Most people know that the release of carbon dioxide into the air from human sources has contributed to rising global temperatures and massive increases in the rate of melting of the ice at the poles and on Greenland. One of the major consequences they may not know about is the acidification of the oceans.
The chemistry is quite straightforward. It's the same process that occurs when bottled water is carbonated. Most of the carbon dioxide simply dissolves in the water. But some of it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid. And, that's what's happening in the world's oceans as humans release more and more carbon dioxide into the air.
Climate change deniers love to dispute climate modeling, to talk about short-term weather phenomena, and to pick on minor citation errors in official reports. But, they don't like to talk about ocean acidification for three interrelated reasons. First, humans have indisputably been dumping exponentially increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the beginning of the industrial revolution, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. Second, the oceans have absorbed about one-third of this carbon dioxide which then forms carbonic acid. This reduces the pH of the water in an acidic direction. Third, scientists have documented through direct observation the changes in ocean species, both large and microscopic, that have resulted from this increased acidity.
What the scientists are finding is troubling. First, the entire food chain of the ocean could be short-circuited. Second, ocean acidification in combination with other human impacts on the ocean could result in mass extinctions. Third, no one knows how such changes might affect life on land which is by no means isolated from the ocean.
Among those who accept the science of climate change, there are some who believe we can engineer our way out of the problem. One proposal calls for putting small reflective particles into the atmosphere to block a portion of the sunlight falling on the earth. But a recent study revealed that this would have little or no effect on the continuing acidification of the oceans.
Even though 1) the mechanism for ocean acidification is well-established, 2) the source of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and consequently in the ocean is traceable to man-made causes, and 3) the effects are already being observed--they are no mere projections--the climate change deniers will no doubt tell us that ocean acidification is nothing to worry about. Of course, we must remember that they are in the pay of or under the influence of propaganda put out by the fossil fuel interests, interests that spend millions on disinformation and zero on ocean research.
These same climate change deniers insure their houses against fire, their cars against accident and their bodies against illness. But they want us to play Russian roulette with the oceans and the climate. They cannot possibly know how the future will turn out. But even if climate change were not an issue, the peril associated with the acidification of the oceans by itself would justify immediate and drastic action to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
It is hard to imagine a case weaker than that made by the deniers against the science of human-caused global climate change. But there is one, the nonexistent case against the reality of human-caused ocean acidification. So, it's no wonder the climate change deniers don't want to talk about it.