In crises that society faced throughout history, people tend to ignore distant problems that do not show up in front of their eyes. Americans shrugged off the threat posed by the Axis powers in World War 2 until the Japanese attacked American soil at Pearl Harbor. Al-Qaeda, an organization barely publicized before the 21st century, suddenly dominated the minds of every airline passenger for years after the 9/11 incident. The same indifference towards hidden but dangerous threats could be said about the way ocean acidification is viewed today.
For the majority of the world’s population who don’t see the ocean on an everyday basis, ocean acidification is a problem shoved aside for others to take care of. Even policymakers are guilty of this indifference and apathy. Governors from inland states such as Kansas or Minnesota would be very hesitant to shell out taxpayer money to decrease carbon emissions to protect crabbing industries in Maryland. The root of the inaction about ocean acidification is that individuals not connected with marine activities in any way, recreationally or vocationally, perceive no apparent harm towards themselves.
But their perception of a lack of danger is errant. Ocean acidification can have significant secondary repercussions beyond declining fishing revenues. As argued in my perspectives article, a debilitated fishing industry may very well precipitate a recession in a national economy and even on the global economy as well. Once workers in the fishing industry are displaced, they would need to cut back on consumer spending, such as a purchasing new Xbox 360 or a laptop. Across the board, every industry, from electronics to clothing, would suffer a hit due to declining fishing industries. A very similar phenomenon occurred with the recent global recession, where a housing market crisis in the United States negatively impacted economies of nations across the globe. If the world’s citizens don’t care at all about the aesthetic value of having pristine coral reefs or other marine habitats around the world, they should at least realize that their own small-businesses are at risk of suffering a financial hit along with fishing industries.
This notion that everybody will be affected by ocean acidification, even through cascading effects, needs to be publicized. This way, when voters express high interest about environmental protection, Democrats and Republicans alike will be forced to face this issue and plan to address it in office. When writing up policies, there needs to be careful attention towards making sure that every factory, no matter the geographic location, shares the responsibility of reducing carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emitted from a Nebraskan firm will eventually diffuse throughout the entire atmosphere and maybe dissolve in the waters of the Indian Ocean, negatively affecting fishers in Bangladesh. Because the threat of ocean acidification is relevant for a wide range of people, the solution to fix it must be concerted as well.
Anthropogenic noise pollution is dramatically altering the home of millions of marine species. Commercial shipping, seismic exploration and drilling for oil and gas, and the use of sonar for military purposes are making the oceans an increasingly noisy place. Ocean acidification is putting a megaphone to such practices by decreasing the concentrations of sound-absorbing chemicals such as borate and carbonate1. The current trend of increasing anthropogenic carbon emissions and noise pollution is unsustainable. We have to change our behavior before our impact on marine biodiversity becomes irreversible.
While the focus of media attention regarding anthropogenic noise pollution has been on marine mammals, hearing can be an equally important sense for fish as well. Sound travels faster in water than air, and perhaps as a result, many types of marine organisms have developed hearing as a primary sense for navigating through the murky depths. Recent studies have shown that fish grown in water with high levels of CO2 lost their ability to avoid reef noise2. This represents a severe impairment of natural sensory responses necessary for predatory avoidance, reproduction, feeding, habitat selection, navigation, and communication.
The inner ear structures of many fish are composed of aragonite, and are thus susceptible to decalcification as a result of ocean acidification3. Although the impact of this phenomenon on fish hearing is not fully understood, it demonstrates that the consequences of anthropogenic carbon emissions are far reaching. It may never be possible to assess the total impact our lifestyle is having on our environment.
Fishing is a 60 billion dollar industry. Over 100 million tons of fish are consumed each year, providing 2 billion people worldwide with at least a fifth of their average animal protein intake4. Aggressively polluting the environment of organisms so crucial to the survival of our own species is masochistic. How can we justify exploiting the oceans to satisfy current demand if it means sentencing future generations to a world with scarcer food sources?
Several things could be done to improve sustainability. The increase in commercial shipping over the last few decades itself has contributed to a 12 dB increase in ambient ocean noise5. Diverting shipping lanes away from organism-rich ocean zones would help limit the impact of noise pollution on marine animals if curbing the amount of shipping itself is not possible. Marine protected areas have been successfully instituted to shelter cetaceans from anthropogenic noise polluters6. Such guidelines require strict enforcement and must be expanded to protect fish and invertebrate species. Seismic exploration of the ocean floor involves the use of airguns, or underwater cannons that eject compressed air every ten seconds. Such sounds can propagate far beyond the source, causing tissue damage and deafness in thousands of organisms7. Countries need to develop ways to conduct such surveys that minimize such environmental casualties. Ocean acidification will continue to intensify the ill effects of anthropogenic noise pollution by decreasing seawater sound absorption and decalcifying fish ear structures unless something is done to reduce carbon emissions.
Volume 34, Issue 3, May 2010, Pages 367-374
How is the the world’s oceans related to economics? How can an assessment of an economy prevent unprecedented impacts and help mitigate many factors that contribute to ocean related problems? J.T Kidlow, The National Ocean Economics Program, and A. Mcllgorn, The University of new England and Southern Cross University, have researched the importance of estimating the ocean as a contributor to modern economies. Until 1990, many nations have not formally conducted an evaluation of the effects the ocean has on its economy. Kidlow conducted an evaluation of ocean industry sectors, based off APEC’s industry sectors, and concluded that the U.S.A’s GDP, is directly effected from the following ocean industries: oil and gas; fisheries/living resources; shipping; marine construction; and marine tourism. Kudlow reasearch in 2009, based off data in 2004, list that the ocean is 138billion dollar contributor to the U.S economy, not including environmental and ecosytem stocks that arent direct goods and services. Kudlow presents data that could be useful to policy makers in the determination of ocean and marine ecosystem preservation.
Environ. Res. Lett. 4(2009) 024007 (8pp)
Ocean acidification may cause economic loss in commercial fisheries because increased ocean acidity may lead to decreases in calcification, biological function and fitness of commercially valuable groups, like mollusks, and potentially reduce harvests of economically important predators.
The study by Sarah R Cooley and Scott C Doney provides estimates of the net present value (NPV) of revenue losses for the US mollusk fishery through 2060 for varying discount rates, high-CO2 and low-CO2 atmospheric trajectories given by IPCC, and the upper/lower bounds from Gazeau et al (2007) experiments to constrain the range of biological responses. The authors found that for a moderate net discount rate of 2%, the NPV of US ex-vessel revenue losses are substantial: $0.6–2.6 billion through 2060. Besides, the NPV or revenue loss is also sensitive to future atmospheric CO2 trajectories: the high-CO2 scenario losses are almost 1.7 times larger than those for the low-CO2 scenario. These revenue losses would be unevenly distributed, being nearly four times higher in mollusk-dependent New England than in the Pacific.
Climate Change: Where it hurts the most
Fish and Fisheries 10, 173-196 (2009)
One way in which global climate change will significantly cause economic ripples is through the world’s fishing industries. Edward Allison and his colleagues at the World Fish Center investigated the vulnerability of 132 national economies to climate change effects on their fisheries. Allison used three indicators of vulnerability for each country: how drastic climate change will be in the region, how sensitive the economy will be when fisheries falter, and whether the country can adapt well to increased economic hardships. The study found that the countries that were the most economically dependent on fisheries were also the ones least capable of responding to economic stresses. These vulnerable countries were mostly from Africa, northwestern South America, and southeast Asia. Allison suggests that reducing poverty and strengthening the economy goes hand-in-hand with adaptation to global climate change in the world’s most vulnerable countries.