Ocean Currents » climate change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 24 Aug 2016 18:22:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Cruising the Northwest Passage: A Symbol of a Rapidly Changing Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/cruising-the-northwest-passage-a-symbol-of-a-rapidly-changing-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/cruising-the-northwest-passage-a-symbol-of-a-rapidly-changing-arctic/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 18:28:05 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12643

Photo: Ocean Conservancy / Sarah Bobbe

SEWARD, ALASKA – Small only in comparison to the rocky peaks surrounding the city, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity easily dwarfed every other structure in Seward, Alaska. On August 16, she slipped her moorings and started a month-long voyage through the Northwest Passage with over 1,700 passengers and crew onboard. 

This is an important milestone to us. The impact of climate change has now ushered in an era where a luxury cruise ship is able to sail from the North Pacific to the Atlantic via the fabled Northwest Passage—a route that once defeated even the most intrepid explorers. While other vessels have made the transit, this is the first time a tour ship of this size—almost the length of three football fields—has attempted the passage. Crystal Serenity’s journey is yet another symbol of a rapidly changing Arctic.

Bowhead whale and calf in the Arctic Ocean
Photo: NOAA / National Ocean Service

For those onboard, this could well be the trip of a lifetime. After all, the Arctic inspires awe and wonder around the world with its wild beauty, unparalleled wildlife and resilient peoples. Passengers will likely see a variety of wildlife including  walruses, gray whales and millions of migratory birds that summer here. During their shore excursions, they will have the opportunity to interact with remote Arctic communities. Wherever they go, we hope they tread lightly.

This journey is not without risk.  The Crystal Serenity has taken careful measures to prepare for its voyage but the Arctic is a harsh, punishing environment. Extreme distances and unpredictable weather conditions will pose a challenge if there in an emergency or accident. As more cruise ships attempt the Northwest Passage in the future, they may be less prepared. This will put a high degree of responsibility on small local communities and services. And it’s not just cruise ships. Other commercial vessels have started to make greater use of Arctic waters too.

While increased access means more opportunities, it also could put wildlife, local communities and an already fragile ecosystem at grave risk.

  • Disruption to marine life: Some species of the Arctic marine ecosystem, particularly marine mammals, could be lethally impacted by vessel traffic-related ship strikes and noise—especially through the narrow Bering Strait, the only marine passage between the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Additionally, increase ocean noise can result in habitat displacement, behavioral changes and alterations in the intensity, frequency and intervals of whale calls.
  • Threat of an oil spill: An oil spill could have devastating consequences in Arctic waters. What’s more, most large seagoing vessels use heavy fuel oil (HFO), also known as residual fuel or bunker fuel, due to its low cost. which is up to 50 times more toxic to fish than medium and light crude oil spills.  It also produces significantly higher emissions of toxic sulfur, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter than other fuel alternatives. Fortunately, the Crystal Serenity is not using HFO—but future operators may not take this precaution.

Crewmembers aboard the cruise ship Crystal Serenity plan and react during a fire drill while members of Coast Guard Sector Juneau inspections division monitor their performance in Juneau, Alaska, June 22, 2016.
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard / Jon-Paul Rios

  • Extreme distances and unpredictable weather: In the event of an emergency or accident like an oil spill, the lack of effective response techniques and extremely limited response capacity will be very challenging. If a spill were to occur near Barrow, Alaska, the nearest major port of Dutch Harbor would be 1,300 miles away by boat. The nearest Coast Guard station at Kodiak is a 950-mile flight.
  • Uncharted waters: Although the Arctic summer sea ice will be near its seasonal minimum during the next few weeks, the Northwest Passage is not entirely ice-free. Sea-ice forecasting is limited, and traveling in Arctic waters demands cautious and prudent navigation, which becomes even more challenging given that less than 2 percent (about 4,300 square nautical miles) of the U.S. Arctic waters has been surveyed with modern multibeam technology.

