The oceans cover about 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface. About 30 to 50 per cent of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the oceans. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and tends to sit on the surface of oceans and subsequently dissolves to form carbonic acid – particularly in cold water. [Carbon dioxide gas and oxygen gas dissolve more in cold water than warm water.]
Bicarbonate is the natural alkaline buffer for the Earth’s oceans. Bicarbonate helps to neutralize the acidic effects of carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) in the oceans. Bicarbonate can be derived as a bi-product of UGP’s new clean hydrogen production process.
Over the past 250 years of industrialization the carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans has resulted in acidification of the oceans and a decrease in pH value by 0.1 pH unit. For the oceans to be undergoing acidification as described extensively in the scientific literature, there necessarily must be a decrease in the concentration of ocean buffer – that is, a decrease in ocean bicarbonate. This bicarbonate needs replacing to maintain optimal ocean function; particularly the functions of oxygen supply to the Earth and food supply to large numbers of people.
According to the literature that describes scientific research, including research from prominent universities in Australia and USA, acidification of the oceans leads to dissolution of coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, and makes difficult the construction and maintenance of the shells of shellfish.
The production of carbonic acid by carbon dioxide is not a one-to-one relationship. Or, at least, the production of acid (protons) by carbon dioxide occurs only once in approximately 1,000 molecules of carbon dioxide. This is known in chemistry as the dissociation constant (k) of carbonic acid and is given by the number k = 4.47 x 10-7.
As a consequence of the very small dissociation constant of carbonic acid, a small increase in bicarbonate concentration decreases acid (proton) production and allows more carbon dioxide already present in oceans to be under alkaline or neutral conditions in the oceans. Note that the bicarbonate produced as a bi-product of UGP’s new hydrogen production process buffers the existing carbon dioxide in the oceans.* Production of bicarbonate cannot be used as an argument to allow more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and consequently the oceans, may create a tipping point with unknown consequences.
Carbon dioxide kept neutral or alkaline in the oceans is a nutrient for the production of sugars and complex molecules by photosynthetic plants present in the oceans. Photosynthetic plants in the oceans provide from 50 per cent to 85 per cent of all the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen. [The range from 50 to 85 per cent comes from figures given in different scientific journals.] The main enzymes in photosynthesis that fix carbon dioxide for the production of sugars (RuBP carboxylase/Rubisco, FBPase and SBPase) have activity optimized by alkaline conditions (bicarbonates and carbonates in the oceans).
Some photosynthetic plants in the oceans in hot, bright tropical areas (conducting C4 photosynthesis) require bicarbonate per se for capturing and concentrating carbon dioxide for photosynthesis (the plants need to utilize bicarbonate per se because carbon dioxide gas is poorly soluble in warm water and escapes from the surface of tropical water due to sunlight and heat).
A decrease in bicarbonate concentration results in a loss of bicarbonate as an alkaline buffer for enzymes in photosynthesis. There is a loss of carbon for photosynthesis in those plants or algae requiring bicarbonate as a carbon source. This results in loss of coral symbiotic photosynthetic algae which leads eventually to coral bleaching. Symbiotic algae conducting photosynthesis (such as zooxanthellae) provide up to 90 per cent of coral’s energy requirements.
Photosynthetic plants are the basis of the ocean’s food chain. That is, plant material is eaten by small organisms, etc. which are eaten by fish, etc. which are eaten by bigger fish, etc.
Converting carbon dioxide emissions to bicarbonate ions decreases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, allows the buffering of oceans by bicarbonate which decreases ocean acidity, maintains coral reefs and shellfish, maintains mild alkaline conditions for carbon dioxide to be a source of carbon for photosynthetic plants which produce the majority of the Earth’s oxygen, is the basis of the food chain for fish, and overcomes the damage caused by 250 years of industrialization.
The converting of carbon dioxide emissions to bicarbonate and the subsequent trapping of carbon as bicarbonate in the oceans, provides the basis for a food chain which will assist in feeding the World’s population predicted by the UN to be 9 billion people by 2050.
The process of carbon dioxide splitting water to produce protons (hydrogen ions) and bicarbonate is universal. Indeed, human life would not exist without it. For example, in human red blood cells each enzyme molecule of carbonic anhydrase reacts carbon dioxide and water to produce up to one million protons per second and one million bicarbonate entities per second. This reaction prevents carbon dioxide gas produced in cell metabolism from forming gas bubbles and instigating blood clots in the brain, heart and other organs. The process developed by the Unique Global Possibilities group is an extension of this universal process – albeit utilizing principles of thermodynamics rather than enzyme kinetics. The chemistry is unequivocal.
Carbon dioxide + Water → Carbonic acid
Carbonic acid → Protons (hydrogen ions) + Bicarbonate
Protons + Renewable energy → Hydrogen gas
An article on ocean acidification from carbon dioxide concentrations and the negative effect on coral reefs and ecosystem, see:
Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
Hoegh-Guldberg, et al.
Science 318, 1737 (2007)
A TED talk by Irish researcher Triona McGrath has emphasized the dangers of ocean acidification: ‘How pollution is changing the oceans chemistry’
New research published in Science in February 2018 has found that the bases underlying coral reefs are ten times more sensitive to ocean acidification than corals themselves. The reef bases dissolve. ‘World’s coral reefs face new peril from beneath within decades’