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Marine Scientists Issue Monaco Declaration Calling for Immediate Action to Reduce Ocean Acidification

Henderson
Projected spread of acidification of the oceans from 1994 (left) to 2100 (right). Green areas indicate waters supersaturated with aragonite carbonate and favoring shell formation, with darker color indicating more favorable conditions. Red areas are those where waters are under-saturated in aragonite and so hostile to shell formation by marine organisms, with darker color indicating greater under-saturation. Source: ACECRC. Click to enlarge.

More than 150 leading marine scientists from 26 countries are calling for immediate action by policymakers to reduce CO2 emissions sharply so as to avoid widespread and severe damage to marine ecosystems from increasing ocean acidification—the “other CO2 problem”. They issued this warning in the Monaco Declaration, released on 30 January.

The scientists note that ocean acidification is already detectable, and that it is accelerating. They caution that its negative socio-economic impacts can only be avoided by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels.

The Monaco Declaration is based on the Research Priorities Report developed by participants at last October’s 2nd international symposium on The Ocean in a High-CO2 World, organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP), with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and several other partners.

The chemistry is so fundamental and changes so rapid and severe that impacts on organisms appear unavoidable. The questions are now how bad will it be and how soon will it happen. The report from the symposium summarizes the state of the science and priorities for future research, while the Monaco Declaration implores political leaders to launch urgent actions to limit the source of the problem.

—James Orr, Marine Environment Laboratories (MEL-IAEA) and chairman of the symposium

The ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere at a rate of more than 20 million tons per day, thus removing one-fourth of the anthropogenic CO2 emitted to the atmosphere each year and reducing the climate-change impacts of this greenhouse gas. However, when CO2 dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid. As this “ocean acidification” continues, it decreases both ocean pH and the concentration of carbonate ion, the basic building block of the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms.

The rate of current acidification is much more rapid that past natural changes. Surface ocean pH has already dropped by 0.1 units since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This rate of acidification has not been experienced by marine organisms, including reef-building corals, for many millions of years, notes the Research Priorities report. The future chemical changes that will occur in the ocean as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2 are highly predictable.

Across the range of IPCC SRES scenarios, surface ocean pH is projected to decrease by 0.4 ± 0.1 pH units by 2100 relative to preindustrial conditions (Meehl et al, 2007). A previous natural ocean acidification event that occurred approximately 55 million years ago at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is linked to mass extinctions of some calcareous marine organisms (Zachos et al., 2004). After the PETM’s relatively rapid onset of acidification, which could have lasted for many centuries or millennia, it exhibited a slow recovery period that spanned millions of years.

Today’s anthropogenic “acidification event” differs because it is human-induced and because it may be occurring much more rapidly. Previous natural acidification events may have been associated with the five major coral mass extinction events that are known to have occurred during Earth’s history (Veron, 2008). Recovery from the current large, rapid, human-induced perturbation, if left unchecked, will require thousands of years for the Earth system to reestablish even roughly similar ocean chemistry (Archer, 2005; Montenegro et al., 2007; Tyrrell et al., 2007; Archer and Brovkin, 2008), and from hundreds of thousands to millions of years for coral reefs to be reestablished, based on past records of natural coral-reef extinction events (Veron, 2008).

—“Research Priorities”

According to the experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050 if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase. It could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

The Monaco Declaration is a clear statement from this expert group of marine scientists that ocean acidification is happening fast and highlights the critical importance of documenting associated changes to marine life.

—Professor Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP)

The Declaration urges policymakers around the world to develop ambitious, urgent plans to cut CO2 emissions drastically to prevent severe damages from ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification can be controlled only by limiting future atmospheric CO2 levels. So-called geo-engineering strategies that would not aim to restrict future atmospheric CO2 concentrations would not reduce ocean acidification. Mitigation strategies that aim to transfer CO2 to the ocean, for example by direct deepsea disposal of CO2 or by fertilizing the ocean to stimulate biological productivity, would enhance ocean acidification in some areas while reducing it in others.

