Ocean Acidification and Corals

Guest post by Steven Goddard
The BBC ran an article this week titled “Acid oceans ‘need urgent action” based on the premise:

The world’s marine ecosystems risk being severely damaged by ocean acidification unless there are dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, warn scientists.

This sounds very alarming, so being diligent researchers we should of course check the facts.  The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid.  In order to become acid, it would have to drop below 7.0.  According to WikipediaBetween 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104.”  At that rate, it will take another 3,500 years for the ocean to become even slightly acid.  One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.
The BBC article then asserts:

The researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as “the other CO2 problem”, could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.

This does indeed sound alarming, until you consider that corals became common in the oceans during the Ordovician Era – nearly 500 million years ago – when atmospheric CO2 levels were about 10X greater than they are today. (One might also note in the graph below that there was an ice age during the late Ordovician and early Silurian with CO2 levels 10X higher than current levels, and the correlation between CO2 and temperature is essentially nil throughout the Phanerozoic.)

http://ff.org/centers/csspp/library/co2weekly/2005-08-18/dioxide_files/image002.gif

Perhaps corals are not so tough as they used to be?  In 1954, the US detonated the world’s largest nuclear weapon at Bikini Island in the South Pacific.  The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees.  Yet half a century of rising CO2 later, the corals at Bikini are thriving.  Another drop in pH of 0.075 will likely have less impact on the corals than a thermonuclear blast.  The corals might even survive a rise in ocean temperatures of half a degree, since they flourished at times when the earth’s temperature was 10C higher than the present.

There seems to be no shortage of theories about how rising CO2 levels will destroy the planet, yet the geological record shows that life flourished for hundreds of millions of years with much higher CO2 levels and temperatures.  This is a primary reason why there are so many skeptics in the geological community.  At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.
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Neil Crafter

This has always seemed intuitively impossible to acidify the oceans, given how salty they are. How could CO2 possible overcome all that salt? But then nothing seems above the vast powers of this wonder molecule!

Robert S

“The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid. ”
Acidification is the process of becoming acidic, and based on the fact that ocean pH has dropped, we can certainly say that is the case. Just to be clear, the end result of acidification is not necessarily an acidic ocean (which would be very unlikely).

CJA

“One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.”
It’s observations like this that will continue to make some of us without PhD’s skeptical of the thought process utilized by some of the leading climate scientists. Similarly, when you look at the surfacestations project and realize that the measurement of global surface temperatures has an inherent flaw, it does not make immediate sense to talk about minor temperature changes over the past 30 years–even if the math says its statistically significant.

mccall

I suppose a better term would be “debased” — similar to the science that comes from many alarmists!

Richard Sharpe

The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees.

I suspect that it did not raise the water temperature to 55,000 degrees. That might have been the temperature at the center of the explosion, but I suspect that the water nearby flashed into steam …
Can you clarify?
I am also lead to believe that the current corrals and the ones before the KT event (I believe) were different, one being rugose corals and the other not. I might have the boundary wrong, though.
Perhaps some words should be said to indicate why corals back then are expected to have behaved the same as those of today in the presence of greater levels of carbonic acid or whatever in the seas, or that similar buffering was possible.

Jon

I second “Robert S”. The tone of indignation is misplaced. Acidification is any decline in pH, no matter how alkaline the final result. That said, the terminology “acidification” draws upon the negative public connotations of something being “acidic” and is primarily used in ecological sciences.

David Archibald

The temperature of large bodies of water is limited to 31degrees C due to the rate of evaporation increasing with temperature. When the Earth was warmer, the tropics remained the same, the rest of the planet heated up.

Mikey

Use of the term acidification is just more BS terminology like using the term Climate Change when what you’re really talking about is human-caused global warming. It’s use is designed to insinuate the oceans are acidic. If they’re not it’s just lying agitprop. That’s not science. That’s english. Any school kid can figure that one out. In the long run using these BS terms will eventually be among the alarmists biggest mistakes. They’re allowing the average guy to get a peak at the BS their quote unquote science is based on.

