Monday, December 3, 2012

In Washington, Focus Turns to Ocean Acidification

While the effects of carbon emissions into our atmosphere are often discussed in terms of their impact on our planet's climate, the consequences of our exponentially growing emission of fossil carbon goes beyond the warming impact of carbon as a greenhouse gas. By fundamentally altering the balance of carbon storage, we are recklessly playing with planetary systems in a way that threatens to undermine the ability of our planet to sustain biodiversity, and human life. No where is this growing accumulation of carbon emissions felt more destructively than in our oceans where rising levels of atmospheric carbon are resulting in rapid rises in the acidity of the oceans water. Because many marine organisms have shells or exoskeletons made of calcium bicarbonate which dissolves readily when exposed to more acidic water conditions, even minor increases in ocean acidity can have drastic effects.

Scientists predict that by the middle of the 21st century the majority of the planets coral reefs may be in locations where ocean water has become too acidic for their survival. Closer to home many of the zooplankton that juvenile salmon rely on as prey are threatened by rising ocean acidity and our regions multi-million dollar shellfish industry has already begun to feel the effects. A blue ribbon panel of scientists and policy makers convened by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire released a list of recommendations and the governor has promised a $3.3 million investment in an ocean acidication research center at the University of Washington. Kevin Ranker, a state Senator from Orcas Island, and the chairman of the State Senate's Natural Resources committee has proposed a carbon tax similar to the one in place in British Columbia as a means of curbing carbon emissions within our state, a move that could dramatically reduce emissions in our state and place pressure on the federal government and other jurisdictions to take a more proactive to dealing with the rising cost of climate change and ocean acidication.

More information from the KUOWs earthfix:

and from the Crosscut:

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