Coral and oysters could be at risk of extinction as the ocean's PH level rises from carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. (Photo from Xinhua video.)

New research suggests that the world's oceans are turning acidic at a faster rate than was previously believed.

Researchers at Columbia University say the rates of acidification are unparalleled in the world's history. Oceans become acidic because they absorb about a quarter of all the carbon dioxide released into the earth's atmosphere. That CO2 lowers the ocean's PH level.

And the rate will only increase as more carbon dioxide is pumped into the world atmosphere.

Scientists in the study said if industrial carbon emissions continue at their present rate, oysters and coral could be extinct in the next 50 to 100 years.

Oceans Turning Acidic Faster Than Ever
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"What we're seeing today is definitely man-made," said Baerbel Hoenisch, a Columbia professor who took part in the research."We can measure how much fossil fuels we're burning. We know how much concrete we're producing, so we can measure how much carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere. There's no question the increase we're seeing is man-made."

What remains to be seen is the long-term effect of the elevated PH level, even if it stops increasing but merely stays where it is. More research will need to be done to get an prediction on that.

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