Forget global warming -- carbonic acid could spell curtains
When we think of acid we may think of acetic acid (vinegar), battery acid (sulfuric), and even ascorbic acid (vitamin C), the last of which is used as a preservative and puts the zing in certain candies kids love. But chances are, we dont think of carbonic acid, the result of the ionization of CO2, which puts the bite in carbonated drinks. Yet carbonic acid could well mean the end of the human race.
Whether you believe that global warming is a man-made phenomenon or a natural cycle of earths evolving climate changes, one issue is certain and alarming. Its the impact of carbonic acid, the acidification of the oceans because of CO2 emissions. Since the Industrial Revolution began, the production of CO2 through the burning of fossil fuels has increased enormously and about a third of it has been absorbed by the oceans. Were talking millions of tons.
KILLING SEA CREATURES
When CO2 is absorbed in water it ionizes. In the sea the result is a change in the Ph and a carbonizing of the water.
The trouble is, in an acidic solution, certain creatures cannot build their calcium shells. Corals are built of calcium deposits, and the acidification of the sea means a deterioration of the barrier reefs some islands depend on for their defense against storms. Coral reefs are also the home of fish that island people depend on for their livelihood. In fact, coral reefs are also the habitat of millions of sea creatures. No coral, no critters.
Other creatures that must build shells of calcium are marine plankton and shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, scallops, mussels, clams, sea urchins, and crabs. Marine plankton are, of course, the food for some whales.
Other affected creatures are sea snails called pteropods. Shelled pteropods are what are eaten by salmon, mackerel, herring, and cod.
KILLING THE FOOD CHAIN
What were talking about here is the base of the food chain we are a part of. Loss of those tiny critters because of acidification means the loss of the foods we eat.
We have already seen the effects of acid rain on the lakes in the Adirondacks of New York State. That acid came from sulfur dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants and diesel exhaust turning into sulfuric acid. Those lakes became sterile: clear acidic water where nothing lived. Cleaning up diesel fuel and scrubbing smokestacks reduced acid rain, but there seems to be no stopping the impact of CO2.
Its not just CO2 as a greenhouse gas thats the issue or its alleged impact on global warming. Its about what we eat. Over a million species of sea creatures are affected by the acidification of the sea.
There is a wealth of information on this subject available on the Internet. There are conferences, scientific papers and a three year grant you can apply for. Documentary films including Acid Test, and Planet Green series Blue August. offer warnings. Download these films and imagine an ocean without fish.
Can this acidification be reversed? The damage has been sneaking up on us for a long time, increasing ever since steam engines began burning coal. Now China is building a coal-fired power plant every week.
When it comes to CO2 emissions there is no such thing as clean coal. Schemes to pump smoke stack gasses into the earth can never counteract a couple of centuries of emissions. In spite of the introduction of hybrid automobiles to reduce the need for foreign oil, and consequently less CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, every human activity produces more CO2.. If you heat your home with gas, wood, or oil, you produce more CO2. If you are on the grid, your electric power probably comes from coal or gas-fired power plants. Burning biomass is still combustion and produces CO2. Even when you exhale you produce CO2.
How much more can the oceans absorb? We hope it is not too late. Dont hold your breath.
Visit the web site www.hu.mtu.edu/~hlsachs where you can listen to two stories, read a third, read reviews, and find links to the publishers of my books.