A paper in the Journal Science is being widely reported as portending imminent mass ocean extinctions
The oceans are indeed under a severe threat but the greatest threat is not from the usual suspects, those bad overfishing fishermen, the greater threat by far is from all of us.
I wrote to the lead author of the paper in Science, here’s my letter to him.
From the accounts I read of your paper in the Journal Science it does not seem to touch on the most dire effects of anthropogenic CO2 that is destroying ocean pasture productivity. Many papers show clearly that ocean primary productivity has been in cataclysmic decline for decades. Surely this collapse of the carrying capacity of ocean pastures is by far the most devastating CO2 effect in the oceans and the world at large. Yes overfishing is a compounding and serious problem but it is a much smaller secondary problem when compared to the loss of primary carrying capacity of ocean pastures. Indeed ‘overfishing’ would be very difficult if ocean pasture carrying capacity were at historic normal levels.
No terrestrial ecologist or agriculturist would dare to propose an over-harvest explanation of defaunation onto a grassland range ecosystem clearly suffering from decades of severe drought.
The primary crisis the oceans face today and will face for centuries to come is that high and rising CO2 is global greening of the grasslands of this blue planet.
More grass growing means less dust blowing.
While terrestrial pastures thrive on more moisture and enter states of drought and pasture collapse without rain, ocean pastures thrive on vital mineral dust that arrives in the wind and their droughts are brought on by missing mineral dust.
The diminishment of dust and collapse of ocean primary productivity is shown to be in lock step with global greening.
Our CO2 has made the ocean never again WILD
The notion made large in your paper that the oceans are still ‘WILD’ enough to recover utterly ignores the fact that we have poured upwards of a trillion tonnes of CO2 into the worlds air. The time it takes for CO2 in the air to equilibrate with ocean water is certainly some hundreds of years. Yet in just recent decades we have seen a small fraction of our emitted CO2 show up as a 30% drop in ocean pH. You know H2O+CO2→H2CO3 (carbonic acid). The remaining CO2 that we have already emitted, ‘yesterday’s CO2’ is by simple extrapolation of observed pH effects likely to be a lethal dose for most higher forms of “WILD” ocean life, higher meaning above that of the cyanobacters, unless we provide the antidote.
Regardless of whether we continue to emit more anthropogenic CO2 or never emit another molecule of it the CO2 that we emitted in all of our yesterdays has made the oceans NOT WILD. Surely mankind will continue to emit tens of billions of tonnes each year of new ‘tomorrows CO2’ into the air in the many tomorrows to come before the end of the fossil fuel age.
Statements from the ocean science community that the ocean is still ‘wild enough to recover’ are sheer folly and a certain prescription for the demise of present day ocean ecology and a reboot of the ocean ecosystem back to its cyanobacterial root operating system.
We must not simply stand back fiddling and merely watching while the ocean burns. Screwing in another energy efficient lightbulb won’t do much good either. We must do something to actively reduce the CO2 that is burning the ocean with acid and even worse imposing the ongoing catastrophic ocean pasture mineral drought.
Replenishing and restoring ocean pastures by giving back to the ocean the vital mineral dust we have denied it and in doing so have converted the ocean pastures from a wild to a devastated state is what we can and must do.
Perhaps in a thousand years when our fossil fuel burning frenzy has subsided the oceans if they have been saved will once again be WILD but in the meantime we who have destroyed their wild nature must act to mitigate our CO2 crime.
Or choose ocean life!
By restoring and replenishing ocean pastures we can turn deadly CO2 into life itself and bring back the fish.