Climate-change negotiations focused on stabilizing greenhouse gases must consider not only the total radiation balance; they must also consider atmospheric CO2 as a pollutant, an acid gas whose release to the atmosphere must be curtailed in order to limit ocean acidification. Hence, limits (stabilization targets) for atmospheric CO2 defined based on ocean acidification may differ from those based on surface temperature increases and climate change.

—Monaco Declaration

In a paper in the journal Science published in July 2008, a team of researchers warned that the ecological and economic consequences of ocean acidification are difficult to predict but possibly calamitous, and that halting the changes already underway will likely require even steeper cuts in carbon emissions than those currently proposed to curb climate change. (Earlier post.)

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Comments

Stan Peterson

The Oceans are basic and will remain so. If you took all the he atmosphere and dissolved it into the Oceans, it wouldn't move the Oceans to much less basic. Its like trying empty the Ocean with a little child's plastic bucket on the Beach.

The Goracle

"Calling for Immediate Action..."

Has anyone else noticed that the calls for government takeover of this and that are always "urgent?" That we can't survive (everyone - please panic and head straight to your government for a solution) without immediate action. It's too bad that the "scientists" who make $$$$$ from these proclamations haven't heard the tale of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

We were supposed to have been hit by more frequent, much larger, much WORSE, hurricanes (we're all gonna DIE!!!) due to Global Warming® (now repackaged as Climate Change®). The opposite has happened. The shrill cries of DOOM(!!!) that do not come to fruition are littered along the road to Global Warming® (now rebranded Climate Change®).

Please stop wasting everyone's time and money with these false proclamations. Possibly, get a real job where results matter.

.

Nat Pearre

"If you took all the he atmosphere and dissolved it into the Oceans, it wouldn't move the Oceans to much less basic."

Wow, thank goodness. I was worried there for a second, but am not much relieved to know for a fact that we're quite safe.

By the way... how much lower would the pH be Stan?

Reel$$

Seeing that Dr. James (Gloom and Doom) Hanson has just been publicly rebuked by his former NASA boss - there is little the AGW cult can do but slink away in shame.

http://tinyurl.com/aawoj5

We have said many times now that the loss of credibility by the global warming cult has so damaged their reputation that NO ONE believes a word of anything they say these days. The unfortunate result of grandiosity and hubris consuming the priests of grandiosity and hubris.

dursun

The usual suspects will pooh-pooh this because Reality has a well known Liberal bias.

Andrey Levin

According to renowned geologist scientist Tom V. Segalstad

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Segalstad

“… for an atmospheric doubling of CO2, there will have to be supplied 50 times more CO2 to the ocean to obtain chemical equilibrium. This total of 51 times the present amount of atmospheric CO2 carbon is more than the known reserves of fossil carbon”

Due to enormous ability of chemicals dissolved in ocean water to buffer adsorbed carbon dioxide:

http://folk.uio.no/tomvs/esef/esef0.htm


Stan Peterson

If all that happened was the CO2 dissolves into the oceans, acidification might be a problem. Except that is not all that happens. Marine life uses the CO2 to make their bodies and their shells, thereby removing some of the dissolved CO2.

Then these organisms die and drift to the abyssal depths as a gentle "bio-rain" like a gentle manna from the surface layers feeding many creatures on the way down. The intermediate depth creatures eat the bio-rain, live and eventually die, their bodies re-added to the bio-rain to even lower depths, where a similar but lower depth cycle repeats etc.

At one time as late as the early 1990s the carbon from dead marine life, aka the gentle "bio-rain", was thought to simply accumulate and saturate on the abyssal seabeds. Then was expected to re-enter the upper biosphere getting up-swept by current upwelling with a total cycle transit from ocean surface to abyssal seabed and back of perhaps a few hundred to a few thousand years. But such is not entirely the case.

Recent Science findings of the abyssal muds and core drillings below those muds, that reveal wholly unknown amounts of life. That life was slow growing, but that was so prolific that it is now estimated to be equal to 30-50% of ALL the life on the planet Earth, by weight. Astoundingly this life consisting of anaerobic bacteria that have retreated there and live as deep as several miles below the abyssal seabed, in living rock. They sit there consuming the Carbon making themselves and also excreting certain carbon biochemicals, that is trapped in the living rock. That carbon is fixed and trapped there for millions of years, not a mere few hundred years.

