Ocean Acidification: Chicken Little of the Sea Strikes Again

Reef exihbit on ocean acidification.

Image by Tom Clifton via Flickr

Guest Post by David Middleton

Introduction

As global warming morphs into climate change and global climate disruption and anthropogenic CO2 emissions give way to stochastic variability, clouds, the Sun, cosmic rays and our oceans as the primary drivers of climate change, environmental extremists are raising a new CO2-driven ecological disaster scenario to hysterical levels: Ocean acidification. Claims have been made that oceanic pH levels have declined from ~8.2 to ~8.1 since the mid-1700’s. This pH decline (acidification) has been attributed to anthropogenic CO2 emissions – This should come as no surprise because the pH estimates are largely derived from atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Orr et al., 2005). It has also been postulated that anthropogenic CO2 emissions will force an additional 0.7 unit decline in oceanic pH by the year 2100 (Caldeira et al., 2003).

Alarmist organizations like the National Resources Defense Council are hard at work extrapolating these oceanic pH model predictions into ecological nightmares…

Scientists predict the Arctic will become corrosive to some shelled organisms within a few decades, and the Antarctic by mid-century. This is pure chemistry; the vagaries of climate do not apply to this forecast.

OA is expected to impact commercial fisheries worldwide, threatening a food source for hundreds of millions of people as well as a multi-billion dollar industry. In the United States alone, ocean-related tourism, recreation and fishing are responsible for more than 2 million jobs.

Shellfish will be affected directly, thus impacting finfish who feed on them. For example, pteropods—tiny marine snails that are particularly sensitive to rises in acidity— comprise 60 percent of the diet for Alaska’s juvenile pink salmon. And this affects diets farther up the food chain, as a diminished salmon population would lead to less fish on our tables.

Coral reefs will be especially hard hit by ocean acidification. As ocean acidity rises, corals will begin to erode faster than they can grow, and reef structures will be lost worldwide. Scientists predict that by the time atmospheric CO2 reaches 560 parts per million (a level which could happen which could happen by mid-century; we are currently nearing 400 ppm), coral reefs will cease to grow and even begin to dissolve. Areas that depend on healthy coral reefs for food, shoreline protection, and lucrative tourism industries will be profoundly impacted by their loss.

This sounds like a serious threat… As have all of the other alarmist clarion calls to halt capitalism in the name of the most recent environmental cause célèbre. Just to be fair, before pitching Ocean Acidification into the dustbin of junk science along with Anthropogenic Global Warming, let’s look at the science.

The answers to the following questions will tell us whether or not CO2-driven ocean acidification is a genuine scientific concern:

  1. Is atmospheric CO2 acidifying the oceans?
  2. Is there any evidence that reefs and other marine calcifers have been damaged by CO2-driven ocean acidification and/or global warming?
  3. Does the geological record support the oceanic acidification hypothesis?

Is atmospheric CO2 acidifying the oceans?

Before we can answer this question, we have to understand a bit about how the oceans make limestone and other carbonate rocks. The Carbonate Compensation Depth (CCD or Lysocline) is the depth at which carbonate shells dissolve faster than they accumulate. That depth is primarily determined by several factors…

-Water temperature

-Depth (pressure)

-CO2 concentration

-pH (high pH values aid in carbonate preservation)

-Amount of carbonate sediment supply

-Amount of terrigenous sediment supply

Calcium carbonate solubility increases with increasing carbon dioxide content, lower temperatures, and increasing pressure.

SOURCE

What evidence do we have that the lysocline or CCD has been becoming shallower or that the oceans have been acidifying over the last 250 years? The answer is: Almost none.

Pelejero et al., 2005 found a cyclical correlation between pH and the PDO…

Fig. 2. Record of Flinders Reef coral 11B, reconstructed oceanic pH, aragonite saturation state, PDO and IPO indices, and coral calcification parameters. (A) Flinders Reef coral 11B as a proxy for surface-ocean pH (24); 11B measurements for all 5-year intervals are available in table S1. (B) Indices of the PDO (28, 39) and the IPO (27) averaged over the same 5-year intervals as the coral pH data. Gray curves in panels (A) and (B) are the outputs of Gaussian filtering of coral pH and IPO values, respectively, at a frequency of 0.02 ± 0.01 year–1, which represent the 1/50-year component of the pH variation (fig. S2). (C) Comparison of high-resolution coral Sr/Ca (plotted to identify the seasonal cycle of SST) (32), 11B-derived pH, and wind speed recorded at the Willis Island meteorological station (data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology) (40). Note the covariation of wind speed and seawater pH; strong winds generally occur at times of high pH, and weak winds generally occur at times of low pH. All high-resolution 11B measurements are available in table S2. (D) Aragonite saturation state, , where  is the stoichiometric solubility product of aragonite, calculated from our reconstructed pH assuming constant alkalinity (24). (E) Coral extension and calcification rates obtained from coral density measured by gamma ray densitometry (38).

Fig1) Pelejero et al., 2005, “Fig. 2. Record of Flinders Reef coral 11B, reconstructed oceanic pH, aragonite saturation state, PDO and IPO indices, and coral calcification parameters. (A) Flinders Reef coral 11B as a proxy for surface-ocean pH (24); 11B measurements for all 5-year intervals are available in table S1. (B) Indices of the PDO (28, 39) and the IPO (27) averaged over the same 5-year intervals as the coral pH data. Gray curves in panels (A) and (B) are the outputs of Gaussian filtering of coral pH and IPO values, respectively, at a frequency of 0.02 ± 0.01 year–1, which represent the 1/50-year component of the pH variation (fig. S2). (C) Comparison of high-resolution coral Sr/Ca (plotted to identify the seasonal cycle of SST) (32), 11B-derived pH, and wind speed recorded at the Willis Island meteorological station (data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology) (40). Note the covariation of wind speed and seawater pH; strong winds generally occur at times of high pH, and weak winds generally occur at times of low pH. All high-resolution 11B measurements are available in table S2. (D) Aragonite saturation state, , where is the stoichiometric solubility product of aragonite, calculated from our reconstructed pH assuming constant alkalinity (24). (E) Coral extension and calcification rates obtained from coral density measured by gamma ray densitometry (38).”

Is there any evidence that reefs and other marine calcifers have been damaged by CO2-driven ocean acidification and/or global warming?

Using the data from Pelejero et al., 2005, I found no correlation between pH and reef calcification rates…

Comparison of pH to Flinders Reef calcification rate (Pelejer0 et al., 2005)

Fig. 2) Flinders Reef: Calcification Rate vs. pH (Pelejero et al., 2005)

Fig. 3) Fliners Reef pH (Pelejero et al., 2005) vs atmospheric CO2

Fig. 4. Average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B and atmospheric CO2. The average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B (open circles) increased from 1.08 x 10–11 to 1.55 x 10–11 g between 1780 and the modern day, with an accelerated increase over recent decades. The increase in average coccolith mass correlates with rising atmospheric PCO2, as recorded in the Siple ice core (gray circles) (26) and instrumentally at Mauna Loa (black circles) (38), every 10th and 5th data point shown, respectively. Error bars represent 1 SD as calculated from replicate analyses. Samples with a standard deviation greater than 0.05 were discarded. The smoothed curve for the average coccolith mass was calculated using a 20% locally weighted least-squares error method.

