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Veron: The end is in sight for the worlds coral reefs

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"Veron: The end is in sight for the worlds coral reefs"

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Reefs are the ocean’s canaries and we must hear their call. This call is not just for themselves, for the other great ecosystems of the ocean stand behind reefs like a row of dominoes. If coral reefs fail, the rest will follow in rapid succession, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will be upon us “” and will be of our making.

When J.E.N. Veron speaks, we all should listen.  Veron is the former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.  He is principal author of 8 monographs and more than 70 scientific articles on the taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, and the fossil record of corals.  His books include the three-volume Corals of the World and A Reef in Time: The Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End (2008).  His research has taken him to all the major coral reef regions of the world during 66 expeditions.

In a Yale e360 piece reprinted below, Veron explains that “the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth’s coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children’s lifetimes.”

Over the past decades, there have dozens of articles in the media describing dire futures for coral reefs. In the 1960s and ’70s, we were informed that many reefs were being consumed by a voracious coral predator, the crown-of-thorns starfish. In the 1980s and ’90s, although these starfish still reared their thorny heads from time to time, the principal threats had moved on “” to sediment runoff, nutrients, overfishing, and general habitat destruction.

For me, an Australian marine scientist who has spent the past 40 years working on reefs the world over, these threats were of real concern, but their implications were limited in time or in space or both. Although crown-of-thorns starfish can certainly devastate reefs, the impacts of sediments, nutrients and habitat loss have usually been of greater concern, and I have been repeatedly shocked by the destruction I have witnessed. However, nothing comes close to the devastation waiting in the wings at the moment.

You may well feel that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerations. You may think there may be something in it to worry about, but it won’t be as bad as doomsayers like me are predicting. This view is understandable given that only a few decades ago I, myself, would have thought it ridiculous to imagine that reefs might have a limited lifespan on Earth as a consequence of human actions. It would have seemed preposterous that, for example, the Great Barrier Reef “” the biggest structure ever made by life on Earth “” could be mortally threatened by any present or foreseeable environmental change.  Yet here I am today, humbled to have spent the most productive scientific years of my life around the rich wonders of the underwater world, and utterly convinced that they will not be there for our children’s children to enjoy unless we drastically change our priorities and the way we live.  A decade ago, my increasing concern for the plight of reefs in the face of global temperature changes led me to start researching the effects of climate change on reefs, drawing on my experience in reef science, evolution, biodiversity, genetics, and conservation, as well as my profound interests in geology, palaeontology, and oceanography, not to mention the challenging task of understanding the climate science, geochemical processes, and ocean chemistry.

http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/067403497X.01._SX220_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpgWhen I started researching my book, A Reef in Time: The Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End (Harvard, 2008), I knew that climate change was likely to have serious consequences for coral reefs. But the big picture that gradually emerged from my integration of these disparate disciplines left me shocked to the core.

In a long period of deep personal anguish, I turned to specialists in many different fields of science to find anything that might suggest a fault in my own conclusions. But in this quest I was depressingly unsuccessful. The bottom line remains: Science argues that coral reefs can indeed be utterly trashed in the lifetime of today’s children. That certainty is what motivates me to spread this message as clearly, and accurately, as I can.

So what are the issues? Most readers will know that there have been several major episodes of mass bleaching on major reef areas worldwide over the past 20 years. In the late-1980s when the first mass bleaching occurred, there was a great deal of concern among reef scientists and conservation organizations, but the phenomenon had no clear explanation. Since then, the number and frequency of mass bleachings have increased and sparked widespread research efforts.

Corals have an intimate symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae, zooxanthellae, which live in their cells and provide the photosynthetic fuel for them to grow and reefs to form. The research showed that this relationship can be surprisingly fragile if corals are exposed to high light conditions at the same time as above-normal water temperatures, because the algae produce toxic levels of oxygen, and excessive levels of oxygen are toxic to most animal life. Under these conditions, corals must expel the zooxanthellae, bleach, and probably die or succumb to the toxin and definitely die. A tough choice, one they have not had to make at any time in their long genetic history.

We tend to think of temperature in terms of our day-to-day comfort level. We don’t have to be told that atmospheric temperature shows huge swings and variations from day to night, among seasons, and cyclically on other scales. Early critics of global warming used this variability to argue that there was no evidence for overall thermal increases. This missed the point and delayed our recognition of the true problem because atmospheric temperature is only a minor part of the Earth’s thermal picture.

Bleached coral communityBy far the most important mobile heat sinks on the planet are the oceans. As the greenhouse effect from elevated CO2 has increased, the oceans have absorbed more heat. The surface layers are affected most as mixing to the depths can take hundreds of years. Large ocean masses such as the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool do not continue to warm further, but rather they broaden and deepen. Now they commonly become so large that their outer edges are pulsed onto the continental margins, where waters are warmed further. This creates the mortal dilemma for corals “” to expel or not to expel their oxygen-producing zooxanthellae.

Ecosystems can recover from all sorts of abuse, and coral reefs are no exception. Good recoveries from bleaching have been observed, provided that further events do not occur while the ecosystem is re-establishing. Unfortunately, there are no signs that greenhouse gas increases are moderating, and so we can assume that the frequency and severity of bleaching events will continue to increase “” on our present course, the worst bleaching year we have had to date will be an average year by 2030, and a good year by 2050. Ocean and atmospheric rises in temperature are also predicted to increase the severity of cyclones, which will add an extra burden on the recovery process.

Scientists don’t need a pocket calculator to conclude that compressing the time periods between events in this way will prevent recovery: If we do not take action, the only corals not affected by mass bleaching by 2050 will be those hiding in refuges away from strong sunlight.

But there is more bad news. A decade or so ago, we thought that mass bleaching was the most serious threat to coral reefs. How wrong we were. It is clear now that there is a much more serious crisis on the horizon “” that of ocean acidification. This will not only affect coral reefs (although reefs will be hit particularly hard), but will impact all marine ecosystems. The ultimate culprit is still CO2 but the mechanism is very different.

Normally there is a balance between CO2 in the atmosphere and its derivatives in surface waters of the ocean. As with temperature, the oceans act as a huge repository, absorbing and buffering any excess CO2 in the atmosphere. For this process to be efficient the oceans must have time for mixing to occur between its different layers, renewing the surface buffers from below. When CO2 increases too rapidly, these chemical reactions can falter, altering the balance of the buffers and gradually allowing the oceans to become less alkaline.

All organisms that produce calcium carbonate skeletons (including shells, crabs, sea urchins, corals, coralline algae, calcareous phytoplankton, and many others) depend on their ability to deposit calcium carbonate, and this process is largely controlled by the prevailing water chemistry. As alkalinity decreases, precipitation of calcium carbonate becomes more and more difficult until eventually it is inhibited altogether. The potential consequences of such acidification are nothing less than catastrophic.

