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Seas turn to acid as they absorb global pollution

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  • P. Neuman self only
    ... From: janson2997 To: fuelcell-energy@yahoogroups.com Date: Sun, 01 Aug 2004 00:38:31 -0000 Subject: [fuelcell-energy] Seas turn to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2004
      --------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: "janson2997" <janson1997@...>
      To: fuelcell-energy@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Sun, 01 Aug 2004 00:38:31 -0000
      Subject: [fuelcell-energy] Seas turn to acid as they absorb global

      Seas turn to acid as they absorb global pollution

      By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
      01 August 2004
      The world's oceans are sacrificing themselves to try to stave off
      global warming, a major international research programme has

      Their waters have absorbed about half of the carbon dioxide emitted
      by human activities over the past two centuries, the 15-year study
      has found. Without this moderating effect, climate change would have
      been much more rapid and severe.

      But in the process the seas have become more acid, threatening their
      very life. The research warns that this could kill off their coral
      reefs, shellfish and plankton, on which all marine life depends.

      News of the alarming conclusions of the research - headed by US
      government scientists - follows the discovery, reported in Friday's
      Independent, of a catastrophic failure of North Sea birds to breed
      this summer, thought to be the result of global warming.

      The disaster - forecast in The Independent on Sunday last October -
      appears to have been caused by plankton moving hundreds of miles to
      the north to escape from an unprecedented warming on the sea's
      waters. Sand eels - millions of which normally provide the staple
      diet of many seabirds and large fish - have disappeared, because
      they, in turn, depend on the plankton.

      The new study warns of an even more alarming collapse throughout the
      world's oceans if climate change continues. It is the result of a
      mammoth research effort, which has taken and analysed 72,000 samples
      of seawater from 10,000 different places in the oceans since 1989.

      Led by scientists working for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric
      Administration in Seattle, it has also involved teams of researchers
      from Australia, Canada, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Germany.

      It has discovered, for the first time, that the seas and oceans have
      soaked up almost half of all human emissions of carbon dioxide, the
      main cause of global warming, since the start of the Industrial

      By doing so they have greatly slowed climate change, and almost
      certainly prevented it from already causing catastrophe.

      "The oceans are performing this tremendous service to humankind by
      reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," says Dr
      Christopher Sabine, one of the leaders of the research. But, he adds,
      this is coming at a great cost because the act of salvage "is
      changing the chemistry of the oceans".

      The research concludes that "dramatic changes", such as have not
      occurred for at least 20 million years, now appear to be under way.
      They could have "significant impacts on the biological systems of the
      oceans in ways that we are only beginning to understand".

      As the water naturally absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, it forms
      carbonic acid. And the acid then mops up calcium carbonate, a
      substance normally plentiful in the oceans that sea creatures use to
      make the protective shells that they need to survive.

      The scientists say that if the world goes on producing more and more
      carbon dioxide, this shell formation will become increasingly
      difficult, while the world will heat up anyway.

      The results are incalculable, because so may shelled creatures live
      in the seas, ranging from clams and corals to the plankton and other
      tiny creatures that form the base of the entire food chain of the

      The surface waters and upper 10 per cent of the oceans - which
      contain most of the life - are the most acidic, the research shows.
      The acidity also varies around the world. The North Atlantic - the
      nearest ocean to the world's most polluting countries, is the most
      affected; the southern ocean that encircles Antarctica the least.

      When the scientists took a species of snail from the relatively
      unpolluted waters of the far north of the Pacific, near the Arctic
      Circle, and put it in seawater with carbon dioxide levels similar to
      those found elsewhere, the animals' shells began to dissolve.

      Dr Peter Brewer, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute -
      who was not himself involved in the research - calls the results "a
      wake-up call". He adds: "The numbers are crystal clear. The analysis
      is impeccable. There is no uncertainty about this. These impacts of a
      high carbon dioxide ocean are real, and are measurable today."

      The research also explodes a heavily touted "solution" to global
      warming. Critics of international action, including members of the
      Bush administration, say that there is little need to curb carbon
      dioxide emissions because the gas could be collected and injected
      into the oceans for disposal. However, the study shows that this cure
      could be even worse than the disease.

      A Sea Song

      By Martin Newell, 'IoS' Poet in Residence

      The sand eel goes without his tea
      Because of human industry
      So guillemots are starving
      And the puffin's eating nothing
      The kittiwake and skua
      May not grow to be mature
      And the sea's got indigestion now

      Must I go down to the sea again?
      To the lonely sea in tears
      The sky is strangely empty
      And the silence hurts my ears

      Now the arctic tern - the mother
      Thinks a tern deserves another
      But she ain't disposed to breeding
      With her troubles over feeding
      The ocean still is heaving
      But the creatures are all leaving
      And the sea's got indigestion now

      See, there isn't any potion
      You can give a gippy ocean
      Like a Gaviston or Rennie
      And we ain't come up with any
      Since the businesses we banked on
      Have been murdering the plankton
      So the sea's got indigestion now

      The day before the siren went
      We thought about environment
      We talked about restrictions
      And made various predictions
      But market forces beckoned
      So the oceans all came second
      And the sea's got indigestion now.



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