Ocean acidification: A climate change issue

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    Ocean acidification has remained an obscure topic in the public realm for quite some time because it gets far too little publicity and is largely misunderstood. So what can be done to change the continued degradation of oceans? Who should be held responsible for this task?

    Animals aren't the only ones who will be affected. Beaches and coast lines will change as well.

    Coasts and beaches will not be exempt from the damaging effects of ocean acidification. VOXXI/Laura Sanchez-Ubanell

    Many options of varying scope, cost and effectiveness exist such as replacing fossil fuels with more renewable energy resources, eating less seafood so that marine animals have a chance to breed and increase their population to a safe and sustainable number, improving the quality of current Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as creating more of these areas.

    Implementing more renewable energy resources is one of the most important steps towards achieving a healthy acidity level within the oceans.

    “One thing humans could do is to remove other stressors like pollution, overfishing and degradation of marine habitats. These are things we have some control over. If you remove those, marine ecosystems might be more resilient towards ocean acidification,” says Dave Hutchins, Professor of Biological Sciences at University of Southern California.

    Salvaging aquatic ecosystems would be more feasible if collaborative efforts are made throughout different organizations and involved parties rather than one group hopelessly working towards an unreachable goal.

    Educating the public about ocean acidification and its dangers is the first step in this process. It takes the voices of the people to convince politicians that ocean acidification is a legitimate threat they can no longer choose to ignore.

    Government involvement is crucial and some states and individuals are already on the case, working together to create a rescue plan. Rhode Island, also known as the Ocean State, is leading the country in working and developing methods for future ocean conservation and salvation.

    On July 22, 2013, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approved the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) which has been in the works for two years.

    The goal of this plan is to enhance recreational, commercial and environmental goals by creating marine zones off Rhode Island’s coast. In other words, the plan “indicates an official willingness to establish laws beneficial to marine and human life, and also a willingness to enforce such laws,” according to the administration’s official website.

    Most scientists and advocates of ocean protection have a clear understanding of what kind of policies would be best for animal life but unfortunately the problem arises when these policies are not strictly enforced by local authorities or governments.

    The US does not have a single off-shore wind turbine installed whereas Europe has over 200. So far, the plan includes building five off-shore wind turbines near the coast of Rhode Island.

    The problem lies behind the question of where exactly to place these large and somewhat obtrusive devices. Fisherman, recreational boats, marine life migration patterns, underwater cables, sacred or archaeological sites of importance, freight boat paths and more all must be taken into consideration before taking up permanent ocean space.

    The oceans may seem vast and infinite but most of the discovered oceanic areas anywhere near coastal areas are already taken up for one or more purposes.

    The human race cannot rely on burying fossil fuels much longer let alone forever, which seems to be the current general mindset, this idea that our resources will never deplete themselves and instead appear spontaneously out of thin air simply in order to please our whimsical and overly excessive “needs” and desires.

    “It’s a global problem of human civilization that we’re using fossil fuels and there’s nothing we can do to stop it until we as a species decide we’re going to stop using fossil fuels. It’s a very difficult problem because it’s a global one.

    “There’s no way to avoid it in our society and until we change that, it’s going to continue acidifying the oceans. It’s going to take a lot more than a few oceanographers to get this problem fixed,” says Hutchins.

    A fish swims in a tank on display at the Rosentiel School.

    Animals lower on the food chain will have a harder time adjusting to environmental changes.

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