A Look Into Future Oceans for Shellfish Reasons


The Wall Street Journal recently ran a great article that studies the effect of the increased acidification of the ocean by an increase in carbon dioxide.

I know that many of my readers doubt that CO2 actually has changed the climate.  I also have doubts on this since the science is so ambiguous and so strongly relies on computer models.  However, the acidification of the ocean due to an increased absorption of carbon dioxide is chemistry and is not subject to fuzzy computer models and guesses. 

In case you question that the increase of CO2 is man-made and not natural – check out this article.

Some excerpts from WSJ:

In the living laboratory of a submerged volcano, marine biologist Verena Tunnicliffe glimpsed sea creatures trying to survive in acidic oceans.

Carbon dioxide that bubbles up in the sulfur chimneys of the undersea Eifuku volcano near the Pacific’s Mariana Islands has turned the water into an acidic broth, with striking effects on sea life. Scientists say the corrosive conditions there offer clues to how rising levels of man-made CO2 in the air could unbalance oceans world-wide.

Conditions on the volcanic slopes of Eifuku have been this acidic for millennia, giving these creatures more than enough time to acclimate. But many oceanographers worry that increased CO2 — likely created by burning fossil fuel — is changing sea chemistry world-wide more quickly than most marine life can adapt. A host of experiments are underway to assess just how the increased CO2 levels are changing ocean life.

All told, the oceans have absorbed 118 billion tons of carbon in the 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution, an international research team led by oceanographer Christopher Sabine at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle has calculated. Every second of the day, the oceans absorb an additional 300 tons of CO2 emissions.

“If CO2 levels in the atmosphere rise, then the oceans become more acidic,” says marine ecologist Jon Havenhand of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. “The chemistry is unavoidable.”

For at least 600,000 years, the oceans maintained a steady pH of about 8.2, according to levels measured in ancient ice cores that preserve an annual chemical record of times past in the same way that tree rings do. Since 1800, however, the pH of seawater has dropped to 8.1. “The number is small but the change is substantial,” says marine biologist Donald Potts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. By the end of this century, the pH of seawater is expected to drop to 7.8 or so.

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