Earth on a bad acid trip?

GSA LogoDon’t laugh, that’s what the Geological Society of America is pushing these days to describe the “ocean acidification problem”…from their press release:

Earth on Acid: The Present & Future of Global Acidification

GSA Annual Meeting & Exposition, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, 4–7 November 2012

Boulder, CO, USA – Climate change and extreme weather events grab the headlines, but there is another, lesser known, global change underway on land, in the seas, and in the air: acidification.

It turns out that combustion of fossil fuels, smelting of ores, mining of coal and metal ores, and application of nitrogen fertilizer to soils are all driving down the pH of the air, water, and the soil at rates far faster than Earth’s natural systems can buffer, posing threats to both land and sea life.

“It’s a bigger picture than most of us know,” says Janet Herman of the Department of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Herman and her colleague, Karen Rice of the USGS, discovered that despite the fact that they worked on different kinds of acidification in the environment, they were not well informed about the matter beyond their own specialties. So they have done an extensive review of science papers about all kinds of environmental acidification and are presenting their work in a poster session on Tuesday, 6 Nov., at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

Acidification is both a local and global problem, since it can be as close as a nearby stream contaminated by mine tailings or as far-reaching as the world’s oceans, which are becoming more acidic as sea water absorbs higher concentrations of carbon dioxide that humans dump into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.

Coal gives a double whammy by being the biggest contributor of anthropogenic carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere as well as creating regional acidification. Coal burning is famous for creating acid rain, which had dramatic environmental impacts on forests, streams, and lakes in eastern North America and Europe and led to major policy changes.

“It’s not at all clear that other regions are considering such policy restrictions to be important,” Herman says, regarding places where population growth is expected to increase acidifying activities.

Normally, acids in the environment are buffered by alkaline compounds released by the weathering of minerals in rocks. The problem today, according to Herman, is that the rate of acidification by human activities has outstripped the weathering rate and buffering capacity of the planet.

In their work, Herman and Rice look at the population projections by country over the next four decades to see where the increased industrialization and agriculture will likely lead to new acidification hot spots. Their hope is that by doing this people can anticipate the problem and plan to mitigate the harmful environmental effects, says Herman.

WHAT: Acidification of Earth: An Assessment across Mechanisms and Scales

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, 6 Nov.

WHERE: Booth #67, Charlotte Convention Center: Hall B

ABSTRACT: https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2012AM/finalprogram/abstract_207495.htm

Source: http://www.geosociety.org/news/pr/12-89.htm

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Is this another first…a POSTER that is so important, it warrants its own press release?
ps usually “posters” aren’t even CV material. Perhaps post-normal science looks at them differently.

Are there any numbers in the study, like measured ph of soil, oceans (by local areas), or any other quantification of the situation outlined in the abstract?

I thought that the solubility of a gas decreased with a rise in temperature (the opposite of a solid!). So, AGW is making the planet including the oceans warmer, therefore less CO2 is soluble, therefore a decrease in carbonic acid, with a consequent increase in pH.
Is my science wrong, or is the warmists case of having your cake and eating it, still prevalent?

Gary Pearse

So with the only papers on acidification of the oceans being put out by the hysterical fringe, who have grabbed onto this and extreme weather in the face of their CO2 scares crumbling, do you think you could have found otherwise? Surely if were talking about science there should have been some observation actual numbers – the worst they’ve got is a pH of a tenth or thereabouts lower than the (highly variable) ocean values that have been recorded for a century or so.

Philip Peake

Do the people that employ these merchants of doom take any notice of what their employees are saying? Do they realize that when the inevitable incarceration of certifiable loons happens, they may end up with them?

