The Beacon: elly's blog

COP16: Targeting Ocean Acidification

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

On Tuesday I spoke at a side event on ocean acidification hosted by IUCN. The panel covered the science, research activities and policy developments surrounding ocean acidification.

On this panel, I spoke about the scientific issues that will need to be addressed in order to effectively incorporate acidification into the UNFCCC process. These are discussions that will need to be informed at the policy level by scientific evidence, and at this stage there is still more work needed to clarify some of these issues on the scientific front.


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Oceans in the Spotlight at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun this week.

This weekend at COP16 started off with style (or perhaps lack thereof) at the NGO party at Señor Frog’s – an infamous nightclub catering to 20-something American spring-breakers in Cancun. The NGO party is a great event that lets the climate community put on their party clothes and let off a little steam - before heading into the second very grueling week of negotiations.

Saturday was Oceans Day, an all-day event that focused on the issues facing the oceans due to increasing carbon dioxide levels. On the agenda this year were ocean acidification (a panel including myself, Carol Turley and Tony Haymet), blue carbon and coastal adaptation.


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Days 3-5 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, center, sits on a panel at COP16.

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Last week I decided to take a break from the negotiations and attend a workshop by Google where they released their new technology platform Google Earth Engine.

This is a very exciting development that could be incredibly useful to scientists, NGOs and the general community in monitoring and measuring changes in earth systems. This platform will have reams and reams of satellite imagery data than can then be analyzed with various tools, including statistical and modeling programs. Computations will be done in the “cloud” so that work that would have previously taken many hours to days or even years can be done over very short time periods.


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Day 2 at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun.

Even at this early stage in the negotiations, countries are proving unwilling to come to the table on some issues. Day two saw Japan announce that it will not, under any circumstances, inscribe targets in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Japan is committed to killing the Kyoto protocol, which is kind of ironic since it was born in Japan.

Also on the agenda for day two was a discussion on whether the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) should undertake a review of the impacts of a 1.5oC temperature rise. This would bring forward the latest science and help to inform negotiations as to the real and immediate threats facing many nations from a less than 2 oC increase in temperatures.


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Oceana Arrives at COP16

Oceana marine scientist Ellycia Harrould Kolieb is at the COP16 climate negotiations in Cancun for the next few weeks.

Here we are again at the international climate change negotiations, this time in Cancun, Mexico. The weather is nice, but it is yet to be seen if the negotiations will be equally sunny. This is the 16th conference of the parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and we had hoped that by now the international community would be a bit further along at coming to a binding agreement.

Despite the lack of optimism around a meaningful agreement coming out of this meeting, positive steps can (and should) be made to move the process along, hopefully allowing for an agreement to be made next year in South Africa. This meeting has the potential to provide a clear path forward that can lead to a legally binding agreement, one that will require countries to meet their pledges and truly reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.


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New Study: Ocean Acidification Occurring Rapidly

Some sobering news for the oceans this Earth Day. A new congressionally requested study by the National Research Council concludes that “the chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions” and that “the rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years.”

The study finds that the oceans have absorbed about one-third of total carbon dioxide emissions over the past 200 years - which has made the oceans more acidic - and the acidity will continue to rise because CO2 emissions are rising too rapidly for the oceans to cope.

Ocean acidification, says the report, can disrupt important physiological processes in marine creatures, such as shell and skeleton building, internal fluid and tissue pH maintenance and carbon fixation in photosynthesis.

And while we don’t yet know the ultimate consequences for ecosystems, we do know that coral reefs, fisheries, protected species and other valuable natural resources are at risk.

The bottom line here is that ocean acidification will continue unless anthropogenic CO2 emissions are substantially curbed -- Take action today by telling your representative to support further research on ocean acidification.

Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a climate scientist at Oceana.


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Oysters Feel the Burn of Ocean Acidification

oyster

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yesterday, a few of us attended a staff briefing on Capitol Hill on ocean acidification and fisheries put on by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

There were representatives from the fishing communities of the Pacific Northwest, the Gulf of Mexico and Maine. They were requesting that additional resources be channeled towards ocean acidification research so that we can better understand how fisheries are and will be impacted by rising ocean acidity.

The Whisky Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Oregon has already experienced massive collapses in their oyster stocks due to rising ocean acidity, and they’ve been doing a lot of research on their own to monitor changes in pH. Their representatives called for a comprehensive system of measuring pH so that they and other hatcheries can adapt to changes and not be driven out of business by ocean acidification.   

This group of fishers also recognized that while it is important to figure out ways to adapt to the changes that are already happening, without a true cap on carbon dioxide and serious decreases in emissions, these fisheries will not have a future.

 [Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb is a marine scientist at Oceana.]


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Staying Warm

This is the eighth blog post from our team in Copenhagen. See the others here. - Emily

Here we are in the last days of the conference, and parties are frantically trying to agree to a text and civil society (at least parts of it) are being frozen out of the process. The secretariat has massively reduced the number of NGOs allowed in the conference center and today some entire delegations, including Friends of the Earth, were denied entry.

Good news: Oceana was able to get in, and we're still here talking about ocean acidification and it's impacts on the ocean.


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Elly's Hot Topics: Mollusks May Move In

The last time the Arctic was completely free of ice, during the Pliocene Era about 3.5 million years ago, an ice-free passage across the Arctic facilitated the movement of mollusks into the North Atlantic. The open water route was rich with floating phytoplankton, which fed the mollusks during their traverse. When Arctic temperatures cooled, the path was blocked and the phytoplankton declined.

Well, here we go again.

Scientists believe this invasion may soon be repeated if global warming persists at its current rate, most likely causing the Arctic to become ice-free by or before 2050. This would once again allow the invasion of shellfish and other mollusks, along with algae, fish, barnacles, and other marine organisms into the North Atlantic from the Pacific via the Bering Sea causing a shift in the area's biodiversity.

Interestingly, the overall consequences of a mollusk invasion on the North Atlantic ecosystem remain uncertain, but shifts in the abundance of some species are anticipated.


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Elly's Hot Topics: Coral's Breakdown

coral erosion from climate change

Poor coral.

With global warming-generated ocean acidification already hindering the essential production of the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons in coral species, scientists now suspect another threat to corals and reef ecosystems caused by climate change.


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