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A year ago today we were horrified to hear of the massive oil spill in The Gulf of Mexico which we now know was caused by incompetence and greed by British Petroleum in their quest for more and more profits.  It was also caused by our massive insatiable addiction to oil.  BP knows that no matter how much it charges or what damage it does the junkies must have their fossil fuel oil fix.

I know there was panic on this site a year ago when the news was first released.   There was speculation that the Gulf of Mexico would be a dead zone and that complete species of water life would disappear.  Well that panic has subsided though we still hear the news of dead dolphins and turtles appearing regularly..

But, as bad as the BP OIl Spill was there is something that is affecting the Oceans that is even more serious and affects the future of life on Earth as we know it and that is Ocean Acidification.  

Ocean Acidification is like Global Warming for the Oceans.  Here is Mark Bittman of The New York Times talking with Carl Safina of The Blue Ocean Institute   and Ted Danson of Oceana  about the immense danger of Ocean Acidification:

“Many people believe the whole catastrophe is the oil we spill, but that gets diluted and eventually disarmed over time. In fact, the oil we don’t spill, the oil we collect, refine and use, produces CO2 and other gases that don’t get diluted.”

That CO2, of course, leads to global warming and climate change, as well as what’s called ocean acidification, which might be thought of as oceanic global warming and is a greater catastrophe than any spill to date. The oceans absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, creating carbonic acid. Since the start of the industrial revolution we’ve added about 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the oceans, which are 30 percent more acidic than they were a couple of hundred years ago.

This acidification makes it difficult for calcifying organisms — coral, snails and oysters and other mollusks, and more — to build shells and skeletons sturdy enough for them to survive. Many of these are on the bottom of the food chain and, as they begin to die off (we’ve already seen massive oyster declines on the Pacific coast), the effects trickle up. Acidification has already wreaked havoc on coral reefs, on which about 25 percent of all marine life depends. By the end of this century, Safina says, the ocean will begin dissolving coral reefs — unless we make a big change in our fossil-fuel use.  “If you’re overfishing at the top of the food chain, and acidifying the ocean at the bottom, you’re creating a squeeze that could conceivably collapse the whole system.”

Our own FishOutOfWater talks about how Acidifing Oceans Endanger The Web of Life

Oceans acidifying at the highest rate since the last great mass extinction 65 million years ago, threaten marine life, coral reefs and nutrition for over a billion people according to a report (PDF) just released by the UN. Fossil fuel burning, cement production, deforestation and land use changes have increased atmospheric CO2 from 280 to 390 PPMs. Increasing atmospheric CO2 has dissolved in the oceans, increasing the acidity (decreasing the pH) by 30%. Increasing acidity is destabilizing shells and corals, threatening the web of life in the ocean.

For Ocean Acidification and Oil Spills there is only one solution and that is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  We seem to be able to talk the talk but can we walk the walk and actually reduce fossil fuel use in our own lives as that is the key to influencing the market.  If we continue to Wait for Godot so that somehow this crisis will be solved without our having to participate or make changes in our lives I fear the generations after us will look at our time as the beginning of the ending of theirs.

The most effective and fastest way to reduce the use of fossil fuels in our own lives is to reduce the consumption of meat and meat products..   Does that seem too steep a price to pay for preserving life as we know it on our planet?

Originally posted to Meatless Advocates Meetup on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 07:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Ocean Advocates.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this, beach babe in fl (11+ / 0-)

    Thanks for connecting the dots and reminding us that our food choices have such a dramatic impact on the planet.

  •  Thanks. I've been so busy with extreme weather (25+ / 0-)

    that I haven't had time to go back over ocean acidification. Moreover, it helps to have you and Mark Bittman explain it in ways that reach more people.

    Apparently, we are at a record number of tornadoes for this time of year, according to Jeff Masters. Thanks to Weatherdude for starting the severe weather libeblogs group. It's very hard to keep up with all the problems related to increasing levels of greenhouse gases.

    Without healthy oceans, how do we expect to survive?

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 07:56:38 AM PDT

    •  yes, we are fighting on all fronts... (14+ / 0-)

      this is starting to feel like an insane normal.  Thanks for your work you can see I used it extensively.

