Ocean acidification is one of the least appreciated elements of climate change. As the atmosphere fills with carbon dioxide, some of it dissolves into the oceans. That, in turn, makes the water more acidic. This could become a major threat to organisms that depend on being about to draw calcium from the water to make exoskeletons, such as corals and shelled creatures like crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, and shrimp. The latest research from the Carnegie Institution suggests that the world’s coral reefs will begin to disintegrate before the end of the century, if we keep releasing greenhouse gas pollutants at this rate.
The only way to keep the oceans from getting ever-more acidic is to stop using the atmosphere as a dump for carbon dioxide pollution. The most important means of limiting that is to stop burning coal, as well as unconventional oil and gas.
While the consequences of acidification for corals may be sad, and may offend our aesthetics, it is worth remembering that all life on the planet depends indirectly on ocean life for survival. We cannot know in advance what consequences there will be for humanity, if we continue to use the atmosphere as a dump and turn the oceans to acid.