In the context of an increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) level, acidification of estuarine and coastal waters is greatly exacerbated by land-derived nutrient inputs, coastal upwelling, and complex biogeochemical processes. A deeper understanding of how nitrifiers respond to intensifying acidification is thus crucial to predict the response of estuarine and coastal ecosystems and their contribution to global climate change. Here, we show that acidification can significantly decrease nitrification rate but stimulate generation of byproduct nitrous oxide (N2O) in estuarine and coastal waters. By varying CO2 concentration and pH independently, an expected beneficial effect of elevated CO2 on activity of nitrifiers (CO2-fertilization effect) is excluded under acidification. Metatranscriptome data further demonstrate that nitrifiers could significantly up-regulate gene expressions associated with intracellular pH homeostasis to cope with acidification stress. This study highlights the molecular underpinnings of acidification effects on nitrification and associated greenhouse gas N2O emission, and helps predict the response and evolution of estuarine and coastal ecosystems under climate change and human activities.