In my book, I examine the events that led up to each of the five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Corals offer a unique insight into the past, both because they have been around for most of the history of life on Earth and also because they readily fossilize. I examine the theories offered to explain these global extinctions and find that ocean acidification is the only explanation which fits the evidence well. Ocean acidification has played a major part in the marine devastations which took place in those ancient times.

A particularly galling aspect of the past four mass extinction events (very little is known about the first) is that, following them, reefs disappeared “” not just for a few tens of thousands of years, but for millions of years “” long after adverse climatic conditions may have returned to benign levels. One of the characteristics of acidification is that while it can be initiated by high CO2 levels over relatively short periods, there are no short-term geochemical fixes to reverse the process. Reversal can take place only through the immensely slow weathering and dissolution processes of geological time, processes that take hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

Ocean physics dictates that we will observe the effects of acidification in colder and deeper waters before it spreads to shallower tropical climes. The early stages of acidification have now been detected in the Southern Ocean and, surprisingly perhaps, in tropical corals. On our current trajectory of increasing atmospheric CO2, we can expect that by 2030 to 2050 the acidification process will be affecting all the oceans of the world to some degree. At that point, the relatively cool, deep-water tropical regions that have offered refuges to corals from temperature stress will be those most affected by acidification.

No doubt different species of coral, coralline algae, plankton, and mollusks will show different tolerances, and their capacity to calcify will decline at different rates. But as acidification progresses, they will all suffer from some form of coralline osteoporosis. The result will be that corals will no longer be able to build reefs or maintain them against the forces of erosion. What were once thriving coral gardens that supported the greatest biodiversity of the marine realm will become red-black bacterial slime, and they will stay that way.

Another concept of great importance is that of commitment “” a word climatologists use only too often. Many of the consequences of our current actions cannot yet be seen, and yet the Earth is already committed to their path. This delayed reaction is due to the inertia of the oceans, both thermal and chemical. The greenhouse gases we produce today will take a number of decades (and sometimes more) to unleash their full fury, but their effects are unavoidable and unstoppable. We cannot afford to wait until the predictions of science can be totally verified, because by that time it will be too late. How many of us wish to explain to our children and children’s children that the predictions were there but we wanted confirmation?

Coral reefs speak unambiguously about climate change. They survived Ice Age sea-level changes of 120 meters or more with impunity. They once survived in a world where CO2 from volcanoes and methane was much higher than anything predicted today. But that was over 40 million years ago, and the increase took place over millions of years, not just a few decades, time enough for ocean equilibration to take place and marine life to adapt.

This is not what is happening today. Ponder these facts: The atmospheric levels of CO2 we are already committed to reach, no matter what mitigation is now implemented, have no equal over the entire longevity of the Great Barrier Reef, perhaps 25 million years. And most significantly, the rate of CO2 increase we are now experiencing has no precedent in all known geological history.

Reefs are the ocean’s canaries and we must hear their call. This call is not just for themselves, for the other great ecosystems of the ocean stand behind reefs like a row of dominoes. If coral reefs fail, the rest will follow in rapid succession, and the Sixth Mass Extinction will be upon us “” and will be of our making.

- J.E.N. Veron

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55 Responses to Veron: The end is in sight for the worlds coral reefs

  1. Mike says:

    A very profound assessment. It would good if there could be a followup on the implications for humans. Many people think of coral reefs as nice tourist destinations, but know little about their other economic uses and productivity.

    http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_economy.html
    http://www.reefbase.org/resource_center/publication/pub_12370.aspx
    http://www.wri.org/stories/2010/06/qa-economics-coral-reefs
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/esr/wpaper/wp282.html
    http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Essays-Economics-Coral-Reefs/dp/9197395900

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    If anyone reading this has the time and the money, I suggest going to the Tuamotu Islands, in northern Polynesia. The atolls there- especially Manihi- surround incredible reef diving areas, and you don’t need a snorkel or wetsuit. There are 700 kinds of coral and thousands of brilliantly colored fish, and water visibility is 200 feet.

    Yeah, it’s hard on the atmosphere to fly that far, but a few things are worth it. And whether you think it’s too late to save us and the corals or not, Climate Progress readers and everybody else need to set aside some time to experience something you can’t even imagine. Considering how hard many of you work- and how much you care- I think you’ve earned it. You’ll return inspired and energized, whether we end up winning this battle or not.

  3. Will G. says:

    Roddy, let’s fight for Manihi.

    Thank you for your work Dr. Veron, just bought your book. I’ve been looking for the right book to expand my ocean acid. and bleaching knowledge, I think I found it.

  4. John Bruno says:

    Dear Climate Progress readers: please ignore Mike Roddy’s advice! The last thing the Tuamotu Island reefs need is more tourists crapping on them, eating fish from them, kicking them and warming them with CO2 from “ecotourism”. If you want an exotic experience and would like to do some good, sign up for a tropical EarthWatch expedition.

  5. Dear Dr. Vernon,

    I just recently read your book, “A reef in time” and both marvelled at the complexity of reef ecosystems and grieve their loss.

    Earlier this year I travelled to the GBR for the first time and spent a day snorkeling/swimming amongst the corals. I came across a “Rock Sponge”, an organism estimated to be at least 2000 years old. There I was, floating above a “sponge” that had survived the fall of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the First Fleet. And yet in few decades, it and the reef it depends upon may be gone.

    I wanted to see the GBR in this life time before it changes beyond recognition.

    “Last chance to see”.

    My family and I spent time in the Daintree, marvelling at the richness of life. Again, it was tinged with sadness knowing much of this will be lost. The Daintree is one of the world’s oldest forests, a remenant of the pre-historic past.

    That the GBR and Daintree will be lost saddens me, as my daughter may never get to see what I have.

    Your book is perhaps the best on the issue of coral reefs, ocean acidification and climate change for the general public.

    Thank-you for trying to alert us to the dangers.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Oh, lighten up, John Bruno. People don’t have to be doing good 24 hours a day, or have to make a reef trip an EarthWatch eco/educational tour to relieve guilt. The Tuamotus are never going to be a big tourist destination anyway- there are 74 islands, and you have to either get on a tramp steamer or a small prop plane from Papeete to get there.

    When I went I stayed in a small pension, in the back of a family’s house. We became friends, and I climbed coconut trees and dived for groupers with them. They could use the income, too. And believe me, there are plenty of fish in those atolls.

    Where do you think people should go instead? Waikiki?

  7. Michael says:

    Sea surface temperatures around Indonesia and in the tropical North Atlantic (in December!) are still at levels high enough to cause bleaching:

    http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/ocean/cb/hotspots.html

    The highlighted areas are in excess of the highest temperatures normally reached during the year, so it doesn’t just use anomalies (as seen on OSDPD’s anomaly maps, many areas in the Southern Hemisphere are quite warm, but not yet in excess of the annual maximum).

  8. Russ Hailey says:

    I’m not a geology expert but I was told at school that during the Carboniferous period the corals prospered and were able to take out billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere through deposition into limestone when concentrations were high and plants prospered because of the high CO2 concentrations and depositted coal measures.

