Ocean Acidification

Carbon taxes? Inslee wants a look

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

 

By John Stang, crosscut.com

Gov. Jay Inslee wants a climate change panel to consider a cap-and-trade program on industrial emissions and a carbon tax to be sent to the Washington Legislature as recommendations.

Meanwhile, the panel’s two Republican members want the economic costs of any climate change-related proposals researched before any are adopted.

The panel met Monday in Olympia with each of its five members — Inslee, two Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators  — saying what he or she wants explored more. “My concerns is that we go forward without determining the costs to the the people of Washington state of going forward,” said panelist Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

“We’re going to look for the single most cost-effective way of doing this,” Inslee said.

Inslee wants the upcoming recommendations to come with the best available estimates of how much carbon emissions each will trim from the state’s long-range greenhouse-gas picture. That is to ensure that the panel’ meets the goals set by a 2008 law.

In 2008, Washington’s Legislature set a goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions to 25 percent below Washington’s 1990 level by 2035 and to 50 percent below by 2050. So far, nothing has happened. Early this year, Inslee successfully lobbied the Legislature to set up a task force to map out how those goals can be reached. The task force is supposed to have recommendations for the state Legislature by Dec. 31.

“Failure is not an option to meeting these legislatively mandated goals,” Inslee said.

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Carbon pricing is catching on around the globe — just not in Washington, D.C.

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

June 5, 2013  By John Upton

More than 40 national governments and 20 states or other “sub-national” governments are now charging polluters for emitting greenhouse gases, or plan to start in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The U.S., of course, is not one of the countries with a national cap-and-trade plan or carbon tax, but California and parts of New England are pushing ahead despite Congress’ refusal to act.

All in all, about 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases are now priced — the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the total 50 gigatons emitted annually worldwide. Not a lot. But, says the report, “If China, Brazil, Chile, and the other emerging economies eyeing these mechanisms are included, carbon pricing mechanisms could reach countries emitting 24 [gigatons of CO2 equivalent] per year, or almost half of the total global emissions.”

From The Washington Post:

The World Bank report also notes that many cap-and-trade programs are beginning to join together — California is partnering with Quebec, and the E.U. has joined up with Switzerland — which, in theory, should make it easier for companies to make the easiest cuts first. And many programs are trying to expand coverage. Australia and Korea are hoping to get 60 percent of their emissions covered, while California is aiming for 85 percent.

That said, the World Bank concludes that there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to avoid the worst effects of global warming. “The current level of action puts us on a pathway towards a 3.5–4°C warmer world by the end of this century, [which] would threaten our current economic model with unprecedented and unpredictable impacts on human life and ecosystems in the long term.”

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What we can do about ocean acidification and climate change

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

This op-ed is written jointly by the CEO of one of the largest shellfish growers (a close partner in our work) and the chairman of Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification:

October 9th, 2013. Special to The Seattle Times

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action at a level not yet seen from government, industry and individuals, write guest columnists Jay Manning and Bill Taylor.

The Seattle Times’ recent outstanding series on ocean acidification “Sea Change” stands as an uncomfortably vivid warning that our marine world — and the economies and lifestyles that depend on it — is under siege.

The images of coral reefs and oyster larvae ravaged by ocean acidification provide haunting notice to Northwest residents of the consequences of inaction.

Though the perils of ocean acidification are well-documented, reading this series prompted anew the questions, “What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening?”

The Pacific Northwest has some outstanding leaders and scientists on the cutting edge of addressing ocean acidification. Because of their actions, the region is not starting from square one.

The 2012 Washington State’s Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel identified a series of concrete steps that were codified in Executive Order 12-07 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Washington Legislature has also taken some critical first steps on this issue, providing funding in July to establish an Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington and the Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council. Created within Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, this Council, among other things, will advise and work with UW and others to conduct an ongoing analysis on the effects and sources of ocean acidification.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has taken the lead in Washington, D.C., securing federal support to help Washington’s shellfish industry monitor and adapt to the corrosive seawater conditions and making sure the nation’s top marine scientists are thinking about the next steps.

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Ocean acidification is most urgent threat to marine conservation

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

By Bill Dewey

November 6th, 2011

THE Taylor family has farmed shellfish in Puget Sound for over a century. The business now faces a challenge to its very existence that we didn’t even know about until five years ago: ocean acidification.

