Could the food chain (and humanity with it) collapse due to climate change? This is the scenario thought up by two researcher-entrepreneurs affiliated with the University of Edinburgh in a recent paper published in the journal SSRN.
According to them, one side effect of greenhouse gas emissions is particularly dangerous for life on Earth: the acidification of the oceans. In fact, even a slight increase in ocean acidity would lead to profound changes in ocean ecosystems, with dramatic consequences for humanity. Explanations.
The vital role of marine organisms in the food chain
Without plants and plankton, there would be no life on Earth. And yes, these small organisms are the basis of the marine food chain, and they play a vital role in it. Without them, the atmosphere would be toxic because of the carbon dioxide. There would be no oxygen and the oceans would have no whales, no fish, nothing.
Through its desire to exploit nature at any cost and, let's face it, its ignorance of the vital role played by marine species, man has achieved the suicidal feat of wiping out more than 50% of all marine life in the oceans in just 70 years. A mass extinction that sadly continues year after year.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide causes the acidification of the oceans, accelerating the disappearance of marine plants and animals that are essential to our survival. As these organisms are at the base of the oceanic food chain, their extinction would be a major cause of our own, as it would in turn lead to the disappearance of a large part of our own food supply. The two scientists estimate that the food supply of around three billion human beings would be threatened.
80 to 90% of marine life gone within 25 years?
What the scientists explain in their study is that even the slightest increase in acidity in the ocean (caused by carbon dioxide) would dissolve calcite and magnesium aragonite, forms of calcium carbonate essential to 50% of all marine life, including plankton and coral reefs.
At this rate, it is estimated that 80% to 90% of all marine life will be gone from the oceans in the next 25 years. Even if countries manage to keep greenhouse gas emissions at zero by 2025, atmospheric carbon dioxide will still exceed 500 ppm and this will continue to cause the oceans to fall to a pH of 7.95.
While not all scientists agree with the authors' conclusions, some of which should be taken with a grain of salt or twelve, their study does have the merit of issuing a real warning for the potential future of the planet. And in view of the essential role of ocean microbes not only in marine life but also on Earth, the reminder does not seem to be useless.