    Does education need to be revised to reflect the current thinking on CO2?

  9. Russ Hailey @(what is currently #)8:

    Part of the problem with your post is the extremely generic way you present matters: “plants” and “corals”, as though there were no differences among them between now and 300,000,000 years ago. “Ceteris parabus” most certainly does NOT apply here!

    You need to take into account that evolution is a real process, and that the “plants” and “corals” that are alive today are not even remotely the same as the ones then. The oceans today are undergoing a massive and incredibly rapid acidification due to CO2, such that the organisms that are adapted to the modern period conditions have had no time to adapt to these changes. Under such circumstances, the result — if allowed to continue unabated — is not adaptation, but death on a cataclysmic scale.

  10. K. Nockels says:

    Thank you Gary #9, the short time involved always seems to be left out. There will be no time for natural systems to adapt because of the swift nature of the onslot. It seems likely that this will apply to humans as well.

  11. How many times do we have to hear experts say these things before action is taken.

    Simply, we have to stop burning fossil fuels. On the face of it, its that simple. the most effective and economic method to do this on a large scale is by a price on carbon.

    We have known this for a decade and still we procrastinate and argue. some even continue to deny anything is happening. just look around!

    Ricki.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Another heavy wave of rain is crossing Australia .

    More than 80mm fell from 9am Tuesday morning beating Adelaide’s previest December record set in 1913 of 61.5mm.

    http://www.barossaherald.com.au/news/local/news/weather/barossa-counts-the-rainfall-cost/2020261.aspx

  13. Crank says:

    But it can’t be anything to do with CO2 emissions, because all of the life in the former oceans on Mars are dead without any human intervention.

    /Rohrabacher

  14. Mike says:

    Russ: If the rise in CO2 is gradual then yes plants and carol reefs can evolve and prosper. The rate of increase we are causing is the problem.

    Here a good site for ocean CO2 info:

    Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers 2009.
    http://ioc3.unesco.org/oanet/index.html

    FAQ
    http://ioc3.unesco.org/oanet/FAQmain.html

    See also http://www.igbp.net/

  15. Christopher Yaun says:

    Burning Down the House

    A great risk of damage by heat to the dwelling of another has been created by my actions. Would a claim of arson hold up in a court of law?I play with fire and the neighbors house burns. Am I liable?

    If BP can be held accountable for the damages resulting from its oil spill, could they also be held accountable for the damages that result from burning their petroleum products?

  16. Anne van der Bom says:

    @Mike Roddy

    If anyone reading this has the time and the money, I suggest going to the Tuamotu Islands, in northern Polynesia.

    And emit many tons of CO2 in the process…

    Traveling everywhere with fossil fuel based transport is obviously the wrong thing to do.

  17. fj3 says:

    Next to dramatic reductions in emissions restoring the world’s marine ecosystems should probably have the highest priority.

  18. Thomas Webler says:

    Oh my god, what have we done?

    Clearly, we are all stumbling toward collapse…. and here, the readers of Climate Progress arguing whether to burn jet fuel to fly to this distant island or that distant island to see the last dying corals…

    The way forward is clear: we each need to disinvest from airlines and petrochemical industries, commit to not flying, and tell our neighbors and friends why we are making this commitment.

  19. Mike Roddy says:

    OK, I respect those who think it’s a bad idea to fly to the South Pacific and see the ocean miracles that are disappearing fast. Climate Progress readers deserve that journey, though, and will return rested and recharged for action.

  20. John McCormick says:

    RE # 4

    John Bruno, Mike raised a real-life conundrum that all of us AGW believers face continually.

    My family members want to travel to warm climates for vacations. I am only one vote against and they don’t listen to me. On the other hand, I love to climb the Grand Tetons, visit Telluride, see this planet’s splendid beauty. NZ is on my life list. Great moral conflicts arise.

    Now, legions of international enviros fly each year to the next COP meeting and nothing gets accomplished. Not their fault but they do burn up a heck of a lot of jet fuel. Next year it will be Johannesburg. My point: Mike recognizes the value of we humans connecting to that which we are trying to save. It does energize me, at least, to see what is out there and the price we’ll all pay if we lose it. And, my son gets to see it, as well, even if he is not the advocate I’d like him to be. However, he sees the beauty nonetheless and we talk about those trips often.

    Tough choices in these days of no climate treaty. Mike’s point is valid and any takers can offset their carbon contribution by throwing the car keys into the woods.

    John McCormick

  21. Ed Hummel says:

    Mike Roddy, I understand what you’re saying, but I also understand what the other’s who take issue with flying to the South Pacific are saying, and on balance I think they win! As far as being rested and recharged by communing with the miracles of nature, there are still many places left all over the US, most within bicyling distance from most population centers (Besides NY, LA, and Chi that is!) that provide such rest and recharging. I’m lucky enough to live in the woods of central Maine since 1982, so all I have to do is walk out my back door and see all the wonder that I can handle. No matter how stressed I become from other mundane matters, talking to the red squirrels and chickadees always relaxes me within minutes. I would suspect that most people in this country would find the same effects fairly close by if they would just lose themselves to what is still left “out there”. Even though in my younger days, I was an avid traveler all around the US, to the Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East, I have resigned myself to reading about these wonders in National Geographic or seeing the film of such things on Nature, etc. I think one of the things we have to convince ourselves of is that the ability to fly everywhere whenever we had the means and the time was a luxury only made possible by the temporary exploitation of fossil fuels over the last few decades. In doing such things we have unwittingly aided and abetted the coming catastrophes and as has been stated by a few commenters on this and other related posts, the obvious course of action is the immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use. This is obviously not going to happen tonight, but we have to start somewhere and causing the destruction of the aviation and tourist industries (at least the way they are presently constituted) would be a good first step. There is something to be said for virtual reality as it applies to communication. I’m just as willing to talk to my 91 year old mother on the phone as to travel 300 miles to see her in person. 150 years ago I probably would have only seen her in person once every ten or twenty years if that. Our fossil fuel addiction has really gotten us spoiled rotten as far as travel is concerned and it could easily become the first major change in life style that is necessary to save anything of our current civilization without giving up the essence of civilized life. After all, the ancients had civilizations that in many ways might have been more refined than ours and all they had to work with were horses, sails, or their own two feet. Hope you don’t think I’m piling on, but I just felt I had to point some of these things out.

  22. Barry says:

    Please ask yourself: “Is jet-setting global travel compatible with a secure climate that includes healthy corals?”

    Clearly “No”. Not in ANY scenario I’ve seen…and I’ve read, researched and written a lot about this. If you have a climate scenario that includes high-damage jetting around the globe on vacation, then please let us know. If you don’t have one then what are you doing on a jet plane for luxury fun?

