With all the news about global warming during the past few years, I've become really concerned about what kind of planet will be left to me and my kids in the future. I'm lucky enough to live very near Puget Sound in Washington and I want it to be a healthy place for orcas, salmon and kayakers like my mom and me.
I've been hearing a lot about ocean acidification, so last year, I completed a science project for school about how oceans are being impacted by their absorption of carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, carbonic acid is formed. What I learned was that over time, the healthy pH balance of the oceans is being changed by the acids that are formed. While oceans have always served as an effective "sink" for carbon dioxide, the excess carbon in our atmosphere that is entering the oceans is a big problem. Marine life, especially organisms that have shells made of calcium carbonate (such as corals and shellfish) are being impacted. The changing pH levels may also impact the reproduction of plankton — species upon which all marine life depend.
The Center for Biological Diversity
(CBD), a nonprofit organization centered in Arizona, has been pushing the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) to consider ocean acidification an issue that should be covered under the Clean Water Act. CBD filed a lawsuit against EPA that challenged EPA's failure to recognize the impacts of acidification on coastal waters off Washington. The suit, brought under the Clean Water Act, was the first ever to address ocean acidification. EPA settled the suit last month by agreeing to consider ocean acidification as a water quality issue subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.
Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at CBD, called ocean acidification global warming's "evil twin" because you don't hear much about the issue, yet carbon dioxide is one of the biggest threats to the marine environment. While some catastrophic effects from global warming may happen at some time in the future, impacts from ocean acidification are happening now. Scientists monitoring waters off the coast of Washington reported that ocean acidification is already affecting seawater quality and marine ecosystems. According to the 2008 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Since 2000, the pH of Washington's coastal waters has declined by more than 0.2 units, violating the state's water-quality standards for pH."
The EPA is now gathering public input about how to address ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. EPA will accept public comments on ocean acidification until May 21, at www.regulations.gov
(Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0175). Everyone who cares about the oceans should send their comments to the EPA.