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Ocean Acidification

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, August 29th, 2011 - 32 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, sustainability, water - Tags:

“Ocean acidification is the process of ocean pH decreasing (i.e. becoming more acidic) due to absorption of fossil fuel CO2 from the atmosphere. Another effect of ocean acidification is to reduce the amount of carbonate that is available to marine organisms, such as shellfish, for making their calcium carbonate shells.” 

This is one of the impending disasters of our head in the sand attitude to our continued belief that she’ll be right and it will all sort itself out, in the past our understanding of many things meant we just hoped and prayed they would come right. Now, to be honest, left alone most things in nature will self correct over time, but time being tens of thousands to hundred of thousands of years.

The problem is now we know what the problem is and we know how to fix it. But we can’t give up the habits can we. We delude ourselves that things will be OK. Well OA is not OK and will be one of the very high prices we pay for ignoring what we now know is happening to our oceans now and will keep happening during this century. 

Our current Government that only lives in the present have just announced that. 

“The Sustainable Farming Fund open to aquaculture a government fund that supports community-led growth and innovation in the rural sector has been widened to include aquaculture.”  

The bad news is: 

“Having absorbed one-third of the CO2 produced by human activities over the last two centuries, oceans are now 30 percent more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution. By the end of the century, if CO2 emissions continue on the current trajectory, the world’s oceans could become 150 percent more acidic.” 

“The chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions,” warned a report released yesterday by the National Academy of Sciences. “The rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years.” 

As usual the Nact’s are throwing around the words like sustainable every chance they get, but as most of us know the Nact’s couldn’t give a rats ass about sustainability, short term profit is their motive and a short time is all the fishing industry has left it seems. Ocean Acidification means the aquaculture industry could be in big trouble by the middle of the century, not to mention the rest of the fishing industry. 

The old argument we won’t be around or can’t do anything about OA are shortsighted and selfish, we will always be around and so will our extended families and friends. 

MrSmith

32 comments on “Ocean Acidification”

  1. Wahey,

    Who cares! We are bitten by a million invisible snakes everyday and the Pacific ocean will turn into a radioactive soup long before the seas get to acidic. To date caesium to the value of a 168 Hiroshima bombs have been released into the atmosphere. That is about 28 per month since the Tsunami or almost 1 a day and you are worried about acidity? Talk about priorities screwed.

    I’m sorry but it just makes me so angry to be pummelled with the carbon tax shite while we have far more serious real problems to deal with which are conveniently not reported on in the MSM and yes I live sustainable on a perma-culture farmette and save the trips I have to make to the big smoke so I don’t use the car unnecessarily so don’t even go there.

    • wtl 1.1

      We should care because ocean acidification is a real problem, not some imaginary problem* made up by people with an irrational fear of radiation who don’t seem to follow the simple logic that diluting ‘168 bombs worth’ (or whatever) of radioactive Caesium into a large volume (e.g. the whole of earth’s oceans) makes it completely harmless. I suppose you believe in homeopathy?

      * unless you live close to Fukushima

      • travellerev 1.1.1

        I take my responsibility to the planet we live on very seriously and I tell you something for nothing: I think that if we bring out the guillotine and behead the entire energy gulping private jet owning, have to have a house in Hawaii banking elite including the Angelina Jolies, Bono’s and lady Gaga’s not to mention Russian oligarchs and Virgin owner Branson and his ilk we’d solve the entire energy consumption carbon spewing problem in one foul swoop and while we’re at it let’s start with Mr. Inconvenient Truth billionaire and his energy devouring houses.

        And with regards to your ignorance about Fukushima’s disaster the following:

        Radio active fall out and hot spots are found not just in Japan but in California and other parts of the US According to Chinese scientists Japan has already contaminated 252,000-square-kilometer area within 800 kilometers to the east of Fukushima Prefecture.

        Radio active whales have been caught 650 miles of the Japanese coast.

        Radio active Japanese green tea has been found in Paris and Rotterdam.

        According to Arnie Gundersen an engineer who has been working in the nuclear industry people in Seattle are breathing in in average 5-10 hot Fukushima particles a day and the US government has signed an agreement with Japan to keep Fukushima out of the mainstream news.

        And lastly but this is by no means an exhaustive list due to the practice of feeding their cattle rice straw radioactive cattle are showing up all over Japan.

        Oh, and one more just for the hell of it. Radioactivity does not get diluted. The particles may be far and wide but they get absorbed by bottom feeders and algae which in their turn get eaten by small fish to bigger fish and so on until they end up on your plate. Caesium has a half life of 30 years. That mean that after 30 years it is only half as radioactive but it is still fucking radio active.

