Oceans Dying Under CO2 Siege

by Val Germann

Climate change on the Earth’s land masses, as bad as it may turn out to be, is only one likely effect of the recent and gigantic increases in atmospheric CO2. The Earth’s oceans, too, are feeling the effects which will only worsen as this new century unfolds. A recent article in the Vancouver SUN states the case bluntly:

Unless we halt completely the emission of carbon dioxide from the world’s energy systems, we risk an oceanic catastrophe worse than the one associated with the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

Note the words “halt completely” in the sentence above and think about the chances of a total suspension of CO2 emissions from human energy use. Yes, it looks like there may be a problem, somewhere.

The basis for the quote above is a study presented at a recent conference on the world’s oceans held in Vancouver. One of the presenters, a Stanford oceanic specialist, is the ultimate source.

Ken Caldeira, who teaches out of the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University in California, says the level of acidification caused by dumping hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the world’s oceans is so great that it could cause a major disruption on par with, or worse than, the sudden dumping of sulphuric acid into the oceans 65 million years ago when an asteroid slammed into the Earth’s surface.

To quote a famous TV character, Homer Simpson, “Would that be bad?” Yes, it would, as one of the sponsors of Dr. Caldeira’s speech, Daniel Pauly, explained:

. . . if there’s no more fish, is that okay? No, it’s not.

Of course, this problem at its worst is most likely a few decades away, thank heaven, and so safely beyond the reach of any revenge by today’s electorate, as today’s politicians and executives are safe from any revenge from the future. All in all, a win-win for everybody involved, I think most people would agree. That is, how bad could it actually get?

When [the last oceanic extinction] happened, [Caldeira] said, it took 500,000 years for plankton to reappear, two million years for corals to redevelop, and 10 million years for the current level of oceanic biodiversity to re-emerge.

Well, not a problem! That’s a long way off, as even the most die hard whale-hugger must admit. Read this entire article and see if you don’t agree. As Keynes once said, tongue in cheek, “In the long run we’re all dead.” So, even if we do drag nearly all other life on Earth down with us to that infinite and eternal night, what difference could it make to us, living here today?  None, I think, none at all.

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About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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