As we approach Earth Day on April 22, the U.S. pledge to cut its carbon emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025 is certainly cause for optimism. However, one reason why climate change merits urgent action is often overlooked: ocean acidification.

According to the International Programme on the State of the Oceans our CO2 emissions have caused the oceans to become 26 percent more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and this is occurring at a rate that has not been seen in at least 300 million years.

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Acidification dissolves the cells of shell-building organisms like zooplankton and terapods, which form the foundation of the ocean food chain, and it may be irreversible for tens of thousands of years.

By absorbing more than a quarter of human CO2 emissions and most of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases, the oceans are currently buffering us against the worst effects of climate change.

But this is also an assault on the oceans' ability to sustain life, and the IPSO warns that we are in danger of losing the goods and services that they have provided for millennia. IPSO also reminds us that "the future of humanity and the future of the oceans are intertwined."

It is crucial for Congress to take action to support this U.S. pledge. One policy that should be considered is a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend program, which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy. This is clearly an important time for superpower leadership on climate change.

Ankur R. Desai

The writer is an associate professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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