Global Warming's Evil Twin: Ocean Acidification - A Present And Measurable Danger

acid ocean sos photo

Acid ocean "SOS." Image credit:Alaska Marine Conservation Council

US EPA has decided to consider ways that US states can, under already delegated authorities, curb pollutants that may otherwise add to the power of global warming's evil twin: Ocean Acidification. (Note: many US States regulate stack emissions to reduce acid rain and also have the delegated Federal authority to limit the acidity of effluent discharges within their boundaries. So, this would be an extension of State's rights, by interpretation of existing Federal and State laws & regulations.)

Attention climate skeptics and deniers!
No computer model is needed to see the Evil Twin at work: his present effects are measurable. For details and context please see Worsening Marine Carbon Bomb Effects Confirmed In 15-Year Study Of Northern Pacific Ocean

'What's the danger ' you ask? I get to that down post.Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the full story on EPA's deliberations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it will consider ways in which the states can address rising acidity levels of the oceans, which pose a serious threat to shellfish and other marine life.

The agency's decision was announced in a legal settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity. The environmental group sued the EPA last year for not requiring Washington state to list its coastal waters as impaired by rising acidity under the Clean Water Act.

Naturally, an oil industry trade group was opposed to this action.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents hundreds of oil and gas companies, sought unsuccessfully to intervene in the lawsuit. It claimed that its members have refineries in Washington state whose permits under the Clean Water Act to discharge wastewater off Washington's coast could be affected by the lawsuit's outcome
What's the danger, then?
This for perspective. Perhaps you remember VP Cheney's '1% rule," 1% being the perceived chance of a terrorist attack that he'd need to take overseas the fight against terrorism? Well, ocean acidification has passed the 100% risk threshold for continuing acidification on US shores.

As mentioned above, see Worsening Marine Carbon Bomb Effects Confirmed In 15-Year Study Of Northern Pacific Ocean for details.

What's the long-term worst-case, radical scenario for ocean acidification?
The Blue Screen of Death Scenario, to make a Windows- crash analogy, would be ecosystem 'reboot' - maybe in 20 years; maybe in 120; maybe in 220. As Russ George, when asked by me to do this, speculated wildly :

Blue green algae owned and operated this planet for billions of years until 600 million years ago when the greens evolved, produced abundant oxygen etc. etc., and all the rest of us (animal life) evolved. The blue greens are and remain the root level operating ecosystem on this blue planet though they've been conveniently balanced for the past 600 million years with the rest of us.

Here's a report [Killer algae a key player in mass extinctions] that suggests the blue-green algae were responsible for the five previous mass extinctions. While these geologists add toxic characteristics of blue greens to the cause that is hardly necessary as the simple ecological shift to a cyanobacterial sea is more than sufficient to collapse and reboot the ecosystem.

The Blue-Screen-Of-Death scenario for world oceans would be as follows:

  • Blue greens grow wildly in response to environmental shifts using, as they like to do, photosynthesis for their Jekyllian exponential growth.

  • They run the system down in nutrients, then they simply switch to their Hydeian anaerobic alter ego where upon they suck oxygen out of the system in one monstrous moment of cannibalistic excess.

  • It's a classic buffer overflow error we are so familiar with in our operating systems, only thing is that this operating system doesn't have a back-up. It takes 600 million years of evolution to rewrite the code.

Evil twin indeed.

As for the intermediate scenario - somewhere between the present and the BSOD scenario described above - I leave that up to your imagination and to the researchers who are already grappling with it.

Important background post.
"Carbon Bomb" Detonating Megatons Per Day, Acidifying The World's Oceans