Year 4, Month 9, Day 24: Carry That Weight A Long Time

More on the acidifying oceans, this time from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The problem: When carbon dioxide mixes with water, it takes on a corrosive power that erodes some animals’ shells or skeletons. It also robs the water of ingredients animals use to grow shells in the first place.

New science shows ocean acidification also can bedevil fish and the animals that eat them, from sharks to whales and seabirds. Shifting sea chemistry can cripple the reefs where fish live, rewire fish brains and attack what fish eat.

Those changes pose risks for food supplies, from the fillets used in McDonald’s fish sandwiches to the crab legs sold at seafood markets. Both are brought to the world by a Northwest fishing industry that nets half the nation’s catch.

Sea-chemistry changes are coming as the oceans also warm, and that’s expected to frequently amplify the impacts.

This transformation — once not expected until the end of the century — will be well under way, particularly along the West Coast, before today’s preschoolers reach middle age.

“I used to think it was kind of hard to make things in the ocean go extinct,” said James Barry, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “But this change we’re seeing is happening so fast it’s almost instantaneous. I think it might be so important that we see large levels, high rates of extinction.”

Still hammering away on Jacques Cousteau. One day, one day…September 16:

The crisis of oceanic acidification recalls memories of the late Jacques Cousteau, who introduced countless Americans to the extraordinary beauty and mindboggling complexity of the world’s oceans — and taught us, as well, that caring for them must be one of our generation’s responsibilities to posterity.

Katharina Fabricius’s report has me imagining that tough old Frenchman’s response to such an emergency. After a volley of unprintable Gallicisms, he’d tell the world’s industrialized nations — leaders and ordinary citizens alike — that the time is long past for us to shed our apathy and show genuine leadership on climate change and carbon emissions. He would once again remind us that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one” — a fact that’s easy to forget when we are distracted by petty politics and the scandals du jour of an industrialized civilization disconnected from the core truths of the natural world.

Warren Senders

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