        The reactors are still in full meltdown open to air and water and right next to the Pacific ocean with cracks now opening around the plant allowing for the cores which have melted into the soil and the ground water to spew unlimited radioactive steam into the atmosphere!

        And while we are throwing in personal abuse and issues not connected to the thread I take it you still believe 19 young Saudis with box cutters  could fly 4 hijacked planes for 1.5 hours in the most guarded airspace in the world and collapse three buildings in free fall speed with two planes?

        Moron

        • travellerev 1.1.1.1

          Hellup I’m in purgatory. Too many links I suspect!

        • wtl 1.1.1.2

          Meh, I was just pointing out the obvious flaw in your logic. Yes, radioactive isotopes are diluted. It is a simply law of physics. Certain radioactive isotopes (like iodine) might accumulate in living organisms (because they actively take them up) but even then only in competition with naturally occuring non-radioactive isotopes of which make up an enormous proportion of each element in the earth. Tell me: how many moles of radioactive caesium were produced by Fukushima. And then tell me how many moles of non-radioactive caesium are there in the world? That is dilution. The half-life is irrelevant.

          Add that to the fact that radiation is trivial to detect it makes a largescale conspiracy impossible. And the fact that radiation has been detected in whales, tea, whatever equally means nothing because it possible to detect radioactive material in minute amounts that are not harmful to the health.

          The problem is you hear the word radiation and go bat-shit crazy, whereas the reality is we are exposed to radiation everyday ranging from UV to cosmic rays to naturally occuring radioactive isotopes. It all depends on the dose. And while the dose might be high enough to be dangerous if you live close to Fukushima, and is therefore a bad disaster for people there, it is not a worldwide problem. Of course I will change my mind if a reliable source can demonstrate that harmful levels of radioactive material are being found far away from the disaster, but I don’t expect that will happen.

          Finally, even if radiation levels did increase to ‘harmful’ levels, it doesn’t mean we will all drop dead. Let alone all life on earth like you seem to be implying. All it will mean is a higher level of background mutations. Cancer rates might be slightly up, but who knows if we will even detect a change given the multitude of chemical carcinogens that are present these days. Most other life won’t even notice. Did you know that wildlife is doing extremely well around Chernobyl? Why? Because the impact of humans on life on earth is much more devastating than a bit of radiation, which life has largely learned to cope with – anyone with a bit of knowledge of molecular biology would know how good cells are at detecting and repairing DNA damage, or ‘commit suicide’ if the damage is too intensive.

          A couple of Fukushima/Chernobyl type disasters are trivial compared to the damage we are doing to the planet by burning more and more fossil fuels. Carbon that has been trapped underground for millions of years is being released. And this is on an imaginable scale. Everyday, everywhere, by virtually everyone on the planet. That is a problem. Your scaremongering is not.

          Of course you will never agree, and simply post a bunch more links from conspiracy sites and/or call me a moron again. I don’t care. I am ranting of course, but sometimes I just get sick of people like you. People which make dealing with the real problems the Earth faces so much more difficult because it makes it hard from normal people to separate the real problems, with a real scientific basis, from the stuff that is simply exaggerated. If you really cared about the planet you would learn a bit of science and critical thinking and try to keep things in perspective. But you won’t of course, because that is simply too much effort for someone like you.

          I won’t bother replying again because this argument will simply go nowhere. But my final point is this, simply because I’ve been dying to say it for ages: Buildings don’t stay up on their own. They are engineered to stay up. Fly a plane into the building, then start a massive fire and you will exceed all tolerances of the buildings engineering. Once that happens, all bets are off. The building may stay up if you are lucky. Otherwise gravity will have its say. End of story.

    • Reality Bytes 1.2

      Multiple wrongs don’t make each of the wrongs any less important.

  2. oldsalt 2

    Could this be the answer
    Cold water holds more CO2 than warm. Warm water releases it, making the it less acidic. So to “save the oceans” it seems we need to let the climate warm up a bit

    • lprent 2.1

      One of the issues with climate change is the question of uncontrolled feedback loops – which you appear to be advocating.

      However there is a pretty basic flaw in your thinking. Cold water is also heavier than warm water and is made cold mainly at the polar reqions which is also where it picks up CO2. It then moves mostly in underwater cold currents to the equatorial regions because of salinity and mass differences in the very slow ocean turnover and transfer of heat and stored gases.

