Seven Seas Sop Up CO 2

Balancing the pH budget on the backs of shellfish and corals

3 min read

In mid-July, Science magazine published two landmark papers reporting on a 15-year investigation into the role of carbon dioxide in the Earth's oceans. The major findings are, first, that nearly half of the carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere over the last 200 years has been absorbed by the oceans, and, second, that the rising CO 2 concentrations could start to have serious adverse effects on some marine life.

The background to the reports is essentially this: since 1957-1958, when as an activity of the International Geophysical Year instruments were placed on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, precise measurements have confirmed that CO 2 is rising sharply and steadily in the atmosphere. But an anomaly also appeared. Only about half the CO 2 estimated to be coming from fossil fuel combustion has been showing up in the atmosphere. Oceanographers and atmospheric scientists were pretty sure that most of the missing CO 2 must have been taken up by the oceans, but it is only with the completion of the latest study that this belief is confirmed by solid empirical evidence.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

Keep Reading ↓Show less