Special Report: Shifting Climate Panic to the Deep Blue Sea
|Ocean carbonation, a panic whose time has come.|
The claim is that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the Pacific Ocean, and this increased dissolved CO2 causes various problems.
This is a major multi-million dollar campaign involving front-page stories in the Seattle Times, NPR segments on not-resilient crabs in Alaska, X-Prize contests, and other foundation-funded projects supporting journalists, classroom education, and public policy.
Ocean-acidification research and claims have a history, and some scholars are skeptical that increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean are any more dangerous or destructive than increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
After all, carbon dioxide is food for plants and as CO2 levels increase, organisms dependent upon photosynthesis grow faster. Plenty of online articles discuss CO2 fertilization (both for and against the whole idea). For at least twenty-five years debates over the “lush green Earth” scenario have filled journal articles and debate rounds. Recent developments: cheetahs are apparently hurt as plant life thickens from increased CO2 (this JunkScience.com post pokes fun at the cheetah claim).
Scientific American notes research on oceans absorbing more CO2 than previously thought.
Claims that CO2 absorbed by the ocean will disrupt ocean ecosystems have been challenged. David Middleton claims more CO2 in the ocean benefits coral reefs:
As the atmospheric CO2 concentration has grown since the 1700′s coral reef extension rates have also trended upwards. This is contrary to the theory that increased atmospheric CO2 should reduce the calcium carbonate saturation in the oceans, thus reducing reef calcification. It’s a similar enigma to the calcification rates of coccoliths and otoliths.
In all three cases, the theory or model says that increasing atmospheric CO2 will make the oceans less basic by increasing the concentration of H+ ions and reducing calcium carbonate saturation. This is supposed to reduce the calcification rates of carbonate shell-building organisms. When, in fact, the opposite is occurring in nature with reefs and coccoliths – Calcification rates are generally increasing. And in empirical experiments under laboratory conditions, otoliths grew (rather than shrank) when subjected to high levels of simulated atmospheric CO2.
Judith Curry discusses the ocean acidification debate on Climate Etc. With 683 comment so far, it seems a controversial topic.
Curry quotes at length both sides, with Craig Isdo on the negative:
So what’s the story here? Are coral reefs really in their last decades of existence? Will the shells of other calcifying marine life also dissolve away during our lifetimes? The NRDC film certainly makes it appear that such is the case; but a little scientific sleuthing reveals nothing of substance in this regard. In fact, even a cursory review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature reveals that an equally strong case – if not a more persuasive one – can be made for the proposition that the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration will actually prove a boon to calcifying marine life. Sadly, however, the NRDC chose to present an extreme one-sided, propagandized view of ocean acidification; and in this critique we present the part of the story that they clearly don’t want you to know.
[25 pages of text, 13 pages of references] Link for Idso research.
Two million dollars are offered in an X-Prize “targeting” ocean acidification. Cash prizes have the advantage of incentivizing scientists and entrepreneurs to develop solutions, rather than just publish more studies.
So if ocean acidification is a problem, the basic solution is likely to be the best way to develop and provide a basic solution.