    Major ecosystems from Amazon, to boreal forests, to temperate pine forests to coral reefs are increasingly suffering collapse events already. The only solution is to stop burning fossil fuels. High-altitude jet emissions are the coal plants of personal emissions.

    I recommend local travel and slow travel.

  23. Barry says:

    Thank you Mr. Veron for your years of gathering knowledge and for your brave choice to find the truth and speak out about it to try to save corals. Your article effected me deeply.

    I’ve just ordered you book. I wish us all luck in your getting your knowledge heard by the widest group possible.

  24. Pat Frank says:

    Ocean acidification producing mass die-offs during past marine extinction events was almost certainly produced by the mineral acids — sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid — and not by dissolved CO2. That would be true whether the event was caused by volcanism (PT extinction, Siberian Traps, by a an extraterrestrial bolide, or both (KT extinction, Yucatan crater and the Deccan Traps).

    Mineral acid acidification is an entirely different kettle of fish than the re-equilibration caused by higher dissolved [CO2]. Mineral acid acidification is non-equilibrium, and isn’t removed by dissolved calcium. Mineral acids require direct neutralization, principally by erosional bicarbonate.

    The argument that coral reefs are threatened by higher CO2 levels ignores fossil stomatal evidence showing that atmospheric CO2 hit 380 ppmv for at least decades at a time, several times during the last 9000 years.

    We’re also talking about a decrease in surface ocean pH of about 0.3 units for a doubling of atmospheric CO2. That’s from pH ~8.1 to pH ~7.8. Let’s call that a slight de-alkalinization rather than an acidification. And that’s only in the top 70 m of ocean.

    It’s hard to believe that corals can’t readily survive that sort of difference, especially when the higher ambient dissolved [CO2] means they’ll have an easier time with uptake.

    Coral reefs may be under stress from human activity, but CO2 doesn’t seem a likely culprit, and is more like a distraction from the gritty and unromantic problems of agricultural run-off, untreated sewage, erosion due to cutting forests for fuel, and the soot from southeast Asian slash-and-burn.

  25. Nick Palmer says:

    Re: Pat Frank #26 who showed us how we’re all wrong.

    Perhaps you missed this bit, Pat:

    Veron is the former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science. He is principal author of 8 monographs and more than 70 scientific articles on the taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, and the fossil record of corals

    And your credentials are?

  26. Wit's End says:

    Pat Frank, you have presented a fascinating notion. I would really like to ask you questions about it! Can you email me at witsendnj at yahoo dot com?

  27. Pat Frank says:

    #27, Nick, what do professional credentials have to do with the validity of a scientific argument?

  28. Pat Frank says:

    Oops, suddenly the post (#29) reappeared, right after I posted #31. I take back my distressing comment in #31, apologize to the moderator, and ask that post #31 be removed.

  29. Dappledwater says:

    The argument that coral reefs are threatened by higher CO2 levels ignores fossil stomatal evidence showing that atmospheric CO2 hit 380 ppmv for at least decades at a time, several times during the last 9000 years.

    So which peer-reviewed literature supports this assertion?. The ice cores (being capable of decadal resolution) show no such thing.

    Real Climate- 650,000 years of greenhouse gas concentrations

    And strong evidence exists that the last time atmospheric CO2 was near modern levels was 15 million years ago.

    Last time carbon dioxide levels were this high: 15 million years ago, scientists report

    “Tripati, before joining UCLA’s faculty, was part of a research team at England’s University of Cambridge that developed a new technique to assess carbon dioxide levels in the much more distant past — by studying the ratio of the chemical element boron to calcium in the shells of ancient single-celled marine algae. Tripati has now used this method to determine the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere as far back as 20 million years ago.

    “We are able, for the first time, to accurately reproduce the ice-core record for the last 800,000 years — the record of atmospheric C02 based on measurements of carbon dioxide in gas bubbles in ice,” Tripati said. “This suggests that the technique we are using is valid.

    “We then applied this technique to study the history of carbon dioxide from 800,000 years ago to 20 million years ago,” she said. “We report evidence for a very close coupling between carbon dioxide levels and climate. When there is evidence for the growth of a large ice sheet on Antarctica or on Greenland or the growth of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, we see evidence for a dramatic change in carbon dioxide levels over the last 20 million years.

    “A slightly shocking finding,” Tripati said, “is that the only time in the last 20 million years that we find evidence for carbon dioxide levels similar to the modern level of 387 parts per million was 15 to 20 million years ago, when the planet was dramatically different.”

  30. Dappledwater says:

    Ocean acidification producing mass die-offs during past marine extinction events was almost certainly produced by the mineral acids — sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid — and not by dissolved CO2.

    Now that’s just nonsense. No doubt why it doesn’t feature in Veron’s study of the extinction events in deep time, which lead to the complete disappearance of corals for millions of years at a time.

    Increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere increases CO2 dissolved in the ocean, as decreed by Henry’s Law. Currently over 1 million tons of CO2 per hour are dissolving into the Earth’s oceans, as a result of fossil fuel emissions. That’s the scale of the problem the scientific community are concerned about.

    The chemical reactions are described here:

    Ocean Acidification

    Ocean acidification results from the increase in hydrogen ions (lowered pH), but also affects seawater chemistry through a decline in carbonate ions, which many marine organisms, including corals, rely upon to build their shells. These shells are normally stable because the water is “saturated” with carbonate ions (the chemical reaction reverses if carbonate ions are “undersaturated”), however with decreasing levels of carbonate ions in the oceans, the “saturation horizon” shifts. This means that coral reefs will find it increasingly more difficult to keeps their “shells” from dissolving.

  31. Dappledwater says:

    That’s from pH ~8.1 to pH ~7.8.

    Kinda seems insignificant to the uninformed, however the pH scale in an inverse logarithmic – meaning that each whole number on the scale (for example dropping from 8 to 7) represents a ten-fold increase in hydrogen ions. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution the oceans have declined 0.1 units – a roughly 30% increase. Another 0.3 units will mean extinction for a host of marine life.

    Let’s call that a slight de-alkalinization rather than an acidification

    No. re-branding won’t change a thing, we are talking about ocean chemistry changes that will persist for thousands of years. Labeling something potentially catastrophic as “slight” might make you feel more comfortable, however this will become a major problem for much of life of Earth.

    It’s hard to believe that corals can’t readily survive that sort of difference, especially when the higher ambient dissolved [CO2] means they’ll have an easier time with uptake.

    What’s hard to believe is how little you know about this topic. The current rate of ocean acidification is unprecedented. That means that there is no time in the palaeo-record where the ocean chemistry has changed at such a rapid rate. In four of the 5 major extinction events corals were wiped out completely and new forms did not evolve for many millions of years. And those were events where acidification was much slower than today.

    But regardless, if the mass coral bleaching and high rate of coral reef death continue (and that is pretty much a given considering the current rate of fossil fuel emission and “warming in the pipeline”) then there’s not going to be that much left for ocean acidification to trash anyway.

