Guest: What we can do about ocean acidification and climate change

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action at a level not yet seen from government, industry and individuals, write guest columnists Jay Manning and Bill Taylor.

THE Seattle Times’ recent outstanding series on ocean acidification “Sea Change” stands as an uncomfortably vivid warning that our marine world — and the economies and lifestyles that depend on it — is under siege.

The images of coral reefs and oyster larvae ravaged by ocean acidification provide haunting notice to Northwest residents of the consequences of inaction.

Though the perils of ocean acidification are well-documented, reading this series prompted anew the questions, “What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening?”

The Pacific Northwest has some outstanding leaders and scientists on the cutting edge of addressing ocean acidification. Because of their actions, the region is not starting from square one.

The 2012 Washington State’s Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel identified a series of concrete steps that were codified in Executive Order 12-07 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Washington Legislature has also taken some critical first steps on this issue, providing funding in July to establish an Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington and the Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council. Created within Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, this Council, among other things, will advise and work with UW and others to conduct an ongoing analysis on the effects and sources of ocean acidification.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has taken the lead in Washington, D.C., securing federal support to help Washington’s shellfish industry monitor and adapt to the corrosive seawater conditions and making sure the nation’s top marine scientists are thinking about the next steps.

Inslee and Gregoire, who were among the first people at any level of government to acknowledge the threat of ocean acidification, are leading the charge to address the elephant in the room: ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere.

This common compound has always been present in our atmosphere — indeed it is necessary for life on earth. But when billions of people and businesses burn millions of tons of fossil fuels every day across the globe, this seemingly innocuous chemical becomes deadly. As The Seattle Times’ “Sea Change” series is showing us, this is impacting economies and ecosystems across the planet as it alters our ocean’s chemistry and threatens the life within them.

Gov. Inslee has brought legislative leaders together at a climate action table called the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. It’s a dull name for a revolutionary idea — that politicians from each of our state legislative caucuses (House and Senate, Democratic and Republican) will come together to determine how Washington will meet carbon-reduction limits established by the 2008 Legislature.

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action. And it will require commitment at a level we have not yet seen from government, businesses, nonprofits and individual Washington state residents.

If you haven’t read The Times’ “Sea Change” series by reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman, please do. The warning bell has been sounded. If we are to preserve Puget Sound — with its vital marine life and sparkling waters — as well as our own economy, we need to act now.

We hope you will join us in urging the Legislature to support the governor’s plan for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

Jay Manning & Bill Taylor, The Seattle Times, 9 October 2013. Article.

2 Responses to “Guest: What we can do about ocean acidification and climate change”

  1. 1 Charles Higley 15 November 2013 at 21:12

    Marine life evolved at CO2 concentrations much higher than now. Current CO2 is alarmingly close to the 200 ppm mark below which plants begin to fail to photosynthesize.

    CO2 has also been much higher in the recent past, being up to 550 ppm (400 ppm currently) in the 1940s and 5 to 10 times higher during most of the last 600 million years. [It is a patent lie to claim that CO2 has been low and constant for centuries until mankind started really emitting a lot of CO2.]

    Marine life is much more resilient than the alarmists would want to admit. CO2 is avidly used by shellfish and corals as they are physiologically robust, could not care for minor changes in pH, and photosynthesis causes much greater (daily) swings in pH than the supposed pH change from dissolved CO2.

    Furthermore, sea water is a complex buffer which resists any effects by such a weak acid as carbonic acid from dissolved CO2.

    In addition, CO2 to carbonic acid to bicarbonate to carbonate to calcium carbonate deposition is a long equilibrium and the H+ (protons) released by carbonic acid and bicarbonate cannot affect their own equilibrium. More CO2 simply pushes the equilibrium toward more calcium carbonate deposition not less.

    Only an outside source of protons couple adversely affect this equilibrium. It is a shame that this alarmism is so wrong that first year chemistry principles can be used to show it to be false and ignorant.

    Around the world, the coral reefs are growing 30–50% faster than they were 50 years ago due to the higher CO2.

    For that matter, flowers in the UK bloom two weeks earlier in the Spring, not because of a warmer climate—it has not warmed—but the higher CO2 makes the plants more temperature tolerant and able to grow earlier in the Spring, also using less water and nutrients as they are more efficient.

    Ocean acidification is a joke.

  2. 2 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 25 November 2013 at 19:37

    I am surprised that this comment was posted without any warning. Just for the record, this comment is littered with gross errors. The interested reader should just search this blog to find legitimate, peer-reviewed papers which demonstrate that:
    – CO2 has increased steadily since at least 800,000 years and also from 1940 onwards
    – some marine plants benefit from increased CO2
    – most shells and corals are not resilient to increased ocean acidity
    – more CO2 simply pushes the equilibrium toward less (not more) calcium carbonate deposition and toward more calcium carbonate dissolution
    – coral reefs are growing less now than 50 years ago due to a combination of coral bleaching, predation by crown-of-thorns, and ocean acidification
    – ocean acidification is unfortunately not a joke

    The Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers 2013 published by the International Geosphere Biosphere Program, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, and IOC-UNESCO is a goo summary of the present knowledge on ocean acidification and its impacts. The full report can be obtained free of charge here:

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