Ocean CO2 Acidification Impact Questioned

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The gauntlet was thrown on climate change when the sound bites of ‘the science is settled’ and ‘consensus of scientists’ were uttered. Long before that, this scientist was aghast at the pontificating that man can change the weather, at least to the extent of catastrophe. As a result of the bites and the astonishment, scientists have come to the front with continuing research to understand, and in the ensuing discoveries, rebut and rebuke the ‘consensus’.

The US Senate has had hearings regarding absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions dissolving into the oceans and changing the acidity therein. Senator Maria Cantwell1 (Washington State) has stated that it’s obvious that shellfish are negatively impacted due to increasing CO2 from human activities. More on this later.

Absorption is not new, every carbonated beverage is an example enhanced by overpressure. Henry and Clausius–Clapeyron have well described gas absorption rules. Buffer solution chemistry further describes expectations on degree of acidity changes for weak acids such as carbonic, ie. limitations due to the normal ocean brew.

Figure 1 American lobster reared for 60 days at normal levels of CO2 (left) and under high levels of CO2 (2850 ppm). “There is no magic formula to predict how different species will respond, but one thing you can be sure of is that ecosystems as a whole will change because of these varied individual responses,” Justin Ries predicts.

Figure 1 American lobster reared for 60 days at normal levels of CO2 (left) and under high levels of CO2 (2850 ppm). “There is no magic formula to predict how different species will respond, but one thing you can be sure of is that ecosystems as a whole will change because of these varied individual responses,” Justin Ries predicts.

On the heals of the ‘viewing with alarm’ and ‘we must do something now’ come several scientific papers which show contrary evidence to potential loss of crustacean life in the seas due to excess CO2 and temperature increase. Findley2, et al, report that barnacles are not really affected by increased CO2 other than perhaps to have improved calcification (better shells). Rodolfo-Metalp3, et al, report that temperate zone corals also improve their livelihood, noting a secondary effect that photosynthesis increases if the waters warm slightly providing more food for them.
And, Cohen and McCorkel4 have shown a dramatic increase in lobster (Figure 15) and crab growth rates with increased CO2 concentrations, noting that they had not detected much up or down in other species.

Are these definitive? Absolutely, when compared to the above sound bites and alarmist posturing. In reality, it most assuredly shows that there is much more work to be done in understanding this wonderful spaceship Earth on which we live. Before we start leaping as lemmings, we better figure out what is going on.

Another shot over the bow is a just published ‘cross examination’ by Johnston6 from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. With over two years of study, Mr. Johnston has examined the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its periodic Assessment Reports (AR) on climate change. His approach was to dissect and compare statements within and without the documents for consistency, clarity, and accuracy from a legal perspective. He notes serious problems with the debunked Hockey Stick, projections of climate sensitivity, modeling inconsistencies, ignorance of water vapor (cloud effects, humidity, snow, and ice) effects, and general ignoring or dismissing of valuable contrary studies and empirical evidence. On the one point of the missing cloud effects, he comments:

“…The results reported by Lindzen7 and Choi would seem to suggest that the fundamental assumption in climate models used by the IPCC – of large positive feedbacks – indeed the assumption that by itself is responsible for potentially catastrophic large temperature increases – is strongly disconfirmed by the existing evidence. …”

So, even an educated non-scientist can see through the story and understand the issues from basic principles and observations. He cites with numerous quotes, 343 literature references in coming to his conclusions: politically correct conventional wisdom on climate change as driven by IPCC and cohorts is simply wrong and without basis.

Shellfish production and CO2 increase

Shellfish production and CO2 increase

To finish, I said I would have more on Senator Cantwell’s opinion. Her statement caused me to investigate the status of shellfish in US economics. I found that from 1995 to 2008, the shellfish market in the US doubled going from 0.5 million to 1.0 million metric tonnes annually. During that same period, atmospheric CO2 increased 6.4%. Mathematically, there is a 95% correlation in the data (see figures). To their credit, the petitioners8 cite observational data on softening of oyster shells and clams in contrast to the literature cited herein. But, is it possible that overfishing to satisfy the palate is not allowing proper shell maturation? Facetiously,  is the increased consumption causing more CO2 or is it the other way round?

Obviously, the more we know, the more we need to know before we jump off into the abyss of cap and trade.


Shellfish Production vs. Atmospheric CO2

Shellfish Production vs. Atmospheric CO2

1Sen. Maria Cantwell, On Earth Day, We Must Not Forget Our Oceans, Press Release, April 22, 2010.

2Findlay H. S., Kendall M. A., Spicer J. I., and Widdicombe S., 2010. Post-larval development of two intertidal barnacles at elevated CO2 and temperature. Marine Biology 157: 725-735.

3Rodolfo-Metalpa, R., Martin, S., Ferrier-Pages, C. and Gattuso, J.-P., 2010. Response of the temperate coral Cladocora caespitosa to mid- and long-term exposure to pCO2 and temperature levels projected for the year 2100 AD. Biogeosciences 7: 289-300.

4Ries, J. B., Cohen, A. L., and McCorkle, D. C., Marine calcifiers exhibit mixed responses to CO2-induced ocean acidification, Geology 2009, v. 37, p. 1131-1134, doi:10.1130/G30210A.1

5Web article: Jumbo shellfish rule in acidic oceans, Futurity, Dec. 1, 2009.

6Johnston, J. S., Global warming advocacy science: a cross examination, Program on Law, Environment and Economy, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Research paper 10-08, May 2010.

7Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi, On the Determination of Climate Feedbacks from ERBE Data, 36 Geo. Res. Lett. L16705, doi:10.1029/2009GL039628 (2009).

8Dale Kelley, (76 signatories) to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Olympia Snowe, April 17, 2010, Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.

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