John Laird: We can’t fight ocean acidification alone

I was proud to represent California at the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference this month in New York, as representatives from around the world gathered to focus on ocean health. With a goal to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, the summit concluded with a global agreement to reverse the decline of the ocean’s health. Under the leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, California has created one of the most forward-looking ocean protection programs in the world. I was able to share the good work we have done and learn how other countries are taking steps to address ocean stressors. (…)

Our main focus at this conference was the threat posed by increasing ocean acidification, a byproduct of carbon dioxide emissions being absorbed by oceans around the world. As carbon dioxide interacts with seawater, the chemistry of the sea becomes more acidic and makes it harder for organisms, especially those with shells, to survive and grow. Ocean acidification has increased roughly 30 percent since the start of the industrial revolution, and the forum focused on actions that can be taken right away, such as experimenting with aquatic vegetation to absorb additional carbon, and implementing marine protected areas to provide refuge from human-driven stressors.

Only by curbing greenhouse gas emissions will we be able to stem the acidification of the oceans. And even if we bring emissions into balance, it will take time to recover from the emissions already locked into the world’s oceans. That’s why we need to get to work now.

We cannot fight this battle alone. Gov. Brown, in conjunction with the Governors of Washington and Oregon, and the Premier of British Columbia, joined France and Chile last December to announce the formation of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification. We are committed to expanding this alliance and working to educate the public, expand scientific research, and attack the causes of ocean acidification.

With retreating leadership from Washington DC on climate issues, we must organize with other states and countries to combat this global challenge.

The UN summit gave me both a renewed sense of hope, purpose and urgency. I’m eager to see the progress we can make together to combat this global challenge.

John Laird is California’s Secretary for Natural Resources and Chairs the Ocean Protection Council.

John Laird, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 24 June 2017. Article.

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