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Posts tagged as “ocean acidification”

IPCC Report: “We’re Almost Out of Time” by RL Miller

Special To Topanga Journal

“We’re almost out of time.” A few weeks ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning people about climate change. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) would require “rapid, dramatic changes in how governments, industries and societies function.” 

By RL Miller

Doesn’t global warming mostly affect the polar bears? Well, no. Global warming affects people. Sea level rise is the most clear cut consequence of climate change, but many more impacts — some of which are better understood than others — will begin to make themselves felt. To bring this home, scientists have “high confidence” that 1.5°C of warming would result in a greater number of severe heat waves on land. In addition, climate change is making California’s droughts worse. Southern California’s wildfire season used to be limited to the Santa Ana wind season of October until the first rains of November; now wildfire season seems to start October 1 and end September 30. Climate activists talk about people on the frontlines of impact — those who are affected most. While you might think that “frontline communities” refers only to the people in coastal communities such as Florida and the Arctic — and, yes, Malibu — the term also refers to everyone in California living in or near a wildfire corridor. That’s Topanga, among many other places.

“The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.” RL Miller

And whether or not the hills burn this year or the next year, the actuaries who write insurance policies are calculating the increased risk of wildfires. Premiums will go up, policies will be non-renewed or dropped, and homeowners will have to resort to the FAIR plan. It’s already happening in Northern California neighborhoods damaged by the October 2017 fires.

The costs of doing nothing are incalculable. The tiny city of Imperial Beach in San Diego County, populated mostly by Latino renters, is weighing the estimated cost of $150 million to retreat from the ocean against its $19 million annual budget. Beach cities, such as Malibu, will need to determine what, if any, City services should be provided to protect private property — or leave the property to be abandoned to the rising seas.

In short: yes, global warming does affect people. Every week or two it seems there’s a new report on a different aspect of life climate change will mess up. Barley shortages mean less beer and higher beer prices. Fewer insects limit agriculture. Shorter winters mean tick-infested deer and trees killed by bark beetles.

What can one person do? Global warming is such a, well, global problem. Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth suggested personal choices to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Plant a tree. Go vegan, or at least eat less meat. Fly less. Change a lightbulb, change the world. Yet carbon emissions continue to rise.

Science-oriented people look at the climate problem and imagine scientific solutions that generally fall into two categories: storing carbon and altering the planet’s chemistry. The technology for the first, commonly known as CCS (carbon capture and storage) is in its infancy; it’s expensive. The second involves the stuff of science fiction: giant mirrors in space reflecting the sun’s rays away from the atmosphere, equally giant hoses sucking the carbon and vacuuming it into space, vast deposits of iron filings into the ocean to changing the chemical composition of seawater.

Although climate change begins as a scientific problem, it becomes obvious to most people the solution is mired in politics. Solar and wind energy poll like Mom and Apple Pie, but their progress is being blocked for political reasons. Specifically, the Republican Party in the United States generally denies the scientific reality, while politicians of all stripes are not sufficiently visionary to make the drastic changes demanded by the science. One solution to climate change is to get political: vote deniers out. I’ve founded Climate Hawks Vote, an organization building grassroots political power for the climate movement, that aims to do just that.

This global problem requires more than voting every two years, and it requires a sudden drastic change. So it needs everyone to speak out with the talent they have. Artists: make art about climate change. Musicians: write and sing songs that will move the feet and the heart. Architects and contractors: design and build more dense housing closer to public transit. Actuaries: calculate the risks of an ever warming world. Run for office. Tell people who are running for office to do more — and ask them to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, declining campaign contribution money from the fossil fuel industry. To change everything, we need everyone.

Most of all, the climate problem requires hope to solve it. Although it’s easy to ridicule the mindset of Denial on the Right, those on the Left are just as prone to despair. There’s plenty of reason to find despair in the IPCC report, but also reasons to hope.

