Thursday, May 01, 2014

Serious pteropod effects already found (and how Conservative American pundits don't have a clue)

It was only recently that I referred to pteropods as the "canary in the coal mine" for ocean acidification.

Well, they have started to suffer already in one part of the world's ocean:
A NOAA-led research team has found the first evidence that acidity of continental shelf waters off the West Coast is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming marine snails, called pteropods, which provide food for pink salmon, mackerel and herring, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B 
Even though these waters are naturally more acidic from local upwelling, it does not augur well for the future: 
"We did not expect to see pteropods being affected to this extent in our coastal region for several decades," said William Peterson, Ph.D., an oceanographer at NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center and one of the paper's co-authors. "This study will help us as we compare these results with future observations to analyze how the chemical and physical processes of ocean acidification are affecting marine organisms."

Richard Feely, senior scientist from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and co-author of the research article, said that more research is needed to study how corrosive waters may be affecting other species in the ecosystem. "We do know that organisms like oyster larvae and pteropods are affected by water enriched with CO2. The impacts on other species, such as other shellfish and larval or juvenile fish that have economic significance, are not yet fully understood."
 While we're speaking ocean acidification, I was surprised to read recently that conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg had said Republicans should take some environmental issues more seriously, such as ocean acidification.   Many people pointed out that you address both climate change and acidification the same way - by tough action to cut back on fossil fuels - but that is something  about which he is not keen.

Goldberg has had to clarify that he was talking more about geoengineering - such as grinding up mountains of limestone and throwing into the ocean.

Of course, Goldberg has probably not read this recent paper which did not dismiss entirely the possibility of geoengineering, but noted:
The use of ocean-based enhanced weathering [128] could more directly counter ocean acidification, increasing atmospheric CO2 drawdown through the addition to the ocean of either bicarbonate [129], carbonate minerals [130], calcium hydroxide [131] or combining the addition of liquid CO2 to the ocean with pulverized limestone [154]. All these approaches, however, involve the transport and processing of considerable bulk of materials, with associated energy costs, in order to achieve globally significant climate benefits. The land-based production of Ca(OH)2 would also require additional CO2 sequestration effort (to avoid additional CO2 release), while the various processes proposed for ‘liming the ocean’ could themselves cause large-scale ecosystem damage, by locally raising pH beyond organisms’ tolerance limits and/or decreasing light penetration, through precipitation effects. 
They also consider ocean fertilization and note its likely problems and limited prospect of large scale CO2 sequestration.

Their conclusion:
The potential for some CDR techniques would seem to warrant further consideration. Nevertheless, strong and rapid mitigation measures, to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at near-current levels, would provide the policy action most likely to limit ocean acidification and its associated impacts.
The lesson:  even when Republican pundits start trying to sound more open to environmentally friendly policies, they actually have no idea.

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