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Climate change whack-a-mole

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALarge water desalinization plant installations that will replenish water supplies hit by shrinking aquifers are good and necessary things, but those plants require a tremendous amount of energy produced from heavily polluting coal-fired plants, a story in the March 18 New Yorker reported.

Uh-oh.

Devouring a passel of “mega-crabs” from the Chesapeake Bay is pretty great if you’re a big fan of the Maryland Blue Crab, but not so good if that enjoyment comes at the expense of the Bay’s oyster population.

Uh-oh again.

It’s hard not to get the feeling that addressing climate change and pollution is often a case of one step forward and two steps back. Or like a perverse game of whack-a-mole.

According to a recent Washington Post report, carbon pollution from power plants, factories and vehicles is settling in the ocean—resulting in super-sized crabs, lobsters and shrimp. While the crustaceans bulk up as they absorb CO2, high levels of carbon dioxide cause oysters to grow slower, the story continues. “In the Chesapeake Bay, where crabs eat oysters, this could lead to a multimillion [dollar] problem as mega crabs threaten the oyster industry.”

Increased levels of CO2 in the oceans make them more acidic. Science World Report says this is trouble for creatures with calcium carbonate shells such as oysters and corals because the more acidic waters cause them to form shells more slowly, making them more vulnerable to predatory sea creatures such as crabs and lobsters.

Research published in the journal Geology in 2009 found crustaceans grew larger more rapidly as CO2 pollution increased. Chesapeake blue crabs grew about four times faster in high-carbon tanks compared to their counterparts in low-carbon tanks. But oysters exposed to high CO2 conditions grew at one-quarter the speed of those in low-carbon tanks, according to the study.

The environmental impact of climate change on the oceans is not a top priority for most businesses other than fisheries or cruise lines, but it should be, according to NeboWeb environmental specialist Emily McClendon in a 2012 column for Environmental Leader. The issue is how to protect ocean benefits, from providing food sources to helping control sea level rise, McClendon wrote.

Her solution would put a monetary price on the oceans. Evaluate ocean benefits from a monetary perspective, she says, and assess the cost to maintain them, which provides governments with factual data for allocating those costs and enforcing their payment. Sounds good, but what is the likelihood of something like that happening? A new group — the Global Ocean Commissionwas formed in February with the goal to begin advising the United Nations on global governance of oceans by 2014. (That has echoes of the Law of Sea Treaty, encouraging my cynicism.)

So yeah maybe we’re making progress as another Earth Day comes and goes; slow and halting progress. There are too many moles—and not enough time—to whack them properly.

Image: Earth Day by -Snugg- via Flickr cc

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Written by William DiBenedetto

22 April, 2013 at 3:00 am

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on Standard Climate.

    Standard Climate

    25 April, 2013 at 10:56 am


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