Ocean acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent

Jan 30, 2009

Urgent action is needed to limit damages to marine ecosystems, including coral reefs and fisheries, due to increasing ocean acidity, according to 155 of the world’s scientific experts who will release the Monaco Declaration this Friday.

The Declaration is based on results from the Second International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, held at the Oceanography Museum in Monaco last October and organised by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The ocean absorbs a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from human activities. Observations from the last 25 years show increasing acidity in surface seawater, following trends in increasing atmospheric CO2.

“Measured recent increases in ocean acidity follow exactly what is expected from basic chemistry; meanwhile, key ocean regions reveal decreases in shell weights and corals that are less able to build skeletal material,” explains Dr. James Orr, of the Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL-IAEA), Monaco and Chairman of the symposium’s International Scientific Committee.

“The Monaco Declaration is a clear statement from this expert group of marine scientists that ocean acidification is happening fast and highlights the critical importance of documenting associated changes to marine life ”, says Professor Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), one of the sponsors of the Symposium.

According to the experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase. It could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

The Declaration draws attention to the “other CO2 problem”. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas responsible for increases in global temperature and climate change, is also a pollutant which causes acidification of the ocean. The scientists behind the Declaration urge policymakers around the world to develop ambitious, urgent plans to cut CO2 emissions drastically to prevent severe damages from ocean acidification.

According to Dr. Hermann Held of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, who helped craft the Declaration, “About 2 % of the Gross World Product would need to be invested in energy production, efficiency and usage to reach the stabilisation target of 450 ppm, a cost considered to be tolerable by most economists”.

“I strongly support this declaration”, says Prince Albert II of Monaco, whose environmental foundation provided support for the symposium. He added, “I hope the declaration will be heard by all the political leaders meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009”, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP15.

Reference URL: www.ocean-acidification.net

Source: Global Change IGBP, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, igbp.net

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User comments : 27

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Big_Oil_Sockpuppet
2 / 5 (20) Jan 30, 2009
There's nothing wrong with an acidic ocean, in fact it's a good thing.
gmurphy
3.2 / 5 (11) Jan 30, 2009
Big_Oil_Sockpuppet, lol, great name :-)
MikeB
2.7 / 5 (12) Jan 30, 2009
And yet about a month ago, Physorg published this:

http://www.physor...973.html

mikiwud
1.9 / 5 (18) Jan 30, 2009
MikeB, got them on the run, you got scored one for link to FACTUAL article.
M_N
2.3 / 5 (20) Jan 31, 2009
What a load of nonsense! The AGW alarmists are being proved wrong with their warming predictions (as evidenced by the global cooling of the last decade), so they are trying to change the focus to ocean acidification. In reality, the actual change in pH has been tiny, and coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef are doing very well.
ryuuguu
3.3 / 5 (14) Jan 31, 2009
I think regular readers of Physorg were is shock that MikeB would link to an a ticle the had boths facts and even a peripheral relavence to the topic at hand.

It does not change the facts in the article but it was a shock.
barkster
3.2 / 5 (11) Jan 31, 2009
You say Monaco, I say Kyoto... let's call the whole thing off.
Bob_Kob
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 31, 2009
Just start dumping basic substances in the ocean to equalise it. Is that so hard?
dachpyarvile
2.5 / 5 (13) Feb 01, 2009
Yet, fossil evidence shows that corals and shellfish were alive and well during times when the CO2 levels were in the 1000s ppm. This will be no different. And yet, we are nowhere near CO2 levels as high as they were in the ancient past.

The corals and shellfish and diatoms in fact need CO2 to make carbonates for their shells. It is an apparent paradox but there it is.

I'd suggest looking at real pollutants rather than CO2 as potential sources for problems and interference in shell formation.
RAL
2.8 / 5 (13) Feb 01, 2009
More "give me money or the coral gets it" nonsense.

I was particularly struck by this sentence:
"According to the experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase."

You don't have to be an expert to know that "most regions of the ocean" are already inhospitable to coral reefs. In fact the overwhelming majority are.
jackj
2.5 / 5 (12) Feb 01, 2009
If it's not in God's will that the corals should survive, who are we to argue?
dachpyarvile
3 / 5 (12) Feb 02, 2009
Just start dumping basic substances in the ocean to equalise it. Is that so hard?


Yes. Preliminary evidence recently obtained shows that such an approach likely will not work as well as hoped. Areas with high water iron levels studied still intake and "vent" CO2.

