THE PACIFIC COAST FEDERATION OF FISHERMEN’S ASSOCIATIONS
COMBATING GLOBAL WARMING & ACIDIC SEAS
Toward a New Fishing Industry Initiative
By Glen Spain
Its now time — perhaps long past time — for the world’s fishing industry to collectively take a firm stand against the economic and societal forces creating global warming and its related marine hazard of ocean acidification.
Both of these new phenomenon — rapidly changing climates and more acidic oceans — are expected to hit the world’s fishing industry especially hard. Indeed, they already are starting to do so. A collective response from our industry is much overdue.
What Causes Climate Change?
There is no mystery about how global warming actually works. In fact, it can be easily demonstrated in a high school science lab.
Certain naturally occurring atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) naturally trap heat from the sun near the Earth’s surface, helping to keep our climate hospitable to life. Without that “greenhouse effect” the Earth would be nearly as cold on its surface as the planet Mars, and we would be in a permanent Ice Age.
But when normal background concentrations of these “greenhouse gases” are greatly added to by human sources such as we see today, their natural balance gets out of whack as a result, they can trap too much heat — and over time, since this heating is cumulative, this can change the balance of the whole world’s climate in unpredictable ways.
This is precisely what has been happening since the widespread use of carbon-based fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal. This huge ancient carbon sink, long stored harmlessly in the Earth, is today being rapidly burned for energy — and its fossil carbon pumped into our Earth’s atmosphere at an increasing rate. Nearly all this excess carbon dioxide can be traced by its isotopic fingerprints right back to the burning of fossil fuels.
What this global “greenhouse heating” leads to in the long-term, in addition to the heating itself, is the heat-driven disruption of normal weather patterns. Even small net heating changes in the atmosphere can lead to extreme weather disasters.
In some places this weather disruption means excessive and more frequent widespread flooding. In other places this can mean long-term or near permanent droughts in places which rarely experienced such problems in the past. In yet other places, bitter cold waves can last far longer than in the past. This plays hell with key agricultural areas all around the world.
This is why this phenomenon is more correctly called “climate change” rather than just “climate warming.” Some places will warm, others will cool, others will dry out — and most of these changes will occur in the future around statistical “means” that are quite a bit different than what these regions normally experienced in the past. When the annual weather pattern statistical “mean” changes, this is a change in climate itself. Weather is what happens in the single instance or year — climate is what happens statistically most often, described by “mean,” over many years.
Severe Weather Links Are Becoming Plainer: And the linkage between these global heating mechanisms and disastrous droughts, floods, severe weather events and climate extremes is also becoming much clearer, and much easier to statistically distinguish from normal ranges of variation in the past. These last two years, 2010 and 2011, have seen record-breaking extreme weather events worldwide, costing many billions of dollars in economic damages from record floods and droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes, including massive crop failures in many areas. Not surprisingly, 9 out of the world’s 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, and all 12 of the world’s hottest years on record since 1997.
Worse, global CO2 emissions in 2010 were recorded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (www.wmo.int, Press Release No. 934) to have jumped upwards by the highest one-year rate ever recorded — about 1.4 percent — since 2009. Record rates of increase also includes two other greenhouse gases — methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), both of which are even more powerful greenhouse gases than CO2, but typically occur at much lower concentrations. Yet even small additional inputs of these more powerful non-carbon greenhouse gases can have exacerbating effects on climate.
But CO2 still accounts for about 80 percent of all observed atmospheric warming. CO2 is also the only major greenhouse gas we humans can do much about, which is why the focus is on this gas and not the others.
Pushing Up Against the “Tipping Point”
There is no magic line below which CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are “safe” and nothing will change — there is instead a continuum of impacts that move from the limited average worldwide temperature increases we are seeing now, with still relatively modest climate impacts, to something much more dangerous creating higher worldwide average temperatures that can threaten world food production.
The closest we have to such a “magic number,” by way of a target to try to cap related CO2 emissions at, is a temperature increase of 2 degrees Centigrade (2° C.), which is about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (3.6° F.). Beyond those kinds of world average temperature rises, the world of tomorrow will not much resemble the world of today. Much beyond those temperature caps, major forests would disappear, major rivers would dry up, deserts would rapidly expand, and much of the world’s currently productive farmlands would become untillable and some nearly uninhabitable.