Jon Jewett

Neil,
Salt (NaCl) does not have an effect on maintaining the pH in this case. There may be other chemicals that would help to maintain the pH above 7.0 (i.e. basic, the opposite of acid). The effect of chemicals resisting a change in pH is called “buffering” and it would take someone more knowledgeable to know if sea water is a buffered solution.
CO2 dissolved in water makes a very weak acid called carbonic acid. It is so weak that we can drink it in soda pop. However, it does have an effect that we can see. Over zillions of years, CO2 dissolves in rainwater and that water with the weak acid percolates through limestone deposits. The weak acid slowly dissolves the limestone and creates caves. But it does take zillions of years.
Regards,
Steamboat Jack

Fraizer

I am a reef aquarium enthusiast.
I add CO2 in a calcium reactor to provide free calcium carbonate for the corals.
I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2. I actually have corals propagating to the point that I have to remove them and trade with the local fish store.
OK, this is slightly different than the natural environment, but the idea is to mimic the natural carbon cycle. CO2 is a fundamental building block of the marine ecosystem. Think of it a pumping CO2 into a hothouse for tomatoes.
So I would ask the folks that subscribe to the AGW proposition:
What is the ultimate solubility of an acid gas in an infinitely buffered alkaline solution?

hunter

Robert S and Jon,
One of the most important tools of AGW fear promotion is to wring out of the statistical noise some numerical value indistinguishable from the noise, and then declare that numerical value is an established fact of grave implications.
There is not one shred of evidence that the AGW claim about acidification is true.
And since the oceans are strongly basic, and the alleged change, even if true, is so trivial, the use of the term ‘acidification’ is not one used to describe a process but rather to elicit acceptance of claims about AGW.
Additionally, please feel free to refer to any credible studies at all that show in the laboratory that a change in Ph of .04 in a marine tank of coral will have any effect at all on the coral. In fact a google of coral+Ph+lab yields no listing of any experimental results.
This pattern is true of basically every tenet of AGW dogma.

J.Hansford.

More AGW hype and myth making.

Fraizer

@Robert S (21:27:59) :
FYI, the natural ocean pH varies from about 8.1 to about 8.4 depending on a multitude of factors. I try to maintain my reef tank at 8.3 but that varies with temperature and lighting on a diurnal basis.
It is extremely difficult to measure pH IN THE LABORATORY with a precision of better than +/- 0.1.
Make no mistake. Corral reefs are in trouble. Largely from pesticide and fertilizer runoff as well as sewage sludge. CO2 is the least of their problems.

Mike McMillan

Richard Sharpe (21:45:26) :
” The bomb was equivalent to 30 billion pounds of TNT, vapourised three islands, and raised water temperatures to 55,000 degrees. ”
I suspect that it did not raise the water temperature to 55,000 degrees. That might have been the temperature at the center of the explosion, but I suspect that the water nearby flashed into steam.

As I recall from nuke weapons school, ignition temp for hydrogen fusion is around 100 million degrees, so 55K is very likely the water temp some great distance away, unless the water has dissociated. Nearby, I don’t think you’ll find anything but plasma. 🙂

Mike Bryant

The coral are making a comeback after the tsunami. How is this possible with the acidification of the oceans?
http://www.physorg.com/news149768973.html

To become acidic, the ocean would have to be below pH 7.0. Saying that “acidification” is just the process of moving closer to 7.0 is equivocation. A little word game, like saying you’re being Newyorkized just because you take a couple of steps eastward in Los Angeles. Heck, you haven’t even been Denverized, yet.
pH, by the way, is not an esoteric chemistry concept, it’s just a handy measurement scale, a shorthand, and can be calculated from other measures of acidity.

D. King

Soft-shell lobsters…Yummy!

Glenn

“In order to become acid, it would have to drop below 7.0.”
I agree. The term “acidification” applied to ocean ph was apparently first
applied by global warming advocates. Whoda guessed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification
“Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.[1]”
http://pangea.stanford.edu/research/Oceans/GES205/Caldeira_Science_Anthropogenic%20Carbon%20and%20ocean%20pH.pdf
“When carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean it lowers the pH, making the ocean more acidic.”
Scientists, gotta love them. No, the oceans are not acidic, and lowering the ph a small amount will not make the oceans “more acidic”. Great PR, though.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:acidic&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title
Define acidic:
“being or containing an acid; of a solution having an excess of hydrogen atoms (having a pH of less than 7) ”
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=define%3Amore
Define more:
“More” is the theme from the Italian movie Mondo Cane, from 1962

At some point the theorists will have to start paying attention to empirical data.
You sure? It didn’t stop them from proclaiming unprecedented ice melt even though they find whole villages and 3000 year old tree stumps under the glaciers. I wondered if you would pick up on the bikini island bombs, didn’t bother those ever so delicate corals much at all.

