Sunday, December 27, 2009

How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets

A carbon offset is a "financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere as a result our intensive use of fossil fuels. This is bad. One means of doing good is by paying to balance or "offset" the equation, by funding projects that reduce our emissions of carbon (and other greenhouse gases). To learn how all this works, we suggest Planet Green's "How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets."

Top Tips for Greening Your Carbon Offsets

Maintain Perspective: Carbon offsets are not ultimately the solution. Not even close. The best way to create change is to, well, change. Offsetting bad habits with good ones is a start but carbon offsets are best seen as a last resort, a stop gap until the actual habit is mitigated.

Don't Shoulder All the Eco-Blame: Huge multi-national corporations ravage the earth every single second of every single day in search of their beloved profits. The average greenie can only be blamed for this because of his/her silent complicity. The real offenders are going unpunished by deflecting all the eco-blame to us. So, let's all do our part—but more importantly, let's not forget where the real eco-blame lies. If we want a cleaner planet, we have to hold the corporations accountable.

DIY: In your daily life, you are already offsetting like a good greenie. You compost, you collect rainwater in a rain barrel, you signed up for Community Supported Agriculture, you belong to the community garden, you plant trees, you drive less, you don't eat meat, and so on. Keep up this work while pointing the accusing finger of eco-blame on those who create the most damage.

Did You Know?

  • The year the first carbon offset project was launched: 1989

  • The amount of money invested in the market for carbon offsets, in 2006: $5 billion

  • The United States is responsible for 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, although the U.S. has only 4.5% of the world's population

For more on Carbon Offset Tips check out Planet Green's Guide, How to Go Green: Carbon Offsets. For more on Going Green, check out the Planet Green How to Go Green Archives.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

To Save the Planet, Save the Seas

Great editorial in the New York Times on 'blue carbon' solutions and a positive outcome from Copenhagen by Dan Laffoley of the IUCN and Natural England.

"We urgently need to bring the ocean into the (climate) agenda alongside forests so that, as soon as possible, we can help the oceans to help us."

Thanks Dan!


FOR the many disappointments of the recent climate talks in Copenhagen, there was at least one clear positive outcome, and that was the progress made on a program called Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Under this program, key elements of which were agreed on at Copenhagen, developing countries would be compensated for preserving forests, peat soils, swamps and fields that are efficient absorbers of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

This approach, which takes advantage of the power of nature itself, is an economical way to store large amounts of carbon. But the program is limited in that it includes only those carbon sinks found on land. We now need to look for similar opportunities to curb climate change in the oceans.

Few people may realize it, but in addition to producing most of the oxygen we breathe, the ocean absorbs some 25 percent of current annual carbon dioxide emissions. Half the world’s carbon stocks are held in plankton, mangroves, salt marshes and other marine life. So it is at least as important to preserve this ocean life as it is to preserve forests, to secure its role in helping us adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Sea-grass meadows, for example, which flourish in shallow coastal waters, account for 15 percent of the ocean’s total carbon storage, and underwater forests of kelp store huge amounts of carbon, just as forests do on land. The most efficient natural carbon sink of all is not on land, but in the ocean, in the form of Posidonia oceanica, a species of sea grass that forms vast underwater meadows that wave in the currents just as fields of grass on land sway in the wind.

Worldwide, coastal habitats like these are being lost because of human activity. Extensive areas have been altered by land reclamation and fish farming, while coastal pollution and overfishing have further damaged habitats and reduced the variety of species. It is now clear that such degradation has not only affected the livelihoods and well-being of more than two billion people dependent on coastal ecosystems for food, it has also reduced the capacity of these ecosystems to store carbon.

The case for better management of oceans and coasts is twofold. These healthy plant habitats help meet the needs of people adapting to climate change, and they also reduce greenhouse gases by storing carbon dioxide. Countries should be encouraged to establish marine protected areas — that is, set aside parts of the coast and sea where nature is allowed to thrive without undue human interference — and do what they can to restore habitats like salt marshes, kelp forests and sea-grass meadows.

Managing these habitats is far less expensive than trying to shore up coastlines after the damage has been done. Maintaining healthy stands of mangroves in Asia through careful management, for example, has proved to cost only one-seventh of what it would cost to erect manmade coastal defenses against storms, waves and tidal surges.

