If surface temperatures don’t skyrocket soon, expect to hear a lot in the coming months about “ocean acidification.” This sounds scary, and that is the point of emphasizing it in the runup to Paris COP.
So here’s the basic chemistry of CO2 and H20:
That seems straight forward, So what is the problem?
That looks fairly serious. So what does the IPCC have to say about this issue?
What does it say in the SPM (Summary for Policy Makers)?
For this issue, I looked at the topic of ocean acidification and fish productivity. The SPM asserts on Page 17 that fish habitats and production will fall and that ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems.
“Open-ocean net primary production is projected to redistribute and, by 2100, fall globally under all RCP scenarios. Climate change adds to the threats of over-fishing and other non-climatic stressors, thus complicating marine management regimes (high confidence).” Pg 17 SPM
“For medium- to high-emission scenarios (RCP4.5, 6.0, and 8.5), ocean acidification poses substantial risks to marine ecosystems, especially polar ecosystems and coral reefs, associated with impacts on the physiology, behavior, and population dynamics of individual species from phytoplankton to animals (medium to high confidence).” Pg 17 SPM
So, the IPCC agrees that ocean acidification is a serious problem due to rising CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.
What does it say in the Working Group Reports?
But wait a minute. Let’s see what is in the working group reports that are written by scientists, not politicians.
WGII Report, Chapter 6 covers Ocean Systems. There we find a different story with more nuance and objectivity:
“Few field observations conducted in the last decade demonstrate biotic responses attributable to anthropogenic ocean acidification” pg 4
“Due to contradictory observations there is currently uncertainty about the future trends of major upwelling systems and how their drivers (enhanced productivity, acidification, and hypoxia) will shape ecosystem characteristics (low confidence).” Pg 5
“Both acclimatization and adaptation will shift sensitivity thresholds but the capacity and limits of species to acclimatize or adapt remain largely unknown” Pg 23
“Production, growth, and recruitment of most but not all non-calcifying
seaweeds also increased at CO2 levels from 700 to 900 µatm Pg 25
“Contributions of anthropogenic ocean acidification to climate-induced alterations in the field have rarely been established and are limited to observations in individual species” Pg. 27
“To date, very few ecosystem-level changes in the field have been attributed to anthropogenic or local ocean acidification.” Pg 39
Ocean Chemistry on the Record
Contrast the IPCC headlines with the the Senate Testimony of John T. Everett, in which he said:
“There is no reliable observational evidence of negative trends that can be traced definitively to lowered pH of the water. . . Papers that herald findings that show negative impacts need to be dismissed if they used acids rather than CO2 to reduce alkalinity, if they simulated CO2 values beyond triple those of today, while not reporting results at concentrations of half, present, double and triple, or as pointed out in several studies, they did not investigate adaptations over many generations.”
“In the oceans, major climate warming and cooling and pH (ocean pH
about 8.1) changes are a fact of life, whether it is over a few years as
in an El Niño, over decades as in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or
the North Atlantic Oscillation, or over a few hours as a burst of
upwelling (pH about 7.59-7.8) appears or a storm brings acidic rainwater
(pH about 4-6) into an estuary.”
The oceans are buffered by extensive mineral deposits and will never become acidic. Marine life is well-adapted to the fluctuations in pH that occur all the time.
This is another example of climate fear-mongering: It never happened before, it’s not happening now, but it surely will happen if we don’t DO SOMETHING!.
Many know of the Latin phrase “caveat emptor,” meaning “Let the buyer beware”.
When it comes to climate science, remember also “caveat lector”–”Let the reader beware”.