Thursday, February 27, 2014

Signs of the Times: acid ocean killing commercial fishery??

          Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the fizz in the beer (everybody likes beer!), the rise in yeast (everybody loves crunchies and bread) and, as global warming "sceptics" like to claim, "CO2 is plant food". Plant food it might be but, like good ol salt, too much of a good thing can kill ya.. (another of those things the "sceptics" didn't tell ya..)

            CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rising due primarily to industrial activity and forest cutting. The CO2 in the air tends to exist in equilibrium with that dissolved in sea water. At equilibrium the number of CO2 molecules leaving a given surface area of sea water is balanced by the number of CO2 molecules dissolving in the water. If we add CO2 to the air there is more "pressure" on the side of the air and so more molecules will enter the water than leave it, till a new equilibrium is established.

             A bit of the CO2 that enters seawater is turned into a weak acid, carbonic acid (not toxic - gives the tang to beer and pop):

            CO2 + H2O --> H2CO3

            and some of the carbonic acid dissociates into electrically charged ions or radicals:

            H2CO3 + H2O--> H3O(+) + HCO3 (-)

            The H3O thingy ("hydronium ion") is the gold standard of acidity. Since carbonic acid is a weak acid, there aren't too many hydronium ions. But nature is a system of balances which have co-evolved together over time. Putting too many hydronium ions in sea water is not good. The water becomes too acid for sea life to survive. Some forms of life, including photosynthetic plankton which form the base of ocean food web, possess shells. These shells will dissolve or not properly form if seawater is too acid.

           What will happen? At the least, the result will be a loss of livelihood for fisherfolk. At the limit, if ocean ecosystems collapse, people highly dependent upon ocean fisheries will starve. Simple as that. No brainer..

           This stuff is scary! "Never before seen" levels of CO2 in the water column. 95% of an annual crop of scallops in British Columbia wiped out - just gone. (In past centuries that would be called "famine".)

            In the video above, the feds hypocritically state they are looking into things. Really? Are they really looking well.. I mean all those cuts to federally funded science.. shouldn't those cuts hinder, well.., the capacity of government scientists to do their job protecting the public from environmental hazards and all that? 

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