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Ocean Acidification- The Evil Twin

Enviroment

By Charles E. Bayless 

“Men at some time are masters of their fates.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Climate Change is increasingly recognized as catastrophic but, unfortunately is only half of the story.  The other half, Ocean Acidification, is a tragedy written underwater, unseen by most but  equal in terms of ecosystem disruption adding even more urgency to the necessity of reducing CO2.

The oceans contain some of our greatest biodiversity and most productive areas in terms of biomass produced. But ocean life depends on fragile interconnected food webs and has small tolerances to changes in environmental conditions. Today however our  oceans’ ever-increasing absorption of CO2, coupled with warming from Climate Change is triggering large changes, changes that  may lead to a collapse in our ocean’s  ecosystem.

Every second of every day mankind emits over 2,700,000 pounds of anthropogenic CO2. About 30% or 24 million tons per day of this CO2 is absorbed by our oceans causing large, easily understood and catastrophic changes.  To understand  Climate Change one needs College Physics 101. For Ocean Acidification a high school chemistry text showing the absorption of a gas in water as a function of the gases  atmospheric partial pressure and water temperature will suffice .

Once absorbed in the ocean CO2 combines with water to form Carbonic Acid and a constantly changing mix of Bicarbonate and Hydrogen Ions according to the following formulas, the ratio of each of these ingredients is determined by additional items such as ocean temperature and alkalinity.

CO2(aqueous) + H2O        H2CO3 (Carbonic Acid)             HCO3(bicarbonate)+ H+              

Thus the result of increased absorption of CO2 will  be the increase in hydrogen ions making the ocean more acidic. Acidification is measured using the pH scale which ranges from zero (acidic) to fourteen (basic) with water having a pH of 7. Past CO2 emissions have already resulted in a decrease in ocean pH from 8.2 to under 8.1 as shown in Figure 1.

The red line in Figure 1. Is the “Keeling Curve” showing the increase in Atmospheric CO2, the blue line shows the corresponding increase in dissolved CO2 in the ocean while the green line shows the decrease in Ocean pH (an increase in acidity). A decrease from 8.2 to 8.1  may not seem like much but as the pH scale is logarithmic it represents an increase in ocean hydrogen ion concentration of about 30%, in the last 200 years .

 

 

Figure 1. Source Smithsonian Institution

 

This change, faster than any known change in acidification including the change during past mass extinctions[1] is occurring in an environment that is intolerant to changes and cannot adapt in short time frames. Note that the term “Acidification” doesn’t mean the ocean is acidic, it is merely a shift towards acidity. But this fine point is lost on animals who are adapted to a pH of 8.2.

This increase in H+ ions has a major effect on ocean life. Note in the equation above that one result of increasing CO2 absorption is a bicarbonate ion and an H+ ion. The H+ ion obviously increases the acidity changing the ocean environment, but the ocean has a way of reducing or “buffering” this increase. The extra H+ ion can combine with an existing carbonate ion to form an additional bicarbonate ion removing the H+ ion and decreasing the rate of increase in acidity. This effect is called carbonate buffering.

Unfortunately this reduction of Carbonate Ions has an additional large effect on some ocean life: animals that make shells from Calcium Carbonate. As the Carbonate concentration in the ocean decreases so does the concentration of Calcium Carbonate. Deprived of Calcium Carbonate many of these animals will be unable to form shells and die.

This description correctly describes what is happening, but it doesn’t convey the true impact. Animals such as Krill, coccolithophores, pteropods, foraminifera, the very basis of the food web, will begin to dissolve and they will die- what follows isn’t hard to imagine. Figure 2 shows the 45-day one-way journey of a Pteropod through ocean water of the acidification levels in 2100 if we continue our current CO2 pollution.

