Coral reefs just can’t catch a break. It’s not enough that deep sea corals are ripped from the ocean floor by destructive trawling — now shallow water corals are contending with global warming.

High sea temperatures stress coral, making them susceptible to disease and premature death. Last year, up to 40 percent of coral died in abnormally warm seas around the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the stage is set for the same to happen this year. Yesterday, ENN reported that Caribbean Sea temperatures have reached their annual high two months ahead of schedule.

Then today, the Washington Post highlighted a growing and lesser known problem facing all coral reefs: ocean acidification. The escalating level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is making the world’s oceans more acidic, which, by the end of the century, could literally dissolve coral reefs.

Have you ever tried putting a penny in a can of Coke for a couple of weeks? Think of coral reefs as the penny and the ocean as the can of Coke. Then put the can of Coke on top of your stove and run over it with a bulldozer … you’ve just replicated the ocean environment coral reefs are experiencing.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.