    Caribbean Corals in Crisis: Record Thermal Stress, Bleaching, and Mortality in 2005

    Bleaching occurs when stress to the coral-algal symbiosis causes corals to expel their endosymbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) and, if prolonged or particularly severe, may result in partial or complete coral mortality [2]. While many sources of stress have caused corals to bleach, “mass” coral bleaching (at scales of 100 km or more) has only occurred when anomalously warm ocean temperatures, typically coupled with high subsurface light levels, exceeded corals’ physiological tolerances.”

    Caribbean Coral Die-Off Could Be Worst Ever

    “Scientists studying Caribbean reefs say that 2010 may be the worst year ever for coral death there. Abnormally warm water since June appears to have dealt a blow to shallow and deep-sea corals that is likely to top the devastation of 2005, when 80% of corals were bleached and as many as 40% died in areas on the eastern side of the Caribbean.”

    2010 coral bleaching event in Southeast Asian reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans is the worst coral die-off since 1998, and possibly the worst science has ever observed

    “The cause of this massive bleaching event? According to a release from ARC, “a large pool of superhot [sic]” water…swept into the eastern Indian Ocean region several months ago, shocking the corals and causing them to shed the symbiotic algae that nourish them.” The warmer-than-normal water started at the surface of the ocean, where temperatures peaked in May 2010 at levels 4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average for the area.

    Baird blames climate change for putting the coral in hot water. “My colleagues and I have high confidence these successive ocean-warming episodes, which exceed the normal tolerance range of warm-water corals, are driven by human-induced global warming,” he said. “They underline that the planet is already taking heavy hits from climate change—and will continue to do so unless we can reduce carbon emissions very quickly. They also show this is not just about warmer temperatures, it is also threatening the livelihoods of tens of millions of people, and potentially the stability of our region,” he adds.”

  32. Pat Frank says:

    Moderator, will you please post up my earlier comment #29, giving literature references and links supporting the variation of atmospheric CO2. It’s been apparently sitting in moderation for two days.

    Thanks

  33. Dappledwater says:

    what do professional credentials have to do with the validity of a scientific argument?

    As far as your assertions are concerned, it’s the “validity” aspect that falls short.

  34. Nick Palmer says:

    Pat Frank wrote at #29 on December 8, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    #27, Nick, what do professional credentials have to do with the validity of a scientific argument?

    Well Pat, Dappledwater has done a great job of puncturing your nonsense but I don’t like the breathtakingly stupid and dangerous effect that denialism has, which is to muddy the waters and fool the innocent. It thereby risks my and my family’s future so I couldn’t resist fighting back too.

    To answer your question. First, your post was just a whole series of assertions without attributions of sources or anything and was therefore not valid scientific argument. Post genuine peer reviewed science and sources for your bizarre assertions, which just look like anti-AGW-at-any-cost cherry picked denialist blogscience to me, and you might get more respect.

    People with real credentials wouldn’t do that. What Veron said is backed up by real science – what the highly credentialled Veron says is believable and your farrago of assertions is not believable. Your response shows that you almost certainly have no suitable credentials in this area as you seem unable to differentiate the good from the garbage.

    No doubt you have faith in your own assertions but belief is not reality. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, we have seen the growth of the irrational belief that everybody’s opinion is of equal value. When the baseless pseudo-scientific opinions of some people on matters such as climate change are so far out of whack with reality, and the consequences of their beliefs (if they sway voting patterns too much) could hurt us all and/or severely impact on our civilisation, I really think the pathological sceptics should examine their own consciences.

    You have a right to believe whatever you want but, if the potential consequences of those beliefs put everybody at risk, you have a clear duty to keep silent.

  35. Doris says:

    We see signs of the environmental degradation everywhere, even close to home.

    My cat, Sparkles, no longer sheds when winter is near. Why? No need to put on a thick, natural coat when winter as we used to know it no longer exists.

    In my fishpond, the carp have been growing at an outrageous rate. Why? Because the warming has greatly increased their food supplies, even in a microenvironment of a seven-foot concrete depression in a suburban yard.

    We all say we can do things, acting locally thinking globally etc., but do we? No!

    This holiday season how many of us will toast our good fortune with champagne or beer, but each time we snap a cap or pop a cork we liberate those poisonous carbon bubbles to make our children’s existence untenable.

    The Age of Carbon is the Age of Poison. If the enlightened don’t strike a blow at the carbon monster how can we ever look the world in the eye.

  36. Peter Prewett says:

    Nick Palmer at 36

    I wish I could have said that, thanks.

  37. Pat Frank says:

    The moderator still has not passed my prior post — nominally post #29 — giving citations to the literature on stomatal CO2, despite that other comments posted later have been allowed through. Nevertheless, I’m going to proceed on the assumption that a free rational discussion will properly be permitted.

    #31, Dappledwater wrote, “So which peer-reviewed literature supports this assertion?. The ice cores (being capable of decadal resolution) show no such thing.

    I gave citations to that literature, but at this writing that post hasn’t yet been allowed through. But Figure 3 in Kouwenberg’s 2005 paper “Atmospheric CO2 fluctuations during the last millennium reconstructed by stomatal frequency analysis of Tsuga heterophylla needleshere shows atmospheric CO2 levels of 350 ppmv in the years 850, 1350, and 1500, and 340 ppmv in 1700; all (+/-) 30 ppmv.

    On the other hand, glacial firn closes only after ~80 years, which means that ice core CO2 is at best an 80 year smooth. Century resolution maybe, if the ice core is perfect. Decadal resolution, never.

    You can see that effect by doing a little calculation from the information here. Given their maximum accumulation of snow in Antarctica of 10 inches per year, and a firn closure at the pressure from an average 280 feet of overburden, the exchange of snow air with atmospheric air is continuous over 336 years. That would be the average limit of resolution of atmospheric CO2 from, say, an Antarctic ice core. Glacial ice cores can be dated to decadal resolution when everything works right, but the resolution of the trapped CO2 is typically smeared across a century.

    When you look at the stomatal CO2 record, presuming my post #29 makes it through, you’ll see comparisons with the ice core CO2 record. The loss of resolution in the ice-core CO2 record, due to firn-smearing, becomes very evident.

    I took a look at Tripati’s 2009 Science 326, 1394-1397 article. The highest resolution plot of atmospheric CO2, their Figure 1, has about one point per 10,000 years. The Figure 2 plot has a resolution of about 1 million years. Given how atmospheric CO2 can vary, a resolution of 10,000 years at best hardly qualifies as evidence that at no time in the last 15-20 million was atmospheric CO2 at modern levels. It’s also interesting to note that the first point in Figure 2, at 5 MA, has a pCO2 of 325 ppmv, with error bars of about 25 ppmv. That puts it awfully close to modern values, and much closer in time than the 15-20 MA allowed by Tripati in her press statement.