Why 450 ppm Matters: The world’s scientific community has projected that atmospheric CO2 levels in excess of 450 parts per million (ppm) is the “tipping point” at which that 2° C. temperature increase would occur. Above those CO2 concentrations, they say, we would start seeing much more serious climate instabilities and major climate shifts that would potentially be a threat to large portions of the world’s food supply, and thus a threat to our current highly intertwined global civilization itself. With Earth’s human population now more than 7 billion and rising, this international food production system is already being strained more each day.
This means that total CO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere should be held to no more than 450 ppm. These were the target CO2 “caps” agreed to by world leaders at the Cancun, Mexico, international climate control conference held in 2010 — although unfortunately no enforceable mechanisms for achieving those goals could then be agreed to.
More conservative scientists, however, believe the “safe zone” starts at below 350 ppm, in order to keep the world’s climate more or less the way our civilization has adapted to it today. By comparison, the world’s atmospheric CO2 remained at about 280 ppm for at least 10,000 years prior to the Industrial Revolution. Most of the world’s agricultural food system evolved for and is adapted to this 280 ppm CO2 limit.
However, the world has just passed the 390 ppm CO2 mark. Worse, the annual rate of CO2 emissions is still accelerating, not declining — in other words, we are actually losing ground in worldwide efforts to rein CO2 emissions in, not gaining it.
This is in part because there are so many coal-fired and fossil-fueled power plants already “locked in” and coming on line currently or within the next few years, especially in developing nations. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), these already “locked in” additional emissions sources will inevitably push world CO2 levels to well above 450 ppm in the near future unless the total emissions can be quickly curtailed. But at the currently accelerating CO2 emissions rate, estimates the IEA, if the world does not reverse course by 2017 then it will by then become physically impossible to avoid going above the 450 ppm safety cap — and much sooner than even the most pessimistic of the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report climate models ever predicted.
Acidified Oceans — Damaged Food Chains
Some still doubt the largely human and fossil fuel origins of most of this warming. However, the final capper — and the Achilles heel in all skeptics’ claims that this warming trend is somehow natural and benign — is ocean acidification. The mechanism by which excess CO2 in the air combines with sea water (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) is so well known that it is indisputable. Again, this is just high school chemistry, not rocket science.
So much new CO2 has been released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution that today an estimated 22 million tons more CO2 is being absorbed into the world’s oceans every day. Millions of years of the delicate balance between CO2 ocean absorption and natural CO2 ocean emissions or sequestering has now broken down.
As a result, the world’s oceans are today observably about 30% more acidic than they were at the start of the Industrial Revolution. This is observed fact, not speculation.
What this means is that increasingly sea creatures with calcium carbonate-based shells are unable to form those shells — calcium carbonate shells dissolve in acidic sea water, and the more acidic the water the faster they dissolve. When they dissolve faster than the sea creatures can build them, those shells disappear and the creatures either die outright or becomes much more vulnerable to predators and die in much larger numbers over time. Many could go extinct.
Impacts Already Appearing: We are already seeing this disastrous shell dissolution phenomenon emerging in the Pacific Northwest. Because patterns of ocean circulation can concentrate acidic waters in the Northwest in deep current cold-water upwellings, many Pacific Northwest commercial shellfish farming operations are collapsing as oyster larvae die off, unable to form normal calcium carbonate shells.
For the past six years, wild oysters in Willapa Bay, Washington, have failed to reproduce successfully — and acidic sea water is the clear cause. Similar shellfish reproductive failures have occurred off the east coast of Vancouver Island, and in other places throughout the Northwest too widespread to be from any other known cause. Yet all these areas are suffering from acidic upwellings.
Some local Pacific Northwest oyster hatcheries are already having to treat their sea water intakes with sodium bicarbonate to reduce its acidity for their oyster larvae to survive. But species in the wild do not have this luxury. Many other ocean species, including the phytoplankton, zooplankton and other shelled organisms that comprise the very foundations of most ocean food chains, could soon be dramatically and negatively impacted by increasingly acidic ocean waters (see the Feb. 2010 Fishermen’s News article, “Ocean Acidification Erodes Your Future,” www.pcffa.org/fn-feb10.htm).
Worse, at the current huge — and unfortunately accelerating — rate of worldwide CO2 emissions, the projection is that by the end of this century the world’s oceans will be between 150% to 200% more acidic than during pre-industrial times — more acidic, in fact, than ocean waters have been in many tens of millions of years.
