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Carbon dioxide and the acidification of our oceansFeatured science projectScience project video

Abstract

This experiment was performed to find out the effect of carbon dioxide on the pH level of water. Human activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel increases the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. The results of this experiment will show the effects of an increased carbon dioxide level on our oceans' acidity levels.

Hypothesis

Increasing levels of carbon dioxide lowers the pH of water, making it more acidic.

Scientific Terms

Anthropogenic, greenhouse gas, ocean acidification, global warming

Background

Greenhouse gasses

Since the industrial revolution 250 years ago (approx. 1750s), the surge in industrial activities has resulted in an increase of the release of pollution gases into our atmosphere. Through industrialization, we have created machines and vehicles that consume fossil fuel and release these harmful gases into our atmosphere.

These harmful gases are called"greenhouse gases" and they comprise chiefly of carbon dioxide, water vapor, ozone and methane. Over the years, the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have increased from 280 parts per million to about 380 parts per million presently. The main contributors to this trend are human activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel. This discharge of waste or by-products due to human activity is called the"anthropogenic effect".
The two main problems caused by greenhouse gases are global warming and ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification

As mentioned above, the anthropogenic effect results in the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Part of this carbon dioxide is absorbed by our oceans. This process lowers the pH levels of the oceans. Over the years, the pH levels of our oceans is estimated to have dropped from 8.18 to 8.10. If this process continues, the ocean will gradually become more acidic.

With the acidificaton of our oceans, marine life will find it increasingly difficult to survive. Already, the lowering of pH levels and increased ocean temperatures have destroyed and killed up to 80% of the corals in the world. Coral reef destruction is a big indicator of the magnitude of this worrying trend.

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Complexity level:
3
Project cost ($):
5
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 2 hours for experiment
Material availability:
Easily found
Safety concerns:
  1. Be careful not to inhale the smoke from the exhaust. If inhaled it can cause dizziness and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  2. Adult participation is required when working with the car.