SEATTLE (KCBS/AP) — Global carbon dioxide emissions are rapidly altering ocean chemistry along the West Coast and urgent regional action is needed, a panel of ocean scientists said in a report released Monday.
The group warned that failing to respond to ocean acidification, which comes from added carbon absorbed by oceans, will have widespread negative ecological consequences for the West Coast.
California, Oregon, Washington and the province of British Columbia in 2013 brought together 20 scientists to come up with management tools to address ocean acidification and hypoxia, or waters with extremely low oxygen levels.
Global carbon emissions are the dominant cause of ocean acidification, according to scientists from the three states and province. While it is a global problem that will require global solutions, West Coast leaders should develop regional strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the group said.
The scientists outlined other actions these governments could take, including exploring using seagrass to remove carbon dioxide from seawater, improving the monitoring network and identifying areas where local pollutants can make problems worse.
“There has been an attitude that there is not much we can do about this locally, but that just isn’t true,” said Francis Chan, an Oregon State University marine ecologist and who co-chaired the panel. “A lot of the solutions will come locally and through coordinated regional efforts.”
Because of the way the Pacific Ocean circulates, the West Coast is exposed to unusually high volumes of seawater at elevated acidity levels, according to Richard Feely with NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.
Responding to the report, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that he’s ready to work with West Coast leaders on the issue.