Their waste product is something that we know well. Its even as a name many have heard of called "Petroleum", or "Oil".

So the carbon dioxide dissolving into the Oceans does not just sit there making carbonic acid, and acidifying the Oceans. It begins to take take a long journey into the sub seabed rocks and seldom re-enters the upper biosphere except as things we call "oil seeps".

All this is, is a clarion call for money for these earnest fellows, by creating a hysterical reaction of impending doom.
Corals evolved in a sea of less basic properties 400 million years ago, and did fine. So did the animals with carbonate shells.

It is Nonsense.

jcwinnie

The world is my dustbin
I shall not want for green pastures

Reel$$

Kyoto. Bali. Monaco. Using someone else's money to attend conferences is hard work!

Nat Pearre

Stan Peterson:

You are a very cleaver debater. You have mixed plenty of good science with some interesting speculation and some totally unrelated conclusions, and blended it all quite seamlessly together.

-'Bio rain' is well known and well documented, though more commonly called marine snow (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_snow).

-The microorganisms digesting this detritus into oil is the kind of conjecture for which there is far LESS evidence than there is for AGW. I'm not saying it's not credible, even likely, just that it is not proven.

-From the postulation about this mechanism you then conclude that ocean acidification is not a problem and that critters with exoskeletons will love it.

As far as your claim that the evolution of corals took place in lower alkalinity that there is currently, I can find very little information of that subject. Insofar as atmospheric CO2 in correlated with global temperature (an assumption you may not which to make), there were dramatic swings in temperature during the ordovician period (http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm), but at half a billion years ago we are talking about a time when the whole chemistry of the atmosphere was still in much more dramatic flux than it has been since. If you have a citation for your claim I would love to read it.

I also can't help to point out that the clarion call these scientists were making was for action on CO2 emissions, NOT for funding for more studies.

aussieniel

@ Nat Pearre and Dumsun

You’re obvious ignorance about affect on the Earth’s biomes from Global CO2 gassing knows no bounds. To answer you’re problem with piousness and grandiose of one scientist I won’t mention, and the fact that no one is listening I’ll say this. This guy hasn’t started to explain the severity and utter urgency of the situation we have, that you are blissfully unaware of. No single generation of humans is going to wipe out the Earth in one year or a century. But why should our descendants have to pay the ultimate price for environmental stupidity in the twenty first. I live in Australia where 60 people have died this year already from heat stress, during a period of successive days over 40 degrees C that has never been recorded. Parts of the rest of Australia either in flood or fire threatened.

And to the idea of the world’s oceans as some sort of massive chemical experiment…Lets see if we can analyse it. Try and sink as much CO2 as we can and see what reaction we get without using all our known reserves. Yeah…right.
Don’t think about the worlds southern ocean fish stocks that some how rely on plankton organisms to live, or coral reefs, of rocky reefs or sea grass beds, or mangroves, everglades. Don’t mention that CO2 added to water produces carbonic acid or something similar. So if we add enough CO2 we should acidify the oceans nicely. Oh, and what are plankton and coral organisms made of …Calcium carbonate or something. You do the Chemistry. We can live without fish. So after all this happens we have a similar Earth that existed pre dinosaur extinction times. This gives you dead Oceans, a massive built up of dead planktonic and sea life matter and formation of sulphur dioxide, and other deadly gases across the entire planet. Sounds like a great place to have a holiday. Shame because we can’t take a trip to another planet, we haven’t built an atmosphere on it yet. Do you think humans would qualify for the task?

Kit P

Well Nat, you too are a very good debater. While inferring that Stan was wrong, you did not actually present any information. I suppose that if Nat reads a press release that used the term “ocean acidification” he would assume that it is valid terminology rather than fear mongering jargon.

Unlike fresh water, the ocean is an alkaline system that readily buffers the addition of a weak acid.

