Climate Change and Ocean Acidification

As delivered on the Senate floor...

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, there are many signs of the fundamental, measurable changes we are causing in the Earth's climate, mainly through our large-scale emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. These are irreversible changes, at least in the short run, so we should take them very seriously.

Over the last 250 years, the global annual average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million to 390 parts per million. That is a 30-percent increase. We have recent direct measurements that the carbon dioxide concentration increased by 15 percent since 1980 when it was 339. In 1980 it was 339 and now it is 390. That is just a dozen years in which the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere has increased by more than 50 parts per million. Fifty parts per million is a big shift if one is not aware of the scales we are talking about here. For 8,000 centuries--800,000 years--longer than homo sapiens have existed on the face of the Earth, we can measure that the carbon concentration in the atmosphere has fluctuated between 170 and 300 parts per million. A total range of 130 parts per million has been the total range for 8,000 centuries. We are now outside of that range up to 390, and we have moved 50 points since 1980, in a number of decades. So the consequences are going to be profound, and perhaps no consequence of that carbon pollution will be as profound as the increasing acidification of the world's oceans.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trouble in the Water: Acidifying Oceans Hinder Health of Northwest Shellfish


The world's oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide at an unprecedented rate and the resulting acidification is transforming marine ecosystems. Hari Sreenivasan reports on how ocean acidification is already affecting oysters and other shellfish in the U.S.

Friday, December 7, 2012
Coral Reefs and Shellfish Battle Acidifying Oceans

Coral Reefs and Shellfish Battle Acidifying Oceans


Slip beneath the water's surface and you'll find a world teeming with life. Schools of yellowtail fish dart through colorful coral reefs. Spiny lobsters emerge from the crevices of ocean rocks searching for a tasty meal. And sea anemones nestle in the nooks of oyster beds.

Scientists are learning more about how carbon dioxide is dramatically changing the makeup of the oceans and the communities that depend on them.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Our View: Oceans Threatened

Rising acid levels are addressed in panel's new recommendations, The Columbian

One of the first and most frequent rebuttals to environmental concerns is based on finances: Can we afford the solutions? Therefore, we'll begin this discussion of ocean acidification — admittedly a complex and still murky issue — by focusing on the financial aspects. 

Washington state leads the nation in production of farmed shellfish, providing 85 percent of sales on the west coast, including Alaska. The shellfish industry contributes $270 million annually to our state's economy and supports 3,200 jobs. It also contributes to tourism, as you know if you've ever dug razor clams on the coast. The impact of rising levels of acid in the ocean was dramatically illustrated between 2005 and 2009 with massive loss of oyster larvae in Northwest hatcheries, including the 2005 failure of larvae at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchers on Netarts Bay near Tillamook, Ore. 

The good news is that Washington state also leads the nation in research and advocacy on this issue, evidenced by Tuesday's report from a panel of experts and stakeholders appointed 10 months ago by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The first of its kind at such a high level of state governance, the report includes 42 wide-ranging recommendations. Those include specifics such as increasing seaweed farming to remove carbon dioxide from ocean waters, and generalities such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Friday, November 30, 2012
Ocean Acidification: It's Time to Act

Ocean Acidification: It's Time to Act

BY: GEORGE LEONARD, National Geographic

Consensus is hard. Any time you bring together a range of interests, it’s rare the group can speak in a unified voice and recommend a clear path forward. But that’s exactly what happened yesterday in Washington by its Governor and the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) on Ocean Acidification. The panel made clear that options exist for tackling ocean acidification. Coastal states and businesses that are dependent upon a healthy ocean now have a road map for action, thanks to Washington’s leadership – and oyster growers in Oregon first sounding the alarm. Ocean acidification is happening now, and we can and should take action.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012