  38. Pat Frank says:

    Dappledwater wrote, concerning my “That’s from pH ~8.1 to pH ~7.8″: “Kinda seems insignificant to the uninformed, however the pH scale in an inverse logarithmic – meaning that each whole number on the scale (for example dropping from 8 to 7) represents a ten-fold increase in hydrogen ions. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution the oceans have declined 0.1 units – a roughly 30% increase.

    So, let’s see what changes in acid content those pH values really mean. For pH 8.1 the concentration of acid is 7.8×10^-9 Molar. When the pH decreases to 7.8, the acid concentration increases and becomes 1.6×10^-8 Molar.

    Using percents as you do, we can really raise the alarm. The acidity has doubled!! That sounds really scary, doesn’t it.

    Yup, hydrogen ion content has doubled from 7.8 nanoMolar to 16 nanoMolar. For everyone’s interest, nanoMolar is one billionth Molar. That is, hydrogen ion (acid) has gone from 7.8 parts per billion to 16 parts per billion.

    By way of comparison, hydroxide ion, the alkalinity of the same solutions, is 1300 nanoMolar at pH 8.1 and 631 nanoMolar at pH 7.8. So, alkalinity is 167 times higher than the hydrogen ion content at pH 8.1 and remains 20 times higher at pH 7.8. This is what everyone is afraid of.

    Another 0.3 units will mean extinction for a host of marine life.

    Can you document that? A pH of 7.5, your mass extinction acidity, is an acid concentration of 3.2×10^-8 = 32 ppb. This is agent VX for marine life?

    Look at Figures 4 and 6 here. They don’t seem to support your view.

  39. Pat Frank says:

    #37 — Nick Palmer wrote, “Well Pat, Dappledwater has done a great job of puncturing your nonsense…

    You clearly have offered that opinion prematurely.

    … but I don’t like the breathtakingly stupid and dangerous effect that denialism has,…

    I’d like to proceed without any personal attacks, Nick. I argue from considered opinion, as do most people. If you have recourse to a personal demonology right from the start, we won’t get anywhere.

    … which is to muddy the waters and fool the innocent.

    Peculiar. My intention is to clear the waters and inform my readers. You need to set aside the “denialist – denialism” labels, Nick. They’re pure propaganda, grotesquely exploited by most environmental NGOs and even by some scientists. Admittedly, it’s been a successful gambit. But it’s a slander nonetheless — unforgivable among those who actually understand the scientific argument and unjustifiable among those who do not understand it.

    After all, if you don’t understand the science, you’re just taking someone’s word for the character of another. Is that ever ethical when you don’t understand the reasoning?

    It thereby risks my and my family’s future so I couldn’t resist fighting back too.

    What will risk your family, Nick, is when your fuel costs rise to such a level that your family is shivering in the winter (presuming you don’t live in Florida or So. Cal).

    You also wrote, “your post was just a whole series of assertions without attributions of sources or anything and was therefore not valid scientific argument.

    Did you actually try googling any of my claims, or is that just your unsupported opinion?

    The release of mineral acids is well known to anyone who has read about Trap volcanism (or any volcanism, for that matter) and bolide impacts. I’d expect Dr. Veron to be familiar with some of that literature.

    I posted links to literature about the stomatal CO2 on Dec. 8, but that post hasn’t yet appeared. I’ve since posted links to literature about mineral acids from volcanoes and bolide impacts. I’ve also documented some relevant carbonate chemistry in further posts. I do hope those appear.

    Most of the rest of your post is just a rant, which I’ll let go. However, you did write that, “You have a right to believe whatever you want but, if the potential consequences of those beliefs put everybody at risk, you have a clear duty to keep silent.

    Your statement about a “clear duty to keep silent” about beliefs implicitly supposes the contradiction that I believe something I know is wrong. After all, how do you suppose anyone can recognize a clear duty to keep silent about something they believe is true?

    How many people believe something they know is wrong, Nick?

    Here’s a personal note, which I’m making only because you seem so distressed about uninformed but malignant intentions. I’m a practicing Ph.D. chemist and have read a fair bit of the peer-reviewed literature on the climate science of CO2-induced warming. It’s become clear to me that the practitioners of that science are systematically neglecting very large physical uncertainties — both in the data and in their theoretical climate models. Whether that systematic neglect is accidental or deliberate, or both or neither, I’m not prepared to say. But the neglect itself is very clear.

    As a consequence of that neglect, it’s also clear that no one knows what they’re talking about as regards the cause of the recent warming. Climate is so chaotic that it’s possible no one will ever be able to make a causal prediction about future global temperature. You and many others have been misled — innocently mayhap — by unfounded claims of scientific certainty.

    The effect of CO2 on ocean surface pH is a somewhat different matter. But so far, the data I’ve seen concerning calcification experiments on calcareous organisms cultured under elevated CO2 conditions doesn’t seem like much cause for alarm.

    The other effect of elevated CO2, of course, has been the general and very pronounced greening of the ecosphere since about 1980.

  40. Dappledwater says:

    Using percents as you do, we can really raise the alarm. The acidity has doubled!! That sounds really scary, doesn’t it.

    Yes. It’s means extinction for reef corals. You know like the 4 times previously when smaller rates of change lead to extinction of corals, and much other life in the oceans. The likely future extinction of corals is kinda the whole point of the article above, by John Veron. You should try reading it.

  41. Dappledwater says:

    Nevertheless, I’m going to proceed on the assumption that a free rational discussion will properly be permitted.

    And yet:

    That sounds really scary, doesn’t it

    So much for rational discussion.

  42. Dappledwater says:

    On the other hand, glacial firn closes only after ~80 years, which means that ice core CO2 is at best an 80 year smooth. Century resolution maybe, if the ice core is perfect. Decadal resolution, never.

    Atmospheric decadal variability from high-resolution Dome C ice core records of aerosol constituents beyond the Last Interglacial – Bigler 2010

    “In this study we focused on decadal-resolution ice core data of aerosol constituents deposited at Dome C on the East Antarctic plateau from preindustrial Holocene back to 173 ka BP to gain insights in the climate evolution of the southern South Hemisphere beyond the Last Interglacial period MIS 5.5″

    Decadal scale climate variability during the last millennium as recorded by the Bona Churchill and Quelccaya Ice Cores – Urmann 2009

    Decadal variability in a central Greenland high-resolution
    deuterium isotope record and its relationship to the frequency
    of daily atmospheric circulation patterns from the North
    Atlantic region – Rimbu 2010

  43. Nick Palmer says:

    Pat Franks wrote:

    “My intention is to clear the waters and inform my readers. You need to set aside the “denialist – denialism” labels, Nick. They’re pure propaganda, grotesquely exploited by most environmental NGOs and even by some scientists.”

    Hmm. You write like a “concern troll”. The Kouwenbergl paper you link to only looks at needles from the Western Hemlock, which is confined to the Western coast of America. Is that all you’ve got to overturn a mountain of conflicting evidence?

