Climate change may be dissolving the ocean floor. Here’s why we should be worried. : NBC News


From heat waves to severe storms and wildfires, the effects of climate change are visible all around us — and new research suggests that the impact of a warming world extends all the way to the bottom of the ocean.

A study published Oct. 29 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that high levels of carbon dioxide — the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that is a key contributor to Earth’s warming climate — have made parts of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean so acidic that the chalky white mineral that makes up the seafloor is dissolving.

No one ventured to the seafloor to conduct the study. Instead, researchers led by Olivier Sulpis, a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, simulated seafloor conditions in a laboratory. The simulations showed that the mineral, a form of calcium carbonate known as calcite, is being replaced by murky brown sediments.

 

Source: Climate change may be dissolving the ocean floor. Here’s why we should be worried. : NBC News

Will EPA Heed the Pope’s Call to Save Our Oceans?


Reblogged from Centre of Biological Diversity

The Huffington Post, June 30, 2015

Will EPA Heed the Pope’s Call to Save Our Oceans?
By Miyoko Sakashita

When it comes to saving our oceans, I’m wondering: What would Pope Francis do?

With his sprawling encyclical on the fate of our planet this month, the pope became an unexpected revolutionary. I never thought I’d see bold environmental leadership arise from this powerful, historically conservative institution.

By now, everyone knows about his call to fight climate change, ocean acidification, pollution and loss of the planet’s biodiversity.

Pope Francis opened a unique opportunity for a renewed environmental movement with his landmark encyclical Laudato Si, or “On Care for our Common Home.” Now the burden is on society to seize this moment and for the United States to robustly regulate carbon dioxide – the chemical compound that is warming our atmosphere and acidifying our oceans – as the powerful pollutant that it is.

The pope observes that the wealthy countries that have plundered and degraded the natural world “because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production” have the greatest duty to clean it up — starting with the United States, among the world’s top carbon dioxide emitters.

“Carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us,” the pope wrote.

Despite the growing climate crisis, the U.S. government barely even recognizes carbon dioxide as a pollutant, let alone one that it is serious about regulating in meaningful way. Despite some improvements, the federal government’s regulation of carbon pollution has been timid under the Clean Air Act. We’re still a far cry from cutting carbon dioxide in a way that will help us avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

So imagine if the EPA were emboldened like Pope Francis we could use the full extent of existing laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and others to solve these problems.

During the heyday of environmental law reforms of the mid-1970s, Congress also passed another, broader law to act as a backstop when other measures fail: the Toxic Substances Control Act. So we at the Center for Biological Diversity, along with Dr. Donn Viviani – a retired scientist who headed the Climate Policy Assessment Division at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – have just formally petitioned the federal government to broadly regulate CO2 under the TSCA.

We lay out a litany of problems that carbon pollution is causing in our oceans as it increases their acidity, from the oxygen-deprived dead zones to widespread weakening of corals and shellfish that are unable to create the carbonate coverings they need for protection, problems that ripple up and down the food chain.

Our first-of-its-kind petition to regulate carbon dioxide as a toxic substance gives the Obama administration an opportunity to show important leadership on this global challenge just as international negotiators prepare for the Paris climate talks this December.

This is an urgent problem requiring immediate action, as the pope indicated: “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity.”

Nowhere is that more clear than in our oceans, which are collecting about 30 percent of our carbon emissions and becoming more acidic in the process and weakening the basic building blocks of life.

“Particularly threatened are marine organisms which we tend to overlook,” the pope noted, “like some forms of plankton; they represent a significant element in the ocean food chain, and species used for our food ultimately depend on them.”

He’s right: When we save the oceans and all the life they hold, we save ourselves and a viable future for generations to come. Who can argue against that?

Society has solved difficult social and environmental problems in the past, and we can all work to fix this one. Now we need to call on EPA for bold leadership to do the right thing.

Follow Miyoko Sakashita on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EndangeredOcean

Copyright ©2015 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

This article originally appeared here.

Our Fate Is Tied to Our Ocean


Original post from Huffington Post

‘……….By  U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment

Gulf Oil Spill Spreads, Damaging Economies, Nature, And Way Of Life

 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we depend upon the ocean for our very existence. It regulates our climate and our weather. It generates half of the oxygen we breathe. It provides food and income for billions of people. Covering almost three-quarters of the planet, the mighty ocean is — without a doubt — a natural resource like no other. Our fate is inextricably tied to the ocean’s fate and the ocean is in trouble.

