Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) pointed to two studies published today in the Environmental Science and Technology and Nature Climate Change, saying that they piled more proof on the already massive mountain of evidence that global warming has very serious consequences for our ocean resources and the millions of Americans who rely the ocean for their livelihoods. Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the oceans to absorb more carbon dioxide and leads to acidification.
The Environmental Science and Technology paper, co-authored by a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), showed that excess nutrient pollution to coastal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere magnifies the ocean acidification effects of atmospheric carbon pollution, thereby reducing the growth and survival rates of shell-forming species like oysters, clams, scallops, crabs, and lobsters. The Nature Climate Change study used data from the Tagging of Pacific Predators Project (TOPP) to show that warming ocean waters and other climate-related alterations to the Pacific Ocean will dramatically affect the range and abundance of large ocean life, with particularly dismal projections for sharks, sea turtles, and marine mammals like the iconic blue whale.
"While Mitt Romney mocks reasonable measures to address our very real and deadly serious climate change problems, American families who depend on healthy ocean resources are demanding action," said Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight and legislative jurisdiction over oceans and fisheries. "These problems won't go away if we continue to ignore climate change, but the millions of jobs linked inextricably to the bounty of our seas surely will."
Ocean acidification has already caused major hardship for the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry, and scientists have shown that it negatively affects the larval stages of commercially important fish species like Atlantic cod. Coral reefs, critical to coastal tourism and fisheries in Florida and U.S. Caribbean and Pacific insular areas, have also shown significant changes in ocean chemistry from carbon dioxide or ocean acidification. These stresses, along with forced migrations and harsher ocean conditions such as those projected for the Pacific, could greatly reduce the productivity and diversity of U.S. marine ecosystems.
"These challenges are too great for states or regions to face alone," Markey added. "Congress must act decisively to reduce carbon pollution, help communities adapt to climate change, and increase our efforts to understand the economic and environmental impacts of shifting ocean conditions."