The discussions in Copenhagen have opened the way for all countries to improve the management of oceans and coasts to harness their immense potential to mitigate climate change — especially over the next decade, while the world’s politicians, scientists and engineers develop longer-term strategies for stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

In their continuing negotiations on climate change, nations should now make it a priority to produce a single map of the world that documents all the different types of coastal carbon sinks, and identify the ones that are in most immediate need of preservation. New studies should be undertaken to better understand how best to manage these areas to increase carbon sequestration. Then, following the example of the forests program, it will be possible to establish formulas for compensating countries that preserve essential carbon sinks in the oceans.

We urgently need to bring the ocean into the agenda alongside forests so that, as soon as possible, we can help the oceans to help us.

Dan Laffoley is the marine vice chairman of the World Commission on Protected Areas at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the principal specialist for marine at Natural England.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

From the carbon storing and productive ecosystems of Biscayne Bay, Florida

When healthy, Biscayne Bay's coastal and marine ecosystems such as seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, and saltwater marshlands absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and mitigate the threat of climate change.

A healthy Biscayne Bay is also vital for local tourism and many commercial and recreational fisheries.

That's two stone crabs I am holding (only harvest one claw per crab!).

Best wishes, Steven

The Blue Bayou Climate Solution

It's been said that rainforests are the lungs of the world. In fact its tiny photosynthetic algae in the ocean that account for over half the oxygen we breathe. The oceans are the drivers of weather and climate, the generators of rain and storms. The top two feet of the sea contain as much heat as the entire atmosphere. But the oceans are also among the most susceptible environments when it comes to feeling the impact from anthropogenic -- that is to say human generated -- atmospheric carbon (See my Sept. 22 blog 'Bad Acid Trip').

To date much of the discussion on solutions to rapid climate change and ways to reduce our carbon dioxide outputs have focused on industrial sources and on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The burning and clearing of global forests is the second largest source of human generated carbon after the burning of fossil fuels.

However, on October 14, the United Nation's Environmental Program released a report on "Blue Carbon," showing that as much as 7 percent of the carbon dioxide reductions needed to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 below 450 parts per million (the still too-high figure diplomats at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen are aiming for) could be achieved by restoring carbon sequestering mangrove forests, salt marshes, and seagrass beds around the world's ocean shores.

These key marine habitats, along with coral reefs, act as the wildlife nurseries of the sea and provide protection from storm surges and tsunamis and filter and purify coastal waters, so protecting them would also provide additional benefits beyond fighting climate change. That's the good news. The bad news, while covering only about .5 percent of the world's oceans and coasts, they are among the most endangered habitats on earth, being destroyed by coastal development, commercial shrimp farms, bottom dredging and fishing trawls, runoff pollution and landfill.

In a strange and disturbing symmetry the U.N. report suggests that while these habitats could reduce our carbon pollution 7 percent their present rate of loss is also around 7 percent annually so that many of these productive brackish and salt water domains could be gone by 2020.

The report warns there is an immediate need to mainstream an ocean agenda into the climate negotiations now taking place in Copenhagen and to develop a global Blue Carbon Fund equivalent to what's been discussed for the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation (a REDD Fund). The report doesn't suggest a particular funding mechanism. Luckily I have an idea.

Almost all these Blue Carbon habitats exist in the territorial waters of coastal nations many of who already generate revenues by leasing their offshore waters to foreign fishing fleets and oil and gas companies. In the United States multi-billon dollar royalties are paid to the U.S. Treasury by the offshore oil and gas industry for operating on our public seas. This revenue stream shifts between the second and third largest source of government income after taxes and in close competition with custom tariffs, generating some five billion dollars a year.

Beginning in the 1960s a large part of these offshore revenues went to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund that offset the negative impacts of offshore drilling by buying up parks and wilderness areas for coastal protection and recreation. This was before we understood that oil drilling also represented a product liability issue. This product, used as directed, overheats your planet.

Today, along with land-based solar, wind, geothermal and other green energies a new sector for clean non-carbon production is emerging in offshore wind and tidal power, wave, current and ocean thermal energy conversion. As with oil and gas these offshore industries will be operating on public waters and subject to state and federal royalty payments.