Fig. 4) Iglesias-Rodriguez et al., 2008, “Fig. 4. Average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B and atmospheric CO2. The average mass of CaCO3 per coccolith in core RAPID 21-12-B (open circles) increased from 1.08 x 10–11 to 1.55 x 10–11 g between 1780 and the modern day, with an accelerated increase over recent decades. The increase in average pre=”average “>coccolith mass correlates with rising atmospheric PCO2, as recorded in the Siple ice core (gray circles) (26) and instrumentally at Mauna Loa (black circles) (38), every 10th and 5th data point shown, respectively. Error bars represent 1 SD as calculated from replicate analyses. Samples with a standard deviation greater than 0.05 were discarded. The smoothed curve for the average coccolith mass was calculated using a 20% locally weighted least-squares error method.”

And when sudden increases of atmospheric CO2 have been tested under laboratory conditions, “otoliths (aragonite ear bones) of young fish grown under high CO2 (low pH) conditions are larger than normal, contrary to expectation” (Checkley et al., 2009).

A recent paper in Geology (Ries et al., 2009) found an unexpected relationship between CO2 and marine calcifers. 18 benthic species were selected to represent a wide variety of taxa: “crustacea, cnidaria, echinoidea, rhodophyta, chlorophyta, gastropoda, bivalvia, annelida.” They were tested under four CO2/Ωaragonite scenarios:

409 ppm (Modern day)

606 ppm (2x Pre-industrial)

903 ppm (3x Pre-industrial)

2856 ppm (10x Pre-industrial)

7/18 were not adversely affected by 10x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 2856 ppm for blue crab, shrimp, lobster, limpet, purple urchin, coralline red algae, and blue mussel.

6/18 were not adversely affected by 3x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 903 ppm for halimeda, temperate coral, pencil urchin, conch, bay scallop and whelk.

3/18 were not adversely affected by 2x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 903 ppm for hard clam, serpulid worm and periwinkle.

2/18 had very slight declines in calcification at 2x pre-industrial: Oyster and soft clam.

The effects on calcification rates for all 18 species were either negligible or positive up to 606 ppm CO2. Corals, in particular seemed to like more CO2 in their diets…

Fig. 5) Coralline red algae calcification response to increased atmospheric CO2 (modified after Ries eta la., 2009)

Fig. 6) Temperate coral calcification response to increased atmospheric CO2 (modified after Ries et al., 2009).

Neither coral species experienced negative effects to calcification rates at CO2 levels below 1,000 to 2,000 ppmv. The study reared the various species in experimental sea water using 4 different CO2 and aragonite saturation scenarios.

It appears that in addition to being plant food… CO2 is also reef food.

More CO2 in the atmosphere leads to something called “CO2 fertilization.” In an enriched CO2 environment, most plants end to grow more. The fatal flaw of the infamous “Hockey Stick” chart was in Mann’s misinterpretation of Bristlecone Pine tree ring chronologies as a proxy for temperature; when in fact the tree ring growth was actually indicating CO2 fertilization as in this example from Greek fir trees…

Fig. 7) Example of CO2 fertilization in Greek fir trees (Koutavas, 2008 from CO2 Science)

Coral reefs can only grow in the photic zone of the oceans because zooxanthellae algae use sunlight, CO2, calcium and/or magnesium to make limestone.

The calcification rate of Flinders Reef has increased along with atmospheric CO2 concentrations since 1700…

Fig. 8) Flinders Reef calcification rate plotted with atmospheric CO2.

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.

In the cases of reefs and coccoliths, one answer is that the relatively minor increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last couple of hundred years has enhanced photosynthesis more than it has hampered marine carbonate geochemistry. However, the otoliths (fish ear bones) shouldn’t really benefit from enhanced photo-respiration. The fact that otoliths grew rather than shrank when subjected to high CO2 levels is a pretty good indication that the primary theory of ocean acidification has been tested and falsified.

Some may say, “Hey! That’s just one reef! Flinders reef is an outlier!” Fair point. So let’s look at a larger data set.

The January 2, 2009 issue of Science featured a paper, Declining Coral Calcification on the Great Barrier Reef, by Glenn De’ath, Janice M. Lough, Katharina E. Fabricius. This is from the abstract:

Reef-building corals are under increasing physiological stress from a changing climate and ocean absorption of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. We investigated 328 colonies of massive Porites corals from 69 reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia. Their skeletal records show that throughout the GBR, calcification has declined by 14.2% since 1990, predominantly because extension (linear growth) has declined by 13.3%. The data suggest that such a severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years.

I have not purchased the article and my free membership to the AAAS does not grant access to it; but I did find the database that appears to go with De’ath et al., 2009 in the NOAA Paleoclimatology library: LINK

Well… I downloaded the data to Excel and I calculated an annual average calcification rate for the 59 cores that are represented in the data set. This is what I came up with…

Fig. 9) Great Barrier Reef Calcification Rate (after De’ath et al., 2009)

It is “cherry-picking” of the highest order, if that last data point really is the basis of this claim: “Their skeletal records show that throughout the GBR, calcification has declined by 14.2% since 1990, predominantly because extension (linear growth) has declined by 13.3%. The data suggest that such a severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years.”

Over the last 400+ years the Earth’s climate has warmed ~0.6°, mean sea level has risen by about 9 inches and the atmosphere has become about 100 ppmv more enriched with CO2; and the Great Barrier Reef has responded by steadily growing faster.

1. Rising Temperature: The Great Barrier Reef likes the warm-up since the depths of the Little Ice Age…

Fig. 10) GBR calcification rate and temperature.

 

2. Rising Sea Level: The Great Barrier Reef likes the slight sea level rise since the depths of the Little Ice Age…

Fig. 11) GBR calcification rate and sea level.

 

3. Rising Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations: The Great Barrier Reef likes the increase in CO2 levels since the depths of the Little Ice Age…

Fig. 12a) GBR calcification rate and atmsopheric CO2.

 

 

Fig. 12b) GBR calcification rate and atmospheric CO2 cross plot.

Does the geological record support the oceanic acidification hypothesis?

Average annual pH reconstructions and measurements from various Pacific Ocean locations:

60 million to 40 million years ago: 7.42 to 8.04 (Pearson et al., 2000)

23 million to 85,000 years ago: 8.04 to 8.31 (Pearson et al., 2000)

6,000 years ago to present: 7.91 to 8.28 (Liu et al., 2009)

1708 AD to 1988 AD: 7.91 to 8.17 (Pelejero et al., 2005)

2000 AD to 2007 AD: 8.10 to 8.40 (Wootton et al., 2008)

The low pH levels from 60 mya to 40 mya include the infamous Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). E ven then, the oceans did not actually “acidify;” the lowest pH was 7.42 (still basic).