Photo: NOAA National Ocean Service

As part of a science-based conservation organization with a deep commitment to the Arctic, our team has been calling for measures that will improve ship safety and minimize threats to the Arctic wildlife:

  • Improving navigational safety by using ship routing measures, such as recommended traffic lanes and Areas to be Avoided.
  • Removing the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters by working with partners to influence the International Maritime Organization, the body that governs international shipping.
  • Supporting efforts to reduce ship strikes on marine mammals, improve vessel communications systems, enhance spill response preparedness, and reduce discharge from large, ocean-going vessels traveling in Arctic waters.

We will be following the journey of the Crystal Serenity closely until it docks in New York in September, wishing her a safe passage.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/17/cruising-the-northwest-passage-a-symbol-of-a-rapidly-changing-arctic/feed/ 0
Poles Apart: The Differences between Antarctica and the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/30/poles-apart-the-differences-between-antarctica-and-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/30/poles-apart-the-differences-between-antarctica-and-the-arctic/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:00:09 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12378

This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.

Have you ever seen a cartoon or advertisement that showed penguins and polar bears cavorting together in the snow?

On the flip side, have you ever seen a documentary film that showed penguins and polar bears together in the wild? Didn’t think so, since they live poles apart. Nevertheless, not everyone (advertisers included) understands the difference between Antarctica and the Arctic. Here are eight ways to tell them apart.

1. The Arctic is the area that lies north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees 33 minutes north, for GPS buffs). The circle more or less marks the southern extent of the region that experiences 24 hours of sunlight in summer, and 24 hours of darkness in winter; it also marks the area where the average temperature for July, the area’s warmest month, is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The Antarctic lies south of the Antarctic Circle and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.

2. The geographic North Pole is positioned at the northernmost point in the Arctic; the geographic South Pole is the southernmost point of the Antarctic. The geographic North Pole should not be confused with magnetic north, toward which compasses point and the position of which varies with time.

3. The Arctic region includes the Arctic Ocean, parts of Greenland, Alaska, Canada, Norway and Russia, and covers about 5.5 million square miles. The Antarctic covers nearly the same area, 5.4 million square miles.

4. The Arctic Ocean accounts for more than five million square miles of the Arctic region. During much of the year, the Arctic Ocean is covered in sea ice that can exceed six feet thick. The Arctic is therefore a watery realm, fed by waters from the surrounding seas as well as by large rivers, such as Russia’s Lena and Canada’s Mackenzie. The Arctic Ocean has an average depth of 3,240 feet and a maximum depth of 18,050 feet.

5.. With an average winter temperature of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the Arctic is balmy compared to the Antarctic, where winter temperatures in the interior have sunk to minus 136 degrees Fahrenheit, the world’s record for cold temperatures.

6. Freezing temperatures and long stretches without sunlight limit plant growth at both poles. The Antarctic is home to only three terrestrial flowering plant species—Antarctic hair grass, Antarctic pearlwort and nonnative blue grass. Most of the plants in the Antarctic are mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi. 1,700 different species of plants that grow in the arctic tundra (arctic and sub-arctic).

One problem for polar plants is that neither region receives much precipitation. The Arctic gets an average of less than 20 inches of annual precipitation, and the Antarctic is functionally a desert—the area around the South Pole gets six inches of precipitation in an average year.

7. Compared to the Antarctic, mammals abound in the Arctic on seasonal sea ice. The polar bear, the largest terrestrial carnivore in the world, hunts on the sea ice in winter, and summers on land where it fasts or leavens its diet with plants and other foods, including carrion. The polar bear does not live in the Antarctic. The northern reaches of the globe also are home to wolves, arctic foxes, snowy owls, ptarmigans, wolverines and ground squirrel species, as well as marine species such as walruses, whales and various seals and sea lions. The area also is a breeding ground for many migratory waterfowl species.

The Antarctic lacks many of these animals, but what it does house is impressive. Consider the southern elephant seal, one of the largest pinnipeds (the group that includes seals, sea lions and walruses). Adult males grow to about 19 feet long and average about 7,000 pounds. The Weddell seal, another native species, has the southernmost range of any seal, showing up at 77 degrees south in McMurdo Sound. It ranges throughout marine waters around Antarctic, maintaining its bulk of up to almost 1,400 pounds by eating an array of fish, krill, squid and other sea animals. The Antarctic is home to several penguin species—birds that don’t live north of the Equator, let alone in the Arctic. They feed on sea life and are preyed upon by the leopard seal, a relative of the Weddell’s. The ocean surrounding Antarctica produces vast quantities of krill, which feeds creatures ranging from whales to penguins to fish.

