Scientists sound alarm at Arctic Ocean’s rapid acidification

Updated 06 May 2013
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Scientists sound alarm at Arctic Ocean’s rapid acidification

OSLO: Scientists expressed alarm on Monday over the rapid acidification of the Arctic Ocean caused by carbon dioxide emissions, which could have dire consequences on the region’s fragile ecosystem.
Acidity levels in the planet’s oceans have risen by 30 percent since the start of the industrial era, and are now at their highest levels in at least 55 million years, delegates said at a conference in Bergen, Norway dedicated to the subject.
The Arctic Ocean is more vulnerable than other oceans because its cold waters absorb more carbon dioxide. It is also fed by fresh water from rivers and melting ice, which makes it less able chemically to neutralize the acidification effects of the carbon dioxide.
Furthermore, the increase in melting ice exposes greater expanses of water, which leads to greater absorption.
In the Iceland and Barents seas, pH levels have decreased by around 0.02 per decade since the end of the 1960s.
Even if carbon dioxide emissions were to be brought to a halt today, it would take tens of thousands of years for the oceans to return to the acidity levels they had before the industrial era began two centuries ago, according to Norwegian researcher Richard Bellerby, the main author of a scientific study on the subject.
A little-known phenomenon that is spread unevenly in bodies of water, including in the Arctic, acidification poses a threat to corals, mollusks and other shell organisms such as pteropods, also known as sea angels and sea butterflies, whose ability to calcify has been altered.
Some species, such as the brittle star which is similar to a starfish, face a direct risk of extinction, and fish stocks may also be affected.
As a result, industrial fishing, tourism and the lifestyles of indigenous peoples are at stake.
However, other species could benefit from the rising acidification, scientists said.
“Uncertainty is not an excuse for inaction,” said Sam Dupont of Sweden’s Gothenburg University.
Scientists called for politicians to once again put climate change at the top of the political agenda, regretting that the issue had been overshadowed by the economic crisis.
“We have to think beyond this bank crisis,” said Carol Turley of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in Britain.


Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Updated 21 January 2019
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Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

  • Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He Jiankui
  • Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune, state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,” according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November, saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.