Saturday, July 05, 2008

The good old ocean acidity scare gets another outing in Australia

The writers below DO NOT believe in global warming. They only say they do. Why? Because warmer oceans are capable of holding LESS CO2. Open a bottle of Coke when it is warm and see how the gas surges out if you doubt it. And if the oceans have less CO2 in them, they contain less of the carbonic acid that the CO2 becomes while in solution! So the oceans would have a REDUCED tendency towards acidity under warming. The fact that corals etc. have survived much warmer periods in the earth's past is also conveniently not mentioned.

Now that Ross Garnaut's draft report has been released, most of the climate change debate in Australia will focus on the economic effects of any emissions trading scheme. However, there's another carbon problem, which will profoundly affect our oceans, that has received scant attention beyond a small band of marine scientists and is largely independent of global warming. The public, aware of the role of carbon dioxide in climate change, doesn't know of its function in acidifying the oceans and the hundreds of years that would be required for recovery.

Ocean acidification refers to the natural process whereby carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea, forming a weak carbonic acid. The ocean is a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and has absorbed about 48 per cent of the CO2 emitted by human activities since the pre-industrial age. A recent report from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre claimed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest level in 650,000 years, and possibly 23 million years, and half has been dissolved in the oceans, making them more acidic.

Australia has a direct stake in the ocean acidification problem: it will affect every part of our marine environment. And our offshore estate has just become a lot bigger. Three months ago the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, while not accepting all bids, recognised Australia's claim to the continental shelf where it extends beyond our exclusive 200 nautical mile economic zone. This is a vast oceanic area: 2.5 million square kilometres, or 10 times the size of New Zealand and 20 times the size of Britain.

Rising levels of acidity in the oceans surrounding Australia could have a profound impact on marine industries and dire consequences for many Pacific Island communities, presenting strategic and humanitarian challenges.

Mounting levels of CO2 in the Southern Ocean has caused deep concern among scientists studying the long-term productivity of the world's oceans. Under conditions of increasing acidification, parts of the oceans will deteriorate and progressively become uninhabitable for certain types of plankton, central to the ocean food chain, and coral structures. The Southern Ocean is particularly important because it is very efficient at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere: it's here where the first effects are being felt.

Ocean acidification is likely to have a cascading effect, reaching parts of the food chain such as fish and shellfish. Marine researchers are saying that a business-as-usual scenario of CO2 production will ultimately result in destruction of marine life on an enormous scale. Some shell-forming species will struggle to maintain or reproduce their vital shell structures and skeletons, which will have a direct effect on the ocean food web. Some species will decline, others will be displaced or will disappear, and patterns of fisheries will change, potentially threatening the food security of millions in the Asia-Pacific and damaging Australian fisheries economically.

Another study identified ocean acidification as a primary causal factor in common reef fish getting lost at sea during a crucial stage of their development. And rising acidification could also interfere with the respiration of fish, the larval development of marine organisms and the ability of oceans to absorb nutrients and toxins.

Coral reefs such as the Great Barrier Reef, which are hot spots of biodiversity, will suffer. Acidification will weaken coral structures and stunt coral growth, leading to a significant decline by the middle of this century. This will deprive parts of the Australian coastline of a natural protective barrier against the ocean, leading to greater threats from storm activity and cyclones.....

As the debate about who wins and who loses in the future Australian emissions trading regime intensifies, we should remember that with ocean acidification there will only be losers. Discovering the ecological effects of our souring oceans requires urgent action.

The authors above: Anthony Bergin is director of research programs at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Ross Allen is a research analyst at ASPI. The above are their personal views. It looks like both of them reply on others for a knowledge of chemistry and physics

More here

Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH

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