The Oceans’ Shifting Balance

In yesterday’s New York Times:

Scientists have understood ocean acidification for a long time. But what they are learning now is how quickly it is increasing, in step with increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. New studies show that if carbon dioxide emissions continue at current rates, shells and corals could begin to dissolve — especially in the southern oceans — within 30 years. Observations from many places, including the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, suggest that ocean acidification is proceeding much faster than anyone had thought.

2 responses to “The Oceans’ Shifting Balance

  1. Natural Skin Care lady

    The worst is yet to come if we do not all here on this planet work,work,and more work to stop it from increasing.
    God help us now. We will need it.

  2. In many recent news items which thankfully help raise the alarm on the state of ill health in the oceans you make the following statement or something like it is seen “…shells and corals could begin to dissolve especially in the southern oceans within 30 years.” This is a crucially important mis-statement of the severity of what the scientific reports reveal. The Australian Acad. of Sciences which made the “30 yr” statement notes that in 30 years the Southern Ocean will have reached a ‘tipping point’ where acidification will have toppled into a regime where acidification will not be recoverable. What is so important is that this process is not some moment in time 21 years hence when the deadly carbon bomb hits the ocean. This ‘tipping point’ is the culmination of a long standing and ongoing poisoning of the oceans with more than a century of CO2 emissions and more. We don’t have another 21 years, before we need to act as many will take your editorial statement suggests, we must act today.
    The crisis is revealed to be worse when one reads the American Acad. of Science report (Wooton et al) only days old on the state of the N. Pacific near Seattle which reveals in an spectacular data set which combines pH measurements every half hour for eight years with matching studies of marine life. This shocking report reveals that the N. Pacific is in even worse condition than the Southern Ocean and that large shell fish are already disappearing in our own ocean which is becoming acidic at a rate 20 times what was projected by theorists in their ocean chemistry models. This North Pacific report ought not to be taken singularly as it fits perfectly with additional studies which have shown that not only is ocean acidification proceeding at alarming rates at the same time ocean net primary productivity (NPP = green plants) is declining at even more alarming rates. Reports from NASA NOAA and others show the Southern Ocean has lost 10% of its NPP in the past 25 years, but even worse the N. Atlantic has lost 17%, the N. Pacific loss is 26%, and the sub-tropical tropical oceans have suffered more than 50% loss of their ocean plants. In another report of a year or so ago scientists reported on finding “The Clearest Water on Earth” and this was horrifyingly not in some odd location but in a vast area of the sub-tropical tropical S. Pacific between French Polynesia and S. America, clear water is lifeless water – another proof of the deadly carbon bomb clear and present and worsening impact on the oceans.
    As bad as these doomsday reports may seem is there is a ray of hope. The loss of ocean productivity is consistent with a loss of CO2 neutralization by photosynthesis amounting to the fixation of 4-5 billion tonnes of CO2 per year into living biomass. While the politicians and even the most green minded citizens seek to reach goals of 20% reduction of emissions by 2020 few in the know see this goal as being likely to be met. Indeed if it is met it will amount to at most somewhere between 1-1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 reduction. The ray of hope lies in restoring ocean photosynthesis by replenishing ocean mineral micronutrients that high and rising CO2 have denied the oceans. Ocean eco-restoration of the phyto-plankton, which has seen 25 years and a $250 million in research funds devoted to its study and development, is not only the oceans and our own greatest hope it is also the most cost effective and most immediate available effort that is ready today to begin deployment. For mere billions in cost, if humankind were to be successful at restoring the ocean plants to the state of abundance they and we enjoyed 25 years ago, we would beat the Kyoto and other Climate Change goals by more than double the most optimistic political and environmental agendas. In doing so we would restore oceans health and support dwindling fisheries. My company Planktos Science has been at the forefront of developing this planetary first aid and always it has been our fear that we might be too little and too late. It is now perfectly clear that we have a mere 21 years to not only deploy ocean eco-restoration we have only 21 years to succeed. This in no longer a tool to address the glacially slow pace of climate change and global warming, it is global triage and treatment without which we will surely watch the dying of Planet Ocean. The choice is clear restore ocean life or watch the oceans die an acidic death.