Figure 2 Pteropod at expected acidification levels in 2100 see http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F

This is not a scientific hypothesis, it is fact; simply search the web for “Oysters, Oregon, Acidification” and you will find that about 85% of the commercial oyster crop in and Oregon (and Washington) has failed due to the larva being unable to form shells in the acidified water as the acidity and CO2 levels alter their shell formation. Given the speed at which this change is happening not only oysters, but many other species will be unable to adjust, and we face massive changes and extinctions in ocean life. Lobsters in Maine are moving North due to warming and very young lobsters are having trouble forming shells due to acidification. Decreasing Carbonate levels is clearly a problem, but it is worse than a simple decrease in saturation the decrease reduces the areas of the  oceans where these creatures can survive.

Shelled animals make their shells from one of two forms of Calcium Carbonate; Calcite or Aragonite. Both Calcite and Aragonite have an interesting property, the solubility of both increases with pressure, thus, the deeper you go the higher the solubility.

If you were to take a journey on a deep diving submersible vehicle you would notice that there were seashells on the ocean floor down to a certain depth, below that depth the shells disappear. Why? The increased solubility at increasing depths. Above a certain depth (the “Saturation Line”) the solubility is low and if Carbonite saturation is greater than the solubility, shells will not dissolve, the water cannot absorb any more Carbonate. , Below the “Saturation Line” depth, the water becomes  unsaturated as the solubility has increased due to the  increased pressure, and shells thus dissolve.

 

                             

Figure 3  Saturation profile at 7.5 concentration                   Figure 4. Saturation profile at 6.5 Concentration  

 

Figures 3 and 4 graphically portray what happens as depth increases. Assume hypothetically that the Calcium Carbonate concentration in the ocean is 7.5 units as shown in Figure 3 (not the real units) . Assume the Ocean can only dissolve 5 units of Calcium Carbonate at the surface (right hand scale in Figure 3.). At the surface there is more Calcium Carbonate (7.5)  than can be dissolved (5.0) so Calcium Carbonate will precipitate out and fall to the seafloor until the concentration reaches 5.0.

As we descend the solubility increases, eventually we come to the “Saturation Line”  the depth where the increased solubility (7.5) will dissolve all the Calcium Carbonate (7.5). Below this point ,as the solubility continues to increase, the water is unsaturated, no calcium carbonate is found on the seafloor and shells falling from above will dissolve.

Now consider Figure 4 which shows the effects of acidification decreasing the Calcium Carbonate concentration as explained above. Assume the  Calcium Carbonate  in the ocean has decreased  from 7.5 to 6.5 units. On the righthand scale the saturation line moves upwards from 7.5 to 6.5.  One of the main effects of ocean acidification will be the calcite and aragonite saturation lines continually moving upward as their concentration decrease. This upwards movement will decrease  the vertical range of carbonate shelled creatures until finally the saturation line reaches the surface.

The effects of Ocean Acidification will eventually be felt worldwide but will first be observed on a large scale in Polar Regions as CO2 is more soluble in cold water. Studies show that if we continue to emit CO2 at the projected rate the entire Polar Regions, some of the most productive areas in the ocean will become unsaturated by 2100.

Figure 5, from NOAA, shows the projected aragonite saturation depths for 2020, 2040 and 2090.

 

Figure 5 Projected Oceanic Saturation Levels

 

As shelled creatures  at the base of the food webs disappear catastrophic changes in the oceans biosphere that we cannot hope to predict will also occur. But even this isn’t the end of the story the decrease in shelled creatures also drives positive feedbacks for climate change. In the atmosphere one of the main paths for CO2 removal and fixation is photosynthesis in plants. In the oceans several other paths exist.

For millions of years we have had a balance as the oceans have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere while at the same time gaining Calcium from surface runoff from dissolved rocks thus reaching an equilibrium. This balance, another instance of the “Goldilocks Planet” resulted in the right amount of Calcium Carbonate in the Ocean’s which allowed shelled creatures to make shells.

When these shelled creatures died they sank along with carcasses from other sea life such as fish taking their calcium and their carbon with them allowing he ocean to absorb more CO2. If these creatures cannot form shells one of the main pathways for ocean absorption and sequestration of CO2 will be destroyed meaning more CO2 will remain in the atmosphere increasing the rate of warming.