RayG

Was Dr. Timothy Leary a co-author?

sophocles

“the world’s oceans, which are becoming more acidic as sea water absorbs
higher concentrations of carbon dioxide that humans dump into the
atmosphere by burning fossil fuels.”
Really? The oceans hold 100 times (two orders of magnitude) the mass of the
atmosphere. The oceans are alkaline (CO2 + H2O -> H3O+ & HCO2- and
even to CO3–) from the CO2 absorbed. The oceans are self regulating,
emitting CO2 when temperatures rise and absorbing CO2 when temperatures
fall—the world-famous soft-drink bottle effect (just add and remove refrigeration
to see it),
I remember reading somewhere (perhaps here at WUWT?) that most of the
rise in CO2 in our atmosphere can be easily accounted for as oceanic
emissions, not human. I interpret this as meaning the oceans regulate the
atmosphere—and its CO2 content— not vice versa.
The “acid rain” problem which we experienced in the past was caused by the
sulphur content of the coal being burnt. Smoke-stack scrubbers were introduced
to cut/reduce the sulphur oxides being emitted. If scrubbers are not present in
Chinese and Indian coal-burning plants, then that could be a problem.
But CO2? Nah …

D Böehm

Taking the long view, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between CO2 and temperature.

lurker passing through, laughing

How predictable and boring. There is a lack of rigor in the OA movement (you know, lack of evidence, lack of understanding of how large the ocean is, ocean chemistry, and biochemistry, etc.). This strongly infers that large doses of 1960’s era acid are influencing what passes for thinking in these latest fear mongers.

John

To andrewmharding: you are right, there would be a slight decrease in CO2 solubility, but that is overshadowed by the increase of CO2, and the partial pressure balance between CO2 in the air and in the water. The bigger issue is, what is the harm, is it huge or do sea creatures overall tend to manage it well. Matt Ridley has blogged extensively at The Rational Optimist on the issue, and suggests the latter is the case. Here are some links:
http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/the-threat-from-ocean-acidification-is-greatly-exaggerated.aspx
http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/acid-oceans-and-acid-rain.aspx
http://www.rationaloptimist.com/blog/victory-on-acidification!.aspx

It’s worse than we fart…
The world just keeps on ending. And fools keep on blindly parroting. And money just keeps on flowing to another black hole of fear… Ugh.

mpainter

Some people never outgrow Halloween in their personal development. Acidification of the oceans is the next CO2 bugaboo, if they can ever get this thing inflated to the point where it will float. They have been trying for years, huffing and puffing, but the idea that we shall turn the ocean into a giant soda beverage has yet to take hold in the public imagination. Their hope never dies, and their strength is they don’t care if they appear ridiculous. We should not mind for it is comic relief, like cattle farts and methane.

Jimbo

It’s late evening for me and I don’t have time to look stuff up but this smells of more overblown bullshit scaremongering. I feel for the poor dinosaurs who were wiped out by high co2 and acid – everywhere – while life thrived left, right and centre.

Jimbo

Yeah I’m back but now going to bed. I can’t let these scammers get away with their crap. Ocean acidification is meaningless on Earth or should that be good for the Earth?

Effects of Rapid Global Warming at the Paleocene-Eocene Boundary on Neotropical Vegetation
“Temperatures in tropical regions are estimated to have increased by 3° to 5°C, compared with Late Paleocene values, during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 56.3 million years ago) event. We investigated the tropical forest response to this rapid warming by evaluating the palynological record of three stratigraphic sections in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. We observed a rapid and distinct increase in plant diversity and origination rates, with a set of new taxa, mostly angiosperms, added to the existing stock of low-diversity Paleocene flora. There is no evidence for enhanced aridity in the northern Neotropics. The tropical rainforest was able to persist under elevated temperatures and high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast to speculations that tropical ecosystems were severely compromised by heat stress.“
http://scholarworks.boisestate.edu/geo_facpubs/68/

andrewmharding says:
November 6, 2012 at 4:10 pm
Is my science wrong, or is the warmists case of having your cake and eating it, still prevalent?

I believe this is the shifting goalposts again. The crisis of tomorrow will go from “CO2 is causing runaway global warming” to “CO2 is causing runaway ocean acidification”.

Manfred

Spare us more melodramatic catastrophy being dished up by usual thespians. Moving right along from the hackneyed and insulting ‘denier’ association, the resident implication in the title so artfully -sarc- used by Janet Herman of the Department of Environmental Sciences at University of Virginia is the association with LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), and disagreement with the thesis being the risk of being labeled a hallucinating, junkie?