sod

a google scholar search of
coral+Ph+laboratory+experiment gives me 14000 RECENT hits.
http://scholar.google.de/scholar?q=corals+ph+laboratory+experiment&hl=en&lr=&scoring=r&as_ylo=2004

wes george

First they claim an apocalypse is looming due to AGW.
But when self-evident cooling occurs they blur AGW to vague “climate change” Any climate evolution defying total climate stasis is the result of capitalist evil.
Of course, by definition, the climate is always changing and the concept of an optimum climate stasis is an idiotically impossible oxymoron.
Now that more and more people are becoming aware of the dual idiocy of a tautology “climate change” and its implied oxymoronic corollary of a “stationary climate” we are being prepared to move on to the next FUD, the acidification of the oceans.
Remarkably, the dire threats keep shifting, but the boogie man remains the same. And so does the collectivist socio-economic policy solutions.
What’s wrong with this picture?

Glenn

After considering this “acidification” it occured to me to question whether
other factors could be involved rather than increased co2, if indeed that is the case at all. I know little about the subject, but “red tides”, created by the billions of tons of crap we have dumped into the oceans, manufacture domoic acid, which may cause similar reactions in seawater to calcium and such. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the chemistry might take an interest.

Jon

Hunter,
I’d like to take a moderate approach. Absolutism makes me uncomfortable. e.g., Klaus claiming that there is no global warming–none. That’s a sloppy step too far.
The second part of the post is good, but the bit about ridiculing the conjunction of “acidification” with a basic ocean pH is a step too far.
Skeptics need to have higher standards for themselves and their claims.

Neil Crafter

Steamboat Jack
Thanks for that correction.
The use of the term “acidification” is scary to the average punter. The effect is to make the oceans very slightly less alkaline, but that term does not have the right scare factor for the AGW scarists.
Fraizer
Interesting that your corals are enjoying the extra CO2 boost you are giving them. I see that a number of corals form a symbiotic relationship with a particular family of algae and presumably it is the algae that benefit from the increased CO2.

Steven Goddard

The BBC article was titled “Acid Oceans.” They are not acidic, rather they are alkaline.
The 55,000 degrees number is from the Science Daily article linked to in that paragraph. The radiative heat from even a small fission device (like at Hiroshima) was enough to instantly vaporize people miles away from ground zero. A thermonuclear weapon like at Bikini releases thousands of times more energy.
Why would anyone expect corals to be so much more sensitive to CO2 than in the past? The argument that is often made is that the lower pH from rising CO2 softens the aragonite in shellfish and coral. Yet we know that atmospheric CO2 levels were much higher when corals and many species of shellfish appeared in the oceans. The physical properties of aragonite have not changed.
The onus needs to be on the people making the claims that a few more ppm CO2 will kill the corals – not the other way around.

a jones

May I suggest readers consult co2science.org which has excellent reporting and a good database on this subject.
Kindest Regards

Manfred

The BBC title is “ACID oceans ‘need urgent action‘”.
So the BBC get it wrong, like always, in recent history.

braddles

To a chemist, a pH change of 8.1 to 8.0 would almost always be referred to as neutralization, not acidification. I guess that “Ocean Neutralization” wouldn’t gather as many headlines as “Acidification”.

Alan Wilkinson

As an ex-chemist I confidently assert that acidification means becoming acid, not staying alkaline. It’s misuse in this context is simple propaganda, not science. Apologists for propagandists have a lost cause.
I’ve also seen chemical claptrap spouted in this context by biologists along the lines that acidification caused by higher CO2 levels reduces carbonate ion availability for calcification for shell, coral formation etc. Complete nonsense. There is no way adding CO2 to water ever reduces carbonate ion concentrations.

evanjones

The 55,000 degrees number is from the Science Daily article linked to in that paragraph. The radiative heat from even a small fission device (like at Hiroshima) was enough to instantly vaporize people miles away from ground zero.
Nah, the Little Boy was a comparative firecracker. Half the people in the city survived. And most who died did not die in the blast, but in the ensuing firestorm. No way people miles away were vaporized. There were people who were burnt utterly at ground zero, leaving only shadows on the pavement–which was not destroyed by the bomb. (An H-bomb leaves no intact pavement.)
There were even conventional bombing raids that killed more people.
Bikini is a whole ‘nother bag of beans, though. There were like a couple dozen tests there (don’t recall whether they were A-bombs or H-bombs, though).