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) was a period of significant global warming approximately 55 million years ago and has often been cited as a geological analogy for the modern threat of ocean acidification. There is solid evidence that the Lysocline “shoaled” or became shallower for a brief period of time during the PETM. Several cores obtained from the Walvis Ridge area in the South Atlantic during Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 208 contained a layer of red clay at the P-E boundary in the middle of an extensive carbonate ooze section (Zachos et al., 2005). This certainly indicates a disruption of the lysocline during the PETM; but it doesn’t prove that it was ocean acidification.

The PETM was a period of extensive submarine and subaerial volcanic activity (Storey et al., 2007) and pedogenic carbonate reconstructions do support the possibility that seafloor methane hydrates released by that volcanic activity may have sharply increased oceanic CO2 saturation.

But… The terrigenous paleobotanical evidence does not support elevated atmospheric CO2 levels during the PETM (Royer et al., 2001). The SI data indicate CO2 levels in North America to have been between 300 and 400 ppmv during the PETM.

So, the PETM may have been an example of ocean acidification… But there is NO evidence that it was caused by a sharp increase in atmospheric CO2 levels.

The range of oceanic pH variation over the last 200 years is well within the natural variation range over the last 7,000 years.

Fig. 13) 7,000 years of pH and atmospheric CO2

Some have asserted that there is no geological precedent; claiming atmospheric CO2 concentrations have risen faster in the last 150 years than at any time in recent geological history. Ice core-derived CO2 data certainly do indicate that CO2 has not risen above ~310 ppmv at any point in the last 600,000 years and that it varies little at the decade or century scale. However, there are other methods for estimating past atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Plants “breathe” CO2 through microscopic epidermal pores called stomata. The density of plant stomata varies inversely with the atmospheric partial pressure of CO2. Several recent studies of plant stomata from living, herbarium and fossil samples of plant tissue have shown that atmospheric CO2 fluctuations comparable to that seen in the industrial era have been fairly common throughout the Holocene and Recent times.

Plant stomata measurements reveal large variations in atmospheric CO2 concentrations over the tast 2,000 years that are not apparent in ice core data (Kouwenberg, 2004)…

Figure 5.4: Reconstruction of paleo-atmospheric CO2 levels when stomatal frequency of fossil needles

Fig. 14) Kouwenberg (2004) Figure 5.4: Reconstruction of paleo-atmospheric CO2 levels when stomatal frequency of fossil needles is converted to CO2 mixing ratios using the relation between CO2 and TSDL as quantified in the training set. Black line represents a 3 point running average based on 3–5 needles per depth. Grey area indicates the RMSE in the calibration. White diamonds are data measured in the Taylor Dome ice core (Indermühle et al., 1999); white squares CO2 measurements from the Law Dome ice-core (Etheridge et al., 1996). Inset: Training set of TSDL response of Tsuga heterophylla needles from the Pacific Northwest region to CO2 changes over the past century (Chapter 4).

Century-scale fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 concentrations have also been demonstrated in the early Holocene (Wagner et al., 1999)…

(Wagner et al., 1999)Fig. 1. (A) Mean SI values (±1 ) for B. pendula and B. pubescens from the early Holocene part of the Borchert section (Netherlands; 52.23°N, 7.00°E) and reconstructed CO2 concentrations. The scale of the section is in centimeters. Three lithological (Lith.) units can be recognized (18): a basal gyttja (=), succeeded by Drepanocladus peat (//), which is subsequently overlain by Sphagnum peat ( ). Six conventional 14C dates (in years before the present) are available (indicated by circled numbers): 1, 10,070 ± 90; 2, 9930 ± 45; 3, 9685 ± 90; 4, 9770 ± 90; 5, 9730 ± 50; and 6, 9380 ± 80. Summary pollen diagram includes arboreal pollen (white area) with Pinus ( ) and with Betula ( ) and nonarboreal pollen with Gramineae (   ) and with Cyperaceae, upland herbs, and Ericales (   ). Regional climatic phases after (18): YD, Younger Dryas; Fr., Friesland phase; Ra., Rammelbeek phase; and LP, Late Preboreal. For analytical method, see (13). Quantification of CO2 concentrations according to the rate of historical CO2 responsiveness of European tree birches (Fig. 2). P indicates the reconstructed position of the Preboreal Oscillation.

Fig. 15) (Wagner et al., 1999) Fig. 1. (A) Mean SI values (±1 ) for B. pendula and B. pubescens from the early Holocene part of the Borchert section (Netherlands; 52.23°N, 7.00°E) and reconstructed CO2 concentrations. The scale of the section is in centimeters. Three lithological (Lith.) units can be recognized (18): a basal gyttja (=), succeeded by Drepanocladus peat (//), which is subsequently overlain by Sphagnum peat ( ). Six conventional 14C dates (in years before the present) are available (indicated by circled numbers): 1, 10,070 ± 90; 2, 9930 ± 45; 3, 9685 ± 90; 4, 9770 ± 90; 5, 9730 ± 50; and 6, 9380 ± 80. Summary pollen diagram includes arboreal pollen (white area) with Pinus ( ) and with Betula ( ) and nonarboreal pollen with Gramineae ( ) and with Cyperaceae, upland herbs, and Ericales ( ). Regional climatic phases after (18): YD, Younger Dryas; Fr., Friesland phase; Ra., Rammelbeek phase; and LP, Late Preboreal. For analytical method, see (13). Quantification of CO2 concentrations according to the rate of historical CO2 responsiveness of European tree birches (Fig. 2). P indicates the reconstructed position of the Preboreal Oscillation.

If the plant stomata data are correct, the increase in atmospheric CO2 that has occurred over the last 150 years is not anomalous. Past CO2 increases of similar magnitude and rate have not caused ocean acidification. In fact, marine calcifers would probably take 3,000 ppmv CO2 in stride, just by making more limestone… Kind of like they did during the Cretaceous…

Fig. 16) East Texas Stratigraphic Column and Creatceous CO2

Once again, we have an environmental catastrophe that is entirely supported by predictive computer models and totally unsupported by correlative and empirical scientific data. We can safely pitch ocean acidification into the dustbin of junk science.

References

Reef data from:

De’ath, G., J.M. Lough, and K.E. Fabricius. 2009. Declining coral calcification on the Great Barrier Reef. Science, Vol. 323, pp. 116 – 119, 2 January 2009.

Lough, J.M. and D.J. Barnes, 2000.  Environmental controls on growth of the massive coral Porites. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 245: 225-243.

Lough, J.M. and D.J. Barnes, 1997. Several centuries of variation in skeletal extension, density and calcification in massive Porites colonies from the Great Barrier Reef: a proxy for seawater temperature and a background of variability against which to identify unnatural change. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 211: 29-67.

Chalker, B.E. and D.J. Barnes, 1990.

Gamma densitometry for the measurement of coral skeletal density. Coral Reefs, 4: 95-100.

Temperature data from:

Moberg, A., D.M. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N.M. Datsenko and W. Karlén. 2005. Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low-and high-resolution proxy data. Nature, Vol. 433, No. 7026, pp. 613-617, 10 February 2005.

University of Alabama, Hunstville

Sea Level data from:

“Recent global sea level acceleration started over 200 years ago?”, Jevrejeva, S., J. C. Moore, A. Grinsted, and P. L. Woodworth (2008), Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L08715, doi:10.1029/2008GL033611.