Dumping alkalies will do more harm than good. And, as was mentioned above, most of the planet already is inhospitable to corals and has been long before man first walked the earth.

Fact is, life will adapt as it always has. Long before man walked the earth millions of species went extinct and others took their place. And, it did that when CO2 levels were in the 1000s ppm.

We are nowhere near that level and likely will never reach it again--unless we burn everything organic on the planet all at once.
Velanarris
3.4 / 5 (10) Feb 02, 2009
There's an issue with the logic behind ocean acidification.

The primarily affected reefs are in tropical zones where the temperature is higher and CO2 outgassing is higher, meaning less CO2 and in turn less acidity enhancing substances in the water.

So, since there's a disconnect here, I'd hazard a guess that CO2 is not responsible for ocean acidification or the minor change in pH is not responsible for the current circumstances of coral reefs.
PaddyL
3.2 / 5 (11) Feb 02, 2009
The oceans are not acidifying. The current level is PH 8.1. The oceans have NEUTRALIZED (not acidified) from a PH 8.3 to the current level.

Sea water is a buffered solution that cannot acidify (
PaddyL
2.9 / 5 (10) Feb 02, 2009
The oceans are not acidifying. The current level is PH 8.1. The oceans have NEUTRALIZED (not acidified) from a PH 8.3 to the current level.

Sea water is a buffered solution that cannot acidify (
Velanarris
3.4 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2009
The oceans are not acidifying. The current level is PH 8.1. The oceans have NEUTRALIZED (not acidified) from a PH 8.3 to the current level.

Sea water is a buffered solution that cannot acidify (
Acidification is a decline in pH, not necessarily below 7.0. To say the oceans are becomming more acidic is accurate. To say the oceans are becomming acidic is not. Don't argue in semantics, it doesn't help.
MikeB
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2009
Talk to your family and your friends. They already know that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a joke. Don't become the joke yourself. Listen to your friends.
barkster
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2009
We are nowhere near that level and likely will never reach it again--unless we burn everything organic on the planet all at once.
Burn everything all at once, eh? Massive CO2 release...
choke the oceans...

http://www.physor...327.html

I knew I'd seen that one before. Dachpyarvile, I think you're on to something. Something so... obvious. :-)

Somebody give Al Gore a call and ask him if he has any Prince Albert in a can.
dobermanmacleod
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2009
Here is a practical mechanical method of removing CO2 from the ocean:

"Researchers at Harvard University and Pennsylvania State University have invented a technology, inspired by nature, to reduce the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by human emissions. By electrochemically removing hydrochloric acid from the ocean and then neutralizing the acid by reaction with silicate (volcanic) rocks, the researchers say they can accelerate natural chemical weathering, permanently transferring CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean. Unlike other ocean sequestration processes, the new technology does not further acidify the ocean and may be beneficial to coral reefs. The innovative approach to tackling climate change is reported in the Nov. 7 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology..." --"Engineered weathering process could mitigate global warming," EurekAlert, 7 Nov '07
Velanarris
3 / 5 (6) Feb 03, 2009
By electrochemically removing hydrochloric acid from the ocean and then neutralizing the acid by reaction with silicate (volcanic) rocks, the researchers say they can accelerate natural chemical weathering, permanently transferring CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.


What does hydrochloric acid (HCl) weathering of Silicate rocks have to do with CO2?

Yes I read the source paper and it still does not make sense. The CO2 disolves in ocean water becomming carbonic acid where it couples with calcium carbonate to become bicarbonate. If the scientists in this article are trying to supplant Carbonic acid with Hydrochloric acid to get a faster bicarbonate reaction I'd hazard that they don't have a complete understanding of ocean chemistry, (not that I can claim a greater knowledge). The article doesn't provide enough info.
barakn
3 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2009
There's an issue with the logic behind ocean acidification.

The primarily affected reefs are in tropical zones where the temperature is higher and CO2 outgassing is higher, meaning less CO2 and in turn less acidity enhancing substances in the water.

So, since there's a disconnect here, I'd hazard a guess that CO2 is not responsible for ocean acidification or the minor change in pH is not responsible for the current circumstances of coral reefs.