Hector Pascal

A couple of hours north of where I live (northern Japan) is a stream draining off an active volcano. The water is pH 1.5. In the west, I guess it would be treated as some kind of biohazard. In Japan, it makes a very nice outdoor bath (rotenburo), complete with waterfall. The water does feel slightly oily though, and after 1/2 hour or so of broiling, ones fingerprints start to diappear.

Gary Pearse

This is Whack-a-Moley science. No sooner does the CO2 and CAGW dross get whacked than they take their CO2 and come up with higher growth of plants is not good because of the water they require, or it causes shark attackes, or it acidifies the ocean, kills the coral, increases red tides….

David Ball

If a person believed even a fraction of the alarmist hysteria,…..
It is no wonder anti-depressant sales are through the roof !!

John F. Hultquist

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho —
“Crop soils in north-central Idaho are becoming more acidic, possibly because . . .”
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2015122971_apidacidicsoil1stldwritethru.html
~~~~~~~~
I’ve tried growing blueberries a couple of times with poor results. They need an acidic soil, less common in a dry area such as where I live. Local irrigation water has minerals so all the effort of amending the soil can be lost unless rain water is available.
Two points, then: Some local problems exist in the ocean waters as they do on land. Best to treat them as local problems if treating them is necessary. On land – grow blueberries. They are good for you.

Acid rain is very 80’s, feels very retro mann, maybe it’s time to study!
Even Satan is ripping up the contract they signed with him at birth.

rockdoc

I was a member of GSA at one time, have attended a number of sessions over the years and given a talk or two. This is the first time I have ever seen a press release about anything to do with a GSA conference let alone a poster session. Good God man. When you go to the really classy Geo meetings (AAPG as an example) you get mostly pretty high end posters but also some cheesy crap. At meetings like the GSA it is more like the opposite. If I were either of these researchers I would be cowering in embarrassment. Hey I did a literature review of X topic and now I need to press release my findings! What next?

It I my understanding that there is 50 times as much CO2 in the ocean than the atmosphere. Even if all of the post start of the industrial age CO2 suddenly ended up in the ocean, this would increase ocean CO2 by less than 1%.

Howskepticalment

I notice that some of the usual posters have gone off into all sorts of what appears to be a broad-front CO2 conspiracy theory commentary that has nothing to do with the paper which is a systemic overview of acidification (or Ph reduction) processes.
Having been a farmer I can confirm from personal experience that reductions in soil pH are a generic outcome of many modern agricultural processes and inputs. For most crops, the reduction in pH tends to reduce productivity. That is why farmers lime their paddocks. This is not exactly rocket science and it is certainly not a CO2 plot by some sneaky scientists.
In other cases, drainage (particularly of coastal plains) may expose acid sulphate and mobilise acidity that was previously sequestered. Again, not rocket science.
Neither of these processes are necessarily-related to CO2 emissions.
Another poster has already commented on acid rain sourced from burning high sulfur-content coal and correctly pointed out that scrubbers have drastically reduced this impact.
My suggestion: rather than respond with axiomatic CO2 conspiracy theory blather, treat the paper with proper scientific respect, read it closely and then comment.

Yawn… They are clearly sifting through papers that have measured pH levels from obvious places that use fertilizers, which would be agricultural, that would be to exacerbate the human influence on a non issue. I call Bat Crap on this one! pun intended.

RoyFOMR

First acid trip I got was at age 0 days. Mum enjoyed a coffee just before I was born!

Sheesh! If it’s not one damn scare, it’s another! When will these “climate hypochondriacs” [h/t Eduardo Zorita] who persist in indulging their “carbon fetish” [h/t Matt Ridley] ever learn, eh?!

michael hart

The atmosphere that passes through an aquarium aeration-pump is the same atmosphere that is in contact with the world’s oceans. If a fish tank in a pet shop doesn’t become acidic due to atmospheric CO2 then why would anyone believe that the oceans will?

Howskepticalment

m h
The atmosphere that passes through an aquarium aeration-pump is the same atmosphere that is in contact with the world’s oceans. If a fish tank in a pet shop doesn’t become acidic due to atmospheric CO2 then why would anyone believe that the oceans will?
