Acid Oceans on ABC News - Oceana USA
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November 14, 2008

Acid Oceans on ABC News

Yesterday ABC’s World News Tonight aired a segment about ocean acidification featuring the lead author, Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb, of our new Acidification Report, Acid Test. In the segment, Harrould-Kolieb says that if we reach 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, “We can pretty much say goodbye to coral reefs.” Right now we’re at 385 ppm.Speaking of which, yesterday a group of us from Oceana attended a climate change talk at the World Wildlife Fund by Princeton’s Michael Oppenheimer of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In his discussion of the current expectations and speculations about future carbon emissions, several images stuck with me.Oppenheimer showed a photo his wife took of a polar bear swimming in the Arctic. “They won’t just disappear,” he said. No, he said, it’s more likely to happen like this: first, more polar bears will land in zoos. Second, more polar bears will be shot or captured when they end up searching for food in human territory (“rummaging for garbage,” as he put it.) And finally, most terrifyingly, the bears will de-evolve by mating with black bears on land, eventually becoming genetically lost.He later reminded the crowd of the 2003 heat wave in Europe, in which ~35,000 people perished from heat-related causes. If there’s a similar heat wave in the future, he predicted that people will have likely adapted — more air conditioners will have been installed, etc. In other words, people adapt, they get smarter. But, he predicted, if there’s a heat wave of even more catastrophic proportions, there could be a similarly tragic outcome. “They don’t get smart as fast as the climate is changing.”So how do we get smart, and fast? The key, he concluded, is U.S. action, and now is our chance. “There’s reason for optimism; the stars are aligned,” he said. “But Obama has to hit it out of the park.”And he left us with hope: “The notion that this is an intractable problem is wrong. The cooler heads will prevail.” Let’s hope so.