“surface ocean pH is projected to decrease by 0.4 ± 0.1 pH units by 2100”

What that mean? Nothing actually when compared to the natural variation by location and time of years. The climate has been relatively stable for the last 40 millions years relative to weather. I think the folks in Canada will have no trouble adapting a slight warming. During normal conditions Canada does not exist. Just land mass covered with ice.

aussieniel

I still think Stan is treating natural marine ecosystems as an experiment that can be controlled. Yes, salt water is a weak buffer. What happens when you break though a buffer concentration? Complete pH collapse. other points to consider...
1) Very small changes in pH has a huge effect on concentration; e.g. pH 3 is 1000x stronger than ph 5 ; basic science.
2) The transfer of CO2 to marine environs involves very complex physical and biological processes. Ocean surface water is a highly dynamic process that could take decades to analyse what is happening. You could not determine affects accurately for at least a decade. By the time you have concrete evidence it will probably be too late to prevent loss of sea life that is a major carbon sink. By which time human-sourced carbon has become much worse.
3)To assume that one generalised pH concentration for all oceans and seas is acceptable for all marine life without considering all micro-nutrient levels in seawater is laughable.
4) Critical to the shell formation of many plankton and larger crustacea is Aragonite. It helps form calcium carbonate shell. This shell is thinned by slightly acidic water. This would result in falling populations of all sea-life connected though food chains. We could be messing with evolution that has preexisted us by millions of years. We could collapse it in a century. Try some research ; Google CSIRO.au resources.

frflyer

Stan and others with their unsubstantiated simplistic comments.

You have no idea what you are talking about.
Read the book "The Carbon Age" by EricRoston, a fascinating book about carbon and how unique and vital it is to all that we know of planet earth and it's lifeforms.

The acidification is a scientific fact. Do you honestly think you are smarter than the thousands of scientsts who did these studies?

You are listening to ignorant urban legends about global warming, not science. The evidence is overwhelming, the consensus is overwhelming. A poll of scientsts found that 80% agree with AGW. What's really telling is that 97% of active climate scientists agree with AGW theory. But we should listen to your nonsense that has not a shred of evidence?

I've got bad news for your govt science is bad science theory. Most basic research in every branch of science gets govt funding. Somehow we are supposed to believe your cockamamie conspiracy theory of govt scientists gone wild in some dark conspiracy to raise taxes, bring on communism, and one world govt is clear thinking. Yet you completely ignore or defend the disinformation campaign against science and reason that is funded by the largest economic enterprise in the history of the world, and the one entity with the most to lose in a shift to clean energy and efficiency--the fossil fuel industry. It's one of the largest propaganda campaigns in history and has managed to fool you and many others, tragically.

The micro-organisms that fall to the sea floor are one of the largest carbon sinks on earth, removing carbon from the carbon cycle and locking it away, as someone mentioned.
They are shell bearing algae, called cocolithophores, that need seawater at a certain pH to make their shells. It's the shells that drop to the sea floor removing the carbon. But contrary to what the other commentor said, this is a big problem, because ocean acidification threatens their existance. They have been helping to keep the carbon cycle in a balance that is required for life as we know it for at least 50 million years.

According to the new book "The Carbon Age" by Eric Roston:

"Humans have sped up the global carbon cycle at least one hundred times faster than usual, transforming the world into one that we eventually might not recognize as our own.
Manmade global warming is a geological aberration, nearly meteoric in speed."

And here's why.

It took 60 million years for coal to develop in the earth, from carbon accumulating, by precipitating out of the carbon cycle, and being locked away in coal deposits. Now we are releasing this 60 million year accumulation in 150-200 years, or a geological nanosecond.
I would like a skeptic to explain how this is part of a natural cycle, or is anything like any natural cycle that the earth has been through before. I mean ones that didn’t wipe out 90% of life on the planet.

It is unprecedented.

And life as we know it has survived in a fairly narrow range of balance in the carbon cycle.
This is science, not the fantasy some of you believe.

You are just parroting denier arguments that you don't understand. That's what the denier propagana PR dressed up like science wants you to do. They know you can't tell the difference. They are counting on that.


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