucsd.edu)

Observed CO2 emissions and emissions scenarios to 2100

Global CO2 emissions (white dots, uncertainty in grey) from fossil fuel use is following the high emissions trajectory (red line, RCP* 8.5) predicted to lead to a significantly warmer world. Large and sustained emissions reductions (blue line, RCP* 2.6) are required to increase the likelihood of remaining within the internationally agreed policy target of 2°C. 

Credit: Glen Peters and Robbie Andrew (CICERO) and the Global Carbon Project, adapted from Peters et al., 2013 (reference 8). Historic data from Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.

Ocean surface pH projections to 2100

Modelled global sea-surface pH from 1870 to 2100. The blue line reflects estimated pH change resulting from very low CO2 emissions to the atmosphere (IPCC Representative Concentration Pathway, RCP* 2.6). The red line reflects pH from high CO2 emissions (the current emissions trajectory, RCP* 8.5).

Credit: Adapted from Bopp et al., 2013 (reference 9).

Aragonite saturation in 2100

This map shows the “saturation state” for the mineral form of calcium carbonate called aragonite.

If Ω is less than 1 (Ω<1), conditions are corrosive (undersaturated) for aragonite-based shells and skeletons. Coral growth benefits from Ω≥3.

By 2100, computer model projections show that Ω will be less than 3 in surface waters around tropical reefs if CO2 emissions continue on the current trajectory.

Aragonite saturation 1850-1860

Aragonite saturation for surface ocean waters, at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Share this page
Tell a friend (opens in new window)
Follow us
IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index IGBP Climate Change Index

  • Global Change Magazine No. 81


    This issue’s cover story puts 2000 years of regional temperature histories into perspective. Also featured: two full-spread maps visualising the PAGES 2k regional temperature records and ocean acidifi...

  • Global Change Magazine No. 80


    The cover story in this issue explores the phenomenon of land grabs by taking a closer look at the Southeast Asian nation of Laos. Also featured are articles on resilience in the face of sea-level...
RECOMMENDED