Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: Global Warming is Just the Beginning

25 May 2008

Global Warming is Just the Beginning

Global warming is a big problem, but it's not the only problem

Not every environmental problem has to do with global warming. In fact, not every problem associated with carbon emissions is related to global warming. As it turns out, the carbon emitted by our cars and power plants isn't just making the oceans warmer. It's also turning them to acid:

Carbon dioxide spewed by human activities has made ocean water so acidic that it is eating away at the shells and skeletons of starfish, coral, clams and other sea creatures, scientists said on Thursday. Marine researchers knew that ocean acidification, as it's called, was occurring in deep water far from land. What they called "truly astonishing" was the appearance of this damaging phenomenon on the Pacific North American continental shelf, stretching from Mexico to Canada.

Oceans have long been repositories for the carbon dioxide, absorbing some 525 billion tonnes of the climate-warming substance over the last two centuries -- about one-third of all human-generated carbon dioxide for that period.

But the daily absorption of 22 million tonnes of the stuff has changed the chemistry and biology of the oceans, turning it corrosive and making it difficult or impossible for some animals to produce their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. This acidic water is corroding the shells of clams, mussels, starfish and the free-floating sea-snails called pterapods that nourish young salmon, the researchers said, citing data from a 2007 research cruise. Corrosion occurred in water that absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 1957, when levels of this gas were considerably lower than they are now, the researchers said.

"This means that even if we were to stop instantaneously the current rate of rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the corrosivity of these upwelling waters would increase for the next 50 years," said Burke Hales, a professor of chemical oceanography at Oregon State University.

(cross posted at appletree and Liberal Avenger)



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