The Beacon

Blog Tags: Ocean Acidification

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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The Oceans Get Their Day in Copenhagen

Jackie Savitz speaks on Oceans Day in Copenhagen.

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."


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Acidification Panel Redux

Oceana's chief scientist Mike Hirshfield, second from left, talks ocean acidification.

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.


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The Winds of Change

Oceana chief scientist Mike Hirshfield and senior campaigner Jackie Savitz at the Middlegrunden wind farm.

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.


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Drilling Secretary Salazar

Oceana's Jackie Savitz asks Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar a question in Copenhagen.

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.


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Oceana Front and Center

Oceana's Jim Ayers speaks at a Copenhagen side event.

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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An Ocean of People

This is Jackie's second post from Copenhagen. Stay tuned for more and read the other dispatches.  - Emily

It's an ocean of people here at the International Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. Like schools of fish, we are all swimming upstream and down in hopes of catching our elusive prey, climate negotiators who hold the power to preserve our otherwise quickly degrading habitat to make sure it's here in the future for the small fry. 

The Bella Center, where we are working, is a diverse ecosystem consisting of individuals from nearly every country of the world, rich and poor, those set up high in the mountains and in low-lying island nations. Many of these countries have sent a diversity of interests: business, industry, government, journalists and importantly those of us committed to preserving our environment, who in United Nations-speak go by the name of ENGO's or Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations.  

The Oceana team is here in the name of ocean acidification -- a growing problem for our oceans that threatens massive extinctions of corals and major disruptions of other ocean ecosystems if we don't find a way to stop pumping carbon dioxide into our air.
 
We've teamed up with some of the foremost scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, POGO and the Plymouth Marine Lab to get that message out. We have a library of information and a full time exhibit where delegates to the convention can pick up materials and learn about ocean acidification. We hope that this information will re-energize negotiators and help make sure they devise and commit to a strong agreement that will save our oceans and all the life within them.


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'Like swimming in a snow globe'

I've been bringing you updates from our folks in Copenhagen this week. Today I've got a brief, but related, break in the action for you. And it's about coral sex.

In this month's issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Megan Gambino follows renowned coral reef biologist Nancy Knowlton to Panama on her annual pilgrimage to watch tropical corals spawn.

Most corals are hermaphroditic "broadcast spawners," which means they release sacs containing both eggs and sperm, synchronizing their spawning with neighboring coral colonies. How do they know it's time to get busy? Scientists think the corals use three cues: the full moon, sunset, which they sense through photoreceptors, and a chemical that allows them to "smell" each other spawning. Pretty phenomenal, huh?

I bet you've never watched coral porn (besides maybe courtesy of Isabella Rossellini), so here you have it. Enjoy!


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Arrival in Copenhagen

Jackie Savitz with one of Oceana's new ads in Copenhagen.

Our team of campaigners arrived in Copenhagen several days ago. Senior campaign director Jackie Savitz sent this first dispatch. Read the rest of the dispatches here. - Emily

On our arrival at "O-dark-thirty" in the morning, we were greeted in the airport by a series of advertisements, but not the kind you may be imagining. These ads featured a lobster, an oyster and a scuba diver, each bearing a similar message.  "The price of a lobster in 2050: 350 part per million." The price of the oyster and diving vacation is the same. The meaning may not be entirely obvious, but that's the point. These are ads that Oceana posted in the airport to greet incoming conference attendees.

We took out these ads to let people know that if we don't manage to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million soon, we may not have lobsters, oysters or dive vacations in 2050.  Hence, the price of making sure we have those things later this century is the price of achieving that target - leveling off our carbon emissions and then reducing the atmospheric level to 350 parts per million.

How on earth are we going to do that? Well, it's true it won't be easy, and it won't happen by accident. It will take a concerted effort by all of us, individuals and governments, to shift away from the use of fossil, or carbon-based, fuels.  We can only do this by developing and putting to use alternative fuels, like wind and solar energy.  This is what we mean by "shifting to a clean energy economy."  

Tens of thousands of people are expected to travel here to Copenhagen for this United Nations Conference and many of them will come in, just as we did, through the airport. They too will be greeted by the signs.  Train riders and some drivers will see the same ads on the Copenhagen metro system and on a large "jumbo board."  This is another way Oceana is bringing ocean acidification to Copenhagen in an effort to save the oceans.


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Mike Hirshfield: 'All we'll have left is jellyfish'

Oceana's chief scientist Mike Hirshfield spoke to Talk Planet in Copenhagen today about ocean acidification and overfishing. Check out the video of the short interview with Oceana's "Professor."

Hirshfield says, “The scientific consensus is unless we change how we manage our fish, we’re looking at potential collapses around the world later this century... It might only be a slight exaggeration to say that in 2100, unless we change how we manage our oceans, all we’ll have left is jellyfish.”

Stay tuned for more Copenhagen updates as the conference progresses.


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