By Mathew Carr
March 17, 2023 — London — Just when you think you know most of the important things about climate science, someone comes and explains ocean acidification more clearly than ever before.
It’s always good to meet such a person — who tells it like it is.
I chatted with Howard Dryden, marine biologist and a good guy to call if you have a water-treatment problem to solve.
Dryden knows about clean water and the small ocean creatures that are good for the climate. He’s helped create massive filtration systems for the world’s largest public aquaria including Istanbul, Lisbon and Dubai Mall, giving him commercial instincts and technical skills and experience not available to academics.
What he tells me over a video call from a boat in Panama is that most of the world does not realize that the earth has already entered into the one of the most important tipping points of the climate crisis.
The world’s oceans are getting less alkaline and more acidic. They are at about 8.03 now on the pH scale and have already moved beyond pH8.04 — a level below which the most important planktonic plants and animals made from carbonate (a form of chalk) will start to “dissolve”, Dryden said. (Below 7 is acidic, by the way, and the oceans are heading toward that level.)
Why is this important? Because those creatures are removing about 16 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere. That’s 30-50% of mankind’s emissions from fossil fuels.
“So we have now entered the tipping point,” Dryden said, dryly.
A pH level of 7.95 “is the end point. It’s not a tipping point, it’s the point of no return. (About) 50% of all (mainly carbonate-based) marine life will be dissolved (including the coral reefs). It’s not a question of adaptation or acclimatization. They will have dissolved.”
So the most urgent thing humankind needs to do is to stop polluting the oceans, in a bid to try to slow the move to pH7.95 and delay the dissolution and death — and the best-case scenario is delaying that until about 2055 instead of 2045, Dryden said, citing UN scientists. See chart, below.
Achieving even that delay would require getting to climate neutrality by about 2030, which Dryden said probably isn’t going to happen.
He referred me to this website, which includes a slightly hopeful list of things humankind can focus on in the meantime to try to save the day. (Other than the better-known basics of cutting emissions and saving the forests, he said.)
See aquarium link above.
I repeat the list here, for convenience:
Actions and solutions
Goes Foundation Projects.
We have three main projects running.
1. Goes Project to monitor Oceanic pollution and plankton productivity
2. Indigenous people and low income community drinking water and sanitation
3. Bocas del Toro research station and educational centre
Goes Project 1 and climate disruption Action points
The solution is simple, regenerate Nature on Land and Marine life in the Oceans. The problem is that the Ocean pH Clock is ticking and by the end of this decade, if we have not implemented the solutions then it will be too late to stop the destruction of nature and catastrophic climate change….irrespective of what we do with carbon.
How do we regenerate nature?
- Stop habitat destruction, burning trees, destructive fishing, clearance of seagrass, mangroves, wetlands, marsh lands
- Stop the pollution of water, soil and atmosphere with toxic for ever chemicals, especially lipophilic chemicals such as molecular plastic, PCBs, PBDE, Oxybenzone, pesticides, herbicides and 15,000 other chemicals.
- We must prevent toxic substances entering the environment, such as plastic, and black carbon soot from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and bunker fuel oil.
- Carbon mitigation is important, it will not stop climate change, but it will buy us time to regenerate nature.
- Regenerative agriculture must be practiced
- Massive planting of trees and grass
- Creation of wetlands, we need to hold onto freshwater for longer while on land.
- Massive world wide dosing of calcium carbonate into the world’s oceans to increase both the calcium concentration and alkalinity.
How do we stop pollution?
- 80% of the world has no municipal wastewater treatment. Install aeration ditches or extended diffused aeration system with at least 10-day residence time. These systems can be constructed by local communities and are 1/50th to 1/100th of the cost of standard water treatment, and are far superior. https://www.goesfoundation.com/news/posts/2022/april/eden-cycle-system/
- Less than 10% of municipal wastewater treatment in high income countries are fitted with tertiary treatment to remove, plastic and toxic chemicals. This needs to be rectified. Water treatment systems should do no harm to the environment
- The shipping industry must use clean fuel and fit scrubbers that remove the carbon, PAHS and heavy metals without dumping them into the ocean or atmosphere.
- Stop fast fashion and toxic clothes
- Green chemistry and manufacturing, there are huge opportunities to develop chemical products that are safe for the environment and safe for people. The same applies to physical products
- Car and lorry tyres are horribly toxic, the microplastic washes off the roads when it rains and most of it enters rivers and then the seas and oceans. There are non toxic or less toxic options that just need to be implemented
- Cosmetics contain some of the most toxic of chemicals such as oxybenzone sunscreen and microplastics. The packaging also tends to be toxic. Anything toxic to nature will also be toxic to people. 20,000 tonnes of oxybenzone is used in sunscreen and cosmetics every year. Around 70,000 tonnes would wipe our all the coral reefs and most life in the world’s oceans.
- Pharmaceuticals, the chemicals are designed to be stable and highly bioactive. Around 90% of them will end up being urinated down the toilet and into rivers and the oceans. Sensible prescription choices should be made to use less harmful drugs. Carbon filters should also be prescribed to help remove the chemicals when you urinate.
- Ban single use plastic
What can the individual do to make a difference
- Don’t purchase plastic clothes especially a fleece, they release a huge amount of microplastic. Fit microplastic filter to your washing machine. Buy good quality natural fibres and keep them for as long as possible.
- Check your cosmetics, if they contain chemicals such as oxybenzone, take them back to the shop and tell them they are killing the environment and causing endocrine disruption of their clients
- Avoid the purchase of single use plastic, do not purchase any drinks in plastic bottles, not only is it damaging to the environment you will also be drinking a great deal of plastic and toxic plastic leachate chemicals
- Do not purchase clothes, carpets or furniture that have fire retardants or stain shields. The chemicals are very cancerogenic to you and your family as well as nature
- Never purchase toxic herbicides, pesticides or any toxic pest control chemicals. There are safe low cost options that are much more effective.
- Do not purchase toxic cleaning agents, the best cleaning products are vinegar and baking soda, combined with elbow grease
- Try and purchase organic food when possible. Even bread is loaded with glyphosate, and flour from many sources.
- Minimise your carbon footprint, by walking / cycling of using public transport. Avoid air travel and minimise road travel. If you have to use a car, drive carefully. Electric cars due to toxic tyre wear is more damaging than a petrol combustion car to the environment, unless non toxic tyres are used.
- The most toxic place is you home or in a car get out if possible and enjoy nature, help protect our natural heritage, live, restore regenerate and do some good as opposed to less bad.
Emergency strategies and geoengineering (CarrZee: these seem cool.)
- Dispersal of ferric oxide at high altitude to catalyse the oxidation of methane, the ferric will also stimulate phytoplankton growth in the oceans to absorb carbon dioxide. This needs to be balanced with additional mineral supplementation otherwise we end up with toxic phytoplankton hazardous blooms.
- Artificial SML layer, the SML layer controls atmospheric water vapour pressure and cloud formation, which is 75% of climate disruption. It is technically feasible to develop an artificial SML comprising of lipids, surfactants, ferric, trace minerals, DMS. High Latitudes would be the target areas to cause cooling and reflective cloud formation. The Mediterranean has lost its SML, this would explain the extreme climate fluctuations, and as such it would be a useful test area.
SOURCE: IPCC 1950-2100 is date range in second chart
(Adds chart and photo of interview, added tweaks after some feedback from Howard)