Another Marine Species Great Dying? This projected year 2100 high acidification level is very close to — and perhaps well over — the chemical “tipping point” at which major ocean ecosystems would almost certainly collapse and mass marine extinctions would occur. The massive Permian-Triassic ocean extinction event of a little more than 252 million years ago (called the “Great Dying” by geologists) occurred in part for this very reason — ocean acidic levels rose beyond the biological stress point of more than 96 percent of ocean species during that last great age of volcanism, when the single large continent Pangaia was breaking apart and massive amounts of CO2 and methane were released into the atmosphere.
It took ocean ecosystems many millions of years to recover from that ancient mass die-off. This should be a clear warning to us today as we push atmospheric CO2 levels toward similar extremely high levels.
A very worrisome scientists report issued last June, 2011, by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), warned that, unless acidification of the oceans is soon controlled and unless reversed by 2050, that a mass extinction of ocean life such as we have not seen on Earth in hundreds of millions of years could become inevitable.
A Ticking Timebomb: Remember also that the acidic waters arising from deep ocean upwellings today along the Pacific Northwest originally absorbed their CO2 and became acidic between 30 to 50 years ago. The even more CO2-acidified waters created today will not show up in these deep upwellings until decades from now. This also means that if all excessive industrial CO2 emissions worldwide somehow stopped today, it would still be between 30 to 50 more years before the oceans’ acidic levels actually stopped increasing. Actions we take today will determine the fate of the oceans 30 to 50 years later.
Moving From Denial Toward Action
First off, there is no longer a shred of credible scientific doubt that global climate change is already occurring, is largely human caused, and is progressing far more rapidly than even the most pessimistic of climate models that the now-outdated 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted. Everywhere you look there is now ample physical evidence of this fact.
Scientific arguments among climate scientist today are mostly over projections on how fast climate change will hit us, where, and how hard — not over whether climate change is real, is already happening or is largely human-driven. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and virtually every other professional scientific association in the world have already confirmed the science that says that climate change is a real phenomenon, and happening now at an accelerating pace. The handful of outright climate change nay-sayers has largely dwindled today to those paid by the petroleum and coal industries to say otherwise.
As one climate scientist recently remarked, “If you do not believe in global warming what you are really saying is that you do not believe in thermometers.”
There are now over a dozen separate and independent lines of scientific evidence all showing that global climate change is now actually happening all over the world. Everything from ancient ocean sediment sampling, to dying coral reefs, to growing ocean “dead zones,” to rapidly changing deep ocean currents, to disappearing ice sheets and glaciers, to the climate history shown by 500,000 years of ice cores from the Antarctic, to direct measurements of the atmosphere itself — all these lines of evidence independently demonstrate the “greenhouse effect” as a reality.
The total atmospheric concentration of the potent greenhouse gas carbon-dioxide (CO2) has in fact measurably jumped 39 percent, from 280 parts per million (ppm) in 1750 before the start of the Industrial Revolution, to a its current 390 ppm — and is rapidly climbing.
In a thorough multi-volume review of the science of climate change, the National Academies of Science also noted in its 2011 report to Congress called America’s Climate Choices:
“Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment. These risks indicate a pressing need for substantial action to limit the magnitude of climate change and to prepare for adapting to its impacts.”
And ocean acidification is inextricably chemically linked to these higher CO2 levels. The National Research Council, an arm of the U.S. National Academies of Science, has noted in Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean (2010), the following:
“The chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions; the rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at least the past hundreds of thousands of years. Unless anthropogenic CO2 emissions are substantially curbed, or atmospheric CO2 is controlled by some other means, the average pH of the ocean will continue to fall. Ocean acidification has demonstrated impacts on many marine organisms. While the ultimate consequences are still unknown, there is a risk of ecosystem changes that threaten coral reefs, fisheries, protected species, and other natural resources of value to society.”
Not a Partisan Issue: Global warming is not, and should never have become, a partisan political issue — this is fundamentally a debate about measurable factual data and science, not about politics.
In other words, the facts of global climate change are about as “partisan” an issue as the Law of Gravity. Deny the existence of gravity all you like, but it will still kill you if you step unprotected off a tall cliff.
There is plenty of room for political debate on the best ways to actually address these issues, but to deny the very existence of the growing mountain of actual scientific peer-reviewed and verified field data showing that climate change and ocean acidification is actually ongoing is like denying that gravity exists. Everyone can have their own opinions on these issues, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts.
