US Senate Ocean
Short Summary of Ocean Acidification Testimony
of John T. Everett
There is not a problem with increased CO2 in the water,
leading to acidification. There are 4 primary factors:
- First, laboratory work shows there is no basis to
predict the demise of ocean shelled plants and animals. The animals above
them in the food chain will still find food. The science actually indicates
plants, crustaceans, and shelled algae plankton will be more successful.
Since they are at or near the bottom of the food chain, this is good
news. Some important animals, such as scallops and oysters slowed their
- Second, the Earth has been this route before. The
oceans have been far warmer and far colder and more acidic (2-20X) than
is projected. The memory of these events is built into the genes of all
species. Virtually all ecological niches have been filled at all times.
If someone could demonstrate that there were no corals, clams, oysters,
or shelled plankton (e.g., copepods, krill, certain algae) when there
was double or triple the amount of CO2, we would be concerned. The opposite
- Third, observational data in studies properly controlled
for other variables (e.g., upwelling, rainfall, pollution, temperature,
disease) show no harm. IPCC concluded (prior to the Iglesias-Rodriguez
paper (positive impact)) that there is no observational evidence of oceanic
changes due to acidification. There is also nothing conclusive in the
recent research to indicate any reason for concern.
- Lastly, natural changes are greater and faster than
those projected. Major warming, cooling, and pH changes in the oceans
are a fact of life. Whether over a few years as in an El Niño,
over decades as in the Pacific Oscillation, or over a few hours as a
burst of upwelling appears or a storm brings acidic rainwater to an estuary.
Despite severe and rapid changes that far exceed those in the scenarios,
the biology adapts rapidly. The 0.1 change in ocean alkalinity since
1750 and the one degree F. rise since 1860 are but noise in this rapidly
changing system. In the face of all these natural changes, whether over
days or millennia, some species flourish while others diminish.
- Conclusion. The crustaceans responding favorably in
research by Ries et al. (crabs, lobsters, shrimp) are probably similar
to those at the base of the ocean food chain such as krill and copepods.
Since they eat algae, which also responds favorably to CO2 increases
(and warmer temperatures), it is likely there will be increased food
in the sea. With no laboratory or observational evidence of biological
disruption, we see no economic disruption of commercial and recreational
fisheries, nor harm to marine mammals, sea turtles or any other protected
species. Open-minded research is needed to sort it out.