CO2 data from:

D.M. Etheridge, L.P. Steele, R.L. Langenfelds, R.J. Francey, J.-M. Barnola and V.I. Morgan. 1998. Historical CO2 records from the Law Dome DE08, DE08-2, and DSS ice cores. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

Dr. Pieter Tans, NOAA/ESRL (www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends)

Other references:

Royer, et al., 2001. Paleobotanical Evidence for Near Present-Day Levels of Atmospheric CO2 During Part of the Tertiary. Science 22 June 2001: 2310-2313. DOI:10.112

Caldeira, K. and Wickett, M.E. 2003. Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature 425: 365.

Orr, J.C., et al., 2005. Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature 437, 681-686 (29 September 2005) | doi:10.1038

Pelejero, C., Calvo, E., McCulloch, M.T., Marshall, J.F., Gagan, M.K., Lough, J.M. and Opdyke, B.N. 2005.

Preindustrial to modern interdecadal variability in coral reef pH. Science 309: 2204-2207.

Zachos, et al., 2005. Rapid Acidification of the Ocean During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum . Science 10 June 2005: 1611-1615. DOI:10.1126

Storey, et al., 2007. Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and the Opening of the Northeast Atlantic. Science 27 April 2007: 587-589. DOI:10.1126

Late 20th-Century Acceleration in the Growth of Greek Fir Trees. Volume 11, Number 49: 3 December 2008, CO2 Science

Iglesias-Rodriguez, et al., 2008. Phytoplankton Calcification in a High-CO2 World. Science 18 April 2008: 336-340 DOI:10.1126

Koutavas, A. 2008. Late 20th century growth acceleration in greek firs (Aibes cephalonica) from Cephalonia Island, Greece: A CO2 fertilization effect? Dendrochronologia 26: 13-19.

The Ocean Acidification Fiction. Volume 12, Number 22: 3 June 2009, CO2 Science

Checkley, et al., 2009. Elevated CO2 Enhances Otolith Growth in Young Fish. Science 26 June 2009: 1683. DOI:10.1126

Liu, Y., Liu, W., Peng, Z., Xiao, Y., Wei, G., Sun, W., He, J. Liu, G. and Chou, C.-L. 2009. Instability of seawater pH in the South China Sea during the mid-late Holocene: Evidence from boron isotopic composition of corals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73: 1264-1272.

Ries, J.B., A.L. Cohen, D.C. McCorkle. Marine calcifiers exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification. Geology 2009 37: 1131-1134.

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Northern Exposure

Is it any surprise that the religion of CO2 is desperately clawing for solid ground ?
Be prepared to hear plenty more fear-mongering with regards to ocean acidification and man being the culprit… temperatures will quietly go to the wayside (except short-lived weather anomalies like Russian heatwaves et al) if the temps don’t start climbing by leaps and bounds enough to convince the masses.
They must keep the faith.
Why ?
Cause “baby it’s cold outside” and daddy needs a new form of revenue generation.

grayman

A fine post, most of it went over my headbut i did get the gist of it. The one question i have is that the PH level went from” 8.2 to 8.1 since the mid 1700s”, And thier models predict that it will go down a further .7 by 2100, who screwed up the MATH(I can guess the warmist). MODELS=GIGO

a jones

Quite so. the Idso’s over at CO2 science, listed in sidebar, have a database on this and very interesting reading it makes too.
One minor point, the great barrier reef is rather long so one end is in warmer waters with a lower PH and the other in colder water with higher PH: but both ends seem to be doing just fine.
Which tends to put claims as to adverse effects on corals of increases in temperature or PH or conversely declines in the same into perspective.
Just another load of alarmist speculation that ignores real world observation.
Kindest Regards

crosspatch

“Corals, in particular seemed to like more CO2 in their diets…”
That seems reasonable since modern corals evolved when atmospheric CO2 was about 5x today’s levels.

kalsel3294

Much of the hysteria could be avoided if parties on both sides of the climate debate used the same terminology as those who study the soil; more accurate terms that refer to rising or falling pH levels, or a rising or declining alkalinity if the soil, or water, is in fact alkaline, and only using the terms rising or falling acidity when the soil, or water, is actually acidic.
Using the term “increasing acidity” if the soil, or water, is clearly alkaline is confusing and doesn’t adequately describe the situation of the changes taking place.

Michael

I think the man-made global warming alarmists are taking a few pages out of this book.
Not meant for you’re consumption, distribution, or publication.
The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/8303274/The-Israel-Projects-2009-Global-Language-Dictionary

DesertYote

Ever time I see fish, I get curious, so I clicked on the JPEG. The picture is of a propaganda exhibit at the Moonbat Bay Aquarium. I guess it is supposed to show how evil man and his CO2 is. I looks like a micro reef tank. I have set up a few of these. I would never put any angelfish or any of their relatives in a reef tank. They eat coral polyps!

The oldest shrimp discovered is 360 million years old and was preserved due to the acidic and low oxygen ocean at the time: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/11/12/oldest-shrimp-world-oklahoma/
Certainly, we can cause pressures on organisms much faster than evolution can produce solutions to those pressures, but my point is that an ocean with a pH below 7.0 is not toxic to all shelled life. Metabolic processes enable creatures to repair damage, something Jane Lubchenco was no doubt aware when she gave her ridiculous “acid eats chalk” science fair exhibition to the House Select Committee hearing on the State of Climate Science.

DesertYote

kalsel3294
January 10, 2011 at 9:40 pm
Acidity, alkalinity, and pH are different characteristics.

John F. Hultquist

David,
Very well and nicely done. Thank you.
Here is another :
http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/acid.htm#conclusion
I arrived at the above site from another interesting one:
http://sharpgary.org/index.html

trccurtin

David M: Brilliant. If you care to email me (tcurtin bigblue.net.au) I can send you the full text of De’ath Lough & Fabricius plus my own notes on their serially flawed paper and data (confirming yours in spades).

Claude Harvey

Moderators or whomever : The AMSU-A satellite data Internet site has been down for some time now. Select a plot and you either get a “No message today” notice or one that says in effect the data has been questionable since mid December and no current posts are being made. What’s going on?
http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/

Of all the possible effects of CO2 emissions this is the one that scientifically is the most probable, until one realizes that corals have survived climates from 180 ppm to 1800 ppm. This would include the associated differences in ocean pH level that go along with it.
What really kills the shallow water tropical corals (the only kind they care about) is the transition from glacial to interglacial and back again. That is why all the tropical corals alive today are ~9,000 years old. All the older ones died in the last melt water pulse at the beginning of the Holocene.
John Kehr

Walnut

Yes, I agree, ocean acidification is the next apocalypse. I saw this coming a couple of years ago. This is the fall-back position.

This post was too long. Are we all gonna die? Just tell me that. Because I’m maxing out my credit cards if we are. I’d prefer to be in Tahiti when the end comes.

CRS, Dr.P.H.