More Violent Storms, More “Dead Zones”: As a result of the largely CO2-driven greenhouse effect, all the current climate projections indicate that the future will see more violent ocean hurricanes, increasing disruptions of major hydrological cycles worldwide, the continuing rise of average sea levels all over the world as ice caps melt, the creation of millions of “climate refugees” (a process that has already started as some island nations and low-lying areas disappear), ocean “dead zones” growing worldwide as warmed waters lose oxygen, major changes in ocean current flows, more frequent and more severe El Niño weather events, and the loss of a great deal of the coastal saltwater and estuarine marshlands which are the breeding and rearing grounds for numerous harvested fish species supporting tens of thousands of fishing jobs.
What is scarier is that even if we ceased all CO2 production worldwide today, there is already enough excess CO2 in the atmosphere that it will continue to absorb into the oceans faster than it is released for at least 30 to 50 more years. In other words, serious climate disruptions for the next several decades are now inevitable, and it is too late to stop them all.
The only issue now is how can we as a fishing industry adapt to what is surely coming, while trying to limit the damage and prevent the still avoidable worst case scenarios from becoming our future?
A Fishing Industry Climate Change Action Plan
Unlike the old Mark Twain saw about people talking about the weather but never doing anything about it, there are definitely things the fishing industry can collectively do to blunt the worst impacts of both climate change and ocean acidification on its own bottom line.
So far, however, the current U.S. Congress has done nothing to address — or even acknowledge — these far-reaching climate change problems. Worse, some anti-science members of Congress have been spearheading bill after bill, at the request of the oil and coal industries, to block current and future federal Administrations from taking any actions on their own to control excess CO2 emissions as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act, as the George W. Bush Administration was ordered to do by the U.S. Supreme Court (Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497 (2007)).
Most of these bills just try to define the problem away by legislatively reclassifying the whole group of greenhouse gases as “not pollutants” under the law. But even Congress cannot change the laws of physics and chemistry, and whether regulated or not, whether ignored or not, these chemicals will still be greenhouse gases and still have their same effect in the atmosphere. Denial of the Laws of Physics is not an option.
The fishing industry must take the lead in pushing for adaptation to those coastal impacts we now know are coming, and are already on their way. We should also become leaders in efforts worldwide to reduce global CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions to get at the root causes of global warming and ocean acidification as soon as possible.
And especially we need to hold all our political leaders accountable for short-sighted denial and inaction. Every year of inaction makes the future of our industry that much more uncertain.
We must also internationalize this issue for the entire fishing industry as soon as possible. The world’s fishing industry is a major source of food for more than three billion people and supports an estimated 8 percent of the entire world’s economy. But our industry, particularly in developing nations, is coastally based and is thus one of the most vulnerable of Earth’s industries to these upcoming changes.
Press World Leaders to Prevent the Worst
In spite of the growing awareness of the seriousness of the issue, the only international effort so far to control greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocols, will terminate automatically in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocols failed because they were never signed by the U.S. and several other industrial nations who are among the world’s major greenhouse gas polluters. Their standards were also mostly ignored by those countries that did sign. Nearly all its signatory nation’s fell far short of its goals. But so far all international efforts to replace the now obsolete Kyoto Protocols with something both more inclusive and more binding have failed.
Last November, 2011, world leaders met once again, this time in Durban, South Africa, to try to work through the details of a world greenhouse gas control treaty that would earn broader international acceptance and have both realistic and enforceable measures to keep world atmospheric concentrations of CO2 down to 450 ppm. Though some progress was made toward that goal, it was nowhere nearly enough.
Too many countries are now seeking to simply postpone the difficult or enforceable measures until 2020 — when frankly it may be too late to achieve a 450 ppm CO2 cap or to blunt the worst impacts of ocean acidification. Further delay in these efforts is simply unacceptable, especially since in the long run further delays will cost the world’s economy far more than the costs of early prevention.
This is all about jobs. The fishing industry represents a prime example of how this is really a jobs issue, and needs to bring that point home. We could lose many tens of thousands of jobs worldwide — not to mention access to a major human food source for three billion people — if even half of the projected impacts of elevated greenhouse gas levels come true and catch us unprepared.
As an industry, we also have common cause with other industries such as the financial and insurance industry — these are companies who have to pay for record weather disasters such as we saw in 2010 and in 2011, and whose economic bottom line is also being put at risk from increasing climate instability. These financial planning and insurance companies are now among the world’s chief proponents of major efforts to prevent further climate instability.
As an industry, we also should be directly in the face of world leaders on this issue. We need to be present and to send delegates to each and every future international climate change treaty forum, and to strongly express our concerns for urgent action. So far, however, our entire industry has been mostly missing in action on this looming issue.
