Monday, August 4, 2014

Diary of the Last Age -- Sea Life

I live in the Pacific Northwest and I love raw oysters.  The Puget Sound (now called the Salish Sea) is home to more varieties of oysters than anywhere on the planet.  But that precious advantage is now in danger, the oysters are dying.  They are dying from the acidification of the Sound.  The fact is that most of the carbon dioxide our civilization is pumping into the atmosphere is ending up in the oceans.  And that has consequences, serious ones, for carbonate sea life, like oysters, clams, shrimp, and most significant, krill.  Krill is the main source of food for whales and other large mammalian sea species.  When the krill is gone, they'll be gone. And unless we stop pouring CO2 into the atmosphere and thus the ocean, the krill will be gone.  And oysters, and clams too.  

The important issue is that the increase of CO2 is accelerating.  There have been times with more CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans, but when their introduction is slow, it can be accommodated.  However, when rapid, the usual processes are not able to handle it.  We have an historical event showing us what happens when the CO2 concentration accelerates, the PETM boundary, the Paleoeocene-Eocene Boundary,  where 55.8 million years ago, the oceans and atmosphere were filled with greenhouse gases over a very short period of time.  The oceans acidified resulting on the largest loss of sea life in our planet's history.  Daytime temperatures at the North Pole in the summer were 75 degrees Fahrenheit -- there was serious global warming. 

We are pumping more than 20 times of CO2 at 10 times the rate as then.  What we will experience, if nothing is done, will be far worse than what happened then.

One thing we can look forward to is that there will be jelly fish in abundance, which incidentally are mostly edible.  As our food stocks begin to disappear from global warming, I believe jelly fish will be found to take their place.