      •  An example of what we are up against: (5+ / 0-)

        Here is the comment of a physician -- and physicians are (theoretically) trained to believe in science, and to understand the scientific method and to think critically and analytically -- in a listserv in which I participate, regarding global warming, referring to an article by a climate change denier:

        Even if we drastically reduced the use of fossil fuels we would still not see any effect on global temperatures which means it would make no difference.  You and others may or may not believe that conclusion ... we have no idea what the cost would be of attempting to take action on this issue and no confidence that it would make any difference if we did.  It would be insane to spend vast sums of money on a questionable theory with little chance that it would have any effect.

        Don't forget that human populations exploded because of favorable climate conditions during the Medieval Warming Optimum where temperatures were higher than today.  When the climate cooled again (Little Ice Age) those populations dwindled and starvation was rampant.

        Warm is better.  Cold is the enemy.

        The willful ignorance is breathtaking, and one can only marvel at the selective misuse of historical observatins to arrive at completely bogus conclusions that are preconceived and self-serving. This is the MO of today's "conservatives". This person meant the last sentence (the added emphasis was mine) absolutely seriously, not as snark.

        "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

        by flitedocnm on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:07:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  many physicians (3+ / 0-)

          are merely technicians who have been taught to memorize anatomy and a series of procedures.

          some are astoundingly uneducated.

          they are told to use the scientific method, but they actually do very little science.

          but they have big egos.

          I am awaiting delivery of my new DK4 signature

          by BlueDragon on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:25:23 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sigh. (7+ / 0-)

            BlueDragon, I am happy to rec your comment because you intended it to reinforce what I was saying, but I feel compelled to point out that I put up the quote and my comment not to provide an excuse to bash physicians (I am a physician, by the way), but as an example of how even people with advanced educational degrees -- and that applies to lots of people besides physicians -- can easily be misled by facile and reductionist thinking into being fierce advocates for absurd and destructive policies driven by radical ideology and justified by "history" or "science". Even to the point of being totally blind to the fact that those policies are absolutely opposed to one's own self-interest.

            I'll grant that many physicians have big egos. As do many people of any profession or trade that confers prestige or privilege or (especially) celebrity status.

            But I disagree that physicians are "merely technicians". I know, you qualified that with the adjective "many". And I appreciate that. It's that every physician is indeed trained to think critically, to use both deductive reasoning and to take an empiric, "evidence-based" approach to clinical decision making. The fact that many physicians end up acting like technicians has much to do with the observation that the demands placed upon physicians these days, especially in the environment of working as an employee for a large corporation (which now includes the majority of recently trained physicians) makes it very difficult to act otherwise.

            The question is: how to translate critical thinking into all realms of thought, to take an evidence based approach not only to whether it's cost-effective and medically appropriate to order a CT scan on a patient with a headache, but also to whether it's economically and environmentally appropriate to mandate changes in our energy policy for a planet with rising levels of CO2.

            I don't have a ready answer to that question. And I apologize for the digression. I bring it up because it's paradigmatic for the challenge we are facing in getting everyone to recognize the critical importance of what we are doing to this planet, and what we must do to avert disaster.

            "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

            by flitedocnm on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:54:46 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  A long time ago (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              flitedocnm, libnewsie

              I had this really bad rash (eczema) and I went to a dermatoligist who was giving me some creams, but it really wasn't fixing my problem.

              Eventually, I asked him, "Could this be caused by an allergy?"  He said, "No, if it was was, you would have it everywhere, not just on your face and arms."

              Anyway, after a couple more weeks, I went to the library to read about allergies and found out the guy was completely full of crap.

              I share this story not to bash doctors, but it was one of those major learning events for me.  I learned that even doctors can be full of it.  I seriously thought previously something along the lines  .... "He's a doctor, he must know what he's talking about."

              I'm not trying to bash doctors, but it was a very valuable lesson I learned and I won't forget it.

              btw: I wised up and I called the local hospital referral line and they referred me to a fantastic allergy doctor, who was able to help me.

              Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

              by yet another liberal on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 12:23:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well, (2+ / 0-)

                yes, you learned an important lesson. Physicians are absolutely not infallible, and just like there are good politicians and crappy politicians, the same holds true for physicians, and every other profession.

                But now back to our regularly scheduled diary! How do we save the planet from those who are totally full of it on climate change, or too greedy to care?

                "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

                by flitedocnm on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 01:38:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  I think a lot of humans... (3+ / 0-)

      ...are just so disconnected from nature on a personal basis in their lives that they stupidly don't realize that we depend on nature for our survival, that we don't live independently of nature.  

      •  I heard it said once (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beach babe in fl

        "We weren't put in this world, we come from it, like a leaf from a tree."