Adapting to the Now Inevitable
Scientists tell us that though decisive actions quickly might well avoid some of the worst impacts of both climate change and ocean acidification, many of those impacts are already occurring — and because of the decades-long lag time between CO2 emissions and their ocean or other natural absorption, more severe impacts are now inevitable, especially in the oceans.
Thus, adapting to inevitable coastal impacts such as sea level rises, and protecting the health of ocean ecosystems to help them remain resilient to such impacts, are the next major strategies the fishing industry should pursue on this issue. This means many of the following strategies should be employed:
Hardening Coastal Infrastructures: Sea level rises are already occurring and now accelerating along our coastlines, particularly in southern California. Elsewhere in the world, low lying coastal areas are disappearing in several ocean countries, and several island nations are losing their islands. The first wave of “climate refugees” from some of these low-lying areas are now being created.
Everywhere in the world, local and national governments needs to prepare for relatively rapid average sea level rises over the next several decades. How much rise how fast is subject to debate, but more frequent and more violent storm surges, and more violent hurricanes and typhoons generally, are predicted by every climate model and these will exacerbate every sea level rise. Coastal erosion and inundation will increase.
Local governments and planning authorities need to respond to help “storm proof” local coastal and port infrastructure and protect seaports from storm-caused beach erosion. All these are good steps anyway — but now should be taken with climate change predicted sea level rises firmly in mind.
Some coastal residential and fishing infrastructure is likely doomed as sea levels and storm swell levels rise over the next several decades. It is time to put a moratorium on building in high risk coastal erosion zones, and look to move those structures potentially in harm’s way — or replace them with other structures in better locations — in the meantime. Ultimately this should be a local planning and zoning task over the next 50 year planning horizon. State and even national adaptation policies can encourage this.
Developing More Flexible, Real-Time Fisheries Management: Nearly all current fisheries management is based on the assumption that the future will look much like the past — that is, on projections from past fisheries experience. But this will no longer hold true in a world of rapidly changing climates, ocean chemistry and ocean currents.
Fisheries management agencies thus need to invest far more money and resources in implementing “real time” fisheries management. This will require investing in much more aggressive data collection and basic research programs so we continuously know what changes are going on in the oceans, and how that is affecting (or likely to affect) fish migratory patterns and behavior.
Current fisheries management programs are typically underfunded, bureaucratic and often inflexible. Fisheries management models for a rapidly changing world will have to become smarter, better funded — and much more flexible — just in order to respond to ongoing changes and to both foresee and avoid potential fisheries collapses.
But just managing fishermen is no longer enough — managers of the future must also understand, manage and help fishermen to protect the whole ecosystem from which fishermen make their living.
Changing Regulations to Reassess the True Social Costs of CO2: Now that the U.S. government has acknowledged that climate change exists and can do real damage, the EPA, the Council of Economic Advisors and the Department of Transportation have developed dollar figures for estimating how much economic damage excess CO2 emitted into the atmosphere can cause by driving climate change. Those official social cost estimates — from $5.50 to $72 per ton of CO2 for the U.S. (and $21 per ton equivalent adopted in Great Britain) — are hopelessly simplistic, terribly out of date, and (probably deliberately) set so low that they tend to undervalue and discourage all regulatory efforts to control these emissions.
In August, 2011, an international network of professional economists calling themselves Economists for Equity and Environment (E3) presented an independent and peer-reviewed re-analysis, on the basis of current climate change data and newer IPCC official projections, and found that the true “social cost of CO2” to the economy could be much more reasonably set at up to $893 per ton of emissions — more than an order of magnitude higher than the highest “official” government carbon pollution cost estimates.
By 2050, the group says, these true economic costs could rise to as much as $1,550 per ton as global climate change damages rapidly accumulate and intensify. Their report, Climate Risks and Carbon Prices: Revising the Social Cost of Carbon, concludes that it’s actually costing us much more to do nothing about climate change than it would to adopt mitigation measures, adding, “If the damages per ton of carbon dioxide are that high, then almost anything that reduces emissions is worth doing.”
The current official regulatory estimates of the social and economic cost of increasing CO2 emissions should be modified to reflect reality and to encourage, not discourage, mitigations.
Better Protecting Ocean Ecosystems: Overfishing has long been controllable or controlled — though ineffectively in some other countries — and we know how to do that in order to assure that our harvests are truly sustainable. We should keep improving those key fishery management sustainability practices.