Here are the top three things to do to fight global warming locally:

  1. Drive an electric vehicle or otherwise reduce the carbon footprint of your commute to zero. 
  2. Get politically involved with an organization such as Climate Hawks Vote; vote on November 6, but stay involved after the election.
  3. Every morning, find a reason to hope.


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Surfrider Foundation: Our Ocean and Coasts are at the Center of Climate Change

  • Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Coastal Preservation Manager, Surfrider Foundation

Special To Topanga Journal

Since the height of the industrial revolution, humans have been emitting pollution at unprecedented rates. Pollutants known as “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and act like a “heating blanket.” The amount of GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere is directly linked to how much, and how fast, the earth warms—and thus, how much our climate changes.  

Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

The world is already witnessing climate change impacts such as record-setting temperatures, catastrophic hurricanes, melting ice sheets and glaciers, flooding, drought, increased forest fires and other extreme weather. Climate change is predicted to bring more intense storms and increased sea levels.1 Our local coastlines are being impacted in several ways: 

“The ocean is 30% more acidic than it was in 1750. Drastic changes in ocean chemistry are detrimental to marine life, including the impairment of crustaceans’ abilities to form protective shells.”                                Stefanie Sekich-Quinn

Photos Copyright 2018 Jeff Herrera

  • Shrinking beaches: Scientists predict sea levels could rise up to six feet by 2100.  An increase this large will swallow beaches—impacting public access, recreation, healthy ecosystems, and community infrastructure. In addition to sea level rise, increased storms will also chip away at our beaches. 2
  • Pollution: More rain can result in sewage overflows and urban runoff cascading into the ocean. In addition, sea level rise and coastal inundation can overload and undermine wastewater infrastructure—causing malfunctions that result in more pollution. 
  • Ocean Acidification: Over 25% of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels is absorbed by ocean water.3 As a result, high concentrations of carbon dioxide are causing the oceans to acidify at rapid rates. In fact, the ocean is 30% more acidic than it was in 1750.4 Drastic changes in ocean chemistry are detrimental to marine life, including the impairment of crustaceans’ abilities to form protective shells.
  • Surfing and other recreation: Rising seas will contribute to extreme tides that will impact how waves break. In areas where the seafloor is sandy and flat (a beach break), the wave may break further inshore, thus changing the size and shape of the wave. In areas where the seafloor is uneven and rocky (a point break), higher sea levels will inundate the break, leaving less area for the wave to form and increasing the possibility that the wave might not break at all.5  In addition, ocean temperatures and ocean acidification are killing corals around the world; and in places where surfing is formed by coral reefs those surf spots will go away. Of course, diving experiences will certainly be impacted as reefs die and biodiversity is compromised.  
  • Damaged infrastructure: Sea level rise and increased storm activity will damage community infrastructure (homes, roads, municipal buildings, etc.).  As communities become more aware of the impacts of climate change on their beaches, they may choose to employ reactionary response measures, such as building seawalls, which can greatly impact beaches, ecosystems and actually exacerbate erosion.  

Just last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report concluding that drastic climate change impacts are now expected to occur much faster than previously predicted – as soon as 2040. Even if humans manage to keep the Earth’s temperature from increasing by 2 degrees C (the magic number assigned by scientists to avert dire consequences), major impacts will happen regardless. 6

While predictions about climate change are daunting, there are several actions we can all take to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, the Surfrider Foundation is encouraging local communities to support renewable energy efforts such as “Community Choice Energy” where citizens can dictate what type of energy they want to fuel their community—purposefully weaning off fossil fuels.  

Other mitigation efforts include installing “Ocean Friendly Gardens” to trap greenhouse gases in the soil. In addition, we encourage local communities to improve coastal resiliency by restoring dunes and wetland—building a stronger buffer against storms and rising seas. However, one of the most effective measures communities can take is to proactively plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events by improving local land use plans, zoning regulations, and rebuilding standards. We no longer have the luxury of continuing to rebuild in areas that have repetitive flood and storm damage at the expense of nature and taxpayers. 

