Basics of Ocean Acidification

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”.



  1. Bob Greene · 8 Hours Ago

    Until I started reading stuff from the expert climate scientist, what’s described as acidification was called neutralization. Acidification meant making the solution pH <7 or acidic. Sometimes it seems the proponents of ocean acidification would have us believe that the oceans are a well-mixed homogenous solution with one pH and that the sea life can withstand almost no variation in pH. Reality is very far from this view.


  2. Bob Greene · 8 Hours Ago

    Reblogged this on


  3. Pingback: “corrosive” nonsense from NOAA … | pindanpost
  4. craigm350 · 1 Hour Ago

    Reblogged this on CraigM350.


  5. David A · 47 Minutes Ago

    Ron, good post. I would add some links to O2 science and their research tabulations regarding this. Much legitimate research is ignored by the IPCC, thus the IPCC conservative moderating waffle statements regarding harms not yet seen should at times be turned into benefits realized.
    missing is the fact of numerous observations of improvement in calcification of disparate marine life in realistic rates of PH change due to increased CO2.
    “In the final graphical representations of the information contained in our Ocean Acidification Database, we have plotted the averages of all responses to seawater acidification (produced by additions of both HCl and CO2) for all five of the life characteristics of the various marine organisms that we have analyzed over the five pH reduction ranges that we discuss in our Description of the Ocean Acidification Database Tables, which pH ranges we illustrate in the figure below.”

    “The most striking feature of Figure 11 is the great preponderance of data located in positive territory, which suggests that, on the whole, marine organisms likely will not be harmed to any significant degree by the expected decline in oceanic pH. If anything, in fact, the results suggest that the world’s marine life may actually slightly benefit from the pH decline, which latter possibility is further borne out by the scatter plot of all the experimental data pertaining to all life characteristic categories over the same pH decline range, as shown below in Figure 12.”

    At PH decline from control of .125, calcification, metabolism, fertility, growth and survival all moved into positive territory.


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