(Note: See Extra! Extra! below.)
The world's amazing white-sand beaches are made from coral reefs that parrot fish chew off and excrete, and the beautiful tiny star-shaped shells of discoaster plankton. Coral and sea shells are mostly calcium carbonate CaCO3. A healthy ocean sequesters carbon in coral, sea shells, and layers after layer of dead plankton that eventually becomes limestone and marble. Scientists report that half the CO2 increasing in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels are now turning the oceans acidic with carbonic acid. As the oceans get more acidic they dissolve more coral, and stop oysters and clams from forming shells. The sea life dies. While I was thinking about this it startled me that no one is talking about what happens to existing coral sand beaches. So I did an experiment to find out myself by putting the coral sand in vinegar. However, carbonated beverages contain carbonic acid, the same acid that CO2 makes in the ocean. CocaCola is famous for its acidity. I wondered what it would do to the coral sand. Boy, was I surprised! Later I learned that in addition to carbonic acid, CocaCola contains a significant amount phosphoric acid. I think it is the combination of the two acids that make the CocaCola reaction more dramatic than the vinegar. Still, the film's conclusion holds true: as the oceans get more acidic from absorbing CO2 they already dissolve more and more of the coral sand beaches, releasing more CO2 bubbles, making more acid, dissolving more beaches. When is the tipping point where the acid circle becomes unstoppable?
For more information, please explore:
Phosphoric acid: http://blog.fooducate.com/2009/06/30/11-quick-facts-about-phosphoric-acid-yes-that-chemical-in-coca-cola/
EXTRA! EXTRA! Recent research has refined our knowledge about what actually killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and it is not the meteor impact in Mexico. Quote: "...the many strong strands of scientific evidence that global warming and ocean acidification was behind the demise of so much life, including the dinosaurs, should give us pause." Actually, it is up to us to pause our fossil-fuel burning civilization, because we are pushing up atmospheric CO2 and methane concentrations faster now than even during the Deccan mega-volcanoes. Article: http://www.skepticalscience.com/So-what-did-in-the-dinosaurs.html
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Photograph: David Ryder/Getty Images
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