Communities should also call upon their elected officials to implement meaningful climate change policies at the local and federal levels. For example, Surfrider has an action alert asking the Trump Administration to honor the Paris Agreement which aims to curb climate change. We also have an action alert urging elected officials to reform the National Flood Insurance Program so taxpayers are not spending money on rebuilding in harm’s way and communities are incentivized to rebuild in “climate-smart” ways.  

Finally, there are many actions people can do on a personal level to curb climate change, such as to carpooling, using mass transit, walking or biking to destinations and buying a low carbon vehicle. In addition, people should limit or stop purchasing plastic—plastics are made from petroleum products (i.e. fossil fuels) and take a tremendous amount of energy to create and dispose of. It is estimated 29 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the manufacturing and final disposal of plastic goods. Upgrade your light bulbs by replacing incandescent light bulbs with more efficient fluorescent or LED lights. Weatherproof your home to reduce drafts and air leaks by caulking, using insulation and weather stripping to save energy. 

Another fun way people can help bring awareness to climate change is to ride a Smartfin. The Smartfin is a surfboard fin with sensors that measure multiple ocean parameters including temperature, location, and wave characteristics (and in the future, it will read pH levels related to ocean acidification). Using the data collected with Smartfin will help scientists to better understand trends in ocean warming, acidification and mobilize our communities to act and combat problems caused by climate change. 

If we all work together and proactively plan ahead we can help avert climate change impacts and protect our wallets. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every dollar invested in preparedness and resiliency saves six dollars in costs down the road.7  We owe it to future generations to be proactive with climate change so they don’t suffer our consequences.  The time to act is now!

  1. Environmental Protection Agency 
  1. The Physical Science Basis. Final Draft Underlying Scientific-Technical Assessment.

3       IPCC Climate Change Report

4 Science Daily:

5       Climate Change May Flatten Surf Spots 


7 Pew Charitable Trust:$1-invested-in-disaster-mitigation-saves-$6 


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Why Ocean Acidification Matters To California

Surfrider Beach

The environmental organization National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states Ocean Acidification (OA) is the “quiet tsunami of environmental degradation.” Within a few decades OA may devastate some important marine ecosystems, says the organization.

“OA is the result of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels accumulating in the atmosphere, where it causes climate change. It is then absorbed into the ocean through wet and dry deposition,” according to the NRDC, and a recent Scripps Institute study titled, Is Global Warming Changing The California Current?

As the ocean absorbs CO2, it reacts with sea water to form carbonic acid.

“Securing clean water in a heavily urbanized environment such as Los Angeles doesn’t happen overnight. It requires resources. And regional waterbodies are well-worth protecting,” said Heal The Bay in a statement regarding the Los Angeles County Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure. “Locals and tourists alike frequent Los Angeles County’s beaches, yet 7 out of 10 of California’s most polluted beaches are right in our own backyard. This means that a day at the beach could make you or your family sick. Pollution that runs off our streets can be toxic to fish and other species. As a result, some fish species in our Bay are unsafe to eat. Trash pollution is so extreme in some areas of the County that our rivers look more like trash dumps. The current paradigm needs to shift.”

California has between the eighth and eleventh largest economy in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Factbook. That economy depends on tourism to its ocean and beaches, use of its coastline for the marine industries and other industries and even the nation’s national security depends on California’s coastal waters for military exercises. The state’s approximate 2011 gross state product (GSP) was $1.96 trillion, the largest in the United States, reports the organization Greyhill Advisors.

“Coastal counties in California, as well as the rest of the nation, represent a disproportionate size of the overall economy. While many of the nation’s largest cities are located along the coast and account for some of this value, coastal location draws increasing numbers of people and a broad range of activities that represent vast sums of revenue, which no state can afford to overlook. The natural resources of the coast and coastal ocean are a solid foundation for California’s economy and must be sustained to support the growth in the Coastal Economy,” according to the California Resources Agency (CRA).

Increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the ocean coincided with the start of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750. Measurements from Antarctic ice cores combined with direct atmospheric measurements show the increase of both gases over time, writes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Paleoclimatology and Earth System Research Laboratory.

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, about 150-years ago, approximately one-third of all CO2 from fossil fuels, or 127-billion megatons, has been absorbed by the world’s seas, increasing the average ocean acidity by 30-percent, reports the NRDC; that is the equivalent of 500-billion VW Beetle bugs dumped into the sea.

“The oceans are both source and sink for our consumption,” Dr. Orton of the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility (TWRF) tells Malibu Arts Journal. “The pace of sustainability is waiting advances in resource recycling. It’s not the only answer, but recycling is a two for one solution, slowing both our use of natural resources on the production side, and reducing the volume of waste streams on the consumption side.”

Recycling generally conjures up taking aluminum cans, glass bottles and newspapers to the recyclers. Yet water recycling is far more common than thought.

“Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing a ground water basin, often referred to as ground water recharge,” according the EPA. “Water recycling offers resource and financial savings. Wastewater treatment can be tailored to meet the water quality requirements of a planned reuse. Recycled water for landscape irrigation requires less treatment than recycled water for drinking water”
The EPA also cites no documented cases of human health problems due to contact with recycled water that has been treated to standards, criteria and regulations.

The International Pacific Research Center (IPRC), based out of the University of Hawaii, conducted a study and found, “Unprecedented, man-made trends in the ocean’s acidity. Combining computer modeling with observations, an international team of scientists concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the last 100 to 200 years have already raised ocean acidity far beyond the range of natural variations.”

The team of climate modelers, marine conservationists, ocean chemists, biologists and ecologists at the IPRC, led by Tobias Friedrich and Axel Timmermann, studied changes in saturation levels of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate and a substance typically used to measure OA , writes the IPRC.

“As acidity of seawater rises, the saturation level of aragonite drops. Their models captured well the current observed seasonal and annual variations in this quantity in several key coral reef regions. Today’s levels of aragonite saturation in these locations have already dropped five times below the pre-industrial range of natural variability. For example, if the yearly cycle in aragonite saturation varied between 4.7 and 4.8, it varies now between 4.2 and 4.3, which – based on a separate study – may translate into a decrease in overall calcification rates of corals and other aragonite shell-forming organisms by 15-percent. Given the continued human use of fossil fuels, the saturation levels will drop further, potentially reducing calcification rates of some marine organisms by more than 40-percent of their pre-industrial values within the next 90-years. Any significant drop below the minimum level of aragonite to which the organisms have been exposed to for thousands of years and have successfully adapted will very likely stress them and their associated ecosystems,” says lead author Postdoctoral Fellow Tobias Friedrich.

The NRDC too finds the same conclusion.

“Changes in acidity are undeniably linked to human activities,” reports the NRDC. “The United States is the world’s top oil consumer, and thus the primary driver behind the development of new forms of dirty transportation fuels in North America. These fuels are derived from lower-grade, difficult-to-access raw materials, including tar sands, oil shale and coal. Moving down this road has enormous consequences for the air we breathe, the water we drink, our climate, our wildlands and wildlife.”

High carbon intensity crude oils (HCICOs) include those produced using energy intensive production methods, or those involving practices that result in higher emissions, states the NRDC in its recent report.

“Typically, HCICOs can include unconventional sources, such tar sands, coal, oil shale, or heavy oils, as well as conventional sources that require additional energy for crude oil recovery or use practices that result in larger emissions, such as Nigerian crudes with flaring, or Middle East and California thermal enhanced oil recovery,” writes the NRDC.

According to a recent Stanford study, evidence in California of these chemical changes brought about by such human activity is already apparent.