It would make eminent sense if the public revenues generated by this new climate clean marine energy were used for a dedicated Blue Carbon Fund that would protect and restore carbon sequestering coastal wetlands, mangroves and seagrass meadows.

A recently established 'Blue Climate Coalition,' made up of marine scientists and conservationists from around the world is advocating for a range of funding mechanisms while also seeking increased scientific research funds to better understand the role these 'Blue Carbon' habitats play in regulating our climate.

Large scale restoration in the United States doesn't need to wait on the emergence of a clean-energy boom offshore however but could start immediately if we'd implement existing (though to date largely unfunded) federal and state commitments of over twenty billion dollars for the reestablishment of 'America's Wetland,' the rapidly declining salt marshes known as the Louisiana Bayous, also the recovery of the seriously degraded Chesapeake Bay Estuary and the extensive Florida Everglades, 'river of grass.' These are public works projects that could quickly generate 'shovel ready' jobs for unemployed workers while also protecting us from the worst impacts of climate change.

Saving our Carbon Blue habitats is just one practical way we can start taking climate action while also helping restore the living blue part of our blue marble planet. Like Rahm Emanuel says, 'No crisis should go to waste.'

David Helvarg

David Helvarg

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seagrass beds of Tomales Bay, California, a Carbon Sink

Seagrass beds (of Tomales Bay, CA) are "a carbon sink, removing or sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere."

Tomales Bay slips under scrutiny

Andrew DeFeo, 2009-12-23

Boat owners of the nearly 200 vessels scattered throughout Tomales Bay moor any way they like. Some use old engines and tractor tires. Almost none of the vessels have permits. That could change soon, if regulators finalize a vessel management plan—a series of regulations and advisory measures that would protect the biological diversity of the bay.

After 15 years of attempting to set up a comprehensive plan, associated regulatory agencies say it could take a few more years. It is a welcomed stall for boat owners who could be forced to buy costly permits and replace mooring devices. But environmentalists worry that an unregulated waterway may be destructive to the local habitats of thousands of animal species.
Bay bureaucracy

Thirteen local, state and federal regulatory bodies hold some authority over Tomales Bay, which the California Coastal Commission designated a Special Resource Area and the United Nations named a Wetland of International Significance. In 1994, the agencies convened to discuss plans for new regulations. The Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) published a report in 2007 that was a precursor to the Vessel Management Plan. Its goals included the protection of seagrass and a defined permitting process. It also assessed the safety and legality of current moorings.

According to the GFNMS report, all moorings placed in the bay, excluding commercial moorings, were illegal. “In the 90s, the GFNMS met with boat owners in an attempt to get regulations set, but nothing went through,” said Mark Bartolini, a founder of the Tomales Bay Boaters Association. “Boat owners have been able to come to some process over time but the agencies have been unable to do so. It’s sort of ironic that the organization came out and said that our moorings were illegal.”

During a 60-day public comment period after the release of the 2007 report, boat owners and coastal businesses spoke loud and clear. The GFNMS decided to set up a group of volunteer advisors. For over a year, a group of 13 local stakeholders, including representatives from Lawson’s Landing, Marshall Boat Works, the Environmental Action Committee and Sierra Club, have met to develop recommendations for GFNMS.

The work group had their last official meeting in April and is preparing a final document to present to another advisory committee, which will in turn make recommendations to GFNMS Superintendent Maria Brown. After the vessel management plan is drafted it will need to be reviewed by the 12 other regulatory agencies, and will be subject to either the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In short, it’s going to be a while.


The work group made recommendations on three primary issues: mooring options, water quality and the permitting process. They spent a lot of time debating how to protect eelgrass, a resource that biologists and environmentalists say is essential to life in and around the water.

Dominique Richard, an Inverness resident and work group leader, says most boats already avoid seal haul-outs and eelgrass, which tends to hug the shore. The GFNMS has already defined no-anchor zones, but a concern remains that many moorings, which include cement blocks and steel drums, may be damaging the ocean floor.

Seagrass beds act as buffer zones, preventing coastal erosion and trap sediments reducing excess nutrients and pollutants. The plant is a carbon sink, removing or sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. Eelgrass provides breeding and nursery grounds for herring, which attach their eggs directly to the blades, and provides habitat for migratory birds.

