The Beacon

Blog Tags: Ocean Acidification

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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Oceana Takes on Copenhagen

Oceana sent a group of representatives to the climate negotations in Copenhagen, which officially gets underway today.

So what message will we be sending? Oceana will be presenting a Google Earth tour of the Arctic, narrated by board member Ted Danson. The video tour highlights the impacts of climate change on Arctic people and ecoystems, particularly melting sea ice, ocean acidification and increasing industrialization. You can take the video tour At Google's Copenhagen landing page.

As Danson urges, "The science is sound, the law is clear, and the need for policy change is indisputable. The United States must take immediate action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to protect the public health and welfare of the Arctic and ultimately, the planet. We must also takea  precautionary, science-based approach to decisions about industrial activities in the Arctic. That way, we can ensure that the Arctic ocean, and the resources it provides, are there for future generations."


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Jackie Savitz Talks Climate and the Oceans

In the 100 days leading up to the climate conference in Copenhagen, the British Embassy here in DC has been showcasing one person a day who is taking action to stop climate change. Yesterday, Day 95, Oceana's own campaign director Jackie Savitz was featured. Here's Jackie's 100 second video:

 


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Arctic Protections Finalized

In a definitive victory for the Arctic, the government released final regulations protecting almost 200,000 square miles of U.S. Arctic waters from industrial fishing.

The new regulations, which close all U.S. waters north of Alaska’s Bering Strait to commercial fishing, will be effective starting December 3, 2009. The closure will allow for more time to assess the health of Arctic ocean ecosystems and the potential impacts of large-scale fishing given the impacts the Arctic is already facing from climate change and ocean acidification.

And don't forget the looming threat of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic. Last month the government approved a plan for drilling in the Beaufort Sea next summer, and a similar plan for the Chukchi Sea is currently under review with a decision expected this month. 

Conservationists, scientists, and local communities agree that the science-based precautionary approach we have achieved with industiral fishing should be replicated with oil, especially given the higher risks of oil spills in the Arctic and the inability to contain, control or clean up an accident in the icy waters of the Arctic.

Congratulations to everyone who helped make this happen!


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Sam Waterston on Acidification

Oceana board member Sam Waterston penned an op-ed on the crisis of ocean acidification for CNN.com today. Here's an excerpt: 

The current acidification level hasn't been seen for at least 800,000 years, and acidification is coming on 100 times faster than at any point for hundreds of thousands for years. The levels are alarming. The rate of change makes them even scarier, because it so restricts the ability of sea creatures to adapt.

In contrast to the debate that continues about the causal relationship between this or that weather event and human activity, there is no debate about the source of ocean acidification. The change in the chemistry of the ocean is a man-made event, plain and simple, and the consequences of its continuing rise in acidity will belong squarely to us.

It will make for some uncomfortable moments around the dinner table when our children and grandchildren ask, "What did you do in the [climate] war, Daddy?" If we don't recognize the ocean's warning, the first cataclysm from man-made carbon dioxide emissions that will get our attention will be the collapse of the oceans.

If we do recognize the warning, the oceans are ready to be a solution. Power in the tides and waves is there to tap. Offshore wind power is a technology that's ready to go right now, near the great population centers on our coasts, where it's most needed.


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The Scanner

Happy fall Friday, everyone! Here’s your weekly ocean news roundup…

...The House of Representatives’ vote of 29-14 moved the Mercury Pollution Reduction Act out of committee and brings the U.S. closer to reducing mercury pollution. We’ve been working tirelessly, lobbying on the Hill and asking our Wavemakers to contact their Representatives. There is more work ahead but this is a solid step forward.

...Climate change remains a hot topic, but a lot of Americans are cooling off. According to a recent study, only 57 percent believe there is solid evidence that the Earth is getting hotter. This is a drop from 77 percent in 2006. And only a third believe global warming is tied to human activities. Perhaps a milder summer has people thinking we aren’t warming up, but don’t mix up weather with climate – snow falls on a warming planet.

...As the lowest lying nation, the Maldives have vested interest in rising sea levels due to climate change. Maldivian government officials figured they should get used to a watery world and held a meeting underwater, asking all countries to reduce their carbon emissions.


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