Seawater upwelling on Washington’s coast at times is so corrosive that the shells of oyster larvae dissolve faster than they can form. Recent research shows that the shifting chemistry of seawater impacts far more than oysters. Increasing acidity can deform, stunt, disorient and even kill a number of species throughout the marine food web, from tiny plankton to scallops, crabs and fish. Understanding how these corrosive waters impact the ocean’s ability to produce food is a pressing global security issue.

If we don’t begin addressing ocean acidification promptly, the future of shellfish farming and the entire seafood industry is at stake. On our current path, we are consigning our heirs to a world of increasing scarcity and conflict over ocean resources.

Are we up to it? The tools we need already exist. We can prevent many of acidification’s worst consequences by embracing proven and often profitable strategies to increase energy efficiency, manage fossil-fuel emissions and limit nutrient runoff. We can reduce harm to seafood supplies through scientific monitoring and research. These are all things we can do locally and make a difference.

In the open ocean, acidification results from emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that mix into seawater. The oceans absorb about a quarter of the 70 million tons of CO2 we emit every day. This forms carbonic acid. The acid thins the ocean’s naturally rich soup of carbonate, the basic construction material used by many marine organisms to build shells, skeletons and reefs. Along our coasts, human activities amplify these changes by increasing runoff of soil, fertilizer and animal wastes, triggering hypoxia and acidification in many bays and estuaries where we grow shellfish.

For Taylor, acidification is not a future threat estimated by modeling or projections. It’s here now. During 2007-2009, our oyster larvae production declined up to 80 percent. Other West Coast operations were also decimated. At the Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Ore., oyster larvae dissolved in their tanks.

By monitoring water chemistry we’ve learned to avoid and buffer corrosive waters — restoring a good portion of our production, for now. We’re fortunate that we have the ability to control the seawater chemistry for our baby oysters in our hatcheries. The picture is not so rosy for critters that must survive in the increasingly acidic ocean.

At Taylor, we feel like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, with a twist: After getting knocked down, we lived to sing. Having seen the impact of high-CO2 waters we feel some responsibility to speak out and make others aware of the serious and only recently understood consequences of continued high carbon emissions on the ocean.

We are fortunate that Seattle is a hub of work on ocean acidification. An international seafood industry study group run by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership is based here. NOAA’s principal scientist on the issue, Dr. Richard Feely, is at Sand Point. The University of Washington’s Terrie Klinger leads studies on how acidification’s effects might be mitigated. Former 3rd District Congressman Brian Baird was the most knowledgeable representative in Congress on this issue and continues his interest.

All our efforts at marine conservation and resource management will prove inadequate if we don’t tackle the most basic problem of all — ocean acidification.

Bill Dewey is communications and policy director for Taylor Shellfish Farms, based in Shelton, Wash., the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the U.S.

West Coast climate ‘action plan’: A carbon tax?

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

   Seattle PI

A trio of West Coast governors and a Canadian premier on Monday signed a “Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy,” described with great hyperbole as a comprehensive and far-reaching “strategic alignment” to promote clean energy and curb climate change.

The states of California, Oregon and Washington, together with British Columbia, would constitute the world’s fiftieth largest economy in a mythical “Ecotopia.”  By “joining forces,” tweeted Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, “We intend to design the future, not wreck it.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  She looked like a loser, and won.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  She signs climate Action Plan with West Coast governors, while boosting location of liquid natural gas export terminals up and down the B.C. Coast.

The action plan announcement said that California and British Columbia will maintain their existing carbon-pricing programs and respective clean-fuel standards, while Washington and Oregon move to adopt similar programs.

British Columbia Environment Minister Mary Polak told The Globe and Mail that Washington and Oregon will soon move to a carbon pricing system similar to B.C.’s seven-year-old carbon tax.

Inslee has a task force on climate change at work. It held a packed public meeting last week in Seattle.

Cross-border agreements are nothing new, and do not always live up to the highfalutin’ rhetoric of signing ceremonies and news conferences.

A much-touted oil spill cleanup plan of the late 1980s served mainly to clean up spills on the coffee table in the ante room of the B.C. premier’s office in Victoria.

But the politicians were waxing eloquent on Monday.

