Blog Tags: Climate Change
As DailyKos and the New York Times reported yesterday, melting sea ice has forced more than 10,000 walruses ashore in the Alaskan Arctic. Normally they rest on ice floes in the summer, periodically diving for food.
And this isn’t the first time. In fact, this is the third time in the last four years that the walruses have alarmingly turned into landlubbers.
For those of us who had been holding out hope for a comprehensive bill that would curb U.S. climate emissions and promote renewable energy, disappointment and frustration have officially set in.
The Senate has scrapped plans for an attempt to push through a climate bill this summer.
This is especially disturbing because the proposals being considered were designed to meet the industry halfway by using market-based solutions that allow companies to reduce emissions in the way that they believe is most cost-effective. This approach diverges from the approaches used before in the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, for example. But industry still shot it down.
Sadly, this is a classic example of “political reality” versus “real reality”.
From today’s Washington Post:
"People's outrage is focused on BP," [Anthony] Leiserowitz said. The spill "hasn't been automatically connected to some sense that there's something more fundamental wrong with our relationship with the natural world," he said.
[Leiserowitz tracks public opinion on environmental issues at Yale University.]
Today, the Senate stood up for our environment, clean air and scientific decision-making by beating back a resolution from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would have undercut the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.
As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, this resolution would have given Big Oil free reign to continue polluting while tying EPA’s hands from taking any action.
Yesterday, Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their climate change bill. As you know, the U.S.’s consideration of any climate change legislation is historic – but in the light of the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, the senators’ proposal leaves me dismayed.
The “American Power Act” trades away our oceans to the oil industry even as at least 5,000 barrels of oil continue to gush from the broken Deepwater Horizon pipeline every day. Here’s the first released video of the broken pipeline spewing oil:
Oil isn’t the only pollutant pouring into the oceans these days. There’s another big one, only it’s much more insidious and widespread: carbon dioxide.
Today Oceana board member and actor Sam Waterston will be on Capitol Hill urging Congress to take action to stop ocean acidification.
Last year, Congress passed the Federal Oceans Acidification Research and Monitoring Act, which created an ocean acidification program in the federal government. Waterston will call on Congress to fully fund and implement the program.
On Sunday, amid performances by the Roots, Passion Pit and John Legend, Oceana spokeswimmer Aaron Peirsol spoke at the Earth Day Climate Rally on the National Mall here in Washington.
“Ocean acidification is a real threat, as is overfishing,” he told the crowd. “New drilling must be forestalled while other invaluable, sustainable alternatives such as wind energy adopted. Today, I'm helping here by speaking and partnering with the ocean conservation group Oceana.
Together, we created Race for the Oceans, an open water swimming event that raises money and awareness toward ocean conservation. We also created Racefortheoceans.org, an online forum for swimmers and conservationists alike.”
The latest accident on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig couldn't have come at a more significant time for the efforts to pass comprehensive climate change and energy legislation. With Senate plans to expand and even incentivize offshore drilling, this accident serves as a reminder of how costly offshore drilling truly is.
Despite advances in drilling technology and all of the precautions made, drilling is a high risk business and even the newest technology cannot prevent all spills. Fires, explosions and accidents are more common than they would like you to believe. New technology advances have pushed the envelope for drilling efforts. Expanding drilling activities into these “frontier” areas only increases the risk.
Take away for the moment the immediate danger to personnel on the rigs and look at the potential environmental and economic costs to coastal towns relying on fishing and tourism. Oceana's federal policy director, Beth Lowell discussed the dangers last night on NBC Nightly News:
A sad and ironic post for the day after Earth Day – the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil rig that caught fire on Tuesday and sank yesterday is still a serious concern for the Coast Guard, NOAA and potentially for dozens of endangered species.
The Coast Guard continues to search for the missing 11 crew members while cleanup efforts have begun. An oily sheen covers the water where the rig used to stand, probably related to the fire and onboard activity as the rig sank. While it is contained for now, BP Vice President David Rainey said "it certainly has the potential to be a major spill." BP PLC operates the license on which the rig was drilling.
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.
- Ocean News: U.S. to Auction Off New Jersey Area for Offshore Wind, Baby Sea Turtles Found to Make Noises, and More Posted Fri, July 18, 2014
- Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events Get the Spotlight on Capitol Hill Posted Fri, July 18, 2014
- Obama Administration Approves Seismic Airgun Use off the Atlantic Coast In Spite of Local Opposition and Threats to Marine Life Posted Fri, July 18, 2014
- Ocean News: Green Sea Turtle Makes Longest Migration Ever Recorded, Small Oil Spill Found off of Italy, and More Posted Mon, July 21, 2014
- North Atlantic Great White Sharks are Rebounding, but that’s Not the Case for All Species Posted Mon, July 21, 2014