I hate to be a poop, but the answer to your questions is:
1. Is atmospheric CO2 acidifying the oceans?
2. Is there any evidence that reefs and other marine calcifers have been damaged by 3. CO2-driven ocean acidification and/or global warming?
4. Does the geological record support the oceanic acidification hypothesis?
…. “The US EPA believes all of this to be true.”
EPA is gearing up to use the Clean Water Act to enforce carbon dioxide emissions, which is the “significant deterioration” part of the PSD and Title V Permitting Guidance for Greenhouse Gases.
This has good background:
http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/03/12/12greenwire-some-see-clean-water-act-settlement-opening-new-4393.html
…if the US EPA believes it to be so, then it shall be so. Sad but true.

jonjermey

“A few decades” = “Time for me to retire and get out of the way of possible payback” = horizon at which prediction becomes self-interested speculation.

jorgekafkazar

One omission is the definition of pH: A pH of 8.1 sounds very close to 7.0 (neutral), but it is not. pH values are calculated in powers of 10. The hydrogen ion concentration of a solution with pH 7.0 is 10 times larger than in a solution with pH 8.0. The pH of a solution is equal to to the negative logarithmic (base 10) value of the Hydrogen ion (H+) concentration.
In pure, neutral water, the concentration of hydrogen and hydroxide ions are both (10)^-7 equivalents per liter, and the pH is, accordingly, 7.0
when the pH is 7 to 14, the solution is basic (alkaline)
when the pH is 0 to 7, the solution is acidic
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/ph-d_483.html

Latimer Alder

The oceans are not ‘acidifying’ under any possible scenario.
They may be becoming slightly less alkaline, but they will never become acidic. There just isn’t enough free carbon available to make enough CO2 to do so. Even if all the fossil fuel ever dreamed about were burnt.
The dominant chemistry will always be that of a mild alkali. It just might be even milder in future than it is now.
A better and more accurate term would be ‘ocean neutralisation’. It describes the chemical process more exactly and does not contain the unwarranted bad vibes of ‘acidification’. Which ain’t going to happen.

From Peru

“A recent paper in Geology (Ries et al., 2009) found an unexpected relationship between CO2 and marine calcifers. (…)”
It will be fair to quote the title of the study:
“Marine calcifiers exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification”
Link: http://www.whoi.edu/science/GG/people/acohen/publications/Ries_et_al_09_Geology_Mixed_Responses_to_Ocean_Acidification.pdf
Suggesting that some organisms were harmed and others not by CO2 acidification.
“7/18 were not adversely affected by 10x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 2856 ppm for blue crab, shrimp, lobster, limpet, purple urchin, coralline red algae, and blue mussel.
6/18 were not adversely affected by 3x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 903 ppm for halimeda, temperate coral, pencil urchin, conch, bay scallop and whelk.
3/18 were not adversely affected by 2x pre-industrial CO2: Calcification rates relative to modern levels were higher or flat at 903 ppm for hard clam, serpulid worm and periwinkle.
2/18 had very slight declines in calcification at 2x pre-industrial: Oyster and soft clam.”
Not quite. The study says that most organisms were harmed:
“In ten of the 18 species (temperate corals, pencil urchins, hard clams, conchs, serpulid worms, periwinkles, bay scallops, oysters, whelks, soft clams; Figs. 1I–1R), net calcification decreased with increasing pCO2 (reduced CaCO3 saturation state). And in six of the ten negatively impacted species (pencil urchins, hard clams, conchs, periwinkles, whelks, soft clams; Figs. 1J–1L, 1N, and 1Q–1R), we observed net dissolution of the shell in the highest pCO2 treatment, for which the experimental seawater was undersaturated with respect to aragonite and high-Mg calcite.”
And in just 5 there were no effect or benefit:
“However, in four of the 18 species (limpets, purple urchins, coralline red algae,
calcareous green algae; Figs. 1D–1G), net calcifi cation increased relative to the control under intermediate pCO2 levels (605 and 903 ppm), and then declined at the highest pCO2 level (2856 ppm). In three species (crabs, lobsters, and shrimps; Figs. 1A–1C), net calcification was greatest under the highest level of pCO2 (2856 ppm). And one species, the blue mussel (Fig. 1H), exhibited no response to elevated pCO2.”
This post then states:
“The effects on calcification rates for all 18 species were either negligible or positive up to 606 ppm CO2.”
Only 5 showed benefit or no effect by reduced aragonite saturation state. The others were harmed. By the way, the aragonite saturation state depend on both the pCO2 and the alkalinity of the water, so there is no unique relationship between pCO2 and aragonite saturation state.
“Corals, in particular seemed to like more CO2 in their diets…”
Coral (specifically, temperate coral) showed slight harm (slight, but still harm) until aragonite saturation state dropped below 1,5. Then, the calcification rate drops significantly, more than 50%. This shows that the temperate corals do NOT “seemed to like more CO2 in their diets…”
“Neither coral species experienced negative effects to calcification rates at CO2 levels below 1,000 to 2,000 ppmv (…)
It appears that in addition to being plant food… CO2 is also reef food.”
This, as shown by a critical reading of the paper, is nonsense.

ShrNfr

You cannot have warming seas and higher CO2 content without increasing the atmospheric pressure. The solubility of CO2 decreases with temperature at a given pressure. So guys is it more warm or more CO2. One of them is wrong.

Willis Eschenbach

An excellent post, David, well done.
One further bit of information. Coral reefs are plants, so overall they are a net sink of CO2. However, like land plants, part of the time they take in CO2 and part of the time they give off CO2. However, unlike land plants, they are using the CO2 to build their carbonate bodies. Here’s a post of mine on the subject from ClimateAudit 2006:
Coral reefs, which are the major CaCO3 shell formers, produce CO2. This daily production often drives the pCO2 in the local ocean around the reefs to levels three times the world average … without harming the reef. Go figure.
Me, I focus on real world evidence, not what “could” or “might” come to pass based what’s happening in somebody’s aquarium “experiments with live organisms”. Here’s some evidence:
Bessat, F. and Buigues, D. 2001. Two centuries of variation in coral growth in a massive Porites colony from Moorea (French Polynesia): a response of ocean-atmosphere variability from south central Pacific. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 175: 381-392
So did the “could” and “might” happen in the real world? Well … um … er … no, notat all. Bessat and Buigues found that in the real world,

“instead of a 6-14% decline in calcification over the past 100 years [as] computed by the Kleypas group, the calcification has increased, in accordance with [what] Australian scientists Lough and Barnes [found].”

When we look at what happens in the real ocean, coral growth rates have not declined in the last 150 years, despite a large rise in CO2. It’s not clear why. Ugly, I know, but that’s the observation of the real world, and that observation, not the aquarium results, is what our theories have to fit. Here’s some further studies:

Diurnal changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in coral reef water
Kayanne, H; Suzuki, A; Saito, H
Science (Washington) [SCIENCE (WASH.)]. Vol. 269, no. 5221, pp. 214-216. 1995.
Coral reefs are considered to be a source of atmosphere carbon dioxide because of their high calcium carbonate production and low net primary production. This was tested by direct measurement of diurnal changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (P sub(CO2)) in reef waters during two 3-day periods, one in March 1993 and one in March 1994, on Shiraho reef of the Ryukyu Islands, Japan. Although the P sub(CO2) values in reef waters exhibited large diurnal changes ranging from 160 to 520 microatmospheres [ppmv], they indicate that the reef flat area is a net sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide. This suggests that the net organic production rate of the reef community exceeded its calcium carbonate production rate during the observation periods.

