Ocean Acidification Will not Kill Coral Reefs and Shellfish

Commentary, Environment, Patrick Moore

When the slight global warming that occurred between 1970 and 2000 came to a virtual standstill, the doomsayers adopted “climate change” which apparently means that all extreme weather events are caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO²). Cold, hot, wet, dry, wind, snow, and large hailstones are attributed to humanity’s profligate use of fossil fuels.

But the pause in global warming kept on and became embarrassing around 2005. Something dire was needed to prop up the climate disruption narrative. “Ocean acidification” was invented to provide yet another apocalyptic scenario, only this one required no warming or severe weather, only more CO² in the atmosphere.

The story goes that as CO² increases in the atmosphere the oceans will absorb more of it and this will cause them to become acidic, well not exactly, but at least to become less basic. This in turn is predicted to dissolve the coral reefs and kill the oysters, clams, mussels, and microscopic algae that have calcareous shells. It was named “global warming’s evil twin”.

Seawater in the open ocean is typically at a pH of 8.0-8.5 on a scale of 0-14 where 0 is most acidic, 14 is most basic and 7 is neutral. Ocean acidification from increased CO² is predicted to make the ocean less basic, perhaps to pH 7.5 under so-called worst-case projections. How do I know that increased CO² will not kill the coral reefs and shellfish? Let me count the ways.

First, contrary to popular belief, at 400 parts per million (0.04%), CO² is lower now in the atmosphere than it has been during most of the 550 million years since modern life forms emerged during the Cambrian period. CO² was about ten times higher then than it is today. Corals and shellfish evolved early and have obviously managed to survive through eras of much higher CO² than present levels. This fact alone should negate the “predictions” of species extinction from CO² levels that are nowhere near the historical maximum.

Second, due to its high concentration of basic elements such as calcium and magnesium, seawater has a powerful buffering capacity to prevent large swings in pH due to the addition of CO². This self-correcting capacity of seawater will ensure that the pH will remain well within levels that are conducive to calcification, the process whereby shells and coral structures are formed. Marine shells are largely made of calcium carbonate, the carbon of which is derived from the CO² dissolved in the seawater.

Third, and most interesting, there are freshwater species of clams and mussels that manage to produce calcareous shells at pH 4-5, which is well into the acidic range. They are able to do this because a mucous layer on their shell allows them to control the pH near the surface and to make calcification possible. The “ocean acidification” story depends only on a chemical hypothesis whereas biological factors can overcome this and create conditions that allow calcification to continue. This is corroborated by the historical record of millions of years of success in much higher CO² environments.

Finally, it is a fact that people who have saltwater aquariums add CO² to the water in order to increase coral growth and to increase plant growth. The truth is CO² is the most important food for all life on Earth including marine life. It is the main food for photosynthetic plankton (algae), which in turn is the food for the entire food–chain is the sea. For some reason the proponents of catastrophic global warming ignore this fact. They talk of “carbon pollution” as if CO² is a poison. If there was no CO² in the global atmosphere there would be no life on this planet. Surely that should be enough to permit questioning the certainty of those who demonize this essential molecule.

It is also a fact that greenhouse growers around the world purposefully inject CO² into their greenhouses to increase the growth of flowers and food up to 80 percent. That is because CO² in the atmosphere today is so low that plants are starved for it. Plant growth continues to increase in an atmosphere up to four to five times the current level of 400 parts per million. Yet we are told that CO² is too high and we will suffer for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. We should celebrate CO² as the giver of life it is.