“Vessels anchoring in these sensitive habitats can result in anchor dragging, creating trenches and redirecting subtidal channels, eventually artificially changing the flow of the bay,” said Mary Jane Schramm, spokesperson for GFNMS. “Having a mooring plan helps vessel operators understand impacts and what options they have.”

As one option, the work group suggested further development of mooring fields. Areas off of Chicken Ranch Beach and Marconi Cove have historically been used as mooring fields—areas where multiple anchor sites are established. But these sites lack the fee structure and permit process that GFNMS would require.

With respect to the testing of newer, more expensive anchoring equipment, some work group members worry that a demand to install these devices could pose a cost too high for some boat owners. “It was asked of the advisory committee that reasonably priced alternatives are tested, because we don’t want to see boat owners fined or put out because they can’t afford to anchor their boats,” said Fred Smith, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee.

A month ago, a twin-engine boat from Bodega Bay Marine Lab matched its torque against the ocean floor in a series of mooring device tests in Tomales Bay. After ripping old and new anchors from the sea bottom, testers found that the traditional concrete block and chain device was adequate in keeping boats steadily floating—and even better in some cases—than their more expensive, technologically advanced counterparts. The committee is asking GFNMS to take this into account, and to review the safety of moorings case by case.

Most boats avoid eelgrass because they anchor in 20 or so feet of water to compensate for changing tides, while the grass generally doesn’t grow in more than eight feet of water. Right now, eelgrass is actually spreading in the bay, Smith said. Yet no one is sure if and how this growth pattern will change.

The group asked that the bay be a non-discharge zone, meaning that boats would no longer be allowed to dump any waste, even treated waste. They recommended setting up collection facilities or dump stations. A pump-out facility at Sacramento Landing or Marshall Boat was suggested, where boats could drop off waste that would later be removed, possibly by an inland sewer system. But such a system would be expensive, and Sacramento Landing would have to extend its pier.

“We have made recommendations, but the costs are another obstacle. The county will need to work with GFNMS and business owners if these projects are going to get started,” Richard said.

When GFNMS finally decides where a boat can rest, it will need to establish a permitting process. Currently, only one privately owned vessel has a permit from the State Land Commission. Sarah Allen, a science advisor for Point Reyes National Seashore, remembers the process of getting the permit taking over a year and involving plenty of paperwork. “I don’t think most people go through the permitting process because they aren’t aware of all the steps they need to take,” she said.

Although the state commission has jurisdiction over permits, other agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Boating and Waterways and National Park Service, also have jurisdiction. Though private homeowners have legal rights to set up a mooring or pier directly in front of their property, other boat owners do not have that luxury.

Boat owners will have to wait for an agency to take over the splintered system. “We would like to see moorings on the bay,” said Willy Vogler, co-owner of Lawson’s Landing. “And if that is going to happen, there needs to be oversight, and if there is going to be a permitting agency, we would like to see one.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lessons From the Copenhagen Climate Talks

A major 'positive outcome' from the Copenhagen talks was progress made on deforestation (point #3 in the follwoing article). This is basically the 'green carbon' solution, and can be seen as a important step in our appreciation of nature's role in countering climate change.

'Blue carbon' solutions represent a potential next step in our appreciation of nature's role and greatly benefit from progress on deforestation.

Please see this following article for a review of the Copenhagen talks.


Lessons From the Copenhagen Climate Talks

It was during the wee hours of Saturday morning when a delegate from Saudi Arabia, of all places, expressed what may have been the consensus view of the contentious final plenary session at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen. "I am working without break for 48 hours now," he said. "I do not see, in the future, a situation where we can adopt a legally binding, given these [reactions to a compromise plan hammered out between President Obama and the leaders of the key developing nations]. This is without exception the worst plenary I have ever attended, including the management of the process, the timing, everything."

But although many will remember the Copenhagen climate summit as an unmitigated disaster, that's too simple an assessment. The event was nothing if not contentious. Outside the venue, stressed out Danish riot cops clashed with thousands of protestors demanding action by the world's governments. Inside, some of the poorer developing countries kept the proceedings frozen with procedural objection after procedural objection, while major economies like the U.S. and China brought little new to the summit and barely budged from their negotiation positions. In the end, all that was produced was an interim accord barely worth the name. It was bitterly attacked by many environmentalists, and even its chief architect, President Barack Obama, admitted the pact was "not enough" and that "we have a long way to go." (See the top 10 green ideas of 2009.)