Note that the pCO2 (amount of CO2 in the water) varies wildly in the water around the reef, reaching very high values … and somehow the coral keeps growing. This study is particularly interesting in that it shows that global atmospheric CO2 levels are not related to the CO2 levels on any given reef. Global pCO2 is on the order of 300-350 µatm, so this means the local concentration around the reef varies from half of that to nearly double that, and that this high CO2 level is created by the reef itself. I don’t think increasing atmospheric CO2 will affect at least this reef too much … here’s more on the subject.

Carbon fluxes in coral reefs. I. Lagrangian measurement of community metabolism and resulting air-sea CO2 disequilibrium
Gattuso JP, Pichon M, Delesalle B, Canon C, Frankignoulle M
Community metabolism was investigated using a Lagrangian flow respirometry technique on 2 reef flats at Moorea (French Polynesia) during austral winter and Yonge Reef (Great Barrier Reef) during austral summer. The data were used to estimate related air-sea CO2 disequilibrium. A sine function did not satisfactorily model the diel [day/night] light curves and overestimated the metabolic parameters. The ranges of community gross primary production and respiration (Pg and R; 9 to 15 g C m-2 d-1) were within the range previously reported for reef flats, and community net calcification (G; 19 to 25 g CaCO3 m-2 d-1) was higher than the ‘standard’ range. The molar ratio of organic to inorganic carbon uptake was 6:1 for both sites. The reef flat at Moorea displayed a higher rate of organic production and a lower rate of calcification compared to previous measurements carried out during austral summer. The approximate uncertainty of the daily metabolic parameters was estimated using a procedure based on a Monte Carlo simulation. The standard errors of Pg,R and Pg/R expressed as a percentage of the mean are lower than 3% but are comparatively larger for E, the excess production (6 to 78%). The daily air-sea CO2 flux (FCO2) was positive throughout the field experiments, indicating that the reef flats at Moorea and Yonge Reef released CO2 to the atmosphere at the time of measurement. FCO2 decreased as a function of increasing daily irradiance.

Once again, the finding that the coral reefs are a source of CO2 … since they are a source of CO2, the idea that CO2 will keep them from growing seems doubtful. Of note in this one is that calcification rates are higher when the water is warmer. I note also that the air-sea flux over the reef was positive, meaning that the around the reef, there is more CO2 in the water than in the air.
Here’s another. Diel means diurnal, although why they don’t just say “diurnal” I don’t know … dang scientists trying to confuse us …:

Diel variation of TCO2 in the upper layer of oceanic waters reflects microbial composition, variation and possibly methane cycling
K. M. Johnson1, P. G. Davis1 and J. McN. Sieburth1
(1) Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island-Bay Campus, 02882-1197 Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA
Accepted: 10 August 1983
Communicated by S. K. Pierce, College Park
Abstract
Six diel TCO2 cycles determined by infrared (IR) photometry from five drift stations occupied between 24 February and 16 March 1979 in the mixed layer of the northwestern Caribbean Sea are examined. Comparison of TCO2 variation with coincident salinity and O2 variation demonstrated that TCO2 often co-varied with these independently measured variables. During five diel cycles TCO2 variation was characterized by nocturnal production and diurnal consumption. The inverse, diurnal production of CO2, occurred downstream from Misteriosa Bank, whose corals apparently contributed to a water mass having a twofold increase of POC and a sixfold larger population of heterotrophic nanoplankters. For the five diel studies carried out in waters with balanced or nearly blanced heterotrophic and phototrophic components of the nanoplankton, CO2 consumption at constant salinity always occurred between 06.00 and 09.00 hrs. Net uptake often continued through 15.00 hrs, but not always in the absence of significant salinity changes. At constant salinity net O2 evolution never exceeded 0.5 mol l-1 h-1 while net CO2 uptake consistently averaged 3 mol l-1 h-1 for an apparent net production of 36 mg C m-3 h-1, which greatly exceeds the O2 changes and open ocean 14C estimates from the literature. Diurnal consumption was apparently balanced by nocturnal production of CO2 so that no significant net daily change in TCO2 was observed. Departures from theoretical PQ and RQ and the possibility of nocturnal variations in formaldehyde and carbonate alkalinity imply that chemotrophs, both methane producers and methane oxidizers, play a significant role in CO2 cycling. This could be through the metabolism of the nonconservative gases CH4, CO, and H2, and a link between chemotrophy and phototrophy through these gases is hypothesized. These open system measurements were subject to diffusion and documentable patchiness, but temporal TCO2 changes appear to indicate the net direction of microbiological activity and join a growing body of literature showing dynamic variation in CO2 and O2 that exceeds estimates by 14C bottle assays of carbon fixation.

The study shows that CO2 in the ocean goes up and down because of a host of biological, microbiological, and other processes that include coral reefs. These are among the reasons that aquarium studies don’t cut it for studying these questions.
In summary, the coral reefs set their own CO2 levels, produce a lot of CO2, consume a lot, and vary the concentration of CO2 around them from 50% to 200% of current atmospheric levels. I’m not concerned about them in re: CO2.
As a diver, however, I can attest that humans can damage, tear down, pollute, and kill coral reefs in a host of ways … including especially killing the parrotfish, which keep the reef healthy while producing tonnes and tonnes of coral sand that make up the island beaches. A reef without parrotfish is a very sick reef.

Dave Springer

“As ocean acidity rises”
Ocean acidity isn’t going to rise. I know there’s some feathers ruffled over saying ocean “acidification” which doesn’t really bother me because acidification is the proper term but in the case above it isn’t proper to say acidity rises because the ocean isn’t acid and will never be acid. The proper phrase is “as ocean alkalinity declines”. Now I’m bothered by the language used.

Keith Battye

What a great post. Most informative and very accessible.
Now let’s see a post on the “Water is running out” nonsense because quite frankly it is gaining traction amongst the terminally ignorant who are content for others to do their thinking for them.

wayne Job

The last few decades have highlighted the job description ‘scientist’ such that it can be an oxymoron. That many have not been taught the first principles of scientific endeavour, or have chosen to ignore them is obvious. Orwellian scientists with their ‘Newspeak’ have held the world stage and the ears of politicians for far to long.
The denigration of real scientists trying to find the truth has been blatant and a blight on democracy and freedom. A freedom that millions died for to achieve. This period in history shall be looked back on as one of the dark ages of science, regardless of the many achievements.
The seekers of truth who post on this site such as David Middleton on this post will go down in history as those who trumpeted the truth from the wilderness. The politically correct, agenda driven useful idiots will not go away easily or quietly. Thankyou to all those who post here for your diligence, the battle has begun and they know not what to do, for they have never been challenged before.

