Acid seas:
The climate, which we hit on from time to time, is of course right off topic.  But it is important so I digress.

We are repeatedly warned about the notion that burning fossil fuels, coal and oil, releases CO2 into the atmosphere and this will produce a “greenhouse effect” that will warm the planet.  This strikes me as an oversimplified approach to a very complex phenomenon.  But do not let my hesitation be interpreted as indifference.  Suppose you want to take a trip.  Your car has been acting up.  It is important to arrive, and it would be nice to get there quickly.  So you take the car to a mechanic and he says, “Don’t drive her over sixty.”  Of course you take his advice.  But suppose you have doubts.  You think maybe he has overlooked something and could be twenty miles an hour off.  So you drive at eighty, right?  No.  You don’t even drive at sixty.  You drive at forty.  In fact you keep it at thirty nine and have your heart in your mouth. 

Cutting back on CO2 might avoid warming the planet.  There could be other factors, but simple prudence dictates that a serious warning should be heeded.  We need to do our best to reduce the greenhouse gasses.  My own interest, which is the fact that an oversized gene pool will result in infertility, could be compared.  It is trendy to say the bigger and more diverse the gene pool the better.  But even the slightest chance that that is wrong should strike terror into the heart.  Yet solid evidence continues to be ignored.  Apparently we are not good at heeding warnings. 

At all events, for those of you who demand certainty, help is at hand.  (Ocean Acidification Unprecedented, Unsettling, Richard R. Kerr SCIENCE vol. 328 no. 5985 June 18, 2010 page 1500)  The effect of CO2 on the oceans is quite straightforward.  If you burn a pound of carbon you form three or four pounds of CO2, which promptly dissolves in water to form carbonic acid.  This has the double whammy of reducing ocean carbonate, which microorganisms need to metabolize, and dissolving things like coral reefs and oyster shells. 

And we have made a lot of acid.  In the past 200 years we have added 30 % to the acidity of the ocean, and we aren’t slowing down; we’re speeding up … a lot. 

You can’t eat coral, and the fish that live around the reefs are pretty and very diverse, but there aren’t that many of them, they’re not much good to eat and harvesting them is not easy.  So the blow to our food supply from losing coral might not seem like that much.  The loss of the biological diversity is more worrying, particularly, like our mechanic, we don’t really know what to expect as the ultimate result. 

Shellfish are in the human food chain.  We eat lots of oysters.  And shellfish are threatened as their shells dissolve in the acid.

What is not mentioned is teeth.  The calcium in teeth may be more resistant to acid corrosion, but teeth take wear.  Nothing much goes around vigorously rubbing coral or oysters, but the teeth of a predatory fish get a lot of surface wear because the fish must eat.  And just about any fish you’d want to eat from the ocean depends on having and using teeth. 

So I worry about it. 

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