      So if you’re will willing to wait a few centuries (the typical time of movement), then you might see the effect that you’re describing at the equator. But the ocean will keep sucking up CO2 in the poles until those regions get quite warm, which could take some time even with the nasty feedback you’re envisaging. When there is little difference between the equator and the poles the sea levels then will be at least 70 metres higher because the ice will have all melted.

      But of course you haven’t considered these basic problems because you really aren’t that good at thinking through on the science through are you?

  3. Bored 3

    Very few of us have any cognisance of the link between the ocean and the land ecosystems….it is not very obvious from a Queen St tractor dropping off the kids at preschool before heading to work in air conditioned offices, or going for a latte. But when the cow dies from a mysterious disease and coffee plants wither what are you going to ask?

    Cant agree with Travellerev above about priorities, the radio active and the acidification are both mega issues. To put the acidification into context if creatures that set shells through absorption of calcium cannot do this due to acidification they die out. The implication is that the photosynthesisers such as plankton die out so do the fish that eat them. If the fish die out, so do the seabirds. If the seabirds are not recycling trace elements to the land via birdshit, the land based ecosystem gradually dies from a lack of trace elements….but first up goodbye whales (after all that effort…..) Now priorities?

    • RedLogix 3.1

      the radio active and the acidification are both mega issues.

      True… just on different time scales.

      Notice how Fukushima’s been pretty much airbrushed out of the media lately? TEPCO and the Japanese govt have zero credibility about what is going on, and the industry regulators appear to be doing nothing much more than acting to protect nuclear interests.. while every bit of independent news that does slip out simply confirms the worst case projections.

      Deeply worrisome… Travellerev has every right to be angry. I cannot fathom how the Japanese people must be feeling right now.

      Yet even if Fukushima got cleaned up and resolved tommorrow the carbon issue remains. Paradoxically it has these two contradictory aspects … keep on with business as usual and we drive the climate into a zone that destroys the food chain that feeds us; yet inevitably if we do that we run out of cheap oil upon which our agricultural and technical base depends. Certainly we cannot feed 7b people.

      It’s appears a damned if we do and damned if we don’t dilemma, yet it is actually the most solvable of all our problems. The answer is conceptually simple; power-down and permaculture. Yet both of these concepts demand a complete revolution in our social and economic paradigms. I don’t care what labels we use; our current mode of operation is backed up into a dead-end, and cannot be fixed.

      The good news is that changing the way we do things is easy. The bad news is that changing the way we do things is very, very hard.

      The transformation of the human heart… is the simplest, yet most mysterious of all miracles.

      • travellerev 3.1.1

        You know all this talk about loop back systems, unstable weather patterns and such if you realise that there are more then 150 weather modification programs active and the US military wants to have total control over the global weather system by 2025 then what the Fuck are we talking about?
        The Chinese didn’t want rain on the Olympic games but they do want it in some of the most arid areas of their country so they make it. Idiots are making storms near Abu Dhabi Anybody surprised weather patterns are becoming more unstable and unpredictable?

    • Bored 4.1

      Yet indeed……you can be paid to say anything. On a scientific basis however ocean acidification has plenty of empirical evidence to back it up against any denial syndicate.

      So if these guys in the link think climate change has natural causes, well good luck to them. Could we at least be honest about the undeniable issue at hand…ocean acidification?

    • NickS 4.2

      Except for the fact it was already known that cosmic rays can induce cloud formation. However measurements of cosmic radiation flux in relation to the earth’s surface temperature via direct and proxy (ice cores, cosmic rays create various isotopes that can be trapped by in snow) means shows no statistically significant relationship between them. Something Lawrence Solomon omits completely, then again he is a climate crank + the Financial Post has always failed at science.

      In other words, show me the fucking scientific evidence and statistical analyses that show Solomon’s claims aren’t actually full of shit or shut up.

      I’ll even give you a wee tip, namely to start here: http://scholar.google.co.nz/schhp?hl=en&tab=ss

  4. randal 5

    if its up to national then they dont give a stuff.
    the whole world can go to hell in a handbasket as long as they collect their rents.

    • Bored 5.1

      I have a visceral hatred (thats not too harsh a word for it) of National and their mates, not because of what they represent, BUT because of their disingenuous lies in attempting to portray otherwise. They are dishonest in the extreme and economical with the truth. Absolute contempt does not sum up how I feel about Key and the wilfully blind people who voted for him.

