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Too late

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, October 7th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment - Tags:

From The Guardian:

Arctic seas turn to acid, putting vital food chain at risk

With the world’s oceans absorbing six million tonnes of carbon a day, a leading oceanographer warns of eco disaster

Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered. Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.

“This is extremely worrying,” Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. “We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish like mussels to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish.”

“More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm,” he said. “Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail.”

About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.

This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. “We knew the Arctic would be particularly badly affected when we started our studies but I did not anticipate the extent of the problem,” said Gattuso.

His research suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. “Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic,” he added.

“Scientists have proposed all sorts of geo-engineering solutions to global warming,” said Gattuso. “For instance, they have proposed spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles that would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth, mitigating the warming caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

“But these ideas miss the point. They will still allow carbon dioxide emissions to continue to increase and thus the oceans to become more and more acidic. There is only one way to stop the devastation the oceans are now facing and that is to limit carbon-dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency.”

There is one week left to make a submission on the National-Maori Party changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme. Submissions close on Tuesday 13 October 2009. The Greens have a Submission Guide up. Please submit.

18 comments on “Too late ”

  1. roger nome 1

    I suspect that these scientists are simply part of a global scientific communist cabal that are working in concert to enslave good creationists in their evil socialist web, through the introduction of Emissions Trading Schemes.

    Ignore this post before it’s too late!

    • exbrethren 1.1

      No the ETS plot was started by 12 foot alien lizards to enslave the human race.

      If you’re going to subscribe to conspiracy theories at least make them entertaining.

  2. Out of bed 2

    also from the Guardian

    There is a section of society that stubbornly refuses to “believe” in anthropogenic climate change, despite a near avalanche of evidence urging them to “believe” otherwise. Their faith in the status quo of the fossil-fuelled economy is immovable, it seems. The evidence before them suggesting otherwise is a challenge to their own belief that a free-market, libertarian approach to life is the best way forward. And because they don’t like the smell of the solutions being proposed (by all means, let’s have that debate urgently), climate science is, therefore, judged to be a fraud, a conspiracy, a big lie being perpetuated by a left-wing cabal led by a cackling Al Gore or malevolent James Hansen. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so serious an issue.

    Help yourself to be able to look your Grandchildren in the eye.. make a submission today

    • Zorr 2.1

      I don’t really feel that I can add much to the ETS submissions except to send in a letter saying something along the lines of “What are you doing you morons? Ignore the scientific community at your peril!”

    • mike 2.2

      “Help yourself to be able to look your Grandchildren in the eye”

      Will I really turn into a short-ass if I don’t make a submission?
      It does sound more probable than getting drowned by rampant ice-bergs…

  3. frog 3

    Thanks r0b for posting a link to our submission guide. This version of the ETS is a rort of the taxpayer on behalf of the biggest polluters. It turns polluter pays into pay the polluter.

    No matter how short, make a submission! The Committee members are not experts and don’t expect the submitters to be experts either.

    Use our guide, adapt it so that you speak for your own views and Have your say!

  4. Herman Poole 4

    As a non-devotee of Anthropogenic Climate Catastrophe I am far more worried about these sorts of issues along with toxicity buildups and habitat destruction than temperature and its effect. My beef with reacting to temperature as the first priority, is it will see more important issues fall of the radar or be sacrificed for temperature.

    Also I don’t (and I don’t think oil/energy companies necessarily do either, they’ll be happy to make money on anything) have a faith in fossil-fuels. I am comfortable with energy from any suitable source and we will end up using solar, wind, nuclear, tide, and energy from waste regardless of climate change.

  5. Bill 5

    That’s all pretty straight forward innit…as is the increased glacial melt rate and so on. But in a link to Media Watch from ‘The Standard’ the other day, claims abounded that reporting on climate change was too difficult due to its complexity.

    But then, anything beyond a cursory listen revealed the complexity was not in climate change but in the proposed responses to climate change, ie cap and trade etc and it was this complexity that was being used as an excuse to not report.