Glenn

“The BBC title is “ACID oceans ‘need urgent action‘”.
So the BBC get it wrong, like always, in recent history.”
Or maybe they are just playing along and turned the title into the joke that was the article. Acidification means to *make* acidic. You’ll notice they report “The researchers warn” and “they refer to”, not that the BBC is warning about ocean acidification.

Glenn

Another linked article to the OP:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7745714.stm
“They sampled coastal waters off the north-west Pacific coast of the US every half-hour for eight years.
The results, published in the journal PNAS, suggest that earlier climate change models may have underestimated the rate of ocean acidification.”
There has been a problem off the NW Pacific coast for at least the last eight years with “red tides”, or “algal blooms”, which create acid and influence the chemistry of the ocean and sealife in various ways.

So they have (questionable) data over 243 years, what about to those years from 1994, i am missing the those 15 years, what did happen in that time?
Accoording to this it will take almost 5 centuries from 1751 to somewhere halfway the 23rd century for the PH to drop from 8.179 to 8.029. The sky is falling it seems? NOT.

Ted Annonson

Whenever I read something put out by the AGW crowd, it reminds me of the only thing I remember from my 1944 class in mathematical analysis which was the instructor saying—
Hucksters often take true numbers and facts and present them in such a manner that it creates a false picture of reality. (Not his exact words, but–)
He then gave the following illistration
Three salesmen were late for a convention and had a hard time trying to find a room for the night. Finally at one hotel the clerk said he had one single room for $30.00 and he could have two more beds installed, so each of them would only pay $10.00.(3x$10.00=$30.00 Right?)
Later the clerk started to think that maybe they payed too much for that crowded room, so he gave the bellboy $5.00 to divide among the three.
Since $5.00 is not divisable evenly by three, the bellboy just gave each $1.00 and kept $2.00 for himself. This meant that each salesman only paid $9.00.
($10.00-$1.00=$9.00 Right?) But 3x$9.00=$27.00 plus the $2.00 that the bellboy make $29.00(Right?), So where did the other dollar go?

Andrew McRae

Hey there Watters,
I saw this headline in the BBC headlines a few hours ago and was checking it for signs of lunacy. I should have known that WUWT (or allied sites) would have done the analysis for me already.
Well anyway, thought I’d post a link to some related data for discussion. Here’s a NOAA-funded study of ocean pH, comparing observations done in 1991 and 2006.
http://www.marine.usf.edu/PDFs-and-DOCs/publications/Sherwood-AGU2006.pdf
Now, on the one hand, they also report pH has in fact decreased by almost the same amount that was predicted by atmospheric CO2 models.
On the other hand, what I find unscientific about it (aside from it being a poster and not a journal paper) is that it says in Fig 11 at the bottom right corner that they have graphed the “delta-pH signal from anthropogenic CO2”. That is plainly false. They have measured a drop in pH. There is nothing about this study that disproves all alternative influences on pH aside from CO2. Plus there is nothing about this study that tells where the CO2 came from, let alone that it is from human activity.
Personally I think that since CO2 has a higher solubility in warmer water than cooler water, and since the satellite measurements (MMU) of the SST have definitely shown (via e.g. CRU) the surface warmed between 1991 and 2006, this would mean the ocean would have sucked in more CO2 even if atmospheric CO2 concentration had stayed the same between 1991 and 2006. All they’ve done is build a million dollar thermometer – not an AGW fingerprint detective.
If anyone else wants to check it out and give a different opinion on the significance of this result, I would like to hear it.
See ya,
– Andrew McRae.

CodeTech

Estimated mass of the oceans: 1.37×10^21 kg
Estimated mass of the atmosphere: 5.1 x 10^18 kg
Written out:
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
That means there is about 270 times more mass of ocean than atmosphere, and remember the interface between the two is a very very small portion of the two. Gigatons of CO2 exchange between the two on a regular basis:
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find real numbers because so much of the internet is polluted by AGW agenda articles, but from what I can see there is about a 90 gigaton yearly exchange between ocean and atmosphere. So lets put those three numbers together:
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
90,000,000,000,000 kg
And adding a fourth number: the amount estimated to be emitted by human activity. Once again, good luck finding any documented or non-hyped value, but I’m seeing it’s about 7 gigatons per year.
1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kg
90,000,000,000,000 kg
7,000,000,000,000 kg
Simple arithmetic shows that “our” contribution of CO2 to the oceans is approximately 1/195,714,285 the mass of the ocean, or written out that is about one two-hundred-millionth.
I can’t even conceive of anyone seriously worried about this.

