Anoxic Anxiety

December 13, 2009

Nearly in a near-panic.

Wikipedia: Oceanic anoxic events or anoxic events occur when the Earth’s oceans become completely depleted of oxygen (O2) below the surface levels.
Although anoxic events have not happened for millions of years, the geological record shows that they happened many times in the past.
Anoxic events may have caused mass extinctions.
These mass extinctions were so characteristic they include some of those which geobiologists employ to serve as a time marker in biostratigraphic dating.
It is believed oceanic anoxic events are strongly linked to lapses in key oceanic current circulations, to climate warming and greenhouse gases.

(Illustration: ‘Manatee In The Sea Grass‘ by Joann Shular found here).

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen: The Associated Press reports that the protests — which attracted 40,000 to 100,000 people, depending on the source — were “mostly peaceful.”
Peoples from 194 nations are meeting under the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change and despite all the hub-bub outside on the streets, early reports indicate not much has been accomplished other than the rich are still being assholes.
Also reportedly this week the climate talks will become dramatic as more activists and a shitload of world leaders (President Obama is scheduled for Friday — closing day), US congress-people, journalists and all kinds of other types will be trying to take up space at the conference.
And drama kicked-off today — climate science is serious as a heart-attack.
From DeSmogBlog:

During a live primetime climate-debate broadcasted on Danish national TV one of the participators, climate-skeptic scientist Henrik Svensmark, had a heart attack.
Bjorn Lomborg was by his side in the tv-studio when the scientist mid-sentence fell ill.
THe 41 year old Henrik Svensmark made an awkward spasm/shudder and burst out a strange noise, sounding like a cough.
The other participants in the debate looked baffled and he mumbled:
“It’s my heart,” and fell to the ground and the pacemaker kicked in once more and you could hear him scream. Bjrøn Lomborg yelled “call an ambulance, call an ambulance” and the host and the other participants came over to help the man.

Svensmark is supposedly one of the “sunspots and cosmic rays, not humans, cause global warming” kind of guys — a point reportedly refuted by the science.
And along with global warming, the “evil twin of climate change” –  ocean acidification — is apparently getting worse as a report released to the conference implied, although the CO2-related phenomenon doesn’t get much press.
The study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) paints another bleak picture for the earth’s environment.
From the UK’s The Guardian on the report:

Ocean acidification — the facts says that acidity in the seas has increased 30% since the start of the industrial revolution.
Many of the effects of this acidification are already irreversible and are expected to accelerate, according to the scientists.

Although oceans have acidified naturally in the past, the current rate of acidification is so fast that it is becoming extremely difficult for species and habitats to adapt.
“We’re counting it in decades, and that’s the real take-home message,” said Dr John Baxter a senior scientist with Scottish Natural Heritage, and the report’s co-author. “This is happening fast.”
The report, published by the EU-funded European Project on Ocean Acidification, a consortium of 27 research institutes and environment agencies, states that the survival of a number of marine species is affected or threatened, in ways not recognised and understood until now.

And also from the UK and today’s timesonline:

Ocean acidification has been quite scandalously left out of the reckoning in the past few weeks.
I am not for a moment belittling the science behind man-made global warming. This still seems to me solid, despite the shenanigans at the University of East Anglia (“climategate”).
That levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are rising is not disputed. We have known since the 19th century that carbon dioxide was a crucial greenhouse gas. Venus has a lot of it and is hot as hell. Mars has almost none and is cold as ice.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in about 1750, sea water acidity has increased by 30%.
The speed and degree of this change are faster than anything that had happened for 55m years.
The changes being observed are beginning to disrupt the ability of any organism to make shells out of calcium carbonate.
Organisms that do this include corals, crabs, lobsters, small creatures vital to the diet of fish and plankton of the kind that die and form chalk deposits such as the white cliffs of Dover.
Projections show that by 2060, given the current rate of fossil-fuel emissions, sea water acidity could have increased by 120%.

Such an effect could trigger a chain of reactions through entire ecosystems, from whales to fish and shellfish, with huge implications for economies and wildlife.
It could even stop the sea absorbing as much carbon dioxide as it does now, accelerating global warming.
It is pretty scary stuff.

In a hearing Dec. 2, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), testified before the Senate Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming about seawater acidity and it’s consequences, which is also pretty scary stuff.
Read a comprehensive look at the current state of ocean acidification here.

Time to do something appears to have been yesterday.

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