Blowing the whistle on ocean acidification

There's nothing new, scientifically speaking, in the Monaco Declaration. It's just another plea from 155 scientists representating 26 nations that "sets forth recommendations, calling for policymakers to address this immense problem." The problem is ocean acidification.

It's a problem that got a passing mention in early versions of Al Gore's Inconvenient slide show. Later iterations added a few more slides dealing with the consequences for corals of a changing aquatic habitat. But compare that with more than a dozen slides addressing the threat of increased storm frequency and/or intensity, neither of which is based on science as nearly solid as the link between global warming and ocean acidification.

It's a problem that rarely makes it further into the public consciousness than the science pages of the New York Times and sympathetic corners of the blogosphere. So it must be frustrating to be a marine biologist who's studying ocean acidification and never get the kind of attention bestowed on the heavy weather crowd. So will this latest declaration accomplish anything?

Probably not. But for what it's worth, here are few excerpt of the scarier bits:

By the time that atmospheric CO2 reaches 450 ppm, it is projected that large areas of the polar oceans will have become corrosive to shells of key marine calcifiers. [Remember we're already at 385 of 387 and will almost certainly reach 450.]

A range of field studies suggest that impacts of acidification on some major marine calcifiers may already be detectable. Also, naturally high-CO2 marine environments exhibit major shifts in marine ecosystems following trends expected from laboratory experiments. Ocean acidification has altered some coastal waters to the extent that recently during spring they have become corrosive to the shells of some bottom-dwelling organisms. Within decades these shell-dissolving conditions are projected to be reached and to persist throughout most of the year in the polar oceans.

... by mid-century, ocean acidification may render most regions chemically inhospitable to coral reefs. These and other acidificationrelated changes could affect a wealth of marine goods and services, such as our ability to use the ocean to manage waste, to provide chemicals to make new medicines, and to benefit from its natural capacity to regulate climate. For instance, ocean acidification will reduce the ocean's capacity to absorb anthropogenic CO2, which will exacerbate climate change.

The current increase in ocean acidity is a hundred times faster than any previous natural change that has occurred over the last many millions of years. By the end of this century, if atmospheric CO2 is not stabilized, the level of ocean acidity could increase to three times the preindustrial level. Recovery from this large, rapid, human-induced perturbation will require thousands of years

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