However, the oceans are also subject to massive oil spills, growing gyres of plastic pollution, and innumerable other sources of pollution, including ever more mercury released from the burning of coal to your garden variety petrochemical pesticides and poisons. All these are extra stressors on an already overburdened ocean ecosystem.
Reducing these other non-climate stresses, however — particularly stresses from now massive amounts of human created pollution — will assure a healthier ocean ecosystem that has more biological flexibility to survive climate-driven and acidification changes.
Protecting and Restoring Near-shore, Estuary and Inland Fish Habitats: Most of the world’s harvested seafood species depend upon near-shore, estuary or salt water marsh habitat for at least part of their lifecycle.
Fisheries for pollock, salmon, Dungeness crab, shrimp, halibut, menhaden, lobsters and multiple other species would not exist were it not for key nearshore marsh and estuary (or for salmon, freshwater) nursery areas where these fish lay their eggs and rear their young. But these brackish salt water marshes and estuaries are precisely the areas most vulnerable to ocean sea level rises and salt water inundation.
Thus one of the best things the fishing industry can do to protect its resource base is to protect the habitat from which all the species it harvests begin. In other words, we need to protect their nursery grounds. Where necessary, replacement salt water marshes may have to be created to replace areas being gradually inundated as sea levels rise, as is happening in Chesapeake Bay and starting to happen in the San Francisco Delta.
Pacific salmon, which are cold-water inland fish to begin with, are suffering from multiple climate change impacts: the gradual heating up of their natal streams; reduced flows in those streams from over-diversions, and; reduced quality of the water that is left. Salmon also suffer from way too many dams built in stupid places, many of them now obsolete but still blocking access to valuable habitat. Northern California’s salmon runs have been particularly hard hit by all these factors, plus climate change predictions for California are for a much diminished rainfall water supply as well.
The best way to protect those vulnerable salmon stocks from global warming is a lot more of what we have always done to reduce other stresses on these runs: clean up and remove passage barriers and obsolete dams from those rivers; keep more cold and high quality water in those rivers, and; restore ecological health to tributary watersheds which feed those rivers. I would add to this list maintaining as much biological diversity within these fragile salmon producing river ecosystems as possible, so that these ecosystems can hopefully adapt as a whole as climate conditions change.
A Hopeful Conclusion
Our fishing industry must take strong collective actions soon to help head off at least the worst impacts of onrushing global climate and ocean acidification on our communities and our livelihoods. Fortunately, there are clear actions that can be taken toward that goal, some of them things we should also be doing for many other very good reasons.
And making those much needed changes is very cost-effective — especially compared to the extremely high costs of doing nothing!
With massive climate shifts causing shifting global ocean currents, major changes in ocean ecosystems, as well as changing the oceans’ most basic chemistry, the future of our industry may indeed not look much like its past. But we can still assure that we actually have a future, by concerted actions as an organized industry to speak out on this issue, to make our voices heard in the halls of power, and to help with many others to redirect the world’s current destructive pathway away from impending climate crisis — and towards new opportunities.
But all the numbers say we had best take those actions sooner than later. “Later” will be too late!
Glen Spain is the Northwest Regional Director of both the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA) and its sister organization, the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR), working from their Northwest Regional Office, and can be reached at: PO Box 11170, Eugene, OR 97440-3370, (541)689-2000, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RESOURCES FOR MORE RESEARCH
Economics & Equity for the Environment (E3), 2011. Climate Risks and Carbon Prices: Revising the Social Cost of Carbon. www.e3network.org/social_cost_carbon.html.
Hoegh-Guldberg, Ove, et al., 2010. “The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems,” Science 328, 1523 (2010). Available at: www.sciencemag.org.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2007. Fourth Assessment Report. www.ipcc.ch. The Fifth Assessment Report is due out 2013/2014.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 2009. Scientific Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biological Diversity. CBD Technical Series No. 46 at: www.cbd.int/doc/publications/cbd-ts-46-en.pdf. UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 2010. Environmental Consequences of Ocean Acidification: A Threat to Food Security. www.unep.org/dewa/pdf/Environmental_Consequences_of_Ocean_Acidification.pdf.
National Research Council, of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2011. America’s Climate Choices. http://dels.nas.edu/Report/America-Climate-Choices-2011/12781.
National Research Council, of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2010. Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Ocean-Acidification-National-Strategy/12904.
Rogers, A.D. & Loffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth System Expert Workshop on Ocean Stresses and Impacts: Summary Report. International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), Oxford. www.stateoftheocean.org/ipso-2011-workshop-summary.cfm.