        I learned all about this idea of "being put in this world" growing up.  It's what they said at church.

        It's really sad.  It is fundamentally and profoundly false.

        Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

        by yet another liberal on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 12:30:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for the important (13+ / 0-)

    and very necessary reminder beach babe.  Tipped and rec'd.

  •  I simply can not (11+ / 0-)

    beleive that 1 year later the Gulf's eco-system is being portrayed as not to bad. Beaches are open, fishing industry is back, blah blah blah (seriously? who in their right mind would swim or eat Shrimp or Crab ettouffee  caught in the waters off of Louisiana or MS or AL or the panhandle of FL?). It's a nice try, but people along the Gulf's shores are getting horribly ill and some are dying. Eye witness accounts state all kinds of sea life are washing up dead, not just turtles and new born dolphins.  Mats of toxic oil/dispersant sludge mats, which the microbes do not find very yummy, are resting on the bottom just waiting to come ashore with the next big hurricane. Some scientists and politicians, and the Corporate press have been bought and paid for by the oil industry. And when clean up workers remove sea life bodies and incinerate them this myth continues. With acidification of the oceans, we are screwed big time. Thanks for the diary and letting me vent.

    "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."- Lao-Tzu

    by Pakalolo on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 09:02:26 AM PDT

  •  a pundit noted (9+ / 0-)

    it took 10 years for a law to pass in response to the santa barbara oil spill.

    we don't have 10 years to wait.

    it might be too late now.

    "sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen."...

    by stolen water on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 09:17:53 AM PDT

  •  I've lived in Florida most of my life... (9+ / 0-)

    And I used to spend a good deal of my time at the beach. But now my walks are along the sidewalks on the otherside of the dunes away from the beach. I don't recognize the Atlantic beaches here in South Florida any more, they are covered in garbage, cigarette butts, broken glass, wads of tangled fishing lines and tar. Lots of tar. It sticks to the dog's feet and on mine. It's just not worth the effort to go down there and it's so very depressing.

    "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats." Groucho Marx

    by DavidW on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 09:25:22 AM PDT

  •  Since pH is logarithmic.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl

    ....there seems to be some confusion about these percentages people hurl around.  What is a "30% increase in acidity", anyway?

    It seems the scientists can't even agree on these percentages, as the UN report claims that the forecasted 0.3 pH change over the century equates to a 150% acidity increase, while the source it cites claims the same pH change equates to a 100% change.  Which is it?

    Maybe we should stick to proper pH data (which, if anyone if curious, is a 0.1 change from 1700 to today).

    •  I hope you're not trying to minimize the change (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beach babe in fl, RunawayRose

      because it's been significant and is accelerating.

      Pre-industrial (18th century) =    8.179    
      Recent past (1990s) = 8.104 (change of 0.7 in ~300 years)
      Today = 8.069 (change of 0.5 in a less than 20 years)

      Do you understand what that acceleration curve looks like?  

      Do you understand that aragonite (what corals make their skeletons from) is very sensitive to changes in pH?  There is already evidence that aragonite is becoming under saturated in parts of the oceans, making it much harder (and eventually impossible) for corals to make their skeletons?

      If you really care to understand the implications, read things like this (PDF).

      "For coal to be 'clean,' it must magically float out of the ground" - RL Miller

      by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:08:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm trying to minimize the confusion.... (0+ / 0-)

        ....that could result from meaningless or conflicting numbers.

        Take your post, for example.

        Pre-industrial (18th century) =    8.179    
        Recent past (1990s) = 8.104 (change of 0.7 in ~300 years)
        Today = 8.069 (change of 0.5 in a less than 20 years)

        Check your math.  8.104 - 8.069 = 0.035.  Not 0.5.  Not even 0.05.  If your raw numbers are correct, the trend may not be accelerating at all (depending on where in the 1990s that middle data point is).

        •  thank you for correcting my math (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, beach babe in fl, f8tbd

          error.  I posted the comment in a rush.

          However, despite my math error, measurements have shown that the rate is indeed accelerating.  Please take a look at the abstract in the PDF link I posted.

