Ocean Blues Print
Written by Sandra Hines   
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Ocean Blues
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The Rising Cost of Gas
Considering how vast the oceans are, just how is it that humans have managed to change their chemistry?

People have no idea how much carbon dioxide we generate, says Chris Sabine, a NOAA oceanographer and affiliate assistant professor at the UW. Sabine has played a key role in recent years on the team pulling together measurements of carbon dioxide in the world’s oceans from dozens of groups around the world—there were 12 labs in the United States alone—that had participated in global surveys of ocean chemistry. After five years of work, Sabine was the lead author of a 2004 paper in Science that quantified just how much human-made carbon dioxide has gone into the oceans since the Industrial Revolution.

Sabine says the typical American is adding, on average, 118 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every day. That’s not all coming from the tailpipe of your car; much of it also represents the fossil fuels that are burned to produce things we use every day and, in places where hydroelectricity isn’t available, the fuel burned every time we turn on a light switch or use hot water for a shower.

Around the world humans are releasing about 7 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. Sabine says a metric ton of carbon weighs about as much as a Volkswagen bug. Now, Sabine says, imagine putting 7 billion VW bugs into the air every year.

If ocean acidification appears unstoppable, what is the appropriate emission target?
Zero, according to Ken Caldeira, who was one of the two climate scientists who coined the phrase “ocean acidification” in 2003.

Now at Stanford University’s Carnegie Institution, Caldeira told the New Yorker, “If you’re talking about mugging little old ladies, you don’t say, ‘What’s our target for the rate of mugging little old ladies?’ You say, ‘Mugging little old ladies is bad, and we’re going to try to eliminate it.’ You recognize you might not be a hundred percent successful, but your goal is to eliminate the mugging of little old ladies. And I think we need to eventually come around to looking at carbon dioxide emissions the same way.”—Sandra Hines