8. Humans have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years. The Antarctic, surrounded by rough, forbidding waters, was never seen (as far as history knows) by humans until 1820, and no human set foot on the continent until 1821, when an American seal hunter John Davis debarked from a ship near Cape Charles in West Antarctica. However, Davis’s claim to fame is contested—some historians maintain that the first documented visit by humans occurred at Cape Adare in 1895. Either way, human arrival on the fifth-largest continent is a recent development. Today, some research stations are active in the Antarctic. Various treaties protect the continent and its oceans from exploitation, to one extent or another.

The Arctic is not so lucky, so an international scramble to lay claim to parts of it and its natural resources, such as its abundant oil reserves, is sure to arise as winter sea ice continues more than 30 years of shrinking at a rate of three to four percent per decade. Such trends suggest that the Arctic, where temperatures are rising at more than twice the rate of the global average, may be free of summer sea ice within the next 30-40 years.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/30/poles-apart-the-differences-between-antarctica-and-the-arctic/feed/ 0
This is How the Government is Preparing for Climate Change http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2016 13:00:35 +0000 Corey Ridings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12374

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) just took a huge step in preparing our ocean, fisheries and coastal communities for climate change. This type of foresight and required coordination is difficult, and hasn’t happened as often as it should in the past. The Western Regional Action Plan (WRAP) lays out why and how NFMS will develop, use, and apply science that helps West Coast fishery managers prepare for climate change.

In recent years, the California Current experienced a “climate change stress test.” Extremes such as rapidly warming waters contributed to a downturn in forage species like sardine, a northern shift of some fish stocks, and concerning mortality events for predator species like sea lions. These events are early signs of how more fundamental and permanent change will manifest themselves. Long-term changes cascade through the food web, affecting marine life as small as plankton at the base of the food chain, to top predators such as sharks. Humans are not immune; the shape of economically and culturally important fish stocks will shift (see an example from the Atlantic Ocean), and we’ll be forced to change the way we fish and eat.

The WRAP takes us further than ever before in addressing approaching ocean changes. NMFS identifies a better understanding of climate variability as critical to fulfilling their mission, and recognizes the significant impacts environmental change has on public trust resources. Ocean Conservancy, Wild Oceans, and others have asked NMFS to follow-through on their plan, and provided recommendations that will help move the plan forward. Help us thank NMFS and let them know their work matters.

According to Dr. John Stein and Dr. Cisco Werner, Directors of the Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers:

Climate variability drives the ecosystems of the California Current. Our multi-pronged WRAP approach will help us anticipate likely changes in distribution and abundance of our West Coast marine species and guide our response.  This effort complements our existing ecosystem management approaches, including NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Climate Vulnerability and Analysis to meet the demands for climate-related information and support NMFS and regional decisions.“ 

In implementing the WRAP, we urge NMFS to prioritize science that draws clear lines to management; science in and of itself will not prepare our fisheries and dependent communities for climate change. This process is not linear, but an iterative conversation between NMFS scientists, managers, and the public. In order to accomplish this, NMFS must also better understand the social and economic underpinnings of a healthy ecosystem. That means better incorporating humans into the way we think about ecosystem and fisheries science.

We look forward to implementation of the WRAP, and realizing a more robust ecosystem and healthy fisheries as a result. We also recognize this is just one part of a larger vision for managing our fisheries as part of a resilient and thriving California Current – more coordinated strategies are needed from NMFS as well as other federal agencies, state governments, and concerned citizens.

This blog was co-authored by Ocean Conservancy’s Corey Ridings and Wild Oceans’ Theresa Labriola.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/28/this-is-how-the-government-is-preparing-for-climate-change/feed/ 0
How Ocean Acidification Impacts Florida’s Ecosystems http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/15/how-ocean-acidification-impacts-floridas-ecosystems/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/15/how-ocean-acidification-impacts-floridas-ecosystems/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 20:43:25 +0000 Sarah Cooley http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12310

Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Dr. Kimberly Yates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!

OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?

Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.

Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.

OC: Florida is built on limestone bedrock, which is essentially the same material as coral reefs. Since ocean acidification damages coral reef skeletons, can it also hurt Florida’s foundation?

Dr. Yates: There is emerging concern about how ocean acidification might affect the limestone that creates much of Florida’s foundation. We know that ocean acidification can cause reef structure to dissolve. Historical data indicates that seawater pH is decreasing in some major springs and in the coastal waters around Florida.

Much of Florida’s carbonate foundation was formed by dissolution of limestone, causing the formation of sinkholes and our state’s aquifer system. Florida’s groundwater system is linked to coastal waters in many places where water flows from land to sea through the limestone foundation. How freshwater acidification and ocean acidification may interact to affect the limestone foundation or groundwater resources is an emerging area of study.

OC: Are there ways that marine life is adapting that you find surprising and give you hope? 

Dr. Yates: Research shows that marine seagrasses can increase seawater pH because they take up carbon dioxide when they grow. Seagrass beds in coral reef ecosystems may provide some localized protection for marine animals that are negatively impacted by ocean acidification. While many estuaries are showing decreases in seawater pH, there are special cases where seagrass is recovering in estuaries due to restoration efforts and causing an increase in seawater pH. These types of estuaries may also provide some local protection from ocean acidification.

We have also discovered reef-building corals growing in certain mangrove habitats where they help create environmental conditions that protect corals from both ocean warming and ocean acidification. These types of natural environments and adaptations that show resilience to ocean acidification are surprising and offer hope. Protecting these types of environments provides a local action that can be taken to help protect against a global issue like ocean acidification.

OC: What’s the next research question you’d like to answer about ocean acidification?

Dr. Yates: Some of my most rewarding research has been focused on exploring environments that may serve as natural refuges from climate change and ocean acidification for marine species. Only a few of those environments have been identified. Many of these natural refuges are linked to habitats that may be more vulnerable to ocean acidification. I would like to understand what makes these environments resilient, identify other habitats that may serve as refuges and determine how these types of environments may help marine organisms adapt to their changing conditions.

Dr. Kimberly Yates is a senior research scientist at the United States Geological Survey, Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/15/how-ocean-acidification-impacts-floridas-ecosystems/feed/ 0
Leaving the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/09/leaving-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/09/leaving-the-arctic/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 17:44:53 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12256

The news from the Arctic this week has been all about what’s leaving the Arctic. It’s good news when oil and gas companies leave the Arctic, but it’s really bad news when sea ice leaves the Arctic!!

First, let’s get to the good news. Repsol, an oil and gas company, just announced it’s abandoning 55 of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea and plans to abandon the remaining 38 over the next year. In addition, ConocoPhillips, Eni, Iona Energy and Shell have given up more than 350 leases covering more than 2 million acres in the Chukchi Sea. Soon, there will be only one lease remaining in the Chukchi Sea—and additional drilling on that lease is unlikely.

While oil and gas companies have largely given up their oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea, active offshore leases still threaten the Beaufort Sea off the coast of northeastern Alaska. What’s more, the Obama Administration is still considering whether to allow the sale of more offshore oil leases in Arctic waters.

But, you can do something about it! Join us in protecting our Arctic by taking action today! Please take action by asking the Obama Administration to drop Arctic leasing from the final version of the 2017 to 2022 leasing program.

What about the sea ice? That news is not so good: Arctic sea ice extent hit a depressing new low in May. The Washington Post described it in these terms: “The Arctic Ocean this May had more than three Californias less sea ice cover than it did during an average May between 1981 and 2010.”

That’s just the latest bad news. 2016 as a whole hasn’t been a good year for Arctic sea ice; there were record low levels of sea ice extent in January, February and April, too. As the affects of climate change continue to be felt all across our planet, the Arctic is ground zero.

Do we truly know how magnificent the Arctic is—or what’s at stake if we lose more habitat in this precious region of the Earth?