          Here is a large portion of it:

          The observed historic and the projected future atmospheric CO2 increase causes large worldwide reductions in surface pH and carbonate ion concentration and thus in the saturation states of calcite and aragonite. The degree of modeled changes is almost exclusively determined by the projected level of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Estimated pH changes since preindustrial times for the present are close to 0.1. For stabilization of atmospheric CO2 at 1000 ppm (scenario WRE1000), corresponding to the upper end of atmospheric CO2 levels applied, and year 2100 (year 2500), high latitude surface pH is projected to decrease by up to 0.35 (0.65) compared to the preindustrial state. The largest changes in CaCO3 saturation states in all scenarios occur in the tropical surface ocean, with reductions of up to 115 mmol m-3 by 2100, and of over 160 mmol m-3 by 2500 in WRE1000; however, these tropical waters always remain saturated in our simulations. Conversely, in the high southern latitudes, undersaturation with respect to aragonite occurs near the end of the 21st century, with the timing being dependent on the CO2 history. In the WRE1000 case, all northern and southern high latitudes become undersaturated in both calcite and aragonite after 2100. These changes also extend well below the sea surface, leading to undersaturation throughout the water column at high latitudes, and substantial shoaling of the calcite and aragonite saturation horizons.

          The contribution of global warming and induced ocean circulation changes to the changes in oceanic pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states is small when compared to the effect from the anthropogenic CO2 increase itself. Global warming slightly moderates changes induced by anthropogenic CO2 (by 10% at most) for all scenarios. With warming, CO2 solubility is reduced which in turn reduces oceanic CO2 uptake and increases the carbonate ion concentration. Global warming also delays undersaturation with respect to both aragonite and calcite by about 25 years in Southern Ocean and North Atlantic surface waters. In the extreme case of a complete shutdown of the North Atlantic Deep Water formation after 2100 and a large-scale reorganization of the global thermohaline circulation in scenario WRE1000, undersaturation becomes largest in the North Atlantic Ocean by the end of year 2200, due to the associated changes in surface salinity.

          Regardless of the exact numbers and dates... this is a very serious issue that every oceanographer knows and worries about.  

          There is no doubt that acidification rates are increasing.  There are dozens if not hundreds of scientific publications that , like the one above, reach that conclusion.

          "For coal to be 'clean,' it must magically float out of the ground" - RL Miller

          by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 02:30:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  by the way, my math was wrong on both (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, beach babe in fl, f8tbd

          calculations... so the acceleration is indeed clear:

          Pre-industrial (18th century) =    8.179    
          Recent past (1990s) = 8.104 (change of 0.075 in ~300 years)
          Today = 8.069 (change of 0.035 in a less than 20 years)

          "For coal to be 'clean,' it must magically float out of the ground" - RL Miller

          by Hopeful Skeptic on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 02:37:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the great diary (5+ / 0-)

    It's inspiring to witness Mark Bittman's tranformation from chef to social activist.  

    It's worth mentioning that in addition to reducing consumption of meat it's important to avoid overfished varieties such as Chilean sea bass and orange roughy.  

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you" -- Greetings from "Idiocracy"

    by martinjedlicka on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 09:54:14 AM PDT

  •  Exactly why I support nuclear power over coal (0+ / 0-)

    As bad as the Fukushima reactor disaster is, that radiation will disperse and decay and life in the oceans won't even notice.  It's about choosing the lesser of two evils.  And I choose the one that doesn't kill the entire planet.

  •  couldn't open this one: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl, RunawayRose
    Our own FishOutOfWater talks about how Acidifing Oceans Endanger The Web of Life

    "sometimes decades pass and nothing happens; and then sometimes weeks pass and decades happen."...

    by stolen water on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:13:22 AM PDT

  •  Fortunately BP is ready to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose

    Resume Oil Spilling

    LONDON—A year after the tragic explosion and oil spill that caused petroleum giant BP to cease operations in the Gulf of Mexico, the company announced Wednesday that it was once again ready to begin oil spilling. "People said this company might never rebound from last year, but we're here and ready to do what we do best," said BP chief executive Robert Dudley, who confirmed that the company had already successfully conducted small test spills and that full-scale spilling operations could resume as early as July. "We've reorganized and regrouped, and now we're ready to put the faulty blowout preventers on the wellheads and watch them pump raw crude petroleum right into the environment." BP stock jumped $14 a share following the announcement.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:43:54 AM PDT

  •  the events at COP17 on ocean acidificatin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl, RunawayRose

    really opened my eyes and people's unawareness about the fact that oceans have no more capacity to serve as carbon sinks and the role that is playing in our dying ecosystems, cultural identities AND the search for other carbon 'sinks' paving the way for REDD projects which again devastate local cultural lifestyles and corrupt carbon markets ... OMG!

