Oceana Magazine Summer 2009: CEO's Note: We shouldn’t reverse years of policy that protected oceans from acidification.
"To avoid 'dangerous' climate change, we must not burn more than one-quarter of our remaining reserves of fossil fuels. That's the conclusion of the most comprehensive effort yet to work out how much carbon can be pumped into the atmosphere without pushing warming
past two degrees centigrade." Reported in a recent issue of New Scientist, the studies were conducted at the University of Oxford in Britain and at Potsdam Institute in Germany.
Now we know there is another profoundly important reason to keep most of our remaining fossil fuels safely underground - ocean acidification. Sadly, changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere are causing changes in the chemistry of the ocean.
Nearly a third of all the CO2 we have released into the air has been absorbed by the oceans, and as a result, their pH balance has shifted. They are more acidic than they were before industrialization, and becoming more so all the time.
This is a problem for any ocean creature that creates its shell from calcium carbonate. There are countless such creatures, some of which are at the base of the ocean food web. So an increasingly acidic ocean is one facing global collapses which would threaten the food supply of
billions and the livelihoods of at least 200 million people.
And while the few remaining climate change skeptics dispute whether humanity is the cause of a warming world, such claims are not possible when it comes to ocean acidification. We are changing the chemistry of the ocean. This is a fact, impervious to obfuscation.
So it is astounding that right now in the USA, policy-makers are actively
considering opening up vast areas of the American ocean to the oil and gas companies. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has been holding hearings around the country on the future of offshore energy development. The real question should be why he'd even consider undoing a 26-year-old bipartisan policy that has protected our oceans from oil spills, injury to whales and marine mammals from underwater seismic detonations and all the other hazards of at-sea ocean drilling.
We do not think the Secretary should hand the oceans over to the same companies that brought America the Exxon Valdez disaster.
A much wiser policy choice is at hand - ocean wind power. This renewable energy resource is available in vast quantities from the sea, and unlike ocean oil drilling, it creates no beach-wrecking oil spills and
acidifies no oceans. It has been generating clean power in Europe for years.
As our board member Sam Waterston points out, "the ocean is a solution." It has helped us by absorbing vast amounts of CO2. Now it can help us again by generating huge amounts of carbon free energy. And in so doing it will provide people with thousands of good jobs.
You can learn more about this vital policy decision in the pages of this issue of Oceana. After you do, please contact both Secretary Salazar and your representatives in Congress to tell them that you want clean ocean energy, not ocean oil drilling.
For the Oceans,