The Tidal Irrigation and Electrical System

renewable energy, carbon dioxide sink, biodiesel, and food from the ocean

Forget Climate Change, What About Ocean Acidification?

Posted by on Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Recently, I submitted the TIE System for assessment by the Royal Society’s working group on geoengineering schemes to mitigate climate change. (http://royalsociety.org/news.asp?id=8085) In the process I have been looking at a few other ideas. Many of them, like increasing the albedo of marine stratocumulus clouds and shading the earth with a large group of small spacecraft at the inner Lagrange point (L1), totally fail to deal with the issues that simply having more carbon dioxide in the air will create.

Ocean acidification is caused by the upper layers of the ocean taking up CO2 directly and by the changed air currents increasing the weathering of rocks. It seems that previous models have underestimated the sensitivity of the oceans to increased CO2 and acidification can increase much quicker than thought. (http://www.physorg.com/news148227653.html)

This is bad news for these geoengineering schemes that fail to deal with the excess CO2 in the air. One of the most pervasive mass extinctions in the history of the earth was caused, it is thought, by ocean acidification. Massive volcanic releases of CO2 caused the end Permian mass extinction  as acid turned the oceans toxic. (This theory is well explained at http://www.uwm.edu/~mfraiser/pdf’s/Bottjer.et.al.2008.pdf ) Thus the oceans went from a greenhouse gas sink to a greenhouse gas emitter as anaerobic conditions caused wide scale release of methane and Sulfur Dioxide. Global temperature ended up near 35 degrees C. That is rather eye watering considering that 2007 had a global temperature of 15.04 degrees C.

Already a fifth of the world’s coral reefs have died and we could lose most of those remaining in the next 20 to 40 years according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. (http://www.physorg.com/news148116950.html) This is due to temperature rise and acidification and will destroy the livelihoods of an estimated half a billion people who depend on coral reefs, unfortunately this may be only the beginning.

It seems the list of side effects due to our use of fossil fuels grows longer by the day. We must bring our carbon use into balance or who knows, we may wind up at the end of the Permian again. 

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