Scientists in appeal over acid oceans

A team of Plymouth scientists have added their support to an international campaign to combat climate change.

Speaking at a conference in Monaco, the group of six Plymouth Marine Laboratory scientists called for measures to stop the world’s oceans from becoming more acidic.

The team is undertaking research into how an increase in carbon dioxide is changing the chemistry of the oceans, threatening all life in the sea.

Dr Carol Turley, who summarised the science behind climate change for policy makers at the conference, said: “We are now in no doubt that ocean acidification is real and already altering the sea’s chemistry; this will have far-reaching effects. Now we need urgently to answer the questions about just what the impacts will be and what the risks are.”

The conference held over four days culminated in a ‘call to arms’ from delegates, including the Plymouth team.

Dr Turley also helped to formulate the Monaco Declaration, calling for urgent plans to cut further CO2 emissions and improve communication between policy makers, scientists and economists.

“Ocean acidification has to be treated as seriously as its twin – climate change,” she said.


The Herald, 15 February 2009. Full article.

4 Responses to “Scientists in appeal over acid oceans”

  1. 1 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 20 February 2009 at 18:40

    The title of this article is unfortunate because, despite the process of ocean acidification, the oceans are alkaline and will not become acidic (pH lower than 7) even in the distant future.

  2. 2 Jim Prall 7 May 2009 at 21:54

    I’m afraid you miss the point, Jean-Pierre. The term “acidification” is legitimately applied to lowering pH, whether it is currently above or below 7.0. Your objection seems like a red herring. All the scientists involved in the field use the term this way, but you presume to tell them how to choose their language?

    Do you imagine that pH=7.00 is the only point at which changing pH affects living systems? That would be a faulty assumption. Read up on the issue of calcium-based shell formation for both plankton, corals and larger hard-shelled organisms, and you’ll find that pH 7.0 is not where the trouble starts. Simply lowering pH from historical levels of ~8.2 to current ~8.1 is already a stressor, and more CO2 is projected to drive this to levels where organisms have ever greater trouble forming their hard shells.

    The oceans are under assault on multiple fronts, from pesticide and fertilizer runoff to oil spills to rising water temperatures, to overfishing in every ocean, and now also from falling pH. This one is a five-alarm fire that has gone largely unreported and below the radar of the public and the media. We risk seeing a collapse of fish stocks worldwide in under a generation, leaving vast millions without a traditional source of protein.

    For a quick source of news headlines on this issue, try:

  3. 3 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 7 May 2009 at 22:39

    Hi Jim,

    You are right: a decrease of pH has dire consequences on some marine organisms, well above a value of 7. I happen to have published a few scientific papers on this issue. My point is that the expression “acid ocean” should not be used because it refers to pH values below 7, which will not happen any time soon. I hope that this clarifies the issue.

    Jean-Pierre Gattuso

  4. 4 Jim Prall 8 May 2009 at 00:10

    Hi Dr. Gattuso.

    Yes, I just saw your name among the citations on You’re quite right that “acid ocean” would be a misnomer. Given the number of people out there looking for any excuse to avoid the real issues, we need to choose our words carefully to avoid getting side-tracked into debates over terminology.

    I’ve been building a list on my website of climate scientists and signers of declarations or open letters about climate change – including those arguing that we don’t know enough to warrant action, the so-called “climate skeptics”, for comparison. I just learned of the Monaco Declaration, so my next job is to add this to my list. From a brief look through the signers, I found 16 names I’d listed up to now; I’m noting these with “Monaco09” in the notes column. I’ve added your name as well.

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