Public awareness of issues related to rising levels of CO2 has increased to the point that climate change is a matter of high concern amongst governments around the world. The problem of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is well known, but the effects of our fossil fuel use on ocean chemistry are only now beginning to be understood.
About one third of the carbon dioxide produced every day by vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power stations around the world is absorbed into the oceans (Royal Society, 2005). The gas reacts with seawater, changing its pH and reducing the concentration of carbonate ion, an essential component in the calcium carbonate that makes up seashells and corals. Some scientists warn that if the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and sea continues to rise, acidification will have a widespread impact on coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef by 2050 (AIMS, 2011).
Here our Year 12 students are investigating the wide range of factors affecting equilibrium within sea water.