Ocean acidification alone is catastrophic, but climate change is also wreaking havoc in the oceans. Climate change deniers constantly (and desperately) pointed out (before 2016) that atmospheric heating had slowed in the last decade and they were right. Climate Scientists concurrently  pointed out “wait till an El Nino year. Unfortunately for deniers (and human kind) 2016 was an El Nino year and atmospheric temperatures skyrocketed.

NASA measurements however (not theories deniers, measurements) showed that the total energy captured by the earth didn’t slow down during the period of low atmospheric temperature rise. The earths’ total outgoing radiation is about 0.6 watts/m2 less than the incoming radiation and the difference is growing (for the earth to remain in thermal balance it must be zero). When summed up over the earth’s total surface area this equates to the energy of over three  World War II Nuclear Weapons  being added to our environment EVERY SECOND.

But the question remains; “Where was the heat going during the last decade, if it wasn’t going into the atmosphere?

The First Law of Thermodynamics is on sufficiently sound footing to dictate that if that energy is not going into the atmosphere it has got to be going somewhere else; in fact studies show that up to 90% of the heat was going into the oceans and melting ice. The Greenland Ice Sheet alone is losing about 279 billion tons of ice annually.[2] (need reference to last great melting day) This statistic is staggering but its’ implications are even worse. It takes 80 Calories per gram to melt ice but only 1 calorie per gram to heat water 10C and about 0.230C to heat air. As the ice disappears  the heat currently absorbed by ice will be directed at air and water. The heat required to melt one gram of ice (80 calories)  will then raise 80 grams of water  or 347 grams of air 10C

While ocean acidification alone will cause massive changes to the ocean’s ecosystem Climate induced heating will only hasten the process putting even more stress on already stressed organisms. Studies show that we could lose 90% of our coral reefs in this century. Currently the combined stress from warming and acidification are beyond the capability of many orgasms to adapt. As the British Royal Academy pointed out in a paper on Climate Change, ““In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.”

Either climate change or ocean acidification alone mandates that we reduce CO2 emissions but together they present an overwhelming mandate to act now, forcefully and quickly.

Like climate change ocean acidification is happening here and now. Further there are no alternative hypotheses from wonderland like those that exist among climate change deniers as to why Ocean Acidification is happening. If you know the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere and the temperature of the water then you can look up the dissolved CO2 in a table and calculate the resulting pH, it’s that simple.

Most of our grandchildren will never see a coral reef, they will live in a world where the one billion people who depend on the sea as their primary source of protein will, if lucky, be displaced if not, be starving. They will live in a world of barren oceans, catastrophic climate change induced weather and mass population displacement, in short, they will live in a “hellish future.”

Our grandchildren will live in their world because we live in our world, a world where short-term rationalization trumps overwhelming scientific consensus, a world where “tomorrow” seems to be a perfectly good strategy, a world where deniers contribute to support junk science to sow doubt but in sowing doubt they also reap certainty, the certainty as to the world their grandchildren will live in.

In his farewell address at West Point General Douglas MacArthur said, “The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.” Today we are failing the long multicolored line of humanity, we are leaving them twin environmental disasters fueled by our quest for short-term gain. .

For our grandchildren Sarah Conner had it right; “The future is not set, there is no fate but what WE make.” If your grandchildren could beam back to our boardrooms and political venues from their twilight in 2100 their overriding question would be, “Why? Why did you destroy our Future?”

What is our answer to the question? Our (their) future depends on it. Finally, what are you doing about it? What rationalizations is your company making to justify its’ continued CO2 emissions?