      • aerobubble 5.1.1

        Bush had 9/11 to boost his unpopular first election half and half into something bigger.
        I’m guessing NZ winning the rugby might be enough to grow Key’s vote, because
        on the 2008 numbers he needed the Maori Party.
        I just don’t see how Key can grow his vote otherwise, too many on the right
        are very pleased to see a broader tax system offered by Labour.
        Labour is a center right party and the economy boomed under Clark.
        Its dawning on many that being too nice to the business community just might
        be the reason there are soo many rightwing dumb nut talking head on TV,
        and sharing the private golf courses with the likes of Paul Henry.

  5. Afewknowthetruth 7

    travellerev

    ‘I take my responsibility to the planet we live on very seriously and I tell you something for nothing: I think that if we bring out the guillotine and behead the entire energy gulping private jet owning, have to have a house in Hawaii banking elite including the Angelina Jolies, Bono’s and lady Gaga’s not to mention Russian oligarchs and Virgin owner Branson and his ilk we’d solve the entire energy consumption carbon spewing problem in one foul swoop ‘

    Nice fantasy, but totally inaccurate.

    The elites undoubtedly are responsible for far more than their share of oil consumption and pollution, but their contribution pales into insignificance when you consider that most emissions come from:

    Burning coal for heating or to generate electricity

    C + O2 > CO2
    coal oxygen carbon dioxide

    Burning natural gas for heating, cooking or generating electricity

    CH4 + O2 CO2 + H2O
    natural gas oxygen carbon dioxide water

    Burning petrol for transport

    C8H18 + O2 CO2 + H2O
    petrol oxygen carbon dioxide water

    Making iron from iron ore

    Fe2O3 + C Fe + CO2
    iron ore coke iron carbon dioxide

    Making lime for agricultural use or cement manufacture

    CaCO3 CaO + CO2
    limestone lime carbon dioxide

    (Unblanced, simplified equations there, just noting the chemical involved. Something weird happened when I copied and pasted that)

    Every important industrial process generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and most activities engaged in by ordinary people in western societies also generate appreciable quantities of carbon dioxide.

    CO2 + H20 > H+ + HCO3-

    The bicarbonate ion buggers up shell formation for many species at the base of the food chain.

    If we manage to ‘kill’ the oceans we render this planet largely uninhabitable. Most land species (incluing humans) will not last long if the oceasn are dead.

    Ignoring that reality is what you describe as ‘take my responsibility to the planet we live on very seriously’.

    Ignorance and hypocrisy rule, as always.

    • Your absolutely right which is why as I already described above have made drastic lifestyle changes which exclude opulent consumption growing own food making own clothes (All things I like to do anyway but never the less) or buying locally produced items decreasing my carbon miles and planting loads of trees offsetting my carbon production.

      All the thing you know sensible people do but nothing will change if our elites keep living it up and expecting us to pay for it with banking bailouts and carbon tax and whatever else thy can come up with.

      • Bored 7.1.1

        Keep up the good work and example, planting is very satisfying, especially where you are not “allowed” to.

        • travellerev 7.1.1.1

          When I still lived in Holland I did some tree guerrilla planting. it was quite nice to see people smiling at them when they started to grow. Even the guys having to mow the grass around them treated them with respect. Nice!

    • Reality Bytes 7.2

      Well said Afewktt.

      • Jenny 7.2.1

        I concur.

        Well said indeed Afewktt.

        Brain I can even understand your pessimism, when all our leaders (including the Greens) are too shit scared of the polluters lobby, to get on their feet and vehemently demand the major cuts in CO2 pollution that could make any sort of difference, either quantitatively or even more importantly for our small country, qualitatively – making a stand and setting a brave iconic example to the rest of the world.

        When will these gutless wonders realise that the very survival of our species is in their hands.

        The Cabinet and the Government and the Opposition Parties have the benefit of the scientific advisers to government, and know better than even us the public of the danger we are facing.

        With the huge resources and knowledge available to government failure to take major decisive action against CO2 pollution is criminal cowardice in the face of mortal danger.

        Collectively all of them have no excuse for their cowardice in not taking the lead and spelling out the the drastic changes needed to save us.

        Why are they all so paralysed?

        Collectively they are our leaders and we look to them.

        A few of us doing our own gardening and trying to recycle will not be enough. There desperately needs to be drastic phase change in all the ruling parties in this country.

        BAU is not an option, not for National, not for Labour not for the Greens.

        • Afewknowthe truth 7.2.1.1

          Well said Jenny.