There's an issue with your logic. With water at a constant temperature, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the concentration of CO2 in the water, regardless of what that temperature is. It's a matter of equilibrium - CO2 will move into and out of the water simultaneously, not just a one-way "outgassing" as you propose. With more CO2 outside the water, it's more likely to pass into the water. This tropical water will acidify, granted not as much as if it were cooler water.
Velanarris
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 03, 2009
There's an issue with the logic behind ocean acidification.

The primarily affected reefs are in tropical zones where the temperature is higher and CO2 outgassing is higher, meaning less CO2 and in turn less acidity enhancing substances in the water.

So, since there's a disconnect here, I'd hazard a guess that CO2 is not responsible for ocean acidification or the minor change in pH is not responsible for the current circumstances of coral reefs.

There's an issue with your logic. With water at a constant temperature, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the concentration of CO2 in the water, regardless of what that temperature is. It's a matter of equilibrium - CO2 will move into and out of the water simultaneously, not just a one-way "outgassing" as you propose. With more CO2 outside the water, it's more likely to pass into the water. This tropical water will acidify, granted not as much as if it were cooler water.

Right, but, couple this with the fact that cooler water corals appear to be unaffected and the disconnect makes itself apparent. Why wouldn't cooler water corals be affected more dramatically than the tropic corals?
dachpyarvile
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 03, 2009
Neutral ph is 7.0. Anything below that is acidic. Given that the oceans still are in the 8s all still is good. :)
PhilipM
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2009
There's an issue with the logic behind ocean acidification.



The primarily affected reefs are in tropical zones where the temperature is higher and CO2 outgassing is higher, meaning less CO2 and in turn less acidity enhancing substances in the water.



So, since there's a disconnect here, I'd hazard a guess that CO2 is not responsible for ocean acidification or the minor change in pH is not responsible for the current circumstances of coral reefs.


There's an issue with your logic. With water at a constant temperature, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the concentration of CO2 in the water, regardless of what that temperature is. It's a matter of equilibrium - CO2 will move into and out of the water simultaneously, not just a one-way "outgassing" as you propose. With more CO2 outside the water, it's more likely to pass into the water. This tropical water will acidify, granted not as much as if it were cooler water.


Right, but, couple this with the fact that cooler water corals appear to be unaffected and the disconnect makes itself apparent. Why wouldn't cooler water corals be affected more dramatically than the tropic corals?



You are missing the point that outgassing of CO_2 is not the reason for the change in the ocean's composition. The increased partial pressure of CO_2 in the atmosphere increases the amount that can dissolve in water at a given temperature, increasing the amount available to react with calcium carbonate.
PhilipM
1 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2009
By electrochemically removing hydrochloric acid from the ocean and then neutralizing the acid by reaction with silicate (volcanic) rocks, the researchers say they can accelerate natural chemical weathering, permanently transferring CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.


What does hydrochloric acid (HCl) weathering of Silicate rocks have to do with CO2?

Yes I read the source paper and it still does not make sense. The CO2 disolves in ocean water becomming carbonic acid where it couples with calcium carbonate to become bicarbonate. If the scientists in this article are trying to supplant Carbonic acid with Hydrochloric acid to get a faster bicarbonate reaction I'd hazard that they don't have a complete understanding of ocean chemistry, (not that I can claim a greater knowledge). The article doesn't provide enough info.


A more reasonable explanation is that by removing HCl from the oceans, and neutralising it elsewhere, the calcium carbonate buffering reaction has less HCl to neutralise and can therefore neutralise more CO_2.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (3) Sep 05, 2009
Any HCl in the ocean is immediately buffered by the various salts and neutralized by bicarbonates in sea water. And, the only actual HCl in the water of which I am aware would be from sea life and humans vomiting into the water.

In addition, it is not the matter of neutralizing carbonic acid in the ocean. CO2 dissolves into the water and only so much can be held at a time influenced by the temperature of the water. The colder the water the more CO2 can be dissolved in the water.

Electrochemical stimulation of the water and dissolved chloride salts would produce HCl and then become sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) as the electrolyzed water flows around and mixes around the electrodes.

Yeah! That's the ticket! Let's add chlorine bleach to the ocean! That'll help! :)
Velanarris
1 / 5 (1) Sep 06, 2009
The warmer sea water gets the more calcium carbonate precipitates out. This is why oceanic acidification would be of note.

Here's the fun part. This also leads to an outgassing of CO2 meaning that although the ocean may drop a bit in pH, most of those drops will completely reverse as the oceans cool on the next natural variation of oceanic temperature.

The oceans drive the atmospheric climate, not the other way around.