Steve Brown

Here in England the BBC is now recognised as being nothing more than a Socialist organisation which backs the Labour Government’s socialist agenda whilst being financed by a legally enforceable tax on the general populace (the TV ‘licence’ fee).
Have a look at the newspaper article linked.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/4413474/BBC-abandons-impartiality-on-warming.html

deadwood

Someone please correct me if I have this backwards.
As I understand it warming oceans release CO2 because cold sea water holds more in solution.
Since CO2, when dissolved in seawater is an acid (H2CO3 – AKA carbonic acid), would not the ocean become less acidic as the seas warm?

John Edmondson

Did Steve Goddard ask the BBC to post his analysis of their article, in the interest of providing a balanced view?
If he did, I think we can guess what the reply was?

Bill D

The effect of changes in ocean pH on calcifying organs, such as corals, clams (and other molluscs) and certain plankton is a very active area of scientific experimental research. This research can be accessed in Goggle Scholar. Various key words, such as (“ocean acidification and calcifying organisms”) give thousands of hits (try it!). Maybe 20% of these articles are available to the general public as PDF’s but the majority require subscriptions (because many scientific journals are “for profit” and even journals published by scientific societies are sustained by subscriptions).
I have enough expertise in aquatic invertebrate physiology and ecology to readily understand this literature. Although I have not published on the specific topic, I have, in the past few months been a reviewer of two papers on calcium balance in freshwater crustaceans submitted to peer reviewed journals, reflecting my specific expertise (search W.R. DeMott in Goggle scholar).
Freshwater organisms experience a much broader range in pH than marine organisms. Different species occur at lakes of different pH’s, for example. However, when we get to lakes of increasingly lower (more acidic) pH (and calcium concentrations), molluscs (snails and bivalves) are among the first to disappear followed by crustaceans and fish. Depending on lake pH we find different species that are adapted to a specific pH range. This has been very helpful for determining which lakes have been acidified by acid rain and which were naturally acidic (search under “fossil diatoms and lake pH”). Diatoms skeletons in sediment cores of mud allow reconstruction of past lake pH to the nearest 0.1 pH units.
Unfortunately, the rate of acidification of the world’s oceans is about 100X faster than in the past and current rates of CO2 increase will quickly (within the next century) lead to more acidic oceans than have ben experienced in the last 10 million years (see review articles). This means that the coral species that now present will have difficulty surviving. This does not mean that all corals will go extinct. If acidification is not too fast, perhaps adaptations will occur that allow coral reefs to be rebuilt over the next thousands or 10’s of thousands or 100s of thousands of years. However, it is naive to think that the animals that currently occupy the world’s oceans are the same ones that occurred millions of years ago when the world’s atmospheric CO2 was higher and the oceans were more acidic. Animals (including corals) may have difficulty adapting to the rapid acidification (decades and centuries are short-term for evolutionary adaptations). The calcification of marine organisms is very sensitive to pH and does not require acidic (pH < 7.0) conditions to be markedly reduced.
This posting is the understanding of a scientist with a peripheral understanding of the relevant literature. Clearly, if I had the time and motivation to read more of the literature on this topic (say 100 of the top peer reviewed papers) I would be better informed. However, our understanding of the effects of pH change is solidly ground in 1000’s of scientific papers. This literature shows that ocean life is already being effected and will become much more serious in the coming decades, given current levels of human CO2 release. There is no need to readers here to speculate that the recent and ongoing changes in ocean pH are not important. As mentioned in the first line of this post, this is a topic of very intensive, experimental research.