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Maine Confronts Sea Change

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 
July 03, 2013 18:55
By Brad Warren
Bill Mook suspected trouble in the water when he first noticed plankton blooms dwindling, raising questions about the future supply of natural feed for the clams and oysters he raises in a tidal reach of Maine’s Damariscotta River.
Over the last decade he witnessed an increase in intense storms that brought torrential rains. Mook also spotted a pattern inside his hatchery, which spawns and produces oyster “seed” for his own and other farms in the region. After heavy rains, larvae and their tank-raised microalgae feed became harder to grow. Mook saw his tiny, new-hatched oysters circling at the bottom of the tanks instead of swimming actively through the water column as usual.
This was the same larval behavior reported by West Coast oyster hatchery managers when their larvae began dying in increasingly corrosive water, threatening “seed” supplies. The worst-hit animals failed to develop properly or even to “set”—a crucial step in which bivalves pick a spot to settle down and grow up.
The veteran producer began speaking out to other growers, fishermen and resources managers. He called for investigation of changes in seawater chemistry that may soon pack the kind of wallop that nearly wiped out seed supplies for West Coast shellfish farmers in the late 2000s.
The West Coast industry managed to temporarily avert that crisis by partnering with scientists to take careful measurements and devise adaptive maneuvers. But the episode generated lessons that are rippling through the world’s seafood industry. And the underlying threat is growing. Scientists have firmly linked the Pacific Coast oyster crisis to ocean acidification, a consequence of industrial society’s swelling emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil and gas.
If similar effects are showing up in Maine, can the state meet the challenge?.
On the West Coast, the effort to detect and dodge corrosive water did more than protect growers. It revealed a gathering danger to seafood supplies, jobs, and coastal communities. It also enabled Washington state—the nation’s largest farmed shellfish producer—to launch a comprehensive effort to understand this threat and begin defending its fisheries and coastal waters from souring seawater. I’m proud to play a part in this work.
Just over a year ago shellfish growers and tribal leaders persuaded Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire to create a Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, based on a proposal I drafted. Gov. Gregoire convened this bipartisan panel and tasked it to recommend strategies for the state to understand, adapt to, mitigate and remediate damage from acidification.
When the panel completed its report in November 2012, Gov. Gregoire promptly instructed state agencies to implement its recommendations. She reallocated $3.3 million in her budget to do the job, including funds for a new ocean acidification research center.
Washington’s initiative is the first of its kind, but it won’t be the last. Fishermen, growers, scientists, conservationists and coastal leaders are enlisting state governments to help understand the impacts of changing ocean chemistry and develop tactics to sustain seafood production and marine ecosystems.
Mook reckons it is time for Maine to devise its own strategy. “We need to get people who are stakeholders and experts and form some kind of group,” he says.
With its $330 million lobster industry, Maine has thousands of jobs at stake. Recent research has peeled back the impression that lobsters might be immune; preliminary findings in Maine and Nova Scotia show reduced growth and delayed development in high-CO2 water. Meanwhile Maine’s clam industry faces both an invasion of destructive green crabs and acidification that weakens shells, making the mollusks more vulnerable to predators.
As Maine considers its options, one lesson from the West Coast can save a lot of trouble and money: “Turn on the lights.” That’s how Mark Wiegardt of Oregon’s Whiskey Creek Shellfish hatchery described the results when scientists from Oregon State University helped his team to measure and document effects of souring water on fresh-spawned larvae. “We wouldn’t be in business without it,” he says. One effective tactic: hatchery managers pump in seawater during sunny afternoons. By that time of day, the monitoring data show the water is “sweeter.” Whiskey Creek managers think that sun-loving seagrass near their intake soaks up enough CO2 to protect vulnerable larvae
To fix trouble, you need to see it. That’s why in Maine, my program is supporting research to help validate preliminary findings on acidification impacts on lobsters and clams. We hope these efforts can help Maine’s industry and policy leaders stave off future harm.

Scientists Embark On West Coast Ocean Acidification Mission

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 
July 25, 2013 | KCTS9

SEATTLE — On Monday scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will begin a one-month U.S. West Coast expedition to investigate ocean acidification, an issue that poses a serious threat to the Pacific Northwest’s shellfish industry.

“We will for the first time not only study the chemistry of acidification, but also study the biological impacts on the marine ecosystems in the open ocean,” says Richard A. Feely, a scientist from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Research Laboratory in Seattle. Feely is co-chief of the mission.

Over the past 30 years, oceanographers like Feely have found that the burning of fossil fuels has released about 2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. About a quarter of that has been absorbed by the oceans, Feely says. Carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid and that acid can corrode the shells of calcifying organisms including oysters and clams.