    Thank you, BB. Lately i feel you are emerging as a BIG VOICE campaigner!

    (But that may be because in DK3 I was missing a lot of your diaries and now Im not so I was in the dark.)

    Love to ya... I LOVE your work and your method of presentation ...

  •  Good diary and this very important, but... (0+ / 0-)

    I know three things.

    1. I'm far from convinced based on what I've seen so far that most scientists really think reducing methane would have the effects Earthsave promises. I don't claim to understand this stuff, but I'll definitely believe this when the majority of climate scientists say it's true. If they're not saying, I'll continue to wonder why.

    2. It seems to me that the problems with animal agriculture are also the problem with having so many living, breathing beings on the planet. I have reason to believe me and the cat near me both produce methane, much like the cow, the pig and the chicken, none of whom are going away in time to save the planet. Again, would reducing their numbers really have such a huge impact?

    3. Finally, the strongest argument. Politically, it's a total non-starter. We can try and get people to reduce the intake of animal fats for health reasons, but if you start pushing vegetarianism or, even more pie-in-sky (and not even always healthy), veganism on most people, well you might as well start forget about it. If someone like me can't imagine even halving my admittedly too-high meat consumption even though I know it would be healthier for me and better for the planet -- though perhaps not to the degree some think -- what kind of luck are you going to have with the rest or humanity, which is genetically conditioned to love meat and fat?

    I think these are all reasons the ecological community as a whole may prefer to look elsewhere.

    Forward to Yesterday -- Reactionary aesthetics and liberal politics (in that order)

    by LABobsterofAnaheim on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 12:13:11 PM PDT

    •  there aren't any 'elsewhere's' that bring (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hopeful Skeptic, RunawayRose

      such fast and effective change Bob.  Really if you're right what harm is done to change your diet...A LOT of good though.   If you're wrong well we all suffer just so you can have your meat.

      •  I'm just saying that getting.... (0+ / 0-)

        Enough people to change for this reason is extremely unlikely. You'd basically have to force people to do it through rationing or immense poverty. It's simply not human nature to make such a radical change in the diet unless you're already disposed that way. And, again, that's assuming the science here is correct, a point I'm agnostic about. (I.e., it may well be true but I'm not accepting it on faith.).

        Forward to Yesterday -- Reactionary aesthetics and liberal politics (in that order)

        by LABobsterofAnaheim on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 05:33:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  science is not faith... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LABobsterofAnaheim

          I've been writing about this issue for 3 years in my series Macca's Meatless Monday.   Just click on my username and it will take you to over one hundred diaries on the issue of meat production & climate change.  Make sure you click on the links to see the research articles.

  •  Speaking as someone who adores (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose

    a medium ribeye, I absolutely agree with the sentiment expressed in your last link (tho I didn't follow it).  Especially the meat products part, which are both worse for the planet and worse for human health.

    Myself, all my meals at work are vegetarian and I work 12 hour shifts, so I'm eating vegetarian almost 40% of the time.  The rest of the time I shift the balance on my plates towards vegetables and away from meat and starch.  Then I enjoy my meal without guilt.

    A people who cannot correctly recognize their nation's problems will not be able to solve them.

    by peterborocanuck on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 12:29:59 PM PDT

  •  Moving that way, bbif! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    beach babe in fl, Ahianne

    Farmers market season is about to start here. (They have a year-round presence now down near the riverfront; it's being displaced this weekend by the flooding Mississippi.)

    C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

    by RunawayRose on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 03:11:01 PM PDT

    •  Hi RR! yes, I heard about your flooding there... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Ahianne

      take care.

      The Farmers Market here is too far to be practical,  I wish we had one close by...I would be their best customer!

      •  Oh, the Mississippi floods slowly. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beach babe in fl, Ahianne

        We don't get flash floods.  Most of the Davenport riverfront is either parkland or structures built to survive floods.

        Biggest impact on me is traffic density.  The river flows east to west in this area, so Riverfront Drive (US Hwy 61/67) is a major east-west route.  The others are Middle Road/Locust Street, Kimberly, 53rd Street, and Interstate 80.  Since Middle/Locust is the one closest to the river route, it picks up a lot of extra traffic.  It's also the road I use to go see my sister.

        C'est la vie, c'est la guerre, c'est la pomme de terre.

        by RunawayRose on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 03:36:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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