redneck

Steven,
I would caution you about comparing modern day corals with corals extant in the Ordivician. The most common Ordivician corals belonged to the orders Rugosa and Tabulata while todays most common corals belong to the order Scleractinia. Sort of an apples and oranges kind of thing. Also the Rugosa and Tabulata became extinct at the end of the Permian whereas the first appearance of the Scleractinia in the fossil record is not until later in the mid-Triassic.
I also wonder where they collect the samples to measure the ocean’s pH. Do they take samples from near surface which are likely to have slightly lower pHs due to contamination from rainfall. Or do they take samples from deeper water.
It is my opinion that if they want to find out if the ocean is becoming less alkaline or more acidic they should be monitoring changes in depth of the lysocline and CCD (Carbonate Compensation Depth). The lysocline occurs where dissolution of CaCO3 increases significantly due to higher pressures and lower temperatures. The CCD is the depth at which the rate of dissolution of CaCO3 exceeds the rate of supply of calcium carbonate from calcareous pelagic organisms like foraminifera. Below the depth of the CCD no CaCO3 is present on the ocean floors. According to the Glossary of Geology the CCD in the Pacific Ocean occurs between 4000 and 5000m and in the Atlantic Ocean it is somewhat shallower. It also occurs at shallower depths in high latitudes than it does in tropical latitudes.

HasItBeen4YearsYet?

THEIR pH VALUE SEEMS TO BE VERY HIGH
Here’s a copy of a paper from 1988 where they are developing the technique, and they get very different number, with decreasing numbers as depth increases.
To say that the whole ocean has to have the same pH, regardless of location and depth is less than honest. But, hey, it’s the BBC, after all.

Demesure

To have 55 000 degree temperatures for water, you must have impossibly high pressures, which is of course impossible in an open container (the ocean), except for some cubic meters of water.
This kind of numbers is exagerated and sensationalistic.

King of Cool

More than 150 top marine researchers have voiced their concerns through the “Monaco Declaration”, which warns that changes in acidity are accelerating.
So what are the noticeable effects of this?
The oceans are not a static laboratory experiment. They are evolving parts of a constantly changing planet teeming with living species and bacteria.
Over 3500 delegates also attended the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Florida in July 2008. Sure, they identified acidification as a factor. But CO2 has been around in various quantities in the 500 million year evolvement of coral reefs which have survived remarkably well over this period.
The reef symposium also recognised that other major issues that would affect the survival of coral reefs were management, overfishing, run-off, development and local community attitudes. These I suspect are the real man made problems that we have to worry about.

Ceolfrith

Fraizer (22:11:28) : I am a reef aquarium enthusiast. I add CO2 in a calcium reactor to provide free calcium carbonate for the corals. I can tell you for a fact that my corals have never done so well since I began the regular addition of CO2.
Fraizer’s got it dead right, and so, unfortunately, has Hunter. I had an excellent discussion with Floor Anthoni about all this; he taught me that since the oceans always carry excess Ca++ ions, the fauna there will always utilize any spare CO2 to build shells and thusly regulate the balance. He also warns that “ocean acidification” stands poised to become the next bogeyman when the Climate Science hot air is punctured. There are local issues with the oceans: the danger is when they get falsely multiplied up.
I do recommend a visit to Dr Floor Anthoni everyone. He’s got what so few people have, a rounded grasp of his topic, hands-on, heart, and good science. Because he understands the subtle nature of ocean dynamics, he’s not in line with hard fundamentalist science headlines. But he can help people grasp the elusive powers of the ocean that we need to grasp but PC-landlubber modellers miss.

The fixation of carbon by oceanic animals is responsible for all the limestone in the world, is it not, from the white cliffs of Dover to Mt. Everest. I speculate that taken in total there is a lot more carbon in limestone than in fossil fuels. And a lot more annual fixation of carbon in the oceans than on land. Furthermore, terrestrial biomass is prone to combustion and de-sequesterization of the carbon, whereas in the oceans the calcium carbonate sinks and remains intact for eons.
Unless it is uplifted by plate tectonics, or is thermonuclearized, and even then marine critters replace it shortly thereafter.
Is any of that in the climate models??????

Neven

Steven,
Maybe you also could’ve said something about how parts of marine life will cope with a relatively rapid switch in pH? Will they be able to adapt? A lot of marine scientists say they won’t. The argument that corals in the Ordovician era – 500 million years ago – did well with high CO2 levels doesn’t say anything about adaptability of current corals.
And that’s the big question, isn’t it? Will corals etc be able to adapt to a rapid switch in pH? Why isn’t this question addressed at all in your piece?

HasItBeen4YearsYet?
RobJM

Coral exist in a symbiotic relationship with algae and many algae benefit from extra CO2 as it is potentially limiting in photosynthesis. Therefor it would be reasonable to expect that many coral would benefit from higher CO2 levels. Basic biology 101.