Many of the world’s fish stocks are depleted and continue to be overfished. Runoff and debris are choking our waters. The very chemistry of the ocean is changing, becoming more acidic because of the carbon we are pumping into the air. That’s the bad news. The good news is these problems can be solved. Fixing them, however, will require significant and sustained action by all of us — individually and together.

Ocean issues have come to the center of the world stage in the year since Secretary of State John Kerry hosted the first Our Ocean conference. That conference spurred action by heads of state, businesses, scientists, philanthropists, and NGOs to protect fish, keep plastic out of the ocean, and measure ocean acidification.

As part of this wave of action, President Obama expanded the U.S. Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the world. Gabon, the United Kingdom, Palau, and the Bahamas, among others, have recently committed to establishing new MPAs. We have a global goal of protecting 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Working closely with other governments and NGOs, we are also exploring new technologies to monitor and enforce fishing bans in MPAs to ensure that these MPAs safeguard the ocean as intended.

We are also developing a system to keep illegally caught seafood out of the United States by tracking it throughout the supply chain — from harvest or farm to market. Because the United States imports about 90 percent of the seafood we consume and because we are one of the largest importers of seafood in the world, this traceability program should lead to a significant crackdown on illegal fishing around the globe. We are also advocating for entry into force of the Port State Measures Agreement, a new international treaty that would block illegally caught seafood from entering the stream of commerce in countries around the world. These actions will help level the playing field for all those countries and fishers who follow the rules and work hard to sustainably manage our ocean resources.

Overfishing isn’t the only threat to marine life. At the same time, we are taking too many fish out of the ocean, we are putting too much plastic waste into it. Plastic products are the ultimate irony. Many are created for a single, short-term use, and then they live on for centuries as trash. And when not managed properly, plastic waste inevitably finds its way into our waterways, and ultimately the ocean. In 2010, an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean — enough to line up five grocery bags of trash on every foot of coastline in the world. Experts estimate that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic in the ocean for every three tons of fish. Plastic entangles sea creatures and damages important habitats like coral reefs. It breaks down into non-biodegradable microplastics that are eaten by fish and then eaten by people.

Plastic waste in the ocean is a problem we know how to solve. We need to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce; improve systems for waste collection and management; and reuse and recycle plastics whenever possible. Waste-to-energy projects and recycling innovations hold great promise. Discarded fishing nets are being recycled into skateboards and jeans. Companies are looking at ways to reduce plastic packaging in the near term and in the long term create a “circular economy” where all the parts of a product and its packaging can be reused.

Besides adding plastic waste into the ocean, we are also adding carbon, which is changing the ocean’s chemistry. The ocean has absorbed about 30 percent of all carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution, which has caused the ocean to be about 26 percent more acidic than it was in pre-industrial times. The rapid rate of carbon dioxide uptake by the ocean means that its chemistry is changing 10 times faster than at any other time in the past 50 million years.

Ocean acidification has the potential to undermine dramatically the growth, behavior, and survival of numerous marine organisms, including oysters, clams, urchins, corals, and calcareous plankton. In collaboration with partners worldwide, we are working to increase monitoring of ocean acidification, and help shellfish farmers address the negative impacts that are already affecting their industries. Our efforts to achieve an ambitious, durable international agreement at the United Nations climate meeting in Paris later this year, and the stated intention of the United States to cut net greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025, will contribute substantively to protecting these resources and the businesses and people that depend on them.

Although we are making progress to address the challenges the ocean faces, there is much more to be done. The world will come together again in October when Chile hosts the next Our Ocean conference and we will keep up the momentum for action.

Protecting the ocean is not just a job for governments. Whether you live on the coast or thousands of miles from the nearest beach, each of us needs to take action to keep the ocean healthy. Carrying a reusable grocery bag, eating only sustainable seafood, and biking to work to reduce your carbon footprint can make a big difference when millions of us each do our part. Let’s all join together for our ocean — not just on World Oceans Day, but every day.  ………..’