That’s why I want to invite you to join us this summer as we explore the Arctic Ocean in a new blog series. You’ll get to discover some of the world’s largest congregations of seabirds, and learn how iconic wildlife — like polar bears, beluga whales and ringed seals — live in this varied and rapidly changing ocean ecosystem.

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/09/leaving-the-arctic/feed/ 0
Protecting What We Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/04/protecting-what-we-love/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/04/protecting-what-we-love/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:20:46 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11424

Our coastal communities are rallying to protect our oysters and our ocean

It’s no secret: I love oysters.

(And so should you. They keep our ocean and waterways healthy. And taste spectacular too.)

But we haven’t always done right by my favorite shelled creatures. It’s a fact reinforced by a slew of recent reports—plastic trash in the ocean could be hurting baby oysters, said the Washington Post and a new University of Miami study that found that the Atlantic Ocean has absorbed 100 percent more man-made carbon pollution in the past 10 years as it did the previous decade, spelling trouble for marine life and coastal communities.

It made me doubly grateful for the large dose of optimism delivered at the Climate of Change event hosted by the Maine-based Island Institute last night. It was the Washington DC premier of four short films that shone a spotlight on the changes taking place in our ocean. More importantly, they all focused on solutions that support coastal communities across America.

“A Climate of Change: Collapse and Adaptation in the Apalachicola Oyster Fishery” was a stand-out for me.

And no, not just because of luscious close-ups of oysters.

For 10 minutes I was immersed in the story of a small Florida town where oystermen still harvest their catch by hand in one of our country’s last wild oyster fisheries. It’s a community that has been built on the half shell. Drought, freshwater shortages, and then the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010 have had a devastating impact. Where there once were 150 oyster processing houses, there are now only nine. But the community is rallying. Apalachicola received federal funding to reseed the bay. It is putting oystermen back to work and helping to ensure a viable oyster fishery in the future. There is clearly a long way to go for Apalachicola but things are on the upswing.  By sharing their story they are also inspiring other communities to take action.

Local action to tackle acidification

Ocean Conservancy is getting the word out to make sure people on both the East Coast and West Coast understand the changes taking place in our ocean. I’m particularly concerned about ocean acidification; it’s already impacted oyster growers on the West Coast, and could impact fishermen and shellfish growers on the East Coast as well. We need to reduce our carbon emissions to tackle ocean acidification at its root, but there are many things we can do locally, too.

We’re working with partners and people on the front lines to create support for local and regional actions to address acidification. I am proud to be part of the Ocean Conservancy team that prepared a toolkit that identifies actions that states and communities can take to tackle acidification, which was published just last week in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. We hope it will be a useful part of a growing resource base for communities to adapt. It’s heartening that states like Maine, Washington and Oregon are already taking action.

So when the news stories get especially grim, I am grateful to be part of the solutions. And for glimpses from places like Apalachicola where smart, passionate people in our coastal communities are working hard to protect what we love.

 

]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/02/04/protecting-what-we-love/feed/ 0
An Ocean of Support at the Paris Climate Negotiations http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/21/an-ocean-of-support-at-the-paris-climate-negotiations/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/21/an-ocean-of-support-at-the-paris-climate-negotiations/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2015 15:10:32 +0000 Julia Roberson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11240

The recent, and much heralded, Paris climate negotiations have led to a new global climate agreement. This historic deal involves 195 nations working toward a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and restricting future global warming to an increase of “substantially less than 2 degrees Celsius”, a substantially new target that was just one of many new components of the landmark climate agreement. Ocean Conservancy sat down with longtime friend and colleague Jay Manning, a climate and ocean expert from Washington state, to get his inside report from Paris and COP21, and what it means for the health of the world’s ocean.

Jay, tell us why you went to Paris, and what message you wanted the climate treaty negotiators to hear.
I went to Paris in my professional capacity to support the Pacific Coast Collaborative, which consists of California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. These jurisdictions have been working together for 8 years on climate, energy and ocean acidification. The agenda at Paris included a substantial focus on cities, states, and other jurisdictions below the national level where substantial progress on addressing climate change has been made. The message we sent was that carbon limits and economic success go together. Another important reason why I went to Paris was to advance the discussion on ocean acidification. I’ve worked on this issue with Ocean Conservancy and others for the last 4 years. I spoke out in support of an aggressive international agreement to limit carbon emissions, which is the root cause of ocean acidification, to protect shellfish farmers from my coastal state, for other coastal communities around the world and for ocean ecosystems.