          BAU is not an option. Yet BAU is all our so-called leaders are capable of delivering. That’s why I have no time for them.

          By pursuing BAU they are actively destroying EVERYONE’S future, including their own children’s To my mind that is both insane and evil.

          Why can’t they change? Because most of them are scientifically illiterate and are infected with ‘industrial disease’. And there’s that matter of the corporate sponsorship of political parties and election funding etc. They are beholden to the monay-lenders and dare not speak the truth, it seems.

          As you say, cowadice is also a major problem. When it comes to the crunch, most of our so-called leaders are gutless.

        • RedLogix 7.2.1.2

          Why are they all so paralysed? Collectively they are our leaders and we look to them.

          In Jared Diamond’s superb book “Collapse” he details exactly why. Most extraordinary were the Viking colonists in medieval Greenland. The exact reasons for their demise are complex and make fascinating reading… yet the thing I recall most vividly that they starved to death sitting on top on an ocean of fish that they refused to eat!!!

          Culturally the Vikings thought fish was beneath them to eat… only the dirty heathen Innuit did that. The Viking had the boats, they had the means and the knowledge of how to catch fish, but their leaders refused to change… because they were such an unequal society that the rich decision-makers were insulated from the growing suffering of the ordinary people..

          And yet as Jared put it eloquently, “All their riches purchased them in the end, was the privilege of being the last to starve to death.”

          • Reality Bytes 7.2.1.2.1

            Wow, mind blown.

            Wonder if there were any vikings that secretly REALLY liked fish, and they had to sneak away for a sesh of fish, risking being severely and unfairly persecuted if they got caught…

            Sounds like a good book tho, must read sometime.

  6. So I waited to see if anyone had any science-based comments.
    Nope.
    All I saw was a lot of “ohh look over there” thread derailments.

    I am happy to take on any one who cares to dispute the science of ocean acidification. But 2 rules (that cover almost all the arguments I have ever seen):

    1) No whining about the word. Acidification means becoming more acidic (OED definition is below). There is a difference between acid and acidification and temperature is probably the best analogy to explain this. What does “cool” mean? If the temperature of a cup of coffee has dropped from 98oC to 20oC, Is the coffee cool? Has it ‘cooled’? Is a change from 98oC to 80oC cooling? Is 80oC coffee cool?

    2) No saying it will be good. That is just silly. Let us just accept that under any major and rapid environmental change there will be some winners many losers.

    From the OED:
    acidification, n.
    The action or process of making something (more) acidic; conversion into an acid; addition of acid. Cf. acidify v.

    Then because the OED is descriptive it records usage with quotes; the most recent quote, particularly apt is:

    2006 New Scientist 5 Aug. 30/1 Most scientists think it is correct to describe any process that lowers pH as acidification.

  7. So I waited to see if anyone had any science-based comments.
    Nope.
    All I saw was a lot of “ohh look over there” thread derailments.

    I am happy to take on any one who cares to dispute the reality of ocean acidification. But 2 rules (that cover almost all the arguments I have ever seen):

    1) No whining about the word. Acidification means becoming more acidic (I can post the OED definition if it will help). There is a difference between acid and acidification and temperature is probably the best analogy to explain this. What does “cool” mean? If the temperature of a cup of coffee has dropped from 98oC to 20oC, Is the coffee cool? Has it ‘cooled’? Is a change from 98oC to 80oC cooling? Is 80oC coffee cool?

    2) No saying it will be good. That is just silly. Let us just accept that under any major environmental change there will be some winners many losers.

    • MrSmith 9.1

      Thanks for dropping by Doug, I enjoyed your OA not OK series.
       
      My goal is to one day be able to write something informative and thought provoking that most people can understand, the saying “in other words” comes to mind.
       
      My guess is a lot of people just read the posts here and never comment, iprent will have some stats on this no-doubt but don’t be dismayed by the lack of science here.

  8. The Standard has been on my daily blogroll check list for a long time. I don’t comment because “me too” is boring.

    It isn’t the lack of science that dismays me. It is the gleeful and wilful ignorance – and I mean this at a societal level – that dismays me. In fact it is the same problem that faces any activist: Most people prefer to drink not at all than to drink deeply.

    If someone at a dinner party admitted they knew nothing about Shakespeare and asked if Hamlet was the one with Darth Vader they would be scorned. If someone at a dinner party says they know nothing about maths or science then the guests compete to display previous ignorances they eventually had corrected.

    Nobody does or can know everything but it is unseemly to be proud of profound ignorance.

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