A Reminder About Ocean Acidification
As Waxman-Markey goes up to the Senate, I think it’s worth reminding people that there’s more at stake to cutting CO2 emissions than climate. There is also the more pressing issue of ocean acidification (which I’ve written about previously on OTB here). The science behind acidification is simple. As the oceans dissolve more carbon dioxide, the ocean becomes more acidic. This poses real, catastrophic problems for the ocean, as Randy Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers point out:
Ocean Acidification is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean it changes the pH, making the sea acidic and less hospitable to life. Over time, C02 reduces calcium carbonate, which prevents creatures from forming shells and building reefs. In fact, existing shells will start to dissolve. Oysters and mussels will not be able to build shells. Crabs and lobsters? Your great-grandchildren may wonder what they tasted like.
Carbon dioxide concentrated in the oceans is making seawater acidic. Many of the zooplankton, small animals at the base of the food web, have skeletons that won’t form in these conditions, and sea-life further up the food chain — fish, mammals and seabirds that rely on zooplankton for food will also perish. No food — no life. One billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of protein. Many scientific reports document that worldwide, humans are already consuming more food than is being produced. The implications are obvious.
This is not complex, and while the ocean does have a natural buffer system, that system is slowly being overwhelmed by the increasing acidity of the ocean. Since 1750, the pH of the oceans has dropped by 0.1–an appxoimate 25% increase in the acidity of ocean water. It’s also worth mentioning that as a consequence of overwhelming the buffer system, the decreasing pH of the ocean is now happening faster than previously predicted—ten times faster than predicted.
The increased acidity of the ocean is not being caused by solar cycles or volcanoes, but rather by the simple increase of dissolved carbon dioxide in water. The data sets are not based on satellite measurments, but by direct tests of ocean water. The mathematics behind the modeling are much simpler and based on clear-cut principles of chemistry that you can demonstrate for less than $10 spent at your local grocery store.
Now, Waxman-Markey is insufficient to solve the problem. Granted. But it’s a start and right now it’s the only emissions reduction scheme on the table, which is why it has my support.