What expectations did you have for how prominent the ocean would be in the discussions and how did it turn out?
From my vantage point, the health of our ocean was a prominent theme in the discussions. Ocean advocates from around the world gathered and told stories of ocean acidification and other changes caused by global warming impacting the Pacific Northwest and other hot spots around the world. My understanding is that this was quite different from previous meetings. To the disappointment of some, the agreement itself heavily focused on atmospheric carbon and limiting emissions with little explicit language on the ocean, but there was far more prominence given to the ocean than in previous negotiations.

Why is the ocean so much more prominent this year in the global discussions on climate change?
I think it’s because in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia the impacts of ocean acidification are beginning to be felt. It started with oyster growers, and the crash in oyster stocks in the Pacific Northwest, but now it’s happening on a much larger scale. Climate impacts across the board—from the ocean to the land—are showing up much earlier than expected. Ocean acidification is being felt across the world. But, it’s not just acidification. Warming ocean temperatures and lowering dissolved oxygen levels are combining with increased acidity to threaten whole ecosystems and coastal economies.

How will the results of this historic climate agreement remedy the growing threat of ocean acidification on coastal communities and fishing businesses around the world?
The root cause of ocean acidification is the increasing concentration of atmospheric CO2, of which 25-30% dissolves into the world’s ocean. As the atmospheric concentrations go up, it also goes up in the ocean. As the pH goes down, it creates real problems for shell-forming creatures like oysters. In some places, we are seeing pH levels at 7.5 or 7.6. At that level of acidity, it’s a lethal dose for oyster larvae. Now, we’re starting to worry about lobsters, crab and pteropods, an important food source for the Northwest’s iconic salmon species. We have to get at that root cause; we have to reduce CO2 emissions substantially, and we need to do it quickly. While the text of the climate agreement doesn’t say much about the ocean, it is all about reducing atmospheric CO2—which is a very good thing when it comes to the world’s ocean.

What surprised you?
The scale of this climate meeting was staggering. 50,000 people were in Paris for this event. In the Parisian suburb of La Bourget, huge buildings were erected for all of the delegates. This was the most international event I’ve ever been to—195 nations!

What will you remember most about COP21?
Most memorable is the fact that the international negotiators did reach consensus on what is truly the most far reaching, specific agreement that has ever been reached on climate change…and they got 195 countries to agree on it. It was a huge breakthrough and success, and it was exciting to have been there. I’ll remember that most. Second, was the hospitality shown by the Parisians. They were absolutely wonderful. They were friendly, helpful, and cheerful. Following on the heels of the terrorist attacks in the city, the Parisians seemed glad we were there working on something so positive.

What’s next?
Now the hard work really starts. We should have more concerted, consistent leadership from nations across the world. That will help and be incredibly important for the long-term success of this work. I know there will still be a need for leadership at the state, county and city levels. For example, progress on energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and rooftop solar will happen more at the local than the national level. These are important building blocks for progress in addressing climate change and will benefit the ocean.

As well, I am optimistic for the future and for issues that Ocean Conservancy is working on like advancing the science of ocean acidification. The Paris meeting was a demonstration of the increasing recognition of the importance of ocean health and increasing coordination between ocean acidification scientists globally. I saw scientists from France working with scientists from the Philippines and the US and so on. Today, there is much better coordination on ocean acidification research and monitoring, and we’re answering the most pressing questions first. Scientists are helping industry mitigate and adapt to the changing ocean chemistry. And on the policy side, I’m working with colleagues who are connecting policy makers from jurisdictions making progress with those just learning about the science of ocean acidification. It is a great time to be working on protecting our coastal communities and Ocean Conservancy has really led the way on what I consider to be one of the world’s great challenges.

Sunset from Shoreline COP21 COP21 COP21 ]]>
http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/21/an-ocean-of-support-at-the-paris-climate-negotiations/feed/ 0