Year 4, Month 9, Day 5: Drown In My Own Tears

The Washington Post addresses the IPCC report on oceanic acidification:

The world’s oceans are turning acidic at what’s likely the fastest pace in 300 million years. Scientists tend to think this is a troubling development. But just how worried should we be, exactly?

It’s a question marine experts have been racing to get a handle on in recent years. Here’s what they do know: As humans keep burning fossil fuels, the oceans are absorbing more and more carbon-dioxide. That staves off (some) global warming, but it also makes the seas more acidic — acidity levels have risen 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution.

There’s reason for alarm here: Studies have found that acidifying seawater can chew away at coral reefs and kill oysters by making it harder to form protective shells. The process can also interfere with the food supply for key species like Alaska’s salmon.

But it’s not fully clear what this all adds up to. What happens if the oceans keep acidifying and water temperatures keep rising as a result of global warming? Are those stresses going to wipe out coral reefs and fisheries around the globe, costing us trillions (as one paper suggested)? Or is there a chance that some ecosystems might remain surprisingly resilient?

Same message, so they get another version of the Cousteau letter. Aug. 31:

Walter Cronkite may have been the most universally trusted figure on television during the 1960s, but there was another who ran a close second. How many of us were introduced to the profound and protean beauty of the world’s oceans by the late Jacques Cousteau? One wonders that that tough old Frenchman would say and do if he had the opportunity to hear the IPCC’s grim discussion of intensifying oceanic acidification.

My guess: he’d start speaking truth (probably laced with unprintable Gallicisms) to the world’s industrialized nations, telling them in no uncertain terms that the time is long past to demonstrate genuine civic responsibility in dealing with their accelerating carbon emissions.

This eloquent and dedicated explorer long ago told us that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Our political leaders and those who captain the engines of our economy can no longer afford to ignore these words.

Warren Senders

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