    Here is the whole subtitle from your link:

    A stomatal frequency record based on buried Tsuga heterophylla needles reveals significant centennial-scale atmospheric CO2 fluctuations during the last millennium. The record includes four CO2 minima of 260–275 ppmv (ca. A.D. 860 and A.D. 1150, and less prominently, ca. A.D. 1600 and 1800). Alternating CO2 maxima of 300–320 ppmv are present at A.D. 1000, A.D. 1300, and ca. A.D. 1700. These CO2 fluctuations parallel global terrestrial air temperature changes, as well as oceanic surface temperature fluctuations in the North Atlantic. The results obtained in this study corroborate the notion of a continuous coupling of the preindustrial atmospheric CO2 regime and climate.

    The abstract seems to rather differ from your claims…

    I’d like to proceed without any personal attacks, Nick. I argue from considered opinion, as do most people.

    Choosing to believe and promote isolated scientific papers (as opposed to the overwhelming number of others from multiple independent fields using multiple, mutually reinforcing, strands of evidence) IS denialism. The cherry picked interpretation of such individual papers can be slanted to support an “it’s all right, it’s happened before, there’s nothing unusual now” line. It is a very dangerous way to think. You’re looking at the mole on a supermodel’s face and deducing that she must be entirely ugly because the spot isn’t very nice in your opinion.

    You might think that you argue from considered opinion but your confirmation bias is glaringly obvious. You really are not coming over as an objective scientist and you need to consider the consequences of your prejudices. If you are wrong and too many people listen to you (and those like you) we face a very bleak future. Not only climate change but also serious changes to the ocean ecosystems. Remember, plankton is supposed to have plummeted by 50% over the last 60 years. That sounds serious to me.

    Denialists who quote highly elaborate angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin chemical mechanisms to pooh-pooh the danger to carbonate skeleton type plankton and corals maybe miss that small changes in acidity will likely have big changes on the ecosystems of other sea planktons. Acidity certainly affects how well land based vegetation grows.

    Denialism is, as you say, “unforgivable among those who actually understand the scientific argument and unjustifiable among those who do not understand it.” People suffering from denialism unfortunately rarely recognise it.

    You claim to be a practicing Ph.D. chemist yet the whole thrust of your posts is that somehow you have discovered paradigm shattering evidence. That does not sound like a true scientist to me. I suspect you actually just follow that unbiased source (sarcasm) co2science.org

  44. Nick Palmer says:

    Pat Franks also wrote:

    It’s become clear to me that the practitioners of that science are systematically neglecting very large physical uncertainties — both in the data and in their theoretical climate models…
    As a consequence of that neglect, it’s also clear that no one knows what they’re talking about as regards the cause of the recent warming. Climate is so chaotic that it’s possible no one will ever be able to make a causal prediction about future global temperature

    You may just possibly be a Phd chemist but you appear to be completely ignorant about other branches of science. No credible climate scientist, including those quoted so often by the denialst movement – Lindzen, Christy and Spencer – denies that CO2 is increasing and that we’re mostly responsible. Neither do they deny that the existing increase in CO2 has caused planetary heating that will continue and that future increases in CO2, due to us, will cause increased heating (and ocean acidification). The only sane wiggle room left that those professing to be sceptics have got is about climate sensitivity – the amount and speed of the temperature rise and the relative amplification/damping by feedbacks. The vast majority of the rest of the denialosphere “arguments” are just obfuscatory, misleading and diversionary – non sane.

    The increased forcing from CO2 is equivalent to turning the sun up a couple of watts per square metre. If you don’t think that turning up the heat will unavoidably heat us up, perhaps you ought to send your Phd back.

  45. Barry says:

    Pat Franks wrote: “systematically neglecting very large physical uncertainties — both in the data and in their theoretical climate models…climate is so chaotic that it’s possible no one will ever be able to make a causal prediction about future global temperature.”

    Pat, this is a number one boring and bogus denier talking point that models can’t determine climate sensitivity well enough to act. Yawn.

    As James Hansen says there is a “model” that gets everything exactly right in every aspect: the Earth itself. And “paleoclimate information provides precise knowledge of how sensitive climate is to changes of climate forcings…The bad news: It has become clear that Earth’s climate is very sensitive to climate forcings, and we are close to driving the system into a region with dangerous consequences for humanity. The good news: It is not too late to solve the problem…” — Hansen p34 of his book.

    Hansen’s book “Storms of my Grandchildren” is a very detailed review of the climate science of sensitivity and paleoclimate story about that with plenty of links to the key peer-reviewed science. He even provides updates to essential figures and charts online.

    The earth tells us how sensitive it is over the long term.

    As Nick #45 points out there is some tiny wiggle room about “how bad, how soon”…but nothing that gives comfort. The earth’s reaction and paleoclimate science continue to show the “bad” is too often at the high end and the “soon” is too often much sooner than expected. We are losing the sensitivity coin flip so far.

    With ocean acidification the recent pass in a 15 year survey by NOAA in Pacific showed dangerously “corrosive” waters appearing on the shelves 100 years ahead of projections. Climate scientists involved in the projections were “shocked”.

    Amazon droughts? “shocked”. Boreal fires? “shocked”. Pine beetle eruptions? “shocked”. Arctic meltdown? “shocked”. Freshwater temp rise? “shocked”. Permafrost melt rates? “shocked”.

    How often have we read this? Way too often sadly.

    Are you really trying to argue that actual climate changes have been occurring “slower” and “less intensely” than expected?

  46. Dappledwater says:

    Pat Frank – “The effect of CO2 on ocean surface pH is a somewhat different matter. But so far, the data I’ve seen concerning calcification experiments on calcareous organisms cultured under elevated CO2 conditions doesn’t seem like much cause for alarm”

    Pat, what part of “unprecedented current rate of ocean acidification” did you not understand?.

    There are dozens of experiments showing misshapen, thinned and deformed shells in calcifying marine organisms, when simulating pH conditions likely for later this century . Never read those studies?.

    It’s also likely that the decline in ocean pH has had a hand in the decline in coral growth observed in many parts of the world over the last few decades.

    Declining Coral Calcification
    on the Great Barrier Reef

    “Reef-building corals are under increasing physiological stress from a changing climate and ocean absorption of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. We investigated 328 colonies of massive Porites corals from 69 reefs of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in Australia. Their skeletal records show that throughout the GBR, calcification has declined by 14.2% since 1990, predominantly because extension (linear growth) has declined by 13.3%.

    The data suggest that such a severe and sudden decline in calcification is unprecedented in at least the past 400 years.

    Calcification increases linearly with increasing large-scale sea surface temperature but responds nonlinearly to annual temperature anomalies. The causes of the decline remain unknown; however, this study suggests that increasing temperature stress and a declining saturation state of seawater aragonite may be diminishing the ability of GBR corals to deposit calcium carbonate”

  47. Dappledwater says:

    Pat Frank – comment 29 Nick, what do professional credentials have to do with the validity of a scientific argument?

