Can we talk about oceans for a second?

The oceans are crucial.


Oceans absorb heat - NASA has a walkthrough here. (Aside: and yet, Dr. Robert E. Stevenson, who apparently trains astronauts in marine meteorology, is a climate change denier - hire smarter people, NASA.)

And the globe is heating. Yay for humanity! Through a bunch of processes, it seems like a carbon dioxide heavy atmosphere means warmer oceans.

This is a problem: weather is largely driven by the sun and the difference in temperature between the air over land and the air over water. While I can't claim to know the exact details of storm formation (although I am certain that no one else can claim to know it all either), I have heard that hurricanes are getting worse (with 2008 specifically setting a record) and are expected to get much, much worse.

So that's bad.

That's not the only global warming-related problem with the ocean, though.

See, the ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide - which is a good thing! Kinda! See, one of the reasons that I'm such a fan of the parts-per-million of carbon dioxide measurement is because it combines a lot of stuff - not just what we emit, but also the cycles that take it out of the air.

Carbon dioxide is being constantly put out and taken back up. Animals breathe it out, volcanos shove a bunch out into the air, and there's tons of other reasons carbon dioxide is being added. But like most things in nature, it's a cycle - carbon dioxide is also being breathed in by trees and dissolving the ocean. The problem is that we're so good at emitting the stuff that the ocean is getting full.

The really sucky part is that there's another aspect to the ocean-carbon-dissolving thing. When the ocean absorbs the stuff, it creates an acid (carbonic acid) that, duh, makes the water more acidic. (Acid rain is a similar process, just in the air.) If the ocean gets more acidic, sea creatures have trouble - which is totally understandable. Specifically, coral and shellfish have trouble building their shells, which leads to them dying, which leads to the ecosystems of the oceans getting messed up. That's bad.

Will all life in the oceans die as the waters turn to an acidic sludge? Probably not (at least in our life-times). Will we seriously unbalance the ocean and lead to the extinction of huge numbers of species before their time - and complicate our attempts to feed our massive population? We probably already have.

The oceans are crucial. Let's start reducing emissions.

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