Year 4, Month 8, Day 31: Merde Alors!

Time Magazine’s Bryan Walsh notes that the IPCC Report discusses oceanic acidification, saying of climatologists:

But here’s one thing they do know: oceans are absorbing a large portion of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere—in fact, oceans are the largest single carbon sink in the world, dwarfing the absorbing abilities of the Amazon rainforest. But the more CO2 the oceans absorb, the more acidic they become on a relative scale, because some of the carbon reacts within the water to form carbonic acid. This is a slow-moving process—it’s not as if the oceans are suddenly going to become made of hydrochloric acid. But as two new studies published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change shows, acidification will make the oceans much less hospitable to many forms of marine life—and acidification may actually to serve to amplify overall warming.

The first study, by the German researchers Astrid Wittmann and Hans-O. Portner, is a meta-analysis looking at the specific effects rising acid levels are likely to have on specific categories of ocean life: corals, echinoderms, molluscs, crustaceans and fishes. Every category is projected to respond poorly to acidification, which isn’t that surprising—pH, which describes the relative acidity of a material, is about as basic a function of the underlying chemistry of life as you can get. (Lower pH indicates more acidity.) Rapid changes—and the ocean is acidifying rapidly, at least on a geological time scale—will be difficult for many species to adapt to.

I revised a letter I sent to Time on the same subject about 2 years ago. Took me about 10 minutes. Better luck this time, non?

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s will remember that Walter Cronkite wasn’t the only man on television who was universally loved and trusted. The late Jacques Cousteau introduced millions of young people to the notion that our planet’s oceans were places of strange and profound beauty, well-worth the effort to preserve and protect. The IPCC Report’s distressing news about accelerating oceanic acidification makes me wonder that that tough old Frenchman would say — and do — about it. It’s easy enough to imagine: after a few unprintable Gallic expletives, he’d start speaking truth to the world’s industrialized nations — telling them to show genuine leadership on climate change and carbon emissions. This passionate and eloquent explorer noted years ago, that “the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Our captains of industry and the leaders of our civilization need to heed those words before it’s too late.

Warren Senders

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