This upcoming expedition follows the same path taken during a similar survey in 2007, stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. That earlier expedition was the first survey to show that the West Coast of North America is a hot spot for ocean acidification.

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Arctic Ocean ‘acidifying rapidly’

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Fjord with Kap Atholl in the background is shown in this picture taken during an Operation IceBridge survey flight in April 2013

The Arctic seas are being made rapidly more acidic by carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new report.

Scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) monitored widespread changes in ocean chemistry in the region.

They say even if CO2 emissions stopped now, it would take tens of thousands of years for Arctic Ocean chemistry to revert to pre-industrial levels.

Many creatures, including commercially valuable fish, could be affected.

They forecast major changes in the marine ecosystem, but say there is huge uncertainty over what those changes will be.

It is well known that CO2 warms the planet, but less well-known that it also makes the alkaline seas more acidic when it is absorbed from the air.

Absorption is particularly fast in cold water so the Arctic is especially susceptible, and the recent decreases in summer sea ice have exposed more sea surface to atmospheric CO2.

The Arctic’s vulnerability is exacerbated by increasing flows of freshwater from rivers and melting land ice, as freshwater is less effective at chemically neutralising the acidifying effects of CO2.

The researchers say the Nordic Seas are acidifying over a wide range of depths – most quickly in surface waters and more slowly in deep waters.

The report’s chairman, Richard Bellerby from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, told BBC News that they had mapped a mosaic of different levels of pH across the region, with the scale of change largely determined by the local intake of freshwater.

“Large rivers flow into the Arctic, which has an enormous catchment for its size,” he said.

“There’s slow mixing so in effect we get a sort of freshwater lens on the top of the sea in some places, and freshwater lowers the concentration of ions that buffers pH change. The sea ice has been a lid on the Arctic, so the loss of ice is allowing fast uptake of CO2.”

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Ocean acidification emerges as new climate threat

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

By Juliet Eilperin, Published: September 30, 2012, The Washington Post

HOMER, Alaska — Kris Holderied, who directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, says the ocean’s increasing acidity is “the reason fishermen stop me in the grocery store.”

“They say, ‘You’re with the NOAA lab, what are you doing on ocean acidification?’ ” Holderied said. “This is a coastal town that depends on this ocean, and this bay.”

This town in southwestern Alaska dubs itself the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. But worries about the changing chemical balance of the ocean and its impact on the fish has made an arcane scientific buzzword common parlance here, along with the phrase “corrosive waters.”

In the past five years, the fact that human-generated carbon emissions are making the ocean more acidic has become an urgent cause of concern to the fishing industry and scientists.

The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we put in the air through fossil fuel burning, and this triggers a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen, thereby lowering the water’s pH.

The sea today is 30 percent more acidic than pre-industrial levels, which is creating corrosive water that is washing over America’s coasts. At the current rate of global worldwide carbon emissions, the ocean’s acidity could double by 2100.

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Shipping Emissions ‘Rival CO2-Driven Ocean Acidification’

Filed under: Ocean Acidification, Projects 

Shipping pollution from sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrous oxides (NOx) along busy trade routes can equal carbon dioxide-driven ocean acidification, a study says.

Sulfur in marine fuel oil and atmospheric nitrogen create SOx and NOx in the exhaust gases from ships. According to the research paper that will be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letter, these gases — like rising CO2 levels — also increase acidity in the ocean, which can harm coral, squid, mussels and other sea life.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Chalmers University of Technology, the University of Delaware and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies jointly conducted the year-long effort, which is the first global study on the effects of increasing shipping traffic in the summer, UDaily reports.

While it found that shipping emissions hurt coastal areas the most, it also concluded that the International Maritime Organization’s emissions rules for North America and Europe will drastically reduce the sulfur content in these areas from 1 percent to 0.1 percent by 2015, researcher James J. Corbett, a University of Delaware professor, tells UDaily. In other parts of the world, sulfur content will drop from 2.7 percent to 0.5 percent.

Researchers say this shows that areas without such emission controls need regulations to combat ocean acidification. Improving marine fuel quality and the technology to scrub stack gases and remove pollutants will help preserve the health of oceans and coastal ecosystems, the study says.

Teijin Engineering this week announced it has developed a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) denitration device for midsized ship engines that the company says will ensure compliance with the International Maritime Organization’s NOx emissions regulation, which goes into effect in 2016. The company says ship tests have demonstrated that the device can reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent.
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