For all its limitations, however, the Copenhagen Accord is the first real step to fighting climate change in the 21st century. The real value of Copenhagen of the summit may lie in what it teaches us about dealing with climate change — and much more. Here are five lessons of the summit:

1. George W. Bush was right, sort of. After ignoring climate change for much of his tenure, Bush in late 2007 called a Washington meeting of the major economies — hoping to make headway on combatting global warming by focusing on the handful of countries, developed and developing, that produce the vast majority of carbon emissions. Environmentalists, unsurprisingly, lambasted the idea, assuming it was a ploy to undercut the U.N. system. The meeting came and went with little impact.

But last Friday morning, after two weeks of fruitless negotiations among most of U.N. member states, President Obama arrived in Copenhagen to find the summit on the verge of collapse. So, he plunged into seven hours of hard, direct bargaining with a select group of world leaders, eventually cutting a deal with those from China, India, Brazil and South Africa — the world's largest and most important emerging economies, and the leading country in Africa, the continent that will suffer most from climate change. Their agreement was presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to the other 180 plus nations. While Copenhagen won't end the U.N. process for addressing climate change, but it marks a shift to decision making by smaller groups of powerful nations working in more manageable numbers. As undemocratic as that may be, Copenhagen showed that it may also be the only way to get something done. (Read Obama's remarks in full.)

2.China will be decisive. When Obama landed in Copenhagen, to key leader with whom he needed to huddle was China's Premier Wen Jiaobao. But Wen played hard to get, twice sending a lower-level official to meet with Obama and other world leaders. Washington and Beijing clashed throughout the summit over the issue of transparency: whether developing countries would expose their domestic climate actions to international review.

But the real battle was to persuade China, now the world's largest emitter of carbon gases, to relinquish its outdated developing-nation status under the Kyoto Protocol, and commit to targets more in line with its status as a leading industrial power. China is investing hundreds of billions in clean energy, and brought to Copenhagen pledges to improve energy efficiency. Yet, Beijing remained largely passive at Copenhagen, resistant to throwing in its lot with an international system and reluctant to use its growing power to influence the talks in a positive way. Although it looks set to become the world's second largest economy by the end of the year, it is also home to hundreds of millions of poor people — hence the developing-nation mindset. But unless China can be coaxed to play a leadership role in any future concerted global action on climate change, there simply won't be any. (See pictures of the world's most polluted places.)

3. We can agree to save the forests. Although no smart observer expected a Copenhagen accord to include legally binding emission-reduction targets, the final accord omitted even the long-term emissions goals included in earlier drafts. Expect a renewal of the same debates a year from now at the next U.N. climate summit in Mexico City. But Copenhagen's bright spot was progress on slowing deforestation. The logging and burning of tropical rainforests accounts for around 15% of global carbon emissions, and eliminates important carbon sinks such as the Amazon. A plan excluded from Kyoto — titled Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) — under which wealthier nations pay rainforest countries for preserving their trees made a comeback at Copenhagen. Stopping deforestation is a cheap way to slow carbon emissions and protects the most important wildlife habitat on the planet.

The Copenhagen negotiations on REDD made real progress, signaling that both the developed and developing nations want it to succeed. Although the lack of a more ambitious wider agreement limited the progress that could be made on REDD, the Copenhagen Accord does include a mention of it — which raises the hope that forests are at least one thing that governments may find a way to save.

4.Green schism. The Environmental Defense Fund — a U.S. green group that often works with business — praised the Copenhagen Accord as an "important step," and other mainstream environmental groups had a similarly measured response. But the new group — which demands extremely sharp and immediate carbon reductions — denounced the deal and protests outside the venue began almost immediately.

The differing response among environmentalists suggests that Copenhagen may produce splits similar to those among liberal Democrats over how to respond to compromises over health-care reform in the U.S. While most greens remain firmly in Obama's corner even if they're far from satisfied, we can expect an escalation of civil skirmishes within a movement that's generally been a happy family.

