Good News for Ocean Acidification Policy

Finally we have some good news on the ocean acidification front.   

Three important advances were made in the past few weeks in the United States which indicates that Congress and the Obama administration get the very serious threat that ocean acidification poses for the health of our oceans and the productivity of U.S. fisheries (and fisheries globally). 

First, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science has assembled a 12-member panel to develop an integrated national science and monitoring strategy for ocean acidification.  This strong team of scientists headed by the eminent chemist from Princeton, Dr. Francois Morel, had their first meeting last week and aim to produce a report in about a year. 

Second, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R. 146) (pg 1164) which not only directs the federal government to develop a comprehensive, interagency research plan for ocean acidification but also calls for the necessary funds for its successful execution.  If appropriated, over 90 million dollars will be provided to the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the next four years.  This Act will essentially jump-start a badly needed national research program on ocean acidification and support the group of dedicated and underfunded researchers who helped to bring this important problem to our attention.  In addition, it will bring the United States in line with international research efforts already underway (see EPOCA).

Third, in response to a petition from the Center of Biological Diversity to revise the marine pH water quality criterion, the Environmental Protection Agency recently published a Notice of Data Availability in the Federal Resister (public comments are due June 15th).  The EPA's intent is to consider whether a criteria revision is warranted at this time.  A final decision is expected a year from now.

All of these efforts underscore the fact that ocean acidification is not a peripheral issue.  It is a second, global impact of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.  The carbon waste problem is more multidimensional than we realized and this sleeper-issue needs some immediate attention.  Funding a coordinated research effort is a necessary first step to tackling this issue.