False analogy leading to a rhetorical blind alley.
Aquarists target (and maintain by active management) different pH levels because they (and ichthyologists) know that different species thrive at different acidity levels. There is a swag of recent research which shows (a) there is a much wider spread of natural acidity levels in the oceans than previously expected, (b) that different species thrive in different pH levels and (c) that changing pH will have some deleterious and some beneficial impacts on existing assemblages. (d) there is also evidence that if the changes happen slowly enough assemblages will change in composition over time.
The usual ecological principle would be that slow-breeding species with highly circumscribed niches are those which are most likely to go extinct as a result of changes in pH.
The biggest unknowns are whether there are threshold pHs which will trigger wholesale systemic breakdown in food chains based on shelled sea creatures at the bottom of ocean food chains.
BTW, the biggest pH problem in aquaria is not the impact of CO2 bubbling through the water column. It is the chemical impact of fish excreta and decomposing fish food if care is not taken. If the aquarium water gets too bad you change the water – something that we will not be able to do with the oceans should they go pear-shaped because of reduced pH.

Willis Eschenbach

I must enter, once again, a repeated protest against calling neutralization by the name of “acidification”. The seas are not becoming more acidic. They are becoming more neutral.
I understand that “oceanic neutralization” doesn’t have the same zing, but that’s the reality. The ocean is gradually becoming more and more neutral. Another way to describe it is that the ocean is becoming less alkaline.
Now, it’s not widely realized that alkalinity is much more damaging than acidity. Someone upthread described bathing in Japan in very acid waters. These waters had a pH of 1.5, far below neutral (pH 7.0).
But a substance of the correspondingly extreme alkalinity, say lye, pH 13, far above neutral, is what is used to dissolve bodies. It is extremely caustic to all kinds of flesh. The naturally alkaline nature of sea water is mildly deleterious to living tissue, which is one reason that many fish and other ocean creatures have a protective layer of mucus surrounding their bodies.
As a result, this is more than a theoretical or semantical distinction. A more neutral ocean, to the extent that it happens, is not necessarily either good or bad … I greatly doubt, however, that a slightly more neutral ocean will be catastrophic.
Let me shamelessly tout my post, “The Electric Oceanic Acid Test”, regarding the question of variations in oceanic pH.
w

anticlimactic

“… the world’s oceans, which are becoming more acidic….”
Statements like this make the writer seem like a pathetic babbling idiot who knows nothing about science.
Neutral PH is 7.0, the oceans on average are 8.1 [highly alkaline], and even CAGW supporters agree that a doubling of CO2 could reduce this to 7.9. The oceans are not acidic, so they can not become ‘more acidic’, they can only become ‘less alkaline’.
I remember this blog featuring a paper saying that as sea life uses bicarbonate rather than carbonate for shell/skeleton building a reduction in alkalinity would increase their numbers, as is found. This seems a good example of a feedback loop.
One can see why they are so keen to propagate the idea of CAGW – they have to keep the money rolling in for as long as possible as on the evidence of the scientific skills shown they are unlikely to find employment elsewhere.

Howskepticalment

w
As a result, this is more than a theoretical or semantical distinction. A more neutral ocean, to the extent that it happens, is not necessarily either good or bad … I greatly doubt, however, that a slightly more neutral ocean will be catastrophic.
As ever it is a risk management issue.
‘Greatly doubt…’ is essentially meaningless in scientific terms. To make this statement with any credibility, you would have to be sure that there are no systemic threshold levels in oceanic pH, particularly at the low end of the food chain.

Two points I stopped giving papers at GSA in the late 80’s because the time allocation was so limited you simply couldn’t say anything. I went to posters and the are on your CV. Second little of this is new we have all heard it before. It is not without some credibility. I dispute the idea that nature can not buffer these effects. Perhaps is not always, on a local level, able to buffer to the extent the authors would like. Hey press releases are how you get attention to yourself, your cause or your need for grant funding.

pat

Nov 2012: Reason Magazine: Ronald Bailey: The Paradox of Energy Efficiency
