A letter to you about saving the ocean

Dear Reader. The following letter was written by Randy Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers and it concerns you and the planet earth. The publication of this letter is happening in numerous blogs at the same time, coordinated by Sheril Kirshenbaum.

We are both lifelong boaters. What we have learned from sailing across the Pacific over the past 6 years, and especially from scientists focused on marine conservation, is startling. Whether you spend time on the water or not, Ocean Acidification affects all of us and is something we believe you will want to know about.

What would you do if you knew that many species of fish and other marine life in the ocean will be gone within 30 years if levels of C02 continue increasing at their present rate? We believe you would take action to stop this from happening, because informed people make informed choices. This letter is about what we can and must do together now to help solve a very serious but little-known problem, Ocean Acidification.

Ocean Acidification is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean it changes the pH, making the sea acidic and less hospitable to life. Over time, C02 reduces calcium carbonate, which prevents creatures from forming shells and building reefs. In fact, existing shells will start to dissolve. Oysters and mussels will not be able to build shells. Crabs and lobsters? Your great-grandchildren may wonder what they tasted like.

Carbon dioxide concentrated in the oceans is making seawater acidic. Many of the zooplankton, small animals at the base of the food web, have skeletons that won't form in these conditions, and sea-life further up the food chain - fish, mammals and seabirds that rely on zooplankton for food will also perish. No food - no life. One billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of protein. Many scientific reports document that worldwide, humans are already consuming more food than is being produced. The implications are obvious.

The issue of Ocean Acidification is causing irreversible loss to species and habitats, and acidification trends are happening up to ten times faster than projected. We want you to know what this means, how it affects all of us, and what we can do about it.

Today, the atmospheric concentration of C02 is about 387 parts per million (ppm) and increasing at 2 ppm per year. If left unaddressed, by 2040 it is projected to be over 450 ppm, and marine scientists believe the collapse of many ocean ecosystems will be irreversible. Acidification has other physiological effects on marine life as well, including changes in reproduction, growth rates, and even respiration in fish.

Tropical and coldwater corals are among the oldest and largest living structures on earth; the richest in terms of biodiversity, they provide spawning areas, nursery habitat and feeding grounds for a quarter of all species in the sea. Coral reefs are at risk! As C02 concentrations increase, corals, shellfish and other species that make shells will not be able to build their skeletons and will likely become extinct.

The good news is we can fix this problem. But, as you guessed, it will be difficult. Ocean Acidification is caused by increased C02 in the atmosphere. Solving one will solve the other. The House of Representatives has acted, passing HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey "American Clean Energy and Security Act", but it was severely weakened. Now the Senate has announced that it will move similar legislation this fall. We need the Senate to join the House in its leadership, but to demand far greater emissions reductions than were able to pass the House.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that in order to stabilize C02 in the atmosphere at 350 ppm by 2050, global carbon emissions need to be cut 85% below 2000 levels."That's a very tall order! And the way our political system works (or doesn't) makes its tougher. It will take all of us to step up and take responsibility to make this happen.

Here is what you can do: Contact your Senator now using ont of these techniques listed in order of effectiveness.

1. Visit your Senator at their local office. It is easy to make an appointment. Tell them your concerns about C02 and the oceans, and to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans. The experience is rewarding. (Alternatively, drop a letter off at their local office.)

2. Call your Senator and leave a message urging action be taken to reduce C02 , address Ocean Acidification, and move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.

3. Click on this link to send an email, which will go directly to your Senator based on your address: http://www.oceana.org/acid

You may use the letter provided, but it is more effective to edit it, and in your own words urge them to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.

Ocean Acidification is an issue we can do something about. We need a groundswell of informed citizens to get Congress to have the backbone to stand up to the entrenched interests of coal, oil, and gas and not compromise on the reduction of C02. We also need real leadership to aggressively create jobs using sustainable technologies. The choice is ours. We can solve this or not. What we do know is that the future facing our children, grandchildren and indeed all of humankind depends on our decision.

Please join us in sharing this letter with others. We appreciate your taking the time to contact your Senators; it is easy to do and effective.

Thank you for your support.

Randy Repass
West Marine

Sally-Christine Rodgers
Board Member

A more complete report on ocean acidification here: http://oceana.org/fileadmin/oceana/uploads/Climate_Change/Acid_Test_Report/Acidification_Report.pdf


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Direct legislation won't reduce carbon output, because China, Russia, and India are not subject to US law, and also because the US is still largely controlled by carbon producers. The only way carbon output will be reduced is to make some other source of energy cheaper than burning coal. When burning coal is no longer the cheapest way to make power, people will instantly stop mining and burning it. Coal extraction is already mature and costs must already be close to minimum.

What each of us can do to help is to invest in research, development, and capitalization of alternative power -- wind, solar thermal, what-have-you -- that have some chance of undercutting coal. That might involve supporting legislation to fund such work, and to subsidize starting businesses to apply it. It includes work on ways to store energy, and to transport it efficiently from where it's produced.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 16 Jul 2009 #permalink

Passing direct legislation has an effect on other countries in the sense that it makes it much easier to negotiate international treaties if the other countries involved believe we have the political will to ratify and enforce the treaty in our own country. Also, direct legislation will create very powerful incentives for companies, the same companies that have been profitting from carbon production, to apply those profits to the kind of research and production of energy we need. We're far past the point where we can rely on individual effort to get us out of this mess.

Isn't coal / oil heavily subsidized by the government, thus making it so cheap? I am under the impression that there was a little palm-greasing going on to keep CO2 based fuels on top of the heap.

You know, I've been arguing with some GW deniers of the "the Earth used to be a lot colder/warmer !" stripe, an argument that's obviously bankrupt (we didn't have agriculture back then, or even people for most of it).

But I guess this makes me wonder about ocean acidification : if the level of CO2 has been higher than now in the past, were the oceans also more acid ? And if so, how did shelled animals manage then ? Did their shells have a different composition, did they make their shells faster ?

(of course none of this applies to the current situation, because even if it's possible for animals to be adapted to acid oceans, today's animals aren't. But, you know. I'm curious)

By Caravelle (not verified) on 16 Jul 2009 #permalink

While I agree with the letter...

coordinated by Sheril Kirshenbaum

...isn't it a little, ah, confrontational?

Don't we need to let people know that their high carbon lifestyles are compatible with ecological soundness? If we tell them they have to give up using resources and emitting CO2 the way they're accustomed to, they'll just reject our message, after all.

Azkyroth: Please turn that effort you are making into an argument that will actually reduce the release of fossil carbon or that will buffer the ocean acidity problem rather than simply mucking up the blogosphere!

And no, I'm not picking on you. I'm picking on everybody today.