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Is it really bad for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

  1. Aug 25, 2010 #1

    Simfish

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    Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    CO2 levels were much higher 100 million years ago and I'm sure this implies that ocean acidity was also higher 100 million years ago. And yet, marine life still thrived. Not the same kind of marine life as today, but a different kind of marine life.

    There will be new creatures that will fill in the gap caused by ocean acidification. Maybe, it might take a long time (by human standards). And of course, coral reefs (and the creatures that depend on them) might be irreplaceable (and seen as more valuable than the marine organisms of, say, 100 million years ago). But really, who's to determine which organisms have any more right to life than any other organisms? Although one of the issues is that extinctions will happen before new species evolve, and extinctions will cause a loss of information that we could get from the unique physiologies/social structures of various organisms.

    I'm not anti-environmentalist by any measure - in fact - I hate habitat destruction more than anything else simply because it prevents other organisms from filling in the void caused by localized extinctions.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2010 #2
    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    Don't be so sure.
    Remember that CO2's increase in concentration is coupled with lower CO2 solubility, since CO2 in the atmosphere intensifies the greenhouse effect, and this raises the sea's temperatures, provoking a lower solubility, and, by consequence, lower acidity.

    Bear in mind that humans (I'm afraid of stating the obvious, but we are also a form of life) will have serious trouble if the sea food chain breaks. I live in a developing country, near the sea, and I know how crucial the sea is for many poor communities.

    Your "something else will fill the void" idea leads to unacceptable conclusions. I think you perhaps haven't realized how dramatic it would be to loose biodiversity. If someone follows strictly your ideas, than murdering isn't bad at all - human population is growing and "someone will fill the void". As with each person, each species is different, and brings a genetic inheritage crucial to mantaining the life, as a whole, in earth.
     
  4. Aug 25, 2010 #3
    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    Let me connect your first and last sentences. At some point the level of CO2 in the ocean at least partialy contributes to ocean anoxic events. These are VERY bad things. On a species by species basis I dont think it matters if some dead end super specialized species dies out as it would probably have happened anyways. However when you crash an entire ecosystem there are world wide effects.

    Notice there are a collection of anoxic events around the time you specified. http://www.agu.org/journals/ABS/2002/2001PA000623.shtml
     
  5. Aug 25, 2010 #4

    alxm

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    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    I think the famous Keynes quote applies here: "The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead."
     
  6. Aug 26, 2010 #5
  7. Aug 26, 2010 #6
    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    This is the way I see it:
    Mankind may not be the first species on Earth to cause so much extinction but we are certainly the first species to regret it.
     
  8. Aug 26, 2010 #7

    Simfish

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    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    Okay thanks for the replies everyone. I actually don't mean to be confrontational or anything - in fact - I do think a lot like an environmentalist - I just sometimes question assumptions and do it in a somewhat provocative manner just to make it easier to do so.

    Hm, this quote does somewhat confuse me. One of the main arguments against increasing CO2 concentrations is that CO2 is also seeping into the ocean, making it more acidic. But if increasing the temperature makes the oceans less soluble (and thus less) acidic, then doesn't it exert a negative feedback effect, meaning that we don't have to worry about acidicity in the oceans as much as we originally thought?

    ==

    Okay thanks for the reference about anoxic events in the far past. Hm though, how common were they in the far past? I'm not totally sure if higher CO2 levels (and temperatures) in the far past contributed to increased levels of anoxic events (the ones cited above were attributed to other factors). The thing is the marine life of 100 million years ago tolerated higher CO2 levels. Of course, it's not the same marine life as the marine life that exists now.
     
  9. Aug 26, 2010 #8
    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    I don't know if the solubility effect compensates completely the increased CO2 concentration. I just posted that to show you how complex those problems are and that it is a bad idea to make conclusions without analyzing all the possible environmental interactions.

    I think we should be concerned with the potential effects of higher CO2 concentration. Raising ocean's temperature isn't a good idea.

    I'm not a specialist in this area, though.
     
  10. Aug 26, 2010 #9

    Simfish

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    Re: Is it really "bad" for life if the oceans are acidifying under so much CO2?

    Yeah those are good points. I'm concerned about higher CO2 as well - I'm just not so sure that it's as bad as some people make it out to be.
     
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