Very good summary of the available knowledge, Dave.
One point where I di[s]agree: as already discussed in the ice cores / stomata post, stomata data show local/regional CO2 levels, not global, “background” levels. While interesting because of their high frequency response, the absolute values should be taken with caution, as influenced by local changes in vegetation, wind direction,…
Take e.g. the figure provided by Kauwenberg 2005: the peak CO2 level of 400 ppmv in the stomata reconstruction was around 500 AD, and lower levels of around 280 ppmv around 1,000 AD, but temperatures around 1000 AD (the MWP!) were higher than around 500 AD, which means higher CO2 levels in colder periods and vv. That is not very likely.
Moreover, even if the Taylor Dome gas diffusion mixing acts as a Gaussian low pass filter (time constant 140 years, see http://medias.obs-mip.fr/paleo/taylor/indermuehle99nat.pdf ), a real sustained CO2 level of over 350 ppmv during 300 years would be clearly visible in the ice core record, but is not. While the ice core CO2 levels are averaged, an averaging doesn’t change the average…

Ian Preddy

It’s a pity the BBC isn’t a bit more rigorous in its news research. This very subject was a significant news item this morning, along with reference to the claimed effects of rising sea temperature. I can’t find a reference on their website yet.

Peter Miller

Brilliant post, I really enjoyed reading it and the accompanying comments.
Unfortunately, this is real science, so we can be sure it will be ignored or condemned by the ‘climate scientists’ contributing to the next IPCC report/fantasy.
If man has caused a tiny amount of acidification in the oceans, we need look no further than the huge amounts of nitric and sulphuric acid our industries and vehicles produce.
Carbon dioxide, or rather its aqueous derivitive carbonic acid are only just acidic, unlike their distant cousins nitric and sulphuric.
However, where “the acidification of the oceans by CO2” argument really falls apart is in the numbers:
The volume of the oceans is ~1,31 billion cubic kilometres – after allowing for their salinity, this represents 1.35 billion billion tonnes. Note: One cubic metre of water weighs one tonne, so one cubic kilometre weighs one billion tonnes.
Man produces around 27 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, about half, or 14 billion tonnes, end up in the oceans.
So every year man is responsible for increasing the ocean concentration of CO2 by 14/1.35 billion, or 14/1,350 parts per million, or 0.00074 parts per million.
So 100 years of today’s CO2 emissions by man will increase CO2 concentrations in the ocean by just 0.07 parts per million, a truly minuscule amount. Even if we assume all this CO2 is concentrated in the top 10% of the ocean, then in this small part of the ocean, CO2 concentrations will increase by 0.7 parts per million.
I doubt if even Mannian Maths can screw with this number enough to make it significant.

Peter Miller

Oops – some Mannian Maths crept into my last post, the numbers should read
So every year man is responsible for increasing the ocean concentration of CO2 by 14/1.35 billion, or 14/1,350 parts per million, or 0.0104 parts per million.
So 100 years of today’s CO2 emissions by man will increase CO2 concentrations in the ocean by just 1.04 parts per million, a truly minuscule amount. Even if we assume all this CO2 is concentrated in the top 10% of the ocean, then in this small part of the ocean, CO2 concentrations will increase by 10.4 parts per million per century.
My apologies for this, maybe I should apply for a job as a ‘climate scientist’ for making this type of elementary mistake.

BioBob

I found this paper quite informative:
http://www.tos.org/oceanography/issues/issue_archive/issue_pdfs/22_4/22-4_tans.pdf
Tans scenario’s predict a maximum decrease of about .3 pH units before 2100 AD assuming large scale exploitation of fossil fuel deposits with gradual pH alkalinity recovery in the following years in Figure 5.
Meanwhile, diurnal, geographic, and seasonal natural pH changes dwarf these ‘expected’ levels of pH changes, and, in any case, micro-environmental pH changes next to biota actually control pH during biological H ion, CO2, and Carbonate uptake processes.
Also keep in mind that life is not static. Individual organisms and species have innate mechanisms to deal with environment change both physiological and evolutionary.
IMO, the ocean acidification meme is simply trash science.

paul statterly

all climate research funding should be like this starting 2011:
50% of full amount given for the initial research.
50% of full amount paid only if forecasts and models are proven correct.
Under this model, British taxpayers would have saved 50% of the millions they spent on the MET office.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

“Ocean acidification” leading to coral reefs and shells dissolving, how ridiculous!
The problem comes from the amounts of dissolved solids.
See, it happens after the expected return of the possibly-runaway global warming with the melting of all the glaciers on land, all the Arctic ice, the Greenland ice sheet, and the Antarctic ice. This massive infusion of essentially freshwater will unbalance the oceans, as the incoming water will be so relatively pure that it can take up truly massive amounts of minerals. A certain portion of that will be calcium, with a significant portion extracted from the reefs and shells, which will be quite devastating due to the sheer mind-numbing quantities of calcium that’ll be dissolved from them.
This also constitutes a positive feedback mechanism as removing the calcium from the calcium carbonate will result in carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, increasing the rate of global warming to even more catastrophic levels.
And that is Chemistry, which is Settled Science™, thus there is an overwhelming scientific consensus, thus there is no debate. It’ll happen. Wait for it. ☺

Hollando

De’ath??
Is that Doctor De’ath??
(I’ll get my coat)

Patrick

What really bothers me is how absolutely credulous these eco-zealots are. There is this thing called a “fossil record”. Apparently, there are plenty of shellfish specimens, some of which exist to this day, thriving during periods of time with much, much higher levels of CO2 and much higher temperatures. They really don’t notice the irony when they fail to correlate this with “fossil fuels”.
As it stands, they are less internally consistent, less accurate in their predictions, and far more willing to deny me my livelihood than the ladies who come to my door every couple of months trying to sell me their religion.

Alan the Brit

A great post & excellent read!
jonjermey says:
January 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm
“A few decades” = “Time for me to retire and get out of the way of possible payback” = horizon at which prediction becomes self-interested speculation.
Being a humble Chartered Engineer, but faithful to the use of English language, as we currently live in 2011,(unless the CO2 has affected the chronological process as well), arrogantly assuming that much of the above report was written in 2010, what is the difference between “a few decades”, which could be 3, 4, 5, 6,……..decades, etc. & “mid-century”? I mean to say folks, is somebody twisting words to make a case where none exists? Looks like we’re back to Elizabethan Blackadder & Baldrick calculating that, “some beans, plus some beans, = some beans”! When the language becomes fuzzy, then the report is likewise!

joe

if groups like the NRDC were truly concerned about the environment they would be raising hell over illegal immigration here in the U.S. and the resultant over population which leads to loss of habitat and general environmental degradation. until then i won’t believe anything they say.