“The primary concern about acidity is that it reduces the availability of carbonate, a substance used by tens of thousands of species to form shells and skeletons. If acidity gets high enough,” reports the study, “Ocean water becomes corrosive and literally dissolves the organisms shells, which may lead to extinction.”

As atmospheric CO2 increases, ocean PH decreases accordingly, says a separate Stanford study titled, Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem, published in 2009 in the Annual Review Of Marine Sciences.

The primary causes of acidification are CO2, nutrient runoff and Sulfur Oxide (SOx) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) deposition, according to a 2012 Center for Ocean Solutions study titled, Why Ocean Acidification Matters to California, and What California Can Do About It: A Report on the Power of California’s State Government to Address Ocean Acidification in State Waters, produced by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.

“We cannot attribute a particular fraction of the observed change in coastal waters among atmospheric CO2, nutrient runoff or other factors,” says Ryan P. Kelley, J.D., PhD and Margaret R. Caldwell. J.D., the authors of the Center for Ocean Solutions study. “While CO2 is the primary driver of the change in ocean PH, non-CO2 inputs may be more influential in specific coastal regions. SOx and NOx are gases that form acids when dissolved in seawater, lowering the pH of receiving waters. Because of short residence times in the atmosphere, these compounds are most likely to contribute to OA near where they are produced as byproducts of human industrial processes. As such, tighter ambient air quality standards for these compounds would have the greatest impact on OA near heavy industrial sources such as petroleum refineries.”

The contribution of the coastal zone to the global carbon cycle both during pristine times and at present is difficult to assess due to limited metabolic data available, as well as to major uncertainties concerning the magnitude of processes, such as respiration, exchanges at the open ocean boundary and air-sea fluxes of biogasses, according to the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics article titled Carbon & Carbonate.

As scientists explore links to climate change, models suggest more low-oxygen zones due to rising water temperatures and changes in mixing patterns, according to the California Currents article. A recent University of British Columbia (UBC) study found ocean acidity is adversely affecting the abalone, a popular gourmet food. This specie’s range extends along the Northern American West Coast from Baja California to Alaska. To better understand the impact of climate change, and specifically the increasing affect OA has on this in endangered species, UBC researchers exposed Northern Abalone larvae to water containing increased levels of CO2. Increases from 400 to 1800 parts per million (ppm) killed 40-percent of larvae, decreased the size of larvae that did survive and increased the rate of shell abnormalities, the UBC research found.

“This is quite bad news, not only in terms of the endangered populations of Abalone in the wild, but also the impact it might have on the prospects for aquaculture and o economics,” says Christopher Harley, Associate Professor with UBC’s Department of Zoology, and one of the authors of the study.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) finds such conclusions on CO2 and OA to be accurate in what they term the enhanced greenhouse effect.

“What has scientists concerned now is that over the past 250 years, humans have been artificially raising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, mostly by burning fossil fuels, but also from cutting down carbon-absorbing forests,” reports NASA. “Since the Industrial Revolution began in about 1750, carbon dioxide levels have increased nearly 38-percent as of 2009 and methane levels have increased 148-percent.”

Increased atmospheric CO2 is the largest contributor to the anthropogenic Greenhouse Effect (Solomon et al., 2007), note researchers at

“Given the importance of CO2 to climate, it is crucial to understand the global carbon cycle. The ocean plays an important role in the global carbon cycle, modulating atmospheric CO2 concentrations and climate. The global ocean has taken up 20 to 35-percent of CO2 released by human activities since the industrial revolution (Khatiwala et al., 2009; Sabine et al., 2004; Houghton, 2007),” writes “Some studies have suggested the oceanic carbon sink may have changed during the past few decades (Wang and Moore, 2012; Lovenduski et al., 2007; LeQu´er´e et al., 2007; Wetzel et al., 2005; Perez et al., 2010b), though significant uncertainties remain (e.g. ‘McKinley et al., 2011).”


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