“You must be the change you want to see.” Gandhi

By Charles E. Bayless

Energy Collective



22 Comments on "Ocean Acidification- The Evil Twin"

  1. Sissyfuss on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 9:17 am 

    Greta Thunberg, in her Asbergers intense focus, is a grandchild that is already asking the tough questions. Such as, why are you depriving me of a future? In “Soylent Green” the oceans were dying, forcing the unknowing to dine on the new Impossible Burger of the times. We, as a species, are working relentlessly to destroy the mandatory balance of ecosystems worldwide in order to worship the god of growth in all things anthropogenic. In a time when biological enlightenment is essential, we turn our attention to acquiring as many of the depleting resources as possible, damn the consequences.

  2. Harquebus on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 5:01 pm 

    For the natural world, collapse can’t come soon enough.

  3. kervennic on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 5:21 pm 

    Our only hope is that tension will continue to grow within industrial societies and civil war rages, like it did in the 30s.

    This is our only rational hope to knock US and Europe emission. Disobedience and chaos.

  4. Davy on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 5:35 pm 

    “This is our only rational hope to knock US and Europe emission. Disobedience and chaos.”

    You do realize that to knock emissions enough many people will have to die under your scenario or have you not thought that far into it?

  5. wildbourgman on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 5:56 pm 

    Spent some time in Guatemala recently. Anything that could be done to curb Air pollution in a meaningful way would crush their economy.

    In certain areas the economy appeared to be very brisk with many signs of growth and much of it done by hand.

  6. makati1 on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 6:18 pm 

    Davy many people will die anyway, so a non nuclear war is preferable to get it over with now while there is some ecology left. You don’t care because you will be dead before you have to change your lifestyle without war. If it takes down the rabid US, tomorrow would be ok with me.

    The US consumes/wastes over 1/4 of the world’s resources. Some stats claim even 1/3 or more. Time for Amerikans to pay the price.

  7. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 6:52 pm 

    “Spent some time in Guatemala recently.”

    I’ve been there a couple of times.
    Would be one of the richest countries on Earth if not for US control of the economy.
    I’ve done a bit of biz out of there.

  8. Davy on Mon, 30th Sep 2019 7:32 pm 

    Makato, this is about a persons attitude on solutions. We know you want the world to go to the grave with you. You are that selfish. Your golden rule bullshit is a lie. I always ask these people with extremist views of solutions if they realize the pain and suffering in their equation. We known your equation and it does not add up. You live in a binary world of fantasy lubricated with hate.

  9. makati1 on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 2:23 am 

    No Davy, you know shit about me. I want the world to go on but without the US being able to do do anything outside the 50 states. No military sites not contained inside those same states. No CIA able to create havoc everywhere in the name of the oligarchs that rule Amerika. No NGOs destroying the rest of the world that will not suck the diseased US cock. Everyone being equal with equal living standards, resources, etc. The Great Leveling where Amerikans only get their fair share of the resources of the planet. 5%, not the 30+ percent they destroy now.

    I live by the Golden Rule Davy. You live by lies and hypocrisy and phobias planted in your mind by the brainwashing machine infesting the US, called the MSM. Reality is not in your dictionary, only narrow minded, warped delusions of self grandeur and hate.

    Yes, Davy, you hate. You hate anyone who does not see the world as you do. Anyone who will not bow down to the US and kiss its ass. You are the poster boy for the bad things in Amerika. I feel sorry for your family, if you really have one. You must be a bitch to be around.

  10. makati1 on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 2:26 am 

    BTW: The US and Americans deserve ALL the pain that is coming in the Great Leveling. They have earned it by shedding the blood of millions of innocents and plundering their wealth. They have earned it by turning a blind eye to where their wasteful life style comes from. It comes from plundering and murder like any mafia in the old days. Yes, well deserved and coming soon, I think.

  11. Chrome Mags on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 3:56 am 

    Oceans acidify
    Algae blooms proliferate
    Ocean oxygen levels decline
    Die off of aquatic life
    Sunk algae blooms pile up
    Then compress and are covered
    Oceans turn anoxic
    toxic rain falls on land and oceans
    Time marches on
    Techtonic plates move
    Eventually algae at deep levels heats up
    Turns to coal, gas & oil
    A biped apex species evolves
    It manipulates mass
    The ICE is invented
    Transport, civilization and population rise
    Atmospheric GHG’s increase
    6th mass extinction ensues
    Bovine & hominids replace most mega fauna
    Oceans acidify

    Now we’re right back where the cycle began. We’re just taking ourselves deep into an extinction event. The big question is can we extricate ourselves from that cycle so toxic rain doesn’t eventually rain down on us.

