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Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification

January 5, 2010
By Craig Idso

In late 2009, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a short 21-minute film entitled Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification.

In late 2009, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a short 21-minute film entitled Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification. Featuring Sigourney Weaver as its narrator, the film highlights the views of a handful of scientists, a commercial fisherman, and two employees of the NRDC, as they discuss what they claim is a mega disaster-in-the-making for Earth's marine life.

The villain of the story is industrial man, who has "altered the course of nature" by releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide or CO2 into the air via the burning of the coal, gas and oil that has historically fueled the engines of modern society. Once emitted into the atmosphere, a portion of that CO2 dissolves into the surface of the world’s oceans, where subsequent chemical reactions, according to the NRCD, are lowering the pH status of their waters. This phenomenon, they theorize, is reducing marine calcification rates; and if left unchecked, they claim it will become so corrosive that it "will cause sea shells to dissolve" and drive coral reefs to extinction "within 20 to 30 years."

So what's the story here? Are coral reefs really in their last decades of existence? Will the shells of other calcifying marine life also dissolve away during our lifetimes? The NRDC film certainly makes it appear that such is the case; but a little scientific sleuthing reveals nothing of substance in this regard. In fact, even a cursory review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature reveals that an equally strong case – if not a more persuasive one – can be made for the proposition that the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration will actually prove a boon to calcifying marine life. Sadly, however, the NRDC chose to present an extreme one-sided, propagandized view of ocean acidification; and in this critique we present the part of the story that they clearly don't want you to know.

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