5. It's going to get harder, and that's a good thing. In the weeks preceding the summit, world leaders had downgraded expectations for a binding agreement, aiming instead for a broad political agreement while kicking tough decisions such as emission targets down the road. Logically, that should have made the talks at Copenhagen easier. Obviously that's not what happened, as the summit's final 48 hours were passed on the brink of collapse. But if Copenhagen was tough, Mexico City will be a lot more so, because there, countries will be tasked with filling in details sketched in the Copenhagen Accord.

Yet the very struggle to reach agreement at Copenhagen, and the tougher talks to come, demonstrate that climate diplomacy has finally come of age. The negotiations at Copenhagen were so contentious because of the very real impact the proposals on the table will have, not only on the environment, but also on national economies. China and the U.S. played hardball — and sent heads of government to do the talking — precisely because they had something to lose. The onset of a kind of climate realpolitik, which eschews hot air for real action, signals is a sign that global climate talks have moved beyond symbolic rhetoric.

Copenhagen also signaled a profound change in the U.S. role. During the plenary of the previous U.N. climate summit in Bali two years ago, Kevin Conrad, the delegate from the small rainforest nation of Papua New Guinea, electrified the room when he told the recalcitrant U.S. delegation: "We seek your leadership, but if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way." At the very least, Copenhagen shows the U.S. is willing to lead. The question is for how long, and who will follow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE: Coastal Carbon Sinks in Dire Need of Protection

Source: Inter Press Service
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

By Stephen Leahy* - IPS/TerraViva

) - What would it be like if the air we breathe was 30 percent more acidic? The oceans are already 30 percent more acidic, and on their way to becoming 120 percent more acidic in 50 years at the current rates of carbon dioxide emissions. Acidification is already affecting coral reefs, algae and plankton, the base of many marine food chains, according to a new report released here by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"In the last 10 years, the growth of coral reefs in many areas has declined 15 percent," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the IUCN's Global Marine Programme.

"That's a dramatic shift," Lundin told TerraViva.

The oceans absorb some carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, but the vast quantity being emitted - mainly from the burning of fossil fuels - has altered basic ocean chemistry, turning it sour. That's also affecting shell-forming plankton and disrupting the growth rates of other species, Lundin said.

The stated goal of many countries to stabilise global temperatures within an increase of no more than 2.0 degrees C. is still "a death sentence for most coral reefs", he said. The 2.0 C. target implies a level of CO2 in the atmosphere of 450 parts per million (ppm), well up from the historical average of 280 ppm.

The acid death march has already begun in the Arctic. Research carried out this summer in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard shows that in many regions around the North Pole, seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. This will dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish, researchers wrote in the Nov. 20 edition of Science.

Shellfish are eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds, and their disappearance would have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. Cold waters are at far greater risk for acidification because they absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere than warmer tropical waters.

Unknown to most is the abundance of cold-water coral species in the icy regions of the planet. "There are far more Arctic coral species than tropical, they just don't form the same kind of reef structures," explained Lundin.

By 2100, the entire Arctic may well be too acidic for most species, researchers wrote. The only one way to stop the relentless acidification of the oceans is to urgently limit CO2 emissions, Lundin said. "This is not debatable. It is basic chemistry," he stressed. Lundin also warned there is also a time lag involved. Even if all carbon emissions halted today, oceans will grow more acidic and it will take hundreds of years before they return to their pre-industrial norm.

"We also must reduce fishing pressure, pollution and other impacts on the oceans to help them retain some resilience to withstand what's coming," he said.

Meanwhile, IUCN researchers have now documented that coastal marine habitats like mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows may store 50 times the amount of carbon that tropical forests do on a per hectare basis.

"Seagrass meadows may well be more effective in sequestering carbon than forests," Lundin said.

However, two-thirds of seagrass meadows near inhabited areas have already been lost due to pollution and siltation. "Investments in protecting coastal ecosystems might be a very cost-effective way to sequester carbon," he said.

Countries are largely unaware of this fact and marine habitats are not part of any international or national climate accounting systems. The IUCN believes it is urgent that the marine equivalent of a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme be created to safeguard these coastal carbon sinks.

"Future generations will judge us harshly if we don't act urgently," Lundin said. "They will understand that we did not have to make any large adjustments and that there were lots of practical things we could do right now."

"This is a global problem. We can't resolve this with individual actions or countries," he emphasised.