Why greener technology doesn’t translate into reduced energy consumption
In another recent study, reported in the July 2012 issue of the journal Sustainability, Graham Palmer, technical director of an Australian heating and cooling company, looked at trends in space heating efficiency during the last 50 years in Melbourne. Modern houses are up to 10 times more energy efficient, Palmer found, yet Australians are collectively using just as much energy to heat their homes as they did a half-century ago. Why? New houses are much bigger, people heat larger areas for longer, and fewer people live in each dwelling. Of course, modern Australians are much more comfortable in the winter than their grandparents were.
Similarly, a 2006 study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that homes in Phoenix, Arizona, that qualify for the EPA’s Energy Star designation use 12 percent more energy than homes that don’t…
This energy “rebound effect” has important implications for efforts to restrain climate change through conservation. Various studies have suggested that improvements in efficiency could reduce energy consumption enough to cut global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 25 percent during the next four decades. But this is a highly controversial area of scholarship…
The money saved from driving a fuel-efficient car, for example, may now be spent on flying to a Caribbean beach vacation…
The upshot of all these studies is that energy efficiency mandates probably will fall far short of expectations for mitigating man-made global warming. “Instead of imposing energy efficiency mandates,” Michaels concludes, “energy policy should embrace market prices and disruptive innovations to guide energy to its most valuable uses.” After all, the point of improved energy efficiency is not to forgo the use of power but to boost its productivity as a way to provide people with more of the goods and services they want.
http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/31/the-paradox-of-energy-efficiency

There now, see what they’ve gone and done! they’ve just gone and woke Willis Eschenbach up. I’m not putting him back into his cage this time, 🙂
How have you been Willis, hope you’re well mate..

Sorry 🙂 mods lol

The complex buffer comprising seawater does not respond to CO2 the way distilled water does. There is no evidence of acidification outside of the normal variation and little or no evidence that elevated CO2 is bad for marine life. In fact, seawater pH can rise radically during daytime as photosynthesis is an alkalizing process. Bays and estuaries can get up to above pH 10, when 8 is normal. So, what’s the problem?
As CO2 is the beginning of an extended equilibrium going from CO2 to carbonic acid to bicarbonate to carbonate to calcium carbonate, more CO2 will facilitate calcium carbonate deposition. Furthermore, the protons (H+’s) released by carbonic acid cannot effect its own equilibrium. Only an outside source of protons can do that. There is no way that this “acidification” can harm calcium carbonate using organisms.
In some cases one species may benefit more than others from rises in CO2 but that only means the less benefitted species will live and survive in more marginal regions as many species do now or at any particular time and conditions. We mist remember that the planet spends the vast majority of its time at much higher CO2 concentrations and in recent times 90% of its time in glaciation.
The ingenuous idea that the organisms cannot handle any pH change is to underestimate the resilience of life. Cells maintain their own environment against a wide range of concentrations. To think that they cannot handle the effects of more CO2 plant food is to pretend artificial stupidity just to prove the point.

D Böehm

‘Howskepticalment’ needs to read the WUWT archives. He is far from being up to speed on the ocean pH discussion. Willis Eschenbach’s articles regarding ocean pH would help Howskepticalment immensely, since he really doesn’t understand the subject at this point.
Start reading the archives, Howskepticalment. Your education awaits.

Howskepticalment

Pat
Interesting post
“Instead of imposing energy efficiency mandates,” Michaels concludes, “energy policy should embrace market prices and disruptive innovations to guide energy to its most valuable uses.”
I support the use of the market. But the market approach needs to acknowledge that the consequences of CO2 emissions represent market failure. This could be addressed by ensuring that consequences are priced into market mechanisms – something that is extremely difficult to do and probably the main reason why our once-only trial with the future of the planet will continue along current trajectories.

Howskepticalment

higly7
The ingenuous idea that the organisms cannot handle any pH change is to underestimate the resilience of life.
