Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do Environmentalists Know How Not To Freak Out About Every Little Thing?

Another alarmist study that seems to me to be much ado about nothing:

The chemistry of the oceans is changing faster than it has in hundreds of thousands of years because of the carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere, the National Research Council reported Thursday.

Carbon dioxide and other industrial gases have been a concern for several years because of their impact on the air, raising global temperatures in a process called the greenhouse effect.

One factor easing that warmth has been the amount of CO2 taken up by the oceans, but that has also caused scientific concerns because the chemicals make the water more acidic, which can affect sea life.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the pH of ocean water has declined from 8.2 to 8.1 and a further decline of 0.2 to 0.3 units is expected by the end of this century, according to the Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Science.

The current rate of change "exceeds any known change in ocean chemistry for at least 800,000 years," the report said.

As most folks will remember from school chemistry, pH is a measure of how alkaline or acidic something is. A pH of 7 is neutral, while higher numbers are more alkaline and lower numbers are more acidic.

Two things jump out at me. First, in 300 years the pH of the ocean changed from 8.2 to 8.1. And they know what the pH of the ocean was 300 years ago how exactly? And given these folks are probably rounding, are we talking about a decrease of 8.16 to 8.14? Second, I would hardly consider that as "rising acidity". It is becoming less basic and more neutral (which is where fresh water is). If you assume they are right about global warming and that polar ice caps are melting, the fresh water from the ice is likely responsible for much if not all of this shift. So what's the big deal? The way they talk about rising acidity it sounds like if you step into the ocean your foot will get burned off.

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