[Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Mon Jan 9 10:39:46 EST 2012

I missed the 60 minutes program because I was at sea when it aired. I 
nevertheless wonder if they discussed any of the scientific issues 
presented in the WSJ (below). or the lengthy technical presentation 
at   http://co2science.org/subject/o/acidificationphenom.php.  Gene

>>Source:  WSJ
>>[SPPI Note:  More in-depth papers on this issue can be found at the 
>>SPPI website:
>>C02 Science's Ocean Acidification Database
>>Quantifying the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Organisms
>>Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems
>>Answers to a Fisherman's Testimony about Ocean Acidification
>>EPA's Role in Protecting Ocean Health Should Focus on the 
>>"Here-and-Now" Threats
>>See also CO2 Science website for reviewed papers on the topic
>>WSJ text beings here:
>>Coral reefs around the world are suffering badly from overfishing 
>>and various forms of pollution. Yet many experts argue that the 
>>greatest threat to them is the acidification of the oceans from the 
>>dissolving of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
>>The effect of acidification, according to J.E.N. Veron, an 
>>Australian coral scientist, will be "nothing less than 
>>catastrophic.... What were once thriving coral gardens that 
>>supported the greatest biodiversity of the marine realm will become 
>>red-black bacterial slime, and they will stay that way."
>>Humans have placed marine life under pressure, but the chief 
>>culprits are overfishing and pollution.
>>This is a common view. The Natural Resources Defense Council has 
>>called ocean acidification "the scariest environmental problem 
>>you've never heard of." Sigourney Weaver, who narrated a film about 
>>the issue, said that "the scientists are freaked out." The head of 
>>the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls it global 
>>warming's "equally evil twin."
>>But do the scientific data support such alarm? Last month 
>>scientists at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and 
>>other authors published a study showing how much the pH level 
>>(measuring alkalinity versus acidity) varies naturally between 
>>parts of the ocean and at different times of the day, month and 
>>"On both a monthly and annual scale, even the most stable open 
>>ocean sites see pH changes many times larger than the annual rate 
>>of acidification," say the authors of the study, adding that 
>>because good instruments to measure ocean pH have only recently 
>>been deployed, "this variation has been under-appreciated." Over 
>>coral reefs, the pH decline between dusk and dawn is almost half as 
>>much as the decrease in average pH expected over the next 100 
>>years. The noise is greater than the signal.
>>Another recent study, by scientists from the U.K., Hawaii and 
>>Massachusetts, concluded that "marine and freshwater assemblages 
>>have always experienced variable pH conditions," and that "in many 
>>freshwater lakes, pH changes that are orders of magnitude greater 
>>than those projected for the 22nd-century oceans can occur over 
>>periods of hours."
>>This adds to other hints that the ocean-acidification problem may 
>>have been exaggerated. For a start, the ocean is alkaline and in no 
>>danger of becoming acid (despite headlines like that from Reuters 
>>in 2009: "Climate Change Turning Seas Acid"). If the average pH of 
>>the ocean drops to 7.8 from 8.1 by 2100 as predicted, it will still 
>>be well above seven, the neutral point where alkalinity becomes 
>>The central concern is that lower pH will make it harder for 
>>corals, clams and other "calcifier" creatures to make calcium 
>>carbonate skeletons and shells. Yet this concern also may be 
>>overstated. Off Papua New Guinea and the Italian island of Ischia, 
>>where natural carbon-dioxide bubbles from volcanic vents make the 
>>sea less alkaline, and off the Yucatan, where underwater springs 
>>make seawater actually acidic, studies have shown that at least 
>>some kinds of calcifiers still thrive-at least as far down as pH 
>>In a recent experiment in the Mediterranean, reported in Nature 
>>Climate Change, corals and mollusks were transplanted to lower pH 
>>sites, where they proved "able to calcify and grow at even faster 
>>than normal rates when exposed to the high [carbon-dioxide] levels 
>>projected for the next 300 years." In any case, freshwater mussels 
>>thrive in Scottish rivers, where the pH is as low as five.
>>Laboratory experiments find that more marine creatures thrive than 
>>suffer when carbon dioxide lowers the pH level to 7.8. This is 
>>because the carbon dioxide dissolves mainly as bicarbonate, which 
>>many calcifiers use as raw material for carbonate.
>>Human beings have indeed placed marine ecosystems under terrible 
>>pressure, but the chief culprits are overfishing and pollution. By 
>>comparison, a very slow reduction in the alkalinity of the oceans, 
>>well within the range of natural variation, is a modest threat, and 
>>it certainly does not merit apocalyptic headlines.


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science Room 221A
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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