The 25 scientists -- including researchers from the United States, Australia, Britain, France, Japan and Norway -- said their finding is the first recognition that atmospheric CO2 emissions, if not reduced, will cause the Earth's ocean waters to violate EPA water quality criteria.
"About one-third of the CO2 from fossil-fuel burning is absorbed by the world's oceans," said lead study author Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution. "In sufficient concentration, the acidity can corrode shellfish shells, disrupt coral formation, and interfere with oxygen supply."
He said if atmospheric CO2 goes to more than 500 parts per million the surface of entire oceans will be out of compliance with EPA pH guidelines.
"We need to start thinking about carbon dioxide as an ocean pollutant," said Calderia. "That is, when we release carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, we are dumping industrial waste in the ocean."
The study appears as a commentary in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.