SteveE

Patrick says:
January 11, 2011 at 2:26 am
What really bothers me is how absolutely credulous these eco-zealots are. There is this thing called a “fossil record”. Apparently, there are plenty of shellfish specimens, some of which exist to this day, thriving during periods of time with much, much higher levels of CO2 and much higher temperatures. They really don’t notice the irony when they fail to correlate this with “fossil fuels”.
As it stands, they are less internally consistent, less accurate in their predictions, and far more willing to deny me my livelihood than the ladies who come to my door every couple of months trying to sell me their religion.
————————
You comment on the fossil record isn’t quite correct.
The PETM saw the mass extinction of benthic foraminifera which coinsided with ocean acidification.
205 million years ago at the Triassic–Jurassic boundary, a sudden rise in the levels of atmospheric CO2 coincided with a major suppression of carbonate sedimentation, very likely related to ocean acidification
A similar situation occurred 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. Most of the planktonic calcifying species became rare or disappeared.
Most of the evidence, reveals that marine calcifiers like corals did not form carbonate reef systems during periods of high CO2 in the past (Veron 2008)
The fossil record seems to support the idea that ocean acidification is bad carbonate marine life.

Roger Knights

kalsel3294 says:
January 10, 2011 at 9:40 pm
Using the term “increasing acidity” if the soil, or water, is clearly alkaline is confusing and doesn’t adequately describe the situation of the changes taking place.

A nice, neutral term would be “neutralization,” but the alarmists don’t want a neutral term, but an alarming one.

Michael Larkin

I’m no great shakes as a chemist (took chemistry to 1st year university level) still less as a mathematician, but recently I did back-of envelope calculations as to what would happen if all atmospheric CO2 were to:
a. completely dissolve in the oceans
b. Form carbonic acid and completely dissociate
– and I came up with a ballpark figure around pH 5.5 – about 100-1000 times less acidic than vinegar (containing acetic acid), which that senator chappie used to illustrate the shell of an egg dissolving. The pH of rainwater, BTW, is typically around 5.5 if there’s no industrial pollution, in which case it can be somewhat lower (more acidic, say around 4.5).
However, neither a. nor b. applies. CO2 isn’t very soluble (and most of it, in water, remains as CO2). Also, carbonic acid isn’t a particularly strong acid (not like sulphuric acid, involved in the acid rain scare). Not to mention that what we’re talking about adding to the oceans comes from excess due to anthropogenic sources, not the whole atmospheric burden.
Oh – and if things did get warmer, of course, CO2 solubility would get less through out-gassing. “Acidification” (what a loaded term as no way is the ocean ever going to pass neutral pH7 and become acid) would presumably be worse in a cooling rather than a warming world, as more CO2 would dissolve.
The problem for alarmists when it comes to an ocean acidification scare is that the science isn’t that hard to grasp. pH is easily explained (as someone has already done in a brief posting). It’s also easier to make measurements/do experiments WRT effects on living organisms.
“Acidification” might blossom for a while, but I couldn’t see it flourishing for long. I’d say that an overt switch of emphasis to acidification would in itself signal the beginning of the end for CO2 alarmism.

Viv Evans

Excellent and interesting post, thanks.
Also two comments I found intriguing:
1) John Kehr says on January 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm
“What really kills the shallow water tropical corals (the only kind they care about) is the transition from glacial to interglacial and back again. That is why all the tropical corals alive today are ~9,000 years old. All the older ones died in the last melt water pulse at the beginning of the Holocene.”
Would that indicate that these corals are stenohaline, i.e. the decrease in salinity due to the melt water pulse is the cause for the loss of those corals?
2) Willis Eschenbach says on January 10, 2011 at 11:56 pm
“Coral reefs, which are the major CaCO3 shell formers, produce CO2. This daily production often drives the pCO2 in the local ocean around the reefs to levels three times the world average … without harming the reef. Go figure.”
(See also the rest of this interesting comment.)
Which begs the question – might it be that dying coral reefs still produce some CO2, thus still increasing the pCO2 in their surroundings – and thus leading AGW researchers to the claim that CO2 increases kill corals?
It never fails to amaze me how AGW faithful who also profess to love the natural environment seem to have no idea about the biology of said environment, never mind not looking at the fossil record …

R. de Haan

Great piece.
Have you seen the 2011 budget for Ocean Acidification Research and the enormous budgets to “communicate” the findings and “educate” them at our schools?
http://climatequotes.com/2011/01/08/how-can-climate-scientists-spend-so-much-money/
Can’t we protest this insane amount of spending with all these facts available?

latitude

Salt water from salt water wells, no matter how high the CO2 levels are, will not drop below 7.4 pH.
Most labs and grow outs use salt water wells.
The Waikiki Aquarium published a paper showing that there is no difference in growth rates from corals grown in their well water, pH 7.4 – 7.8, than corals growing on the reef.
Corals have to make their internal pH less than pH 6.8, or they can’t lay down a calcium carbonate skeleton. At a lower pH, corals just have to work less hard at that.

Myrrh

Coral reefs nasty man made danger on the news this morning, perhaps as a distraction because they’re looking so silly in their about turn from CO2 causing global warming to now causing global cooling.

Overall oceans are not likely to become ‘more acidic’ because of more CO2.
A vast amount of the ocean beds are essentially made of limestone (though by no means all of course). Simple Chemistry tells us that carbonic acid will dissolve CaCO3 (a solid) to form Ca(HCO3)2 – Calcium bicarbonate, which is relatively soluble. This solution is itself very alkaline: strong base + weak acid = basic solution. Plenty of Calcium ions in solution to form shells.
Remember that old school test for CO2 – limewater Ca(OH)2 ?
First the solution went milky as CO2 reacted with Ca(OH)2 to form a precipitate of insoluble CaCO3. Continued addition of CO2 would then cause the milky precipitate to go clear again as a second reaction took place [as above]:
CaCO3 + H2O + CO2 = Ca(HCO3)2
So no worries from a little more CO2 unless it be more shellfish! CO2 is a life-giving gas in the oceans as well.

Francisco

Great post, David Middleton.
I remember a comment you wrote last spring on the subject of sea level rise, where you looked at the existing data on sea level variations, going back decades, centuries, millenia and so on to increasingly large time frames. It was the most informative data I have seen here to show there is nothing unusual going on with sea levels, and I believe you should make a post of it.

John

Good synopsis.
One small comment: CO2 fertilization causing increased growth in Greek pine trees wasn’t “THE fatal flaw” in Mann’s work, it was one of many problems. One of the major problems went in the opposite direction.
The famous “hide the decline” had to do with removing tree ring series that appeared to show COLDER temperatures after 1960, and then hiding the fact that these records, adverse to Mann’s hypothesis post-1960, had been removed. Why those trees showed less growth post 1960 is something I no longer recall, if I ever knew it, but we need to be certain that we keep the whole picture in mind when we bring up the huge polluted landscape that Mann and company have contrived.

Jimbo

The public are often misled by ocean acidification. Many think that the sea would actually become acidic. Here is what the Warmists at the Catlin Survey have to say on the FAQs page.

“Why is it called Ocean Acidification? The ocean is alkaline and model predictions suggest it will never become acidic.
Acidification refers to the process of the lowering of the ocean’s pH on the pH scale. If the ocean’s pH falls it is referred to as acidification regardless of whether the water remains alkaline i.e. above pH 7. To understand this, consider a temperature change of -200C to -100C. The temperature is still warming despite -100C still being below freezing.”

Here is a fierce response to the Warmists:
http://www.seafriends.org.nz/issues/global/acid.htm