chapter  9
25 Pages

Coral reefs and CO2 emissions

Humankind has become ever more reliant upon the burning of fossil fuels to power homes, industry and transportation. When coupled to cement production, gas fl aring and deforestation, the effect has been anthropogenic increases in the emission, and atmospheric concentration, of carbon dioxide (CO2). The scale of this is recorded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Fourth Assessment Report.1 Global emissions of CO2 due to human activities grew between 1970 and 2004 by about 80 per cent.2 Indeed, from a value of 280ppm before industrialisation began (regarded as 1750) CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 379ppm by 2005.3 Such concentrations are now believed to be around 387ppm.4 Furthermore, according to current policies and practice, anthropogenic emissions of CO2 due to energy use will continue to grow between 2000 and 2030 by 40-110 per cent; two-thirds to three-quarters of which will come from developing counties.5 CO2 concentrations would therefore reach 450ppm around 2030-2040.6

Rising CO2 emissions have resulted in two dangerous phenomena. 7 First, it is

regarded as very likely that CO2, in concert with emissions of methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and a raft of halocarbons, has caused the current warming of the global climate.8 In this context, CO2 is often referred to as one of the

9 oceans, this affects water temperatures, sea levels via thermal expansion and contraction of the polar ice-sheets, ocean currents and the number (and intensity) of storms.10