Professor Steve Palumbi of Stanford University is pioneering the use of small ‘to the point’ videos (‘microdocs’) to illustrate important issues that face the ocean. In this one, he outlines (with superb clarity) the issue of ocean acidification and illustrates why it is such a serious threat to marine ecosystems like coral reefs. While Steve is using stronger acid than ultimately will be seen in the world’s oceans as they acidify (essentially speeding up the process), he illustrates the key nature of the threat in a way that anyone could understand. Well done – check out Steve’s page for more microdocs on a whole range of environmental topics, including coral bleaching, crown of thorns, marine parks and why it really sucks to be a tuna.
What is the pH of vinegar? (2.4) Of the ocean? (7.8-8.3) WikiPedia (noting the editorial control of the AGW editor) reckons this: Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104 (a change of −0.075). pH is a log scale. 8.1 – 2.4 = 5.7 or this demo uses acid that is ~10^6 stronger than sea water. That is some speeding up. It is also a pretty crude simplification of carbon chemistry in the ocean. While I appreciate the intention is to warn folk about potential risks etc. We now live in a read/write web space and simplifying what is a complex system to dissolving a piece of coral in vinegar is, IMHO, not good science education.
There are two issues it seems to me. The empirical evidence about pH change in various oceans (please don’t tell me there is a global average!). I’d be more interested to know what the pH shifts are around the Barrier Reef. The 2nd is how are the projections of pH change (e.g. arrived at? Please don’t tell me a computer model!
I appreciate the need to simplify things so folk can get a sense of the argument but this, at least to me, is not a good way to do it.
The Scholar’s Stage has linked to this post.
…For those unfamiliar with the topic I recommend this short 5 minute ‘micromentary.’ The gist is this…