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America’s coastal communities need a strong EPA leader, not Pruitt

Taylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WA (B. Kinney, Ocean Conservancy)

Taylor Shellfish in Shelton,, WA (B. Kinney, Ocean Conservancy)

It’s really quite simple. As the ocean absorbs more carbon emissions from the atmosphere, our ocean becomes more acidic. And the impacts are far-reaching. Just ask the shellfish growers and coastal businesses in the Pacific Northwest and across our country.

Yet Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, avoids acknowledging the existence – much less the impacts – of ocean acidification even when asked directly by Senators as part of his confirmation hearings in Washington D.C.

American businesses already know and have experienced the harsh reality of ocean acidification. In 2007, oyster farms and hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest suffered massive losses when close to 75% of the oyster larvae perished. Without these larvae or “oyster seed,” shellfish farms up and down the west coast did not have oysters to grow and sell the following year. Millions of dollars were lost.

Continue reading ‘America’s coastal communities need a strong EPA leader, not Pruitt’

Scott Pruitt on ocean acidification: wrong again

Much has been written about how Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has tried to reject the science of climate change.  Pruitt’s answers to Senators’ questions about ocean acidification – another destructive effect of carbon pollution – follow the same pattern.

Ocean acidification poses a serious threat to sensitive marine species (shellfish such as oysters, clams, crabs, and coral) and the web of life underwater.  But it can also seriously harm people by changing the ways we eat, earn a living, and support our communities.  Ocean acidification has already cost the shellfish industry of the Pacific Northwest–a $110 million industry—significant amounts of money and has threatened thousands of jobs.

In his responses, Pruitt dodges and weaves in an effort to reject the science of ocean acidification while trying to appear reasonable.  But his answers follow the typical pattern of climate deniers.

Here are key examples from Pruitt’s written exchanges with Senators probing his record before voting on his confirmation.

(1) Question:  “Do you accept the science of ocean acidification that has directly connected the increase in human-caused carbon dioxide emissions with decreases in ocean pH?”

Pruitt’s response (a): “First, I would note that the oceans are alkaline and are projected to remain so.” 

Continue reading ‘Scott Pruitt on ocean acidification: wrong again’

Urgent: Trump can’t ignore the ocean

I’m a scientist, and I’ve dedicated my life to finding solutions that help people and coastal communities. It may sound complicated, but really, it’s simple—if you add carbon emissions to seawater, the ocean turns more acidic. I’ve visited with shellfish growers and coastal businesses across the country, and I’ve seen firsthand the impacts of acidification.

So you can imagine my surprise, when Scott Pruitt—the nominee for the head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)—was asked directly by Senators about ocean acidification, he wasn’t even willing to admit that ocean acidification is happening.

This week, the Senate is expected to vote on Mr. Pruitt for the head of the EPA. We want Senators to vote NO and OPPOSE Pruitt based on his unwillingness to admit that ocean acidification is really happening.

Continue reading ‘Urgent: Trump can’t ignore the ocean’

Improving ocean research and mapping

Federal reports advance knowledge and describe actions to address ocean acidification and ocean and coastal mapping.

This Administration has strongly supported science and interagency coordination, across government and with academic, industry, and other stakeholders, to address societal needs and inform effective ocean management. Today, the Office of Science and Technology Policy is releasing three reports authored by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC)’s Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology (SOST) that describe Federal actions on two pressing issues: ocean acidification and ocean and coastal mapping.

Continue reading ‘Improving ocean research and mapping’

Behind the paper: Fewer blooms of calcifying phytoplankton in a future ocean?

In summer 2011 we traveled to Norway to address the fate of bloom-forming calcifying phytoplankton in the future oceans

They told me that it’s raining in Bergen (Norway) every day. This was exaggerated. The first day of our eight weeks campaign in spring 2011 it wasn’t.

But our project of a rainy summer begins much earlier. In fact it begins in the very early days of ocean acidification research, i.e in the very last years of the past millennium. Back then, scientists realized that the perturbation of seawater with anthropogenic CO2 and the subsequent drop in pH could affect marine life. Calcifying organisms were in focus as the process of calcification was considered to be particularly sensitive to the projected changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. Among the first studied calcifiers were coccolithophores, a group of phytoplankton with global distribution and substantial influence on the biogeochemistry of the sea (Fig. 1). In the year 2000, Ulf Riebesell and his team published results from laboratory and ship-board incubations studies where they reported that the calcification process of the globally most abundant coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi is impaired by simulated ocean acidification. The study has generated considerable attention and initiated numerous follow-up studies as their findings had strong implications for the marine carbon cycle of the future.

Continue reading ‘Behind the paper: Fewer blooms of calcifying phytoplankton in a future ocean?’

New York creates ocean acidification task force

Governor Cuomo has given fresh hope to all of us who use and love New York’s ocean by signing into law A. 10264/ S. 7908, which establishes a state ocean acidification task force.

Awareness of the impacts of ocean acidification – the so-called “evil twin” of global warming – is just beginning, but we know:

  • Acidic water makes it harder for many species of shell-building organisms like oysters and scallops to grow their protective coverings and survive.
  • Ocean acidification could be having an impact on important recreational fish like summer flounder (fluke) and other fish species as well.
  • New York is one of the states most vulnerable to ocean acidification, due to our economic dependence on shellfish harvesting and because our waters have high levels of nitrogen pollution, which amplifies acidification.

Given the uncertainty of future action at the Federal level, it is more important than ever that states like New York lead in tackling climate change and interconnected challenges like ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘New York creates ocean acidification task force’

From Marrakech, where the winds of change also blow

A funny thing happened at a meeting this week in Marrakech. Countries from around the world are meeting to decide how they will implement the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. In December last year, 195 countries agreed to aggressive targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and limit global warming. As the COP22 meeting began, our country, which has been a crucial player and leader in the fight against climate change, elected Donald J. Trump as President.

Continue reading ‘From Marrakech, where the winds of change also blow’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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