Blog Tags: Ocean Acidification
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.
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.]
As leaders in Copenhagen fumble toward an agreement in the final days of the conference, a leaked U.N. report concluded today that global emissions could exceed a terrifying 550 p.p.m. and temperatures could rise a dangerous 3 degrees Celsius, or more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit. But hey, no pressure, guys...
Hubculture interviewed our Pacific science director, Jeffrey Short, a few days ago. The answers he gives in the interview below are also pretty sobering. Let's hope our persistent messaging on ocean acidification has made an impact as the final hours of the summit approach.
This is the ninth post from our team in Copenhagen. Check out the rest of the posts here. - Emily
Oceana has been working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the global shipping industry for three reasons. One, the industry is a major source of emissions -- over a billion tons of carbon dioxide per year -- which is more than what is released annually by Germany, the sixth ranked country in the world.
Two, these emissions are completely unregulated: They were not controlled by the Kyoto Protocol and no country regulates them. And to top it off, there are excellent operational changes and technical changes that ships can make that could substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions as much as 75% -- some of which can be done at no cost, or with a very short payback period.
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.
This is Jackie's seventh post from the Copenhagen climate conference. Read the others here. - Emily
One sore point in the Copenhagen process for some us is the lack of focus on our oceans. By raising ocean issues at every opportunity we hope to begin to remedy the historic lack of attention they have recieved. As the second week of the two-week meeting began, Oceana partnered with dozens of like-minded organizations to co-sponor an international "Oceans Day."
This is Jackie's sixth post from the Copenhagen climate conference. Read the others here. - Emily
Ahhh, Saturday. Sleep late, read the paper over a long cup of coffee, go for a stroll in the park. Any other Saturday perhaps, but not when you're attending the most important environmental meeting there is. Instead, Oceana was hard at work, pulling together some of the top marine scientists anywhere to do what we came here to do -- tell the world about ocean acidification.
By eight o'clock, we had pulled together a star-studded panel including Dr. Vicki Fabry, well known for her research on those elegant little salmon snacks known as pteropods. You know, the ones with the dissolving shells you have seen in so many of our materials? Scripps Institue of Oceanography also put forward Dr. Andrew Dickson, who explained the "simple" chemistry involved, and it was all kicked off by Dr. Tony Haymet, Scripps' Director.
Based on the other side of the pond, but also part of our Copenhagen team, we heard from Dr. Carol Turley, who discussed the biology of acidification - the effects on corals and other marine life. Turley's colleague Kelvin Boot shared a fun animation developed by kids to tell the story about acidification.
And batting cleanup was our own Dr. Mike Hirshfield, Oceana's Chief Scientist and Senior VP for North America. Mike did a great job putting all the science in perspective so that we could talk about the policy changes that are needed to save our oceans.
Mike pointed out that we need to stabilize our atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at 350 parts per million in order to prevent the impacts on coral reefs and so many other animals in our oceans. He warned that allowing levels to get above 450 will spell disaster, and that we absolutely should not exceed that level. The solution: shifting to a clean energy economy, with solar and wind replacing oil and coal, as soon as possible. We had an excellent discussion about this with many questions from the audience, and all in all, a very good day's work, if I say so myself. Especially for a Saturday.
This is Jackie's fifth dispatch from Copenhagen. Check out the others here. -Emily
In his speech here in Copenhagen, Secretary of the Interior Salazar said that the United States could generate 20% of its electricity from wind by 2030, and we at Oceana want to see that become reality.
After all, it's part of shifting to a clean energy economy, which is the only way to stop ocean acidification. As I'm writing this from Denmark, this country is already 20 years ahead of those aspirations. Danes already get 20% of their electricity from offhshore wind... and climbing. Forget 20 and 30% goals, it's numbers like 85% that play a prominent role in Denmark's mid-term goal-setting.
So it only seemed appropriate for Oceana's team to visit one of these offshore sites while we were in Copenhagen. We went with Energy Futures to the Middlegrunden wind farm. This single array of 20 wind-generating units produces 40 MW of electricity, which may seem small, but as we photographed it, we could see more, larger arrays in the general area. All of those wind installations add up to 20% of power production, and ultimately the beginning of the end of acidification and all of our other climate change woes.
The wind turbines didn't make any noise, and they really were kind of photogenic, though it was a cloudy day. We didn't think they spoiled the view in the least, especially considering what a traditional power plant would have looked like next door (by the way, there was a waste-incinerating power generating plant, right next store and that was ugly.
I was glad to hear that Secretary Salazar, a supporter of renewable energy, toured the same site the day before. Hopefully that will be one of the ways this summit helps us to turn the climate change ship around.
This is the fourth in a series of posts from Copenhagen. Check out the rest here. - Emily
Secretary of Interior Salazar spoke here in Copenhagen about the great work that the Department of the Interior is doing to advance carbon reductions. He also promoted things like carbon sequestration and clean coal technology, which are basically really expensive, long-shot strategies for getting carbon out of coal emissions and getting carbon back underground where it belongs. He also noted that we could get 20% of our electricity from wind by 2030, and that the Danes, our hosts, were already doing so!
The Secretary's timing for being here was great -- he had just opened up one of the most productive areas of Alaska to exploratory drilling, a mistake that was not lost on some of the Alaska natives who were there and were very quick to ask him about the Chuckchi decision. (Read more about Oceana's reaction to the decision.)
I was lucky enough to ask the Secretary a question as well, which he deferred to his Deputy, David Hayes. I asked him the following: With all this interest in stopping carbon emissions and sequestering carbon below ground, was he considering as part of the solution just leaving some carbon in the ground by making expanded drilling into previously protected areas, like the west coast of Florida, off limits? I pointed out that doing so would make resources that would otherwise be used for drilling available to help develop the offshore wind he referred to earlier.
Jackie's third dispatch from Copenhagen. Read the others here. -Emily
On the first day of the climate conference in Copenhagen, Oceana was front and center, getting an early start in raising awareness about ocean acidification.
We hosted what's called a "side event," which is an opportunity to learn and discuss an issue of interest. We teamed up with the US State Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as our friend Sven Huseby, the star of the hit documentary "A Sea Change" for our event. We had excellent turnout and Oceana speakers, Dr. Jeff Short and Jim Ayers, did an excellent job along with the other speakers.
We also set up an exhibit that will run the full length of the conference. The exhibit is in partnership with some of the foremost scientific institutions working on oceans: Scripps Institute of Oceanography, where many newbie marine biologists like myself only dreamed of studying, as well as the Plymouth Marine Lab and POGO, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans. Our exhibit provides one-stop-shopping for ocean acidificatoin information, with our report, Acid Test, available in English as well as Mandarin Chinese!
We also have a globe projection that shows the trends in ocean acidification in the world's oceans. You have to see it to believe it. This exhibit has allowed us to attract considerable press attention and stories have been written in The Ecologist, The Chirstian Science Monitor and others.
We've also been featured on climateone.net with our Washington-based scientist Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb doing an interview broadcast live over the internet. We hope to keep the momentum going in the days to come.
Help us by taking action and let the chief negotiators of the four largest emitting countries know you want them to stop ocean acidification.
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