  12. Davy on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 4:43 am 

    “No Davy, you know shit about me.”

    I know plenty about you idiot. I have been reading your puke for years now. You like to brag on yourself so yea you have spilled your guts. You are a shallow old guy and a small guy with a complex. You think you are the greatest. I am so glad you are fading away on this forum and in real life.

    ##approaching 80 senility##

  13. Davy on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 7:49 am 

    Oops, sorry for losing my widdle temper again everyone. I really need to lurn me how to get along with other people. That might come in REAL Handy sometimes.

  14. ID theft on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 8:00 am 

    Davy said Oops, sorry for losing my widdle temper again ever…

  15. makati1 on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 6:11 pm 

    Delusional Davy just keeps on proving his insanity over and over with his arrogant, immature putdowns and propaganda bullshit. He cannot refute my assertions with referenced facts so he reverts to insults and childish temper tantrums.

    The US is going down. Only the propaganda machine called the USMSM says different, again with out proof. Yep! Davy is the poster boy for all the bad things in the US. Wave that bloody, baby killing, plundering, warmongering flag Davy. Its days are numbered as are yours. LMAO!

  16. Davy on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 6:17 pm 

    And, and, and here the extremist gang member makato chimes in. Soon annoymouse will chime in with support for daddy makato and his bro juanP. What a sad group of low IQ idiots. Makato, it is really nice you are fading away. It is wonderful around here without you. Your stupid redundant off topic comments and self-love obsession. You are just about as screwed up as JuanP…almost. It is an honor to have dealt all 3 of you so much failure. Thank you

  17. makati1 on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 6:39 pm 

    You have failed to see that it is you, Davy that has failed, as always. You never look in the mirror because you know what you will see…the person we all describe here in so many words. You are a ‘YUGE’ hypocrite, Davy, obvious to all who visit this site.

    Yes, I most always post comments saying the US must be put down, no matter the pain to the tax serfs/slaves. The rest of the world has suffered enough at its hands. If you are too stupid to prepare or move out, too bad.

  18. makati1 on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 6:44 pm 

    “The Deepening Decay of the West – and the Brighter Post-West Future”

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/deepening-decay-west-brighter-post-west-future/5690683

    “All Empires fall. The US Empire will too.

    Look at its second-to-none warfare, militarism and killing machine, its domestic poverty, it globally weakening economic influence, its overreach and declining management capacity, its lack of legitimacy (not to speak of the absence of admiration) in the eyes of the world’s people. Look at its failed vision and lack of new ideas, its increasing reliance on one power scale – the military, its addiction to violence – from the single revolver to nuclear weapons.

    Does anybody really believe that such a system is sustainable over time and is the right role model – leader – of the Rest? If so, the reality check is closing in.”

    Slip slidin’…

  19. Davy on Tue, 1st Oct 2019 6:47 pm 

    poo poo makato, go whines somewhere else you senile 3rd world grandpa. Quit wasting our time like your boy wonder JuanP does all day long.

  20. Big Goat approves message on Wed, 2nd Oct 2019 10:23 pm 

    For someone born with a proverbial silver spoon firmly lodged in your mouth, the amount of spewage eminating forth is sickening.

  21. longpig on Fri, 4th Oct 2019 5:01 am 

    Garbage article, there is no such thing as ocean acidification, all nonsense. All just clown heads.

  22. DerHundistLos on Fri, 4th Oct 2019 6:50 am 

    Right, longpig.

    Organic chemistry is fake science:

    CO2 + H2O -> H2CO3 (carbonic acid)

    Another ding dong.

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