    Meanwhile, weather ‘events’, from banal ‘There was 2″ of snow in the South today’ to so-called ‘One in 50 year flood plain floods’ and whirlwinds are among the most popular and reported news stories.

    Why the disconnect I wonder? I’m not suggesting that every adverse weather scenario be put down to climate change, but I don’t think I’ve heard a single instance of a connection being made between weather and climate change on TV news when the report has been about NZ weather

  6. Herman Poole 6

    And neither should they because it’s not about day to day weather. It is the wrong route to go down whatever your position, don’t claim every hot day as climate change unless you want to be defending every cold day.

    The worlds foremost expert on hurricanes, Chris Landseas resigned from the IPCC due to the blatantly false and distasteful claims made about Hurricane Katrina being due to climate change.

  7. ieuan 7

    Any idea what the change in pH level for the Artic Ocean would be that they are predicting? How much change has there already been?

    And on what basis are the predictions being made? Best case? Worst case? Somewhere in the middle?

    The ‘six million tonnes a day’ how much is that greater than say 50 years ago?

  8. Ianmac 8

    I dimly remember a report that said that carbon dioxide was easily sequestered at the sea floor- until it reached a saturation point and then seas would then quickly reach serious acidic levels which would lead to wiping out of fish stocks on which a huge part of the population depends. This is serious stuff.

  9. Nick 9

    Yes, submit! Quickly! Because New Zealand can stop this by reducing its 0.02% of World CO2 emissions.

    • BLiP 9.1

      What did you do for the planet, gramps?

    • Ianmac 9.2

      An interesting but common position Nick. You reflect a “THEY oughta….” as opposed to “WE will…”
      I like the story today of the mobilescooter which couldn’t get in the McDonald’s door so the woman went round to the drive through. They wouldn’t serve her so she sat and sat and held up the traffic.
      She was ” I Will….” Nick would would have slunk away without realising the power of a grain of sand. 🙂

    • Clarke 9.3

      I seem to recall that New Zealand didn’t own a single weapon of mass destruction when David Lange stood up in the Oxford Union and said that nuclear weapons were morally indefensible. It may have even been that his comments didn’t reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals one iota. But it was important that our Prime Minister said that the mutual nuclear stare-down of the Cold War was unacceptable, and that as a country we were prepared to do everything in our power to change the status quo.

      In similar circumstances – an existential threat to civilisation that requires concerted global action – I can only compare the high moral ground of David Lange with your apparent moral bankruptcy.

  10. infused 10

    “The title of this article is unfortunate because, despite the process of ocean acidification, the oceans are alkaline and will not become acidic (pH lower than 7) even in the distant future.”

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      Got a link to a peer reviewed article about that?

      You see, I’m reasonably certain that Carbonic Acid, which is what is being produced in the seas around the world as their CO2 levels increase, is, as a matter of fact, acidic.

    • lprent 10.2

      Another moronic line by someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. Filch that from CCD blog lines? It is stupid enough to be written by one of their PR idiots.

      The issue is that a lot of sea creatures use calcium carbonates (and other carbonates) in their exoskeletons. These provide a store for carbon in the oceans and is one reason why the human released CO2 hasn’t been rising as fast in the atmosphere as we have been releasing it.

      However the stability of carbonates in a liquid environment is pH dependent. Because calcium carbonate and most solid carbonates are alkaline, any liquid less alkaline than calcium carbonate destroys it. If the pH gets low enough (say by dumping CO2 into H2O and getting carbonic acid) – then a bloody great pile of carbon will get leach away far more rapidly than usual. Consequently there will be less sequesterment in the oceans of solid carbon, less food in a more acidic sea, and a feedback loop where an decreasing pH in the oceans will keep releasing more and more CO2 from fossil shells.

      Do you now understand how stupid your statement looks?

      Tell me – did you ever stay awake when you did science in secondary school? Perhaps you failed science in the primers?

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