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Earth’s Oceans Are Acidifying At A Previously Unknown Rate

Is climate change a big deal? People in the northern United States are getting a pretty good picture of what global warming can bring, as a surge of summertime temperatures has arrived even before the official end of winter. Never in living memory has such a consistent and extreme early warmth taken place. Plants and animals are rushing through their usual seasonal cycles at a highly unusual rate.

That’s on the land. What’s happening in the water?

An article in this month’s edition of scientific journal Science looks at the geological evidence, and concludes that the acidification of the oceans of planet Earth that’s taking place right now is probably the most extreme that has taken place for hundreds of millions of years – and maybe even longer in the past than that. The reliable geologic record of rocks formed from marine sediments goes back 300 million years. Nowhere during that time was there an acidification trend as intense as what the oceans are experiencing right now.

Let’s put that into context: The very first primitive dinosaurs didn’t evolve until about 225 million years ago. It was about 300 million years ago that vertebrates laid their eggs on land for the very first time.

The authors of the journal article discuss “the possibility that we are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change.” I’d say that’s a big deal.

ocean acidification

4 comments to Earth’s Oceans Are Acidifying At A Previously Unknown Rate

  • Tom

    It’s been a big deal ever since the Industrial Revolution. Everyone thought all that pollution just “disappears” – weee! Companies and people can pollute to their hearts content, knock all the trees down that you want and don’t worry about anything, hey – let’s overfish the ocean while we’re at it, since the ocean will “always” make more . . .

    Humanity is so goddamn stupid, selfish, and short-term thinking-based that now we can’t reverse what we’ve done. Indeed the entire planet is now really starting to really react to the chemical imbalances we’ve forced on it for the past 100 or so years (ie. now it’s noticeable, and soon it will be hard to tolerate):
    carbon dioxide (and now methane, even worse) pollution in the atmosphere, acidification of the oceans, dead zones all over the place from farm (phosphate) run-off, dying coral, stressed marine life beaching themselves due to sonar stresses and all the aforementioned pollution, cutting down the rainforests to raise more cattle and grain – it goes on and on with no conception of changing the way we “live.” We’re still building NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS despite Chernobyl and Fukushima! How fucking idiotic are we? Do we have a “death wish?”

    We don’t deserve to inhabit this planet, as we’ve ruined it and life itself by failing to heed our mistakes – in fact, we keep repeating them endlessly (war vs cooperation, stewardship vs rampant resource depletion, etc). The earth will rid itself of the cancer we’ve become by changing the climate so that it’s extremely hard to grow food or even live above ground after while, while eliminating many of the species we rely on (like the pollinators and other links in the chain) for food. Meanwhile there are more invasive species and disease carrying beasties breeding due to the warming. Trees are being stressed (see the old growth forests and very large trees like sequoias being hit hard due to the climate change), birds are carrying all kinds of viruses that can jump to the human population easily (H5N1 being but one of them), and other little pests like mosquitos carry West Nile virus, dengue fever and other diseases with which most of us have had no previous contact (and our medical institutions are in NO WAY prepared for the scope and volume of problems it’ll face in the near future), and all these interconnected factors will combine with physical problems like sea level rise and melting ice sheets and glaciers to make human life a “challenge” going forward.

    Hey humanity – Rotsa Ruck!

  • Hooligan

    I was appalled to learn recently that, every day, trawlers with nets large enough to fit six jumbo jets scrape all the life from the bottom of sections of the sea, all over the planet, sucking up whatever they find to make fish stix and god knows what for human consumption. And it’s occurring at a rate that nature is unable to replenish what’s taken. And, just like with global warming and fossil fuels, there’s awareness even in the fishing industry about it. There’s talk in elite circles about enacting fishing bans. Yet, sort of like an addict, the industry just can’t restrain itself. It’s programmed to seek profits NOW, even if each quarter returns less and less, and even if it means there’s no tomorrow. Completely mad.

    I wonder whether these systems did anything to offset harmful phenomena like acidification. If so, I guess that’s on the way out, along with all the sea life.

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