    Pat Frank – comment 41 I’m a practicing Ph.D. chemist

    So which is it Pat?.

  48. Matt horns says:

    I have been hugely concerned with ocean acidification for several years and no one seems to care. How can we spread the message of this monstrous threat?

    Matt Horns
    getplanted.native@gmail.com
    818-857-8204

  49. Pat Frank says:

    #42 Dappledwater, you’re claiming that the rate of pH change in the oceans now is greater than during the PT extinction when the Siberian Traps eruption led to sulfuric acid rain of pH 1.

    And that the rate of marine pH change now is more rapid than the effect of the KT bolide that turned the entire troposphere into an 800 C oven within 1 day, followed again by enormous amounts of sulfuric acid rain

    Incredible.

    In yet another of my posts that haven’t appeared here, I pointed out that CO2 Science has accumulated a large database of peer-reviewed literature studies of the response of marine calcification under conditions of raised CO2/lowered marine pH. See Figures 4 and 6 at their site. There’s not much in the way of alarming results.

    Many corals and coccolithophores actually increase their calcification rates, apparently showing that an increase in total dissolved carbonate outweighs the modest decline in pH. See M. D. Iglesias-Rodriguez , et al. (2008) “Phytoplankton Calcification in a High-CO2 World” Science 320, 336-340.

    In the marine aquarium experiments, living calcareous organisms were subjected to elevated CO2. The change to acidic pH they experienced was often completed in a day, not 100 years. And yet, they generally did fine. Your claim of impending extinction is unsupported in the literature.

  50. Pat Frank says:

    Re: #45 , Dappledwater you quoted my #39 about the resolution of ice core CO2 being limited to ~80 years by firn closure time and in your attempted refutation linked to Bigler, 2010.

    But that paper is about 173,000 years of “sodium, calcium, ammonium and nitrate.” That paper has nothing to do with ice core CO2.

    The issue is the smeared resolution of CO2 due to gas exchange. Bigler, et al. 2010, is irrelevant to that point.

    Likewise, the Urmann paper you linked, on the Churchill and Quelccaya ice cores, says nothing about CO2. And yet again the Rimbu pre-print that you linked doesn’t mention CO2 or carbon dioxide even once in the entire manuscript.

    Your every single essay at evidence was irrelevant. Didn’t you even look at the firn website I linked? The explanation is clear. CO2 in glacial snow exchanges with CO2 in the atmosphere for 80 years or more before the ice seals shut. The resolution of atmospheric CO2 in ice cores is smeared across a century. There’s no scientific dispute about that.

  51. Dappledwater says:

    Pat Frank -” Your claim of impending extinction is unsupported in the literature”

    The coral reef crisis: The critical importance of <350 ppm CO2 – Veron 2009

    “Temperature-related effects of global warming on coral reefs are highly visible, well-defined and extensively documented. Correlations between rising CO2 levels, rising ocean temperature and
    the biological responses of reefs are therefore known in detail, providing a particularly well-grounded basis for future prediction.

    Temperature-induced mass coral bleaching causing mortality on a wide geographic scale started when
    atmospheric CO2 levels exceeded 320 ppm. When CO2 levels reached 340 ppm, sporadic but highly
    destructive mass bleaching occurred in most reefs world-wide, often associated with El Niño events.
    Recovery was dependent on the vulnerability of individual reef areas and on the reef’s previous history
    and resilience.

    At today’s level of 387 ppm, allowing a lag-time of 10 years for sea temperatures to respond, most reefs world-wide are committed to an irreversible decline.

    Mass bleaching will in future become annual, departing from the 4 to 7 years return-time of El Niño events. Bleaching will be exacerbated by the effects of degraded water-quality and increased severe weather events. In addition, the progressive onset of ocean acidification will cause reduction of coral growth and retardation of the growth of highmagnesiumcalcite-secreting coralline algae. If CO2 levels are allowed to reach 450 ppm(due to occur by 2030–2040 at the current rates), reefs will be in rapid and terminal decline world-wide from multiple synergies arising from mass bleaching, ocean acidification, and other environmental impacts.

    Damage to shallow reef communities will become extensive with consequent reduction of biodiversity followed by extinctions. Reefs will cease to be large-scale nursery grounds for fish and will cease to have most of their current value to humanity. Therewill be knock-on effects to ecosystems associatedwith reefs, and to other pelagic and benthic ecosystems. Should CO2 levels reach 600 ppm reefs will be eroding geological structures with populations of surviving biota restricted to refuges. Domino effects will follow, affecting many other marine ecosystems.

    This is likely to have been the path of great mass extinctions of the past, adding to the case that anthropogenic CO2 emissions could trigger the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.”

  52. Dappledwater says:

    Pat Frank – ” Dappledwater, you’re claiming…….”.

    Err no, that would be the scientists who actually study this stuff for a living. It just so happens that I don’t believe that they are a) incompetent, b) engaged in the greatest hoax of all time, or c) make stuff up so they can get grant money.

  53. Dappledwater says:

    Pat Frank – In the marine aquarium experiments, living calcareous organisms were subjected to elevated CO2. The change to acidic pH they experienced was often completed in a day.

    Wrong. This one for instance on calcite & aragonite shells:

    Rapid dissolution of shells of weakly calcified Antarctic benthic macroorganisms indicates high vulnerability to ocean acidification

    “Antarctic calcified macroorganisms are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because many are weakly calcified, the dissolution rates of calcium carbonate are inversely related to temperature, and high latitude seas are predicted to become undersaturated in aragonite by the year 2100.

    We examined the post-mortem dissolution rates of aragonitic and calcitic shells from four species of Antarctic benthic marine invertebrates (two bivalves, one limpet, one brachiopod) and the thallus of a limpet shell-encrusting coralline alga exposed to acidified pH (7.4) or non-acidified pH (8.2) seawater at a constant temperature of 4°C.

    Within a period of only 14–35 days, shells of all four species held in pH 7.4 seawater had suffered significant dissolution. Despite calcite being 35% less soluble in seawater than aragonite, there was surprisingly, no consistent pattern of calcitic shells having slower dissolution rates than aragonitic shells. Outer surfaces of shells held in pH 7.4 seawater exhibited deterioration by day 35, and by day 56 there was exposure of aragonitic or calcitic prisms within the shell architecture of three of the macroinvertebrate species.

    Dissolution of coralline algae was confirmed by differences in weight loss in limpet shells with and without coralline algae. By day 56, thalli of the coralline alga held in pH 7.4 displayed a loss of definition of the conceptacle pores and cracking was evident at the zone of interface with limpet shells.

    Experimental studies are needed to evaluate whether there are adequate compensatory mechanisms in these and other calcified Antarctic benthic macroorganisms to cope with anticipated ocean acidification. In their absence, these organisms, and the communities they comprise, are likely to be among the first to experience the cascading impacts of ocean acidification.”