A letter on ocean acidification

I received the letter that follows from ocean champions Randy Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers of West Marine and Oceana.  They actively work toward promoting ocean conservation around the world by supporting students and getting the right folks involved on the ground, so I encourage you to read below and consider contacting your representatives in Congress and local newspapers–asking them to pay more attention to ocean acidification! Today several ocean and environmental bloggers have agreed to co-publish this piece and I hope many others will join usword is spreading fast! Finally, special thanks to Randy and Sally-Christine for all of their wonderful oceans work!

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We are both lifelong boaters.  What we have learned from sailing across the Pacific over the past 6 years, and especially from scientists focused on marine conservation, is startling.  Whether you spend time on the water or not, Ocean Acidification affects all of us and is something we believe you will want to know about.

What would you do if you knew that many species of fish and other marine life in the ocean will be gone within 30 years if levels of C02 continue increasing at their present rate? We believe you would take action to stop this from happening, because informed people make informed choices. This letter is about what we can and must do together now to help solve a very serious but little-known problem, Ocean Acidification.

Ocean Acidification is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels.  When carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean it changes the pH, making the sea acidic and less hospitable to life. Over time, C02 reduces calcium carbonate, which prevents creatures from forming shells and building reefs. In fact, existing shells will start to dissolve. Oysters and mussels will not be able to build shells.  Crabs and lobsters?  Your great-grandchildren may wonder what they tasted like.

Carbon dioxide concentrated in the oceans is making seawater acidic.  Many of the zooplankton, small animals at the base of the food web, have skeletons that won’t form in these conditions, and sea-life further up the food chain – fish, mammals and seabirds that rely on zooplankton for food will also perish. No food – no life.  One billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of protein.  Many scientific reports document that worldwide, humans are already consuming more food than is being produced.  The implications are obvious.

The issue of Ocean Acidification is causing irreversible loss to species and habitats, and acidification trends are happening up to ten times faster than projected.  We want you to know what this means, how it affects all of us, and what we can do about it.

Today, the atmospheric concentration of C02 is about 387 parts per million (ppm) and increasing at 2 ppm per year.  If left unaddressed, by 2040 it is projected to be over 450 ppm, and marine scientists believe the collapse of many ocean ecosystems will be irreversible. Acidification has other physiological effects on marine life as well, including changes in reproduction, growth rates, and even respiration in fish.

Tropical and coldwater corals are among the oldest and largest living structures on earth; the richest in terms of biodiversity, they provide spawning areas, nursery habitat and feeding grounds for a quarter of all species in the sea. Coral reefs are at risk!  As C02 concentrations increase, corals, shellfish and other species that make shells will not be able to build their skeletons and will likely become extinct.

The good news is we can fix this problem. But, as you guessed, it will be difficult.  Ocean Acidification is caused by increased C02 in the atmosphere.  Solving one will solve the other.  The House of Representatives has acted, passing HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act”, but it was severely weakened.  Now the Senate has announced that it will move similar legislation this fall.  We need the Senate to join the House in its leadership, but to demand far greater emissions reductions than were able to pass the House.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that in order to stabilize C02 in the atmosphere at 350 ppm by 2050, global carbon emissions need to be cut 85% below 2000 levels.”That’s a very tall order! And the way our political system works (or doesn’t) makes its tougher.  It will take all of us to step up and take responsibility to make this happen.

Here is what you can do: Contact your Senator now using ont of these techniques listed in order of effectiveness.

1. Visit your Senator at their local office. It is easy to make an appointment. Tell them your concerns about C02 and the oceans, and to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans. The experience is rewarding. (Alternatively, drop a letter off at their local office.)

2. Call your Senator and leave a message urging action be taken to reduce C02 , address Ocean Acidification, and move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.

3. Click on this link to send an email, which will go directly to your Senator based on your address: http://www.oceana.org/acid

You may use the letter provided, but it is more effective to edit it, and in your own words urge them to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.

Ocean Acidification is an issue we can do something about.  We need a groundswell of informed citizens to get Congress to have the backbone to stand up to the entrenched interests of coal, oil, and gas and not compromise on the reduction of C02.  We also need real leadership to aggressively create jobs using sustainable technologies. The choice is ours.  We can solve this or not.  What we do know is that the future facing our children, grandchildren and indeed all of humankind depends on our decision.

Please join us in sharing this letter with others.  We appreciate your taking the time to contact your Senators; it is easy to do and effective.

Thank you for your support.

Randy Repass                                                      
West Marine
Sally-Christine Rodgers
Board Member                                                      
A more complete report on ocean acidification here: http://oceana.org/fileadmin/oceana/uploads/Climate_Change/Acid_Test_Report/Acidification_Report.pdf

Sheril Kirshenbaum, DISCOVER, 16 July 2009. Letter.

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