I assume that you mean ‘disigenous’ but that is by-the-by.
This is a restatement of two general principles:
(1) all organisms have a range within various environmental parameters within which they will survive
(2) all organisms have the potential to evolve.
No-one has argued against these principles. As such your argument consists of two strawmen.
The issue at hand is not the general, but the particular levels of various parameters. Simple assertions that everything will be OK are just that.

D Böehm

Howskepticalment says:
I support the use of the market.” [*ahem*: As If.] But the market approach needs to acknowledge that the consequences of CO2 emissions represent market failure. This could be addressed by ensuring that consequences are priced into market mechanisms – something that is extremely difficult to do and probably the main reason why our once-only trial with the future of the planet will continue along current trajectories.
What a bunch of pseudo-science hokum. There is no “trajectory”. There is nothing happening now that has not happened repeatedly in the past, and to a much greater degree. That alarmist nonsense is pure globaloney, flogged by those who stand to personally benefit from their self-serving climate scares.
There is no empirical evidence showing that the rise in [completely harmles and beneficial] CO2, from only three molecules in 10,000 to only four molecules in 10,000, has any effect on temperature. That is scientifically baseless climate alarmism, and it is anti-science. Either provide solid empirical evidence showing that the rise in CO2 is causing global harm or damage, or admit that you have zero scientific evidence.

Karl

Pat@8:04
Ah, Jevon’s Paradox at work:
http://www.eoearth.org/article/Jevons_paradox

Why bother have moderators?

Why should there be moderators?
[Reply: And your point is… ?]

D Böehm

Having been a freshwater aquarium hobbiest for many years [up to 125 gallon tanks], and having used CO2 enrichment apparatus, I can state two things for certain: first, plant growth exploded with the injected CO2! And second: the aquarium pH did not change at all when massive amounts of CO2 were added.
Draw your own conclusions.

Faux Science Slayer

Natural range for oceans pH is 7.8 to 8.4 which is alkaline and oceans are lined with Calcium Carbonate lime sea floors. Undersea vents discharge high temperature, high pressure CO2 and SOx gases which are immediately liquified under 4F temp and 150 atmos pressure. These now liquid gases keep the ocean saturated with Carbonic and Sulfuric acid feedstock and constant atmospheric outgasing. There is no reverse absorption of these gases from the tiny amounts humans add to the atomosphere, other than as rainwater absorption. Forest fires release more Sulfur than petroluem or scrubbed coal combustion. More misplaced hysteria.

DesertYote

D Böehm
November 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm
Having been a freshwater aquarium hobbiest for many years [up to 125 gallon tanks], and having used CO2 enrichment apparatus, I can state two things for certain: first, plant growth exploded with the injected CO2! And second: the aquarium pH did not change at all when massive amounts of CO2 were added.
Draw your own conclusions.
###
I have put together many extreme aquariums ( up to 700 gallon). I once put together a 10L Rio Meta (Colombia) feeder stream bio-type tank. I maintained the PH at around 4.0 – 4.5 without CO2 injection, all natural (fungus == CO2). My biggest problem was keeping the plants pruned so that they did not over take the thing.

mpainter

Howskepticalment: Got something for you. Ever hear of the so called PETM? CO2 levels were 4-5 times those of today, yet life flourished in the seas and on land, even more so than today. So where is this “ocean acidification” that you are pushing, with its attendant destruction of life? There was none, because it is all science fiction and do you dare affirm your belief in such rubbish?

LazyTeenager

Andrewmharding says
I thought that the solubility of a gas decreased with a rise in temperature (the opposite of a solid!). So, AGW is making the planet including the oceans warmer, therefore less CO2 is soluble, therefore a decrease in carbonic acid, with a consequent increase in pH.
Is my science wrong, or is the warmists case of having your cake and eating it, still prevalent?
———-
Not wrong. The pH increase will depend on how much CO2 is absorbed. That depends on TWO(2) things.
1. Amount of CO2 in the air — gone up a lot
2. Temperature of the water — gone up a little
Obviously a lot wins over a little.
P.S.
1. The global CO2 net flux is into the oceans. This is a measurement.
2. The ocean pH is rising. This is a measurement.

mpainter

And by the way, what does a farmer have to do with a paddock?