The Acidification of the Arctic with Dr. Jeremy Mathis – Ep #54

The Arctic has experienced a dynamic change in the last couple of decades. Ice is disappearing at alarming rates, and the ocean is developing harmful acidification. With all of these ongoing environmental problems, what are some of the upcoming issues and difficulties that the planet and our society will experience? What can we do to mitigate or reverse the damage being done to our oceans?

Dr. Jeremy Mathis is the director of the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology at the National Academy of Sciences. He is also an adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University. Dr. Mathis previously served as the Director of the Arctic Research Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also spent time as the director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Ocean Acidification Research Center.

Dr. Mathis earned his PhD in Marine Chemistry attending the University of Miami. Prior to that, he earned his Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from McNeese State University.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [2:10] How Dr. Mathis came to work in the Arctic
  • [5:02] What has changed in the environment since Dr. Mathis started his work
  • [10:45] Acidification of the ocean
  • [14:52] What is happening in the Arctic is a window into the future
  • [18:22] What Dr. Mathis is working on now

Connect with Dr. Jeremy Mathis

Ocean acidification is not reversible

The Industrial Revolution has led to a massive increase in carbon emissions, and all of that carbon dioxide continues to find its way into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. As Dr. Mathis points out this week, the abundance of liberated CO2 has led to alarming acidification of the oceans. So do scientists have a means of pulling that carbon dioxide out of the oceans? Can we reverse the trend and return the oceans to prior levels of acidification?

Unfortunately, Dr. Mathis says no. There are geoengineering solutions for pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, but we don’t have any current technology to do the same for our oceans. There are natural cycles that will pull that CO2 out of the oceans, but those take place over periods of thousands of years. Even if we were to completely stop emitting carbon, acidification will still continue for some time.

Educating the next generation

One of the greatest catalysts for change is the actions of the upcoming generations. This is amplified right now by the fact that our society has experienced an incredible transition over the last few decades. The internet and social media are powerful tools, and the younger generations have grown up with them in their lives from birth. They will be the next generation of policymakers that will shape the future of our culture and planet.

In this episode, Dr. Mathis talks about how he has made it his focus to help teach the next generation of policymakers. He hopes they will not repeat the mistakes of prior generations and wants them to be better communicators. One of the greatest difficulties of creating positive change for the planet is communicating science to those who have deeply held beliefs that run counter what climate scientists are learning about the state of our environment. 

Learn more about Dr. Jeremy Mathis, his work, and the acidification of our oceans in this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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