Talking Climate at Poder Magazine's Oceans Forum

In addition to places of wonder and beauty, our oceans are vital economic engines. The U.S. ocean economy contributes more than $230 billion to the nation's GDP annually, providing more more jobs and more economic output than the nation's entire farm sector. Protecting the oceans therefore preserves both an essential element of our natural heritage for future generations as well as sustaining American jobs and revenue.

This week I will join some of the best and the brightest minds in ocean policy, science and business leaders at a forum sponsored by Poder Magazine to address the most pressing issues facing our seas. I will be participating in a roundtable discussion on climate change and the effects of too much carbon pollution on our oceans. I look forward to talking about ocean acidification - also known as "the other carbon problem" - and how pending climate legislation can help address this insidious threat to our seas.

NRDC is fighting on the frontlines of these issues - and the forum happens to come on the heels of our brand new documentary on ocean acidification, ACID TEST, which premiered on Discovery's Planet Green earlier this month.

As most people by now know, burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide pollution, the primary cause of global warming. But the consequences don't stop at our atmosphere - approximately one quarter of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the Earth's oceans. This same pollution is profoundly changing ocean chemistry by rapidly making the water more acidic.

When carbon dioxide dissolves into the water at the surface, it creates an acid. There are thousands of species in the ocean that create protective shells to survive, but when the water's acidity gets too high, the animals can't grow shells or shells dissolve. Scientists now believe that unless we slash carbon dioxide pollution quickly, rising acidity may wipeout species that form the foundation of the ocean's food web. Corals, plankton, shellfish and all of the ocean life that depend on them are at risk.

America needs strong climate and energy legislation to reduce ocean acidification - in addition to strengthening our economy, breaking our dependence on oil, and reducing global warming pollution. This bill will help jumpstart our economy, make America a leader in clean energy for the 21st Century, and bring us closer to a future of healthy oceans.

Fortunately, the House of Representatives steered us in the right direction by passing the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act earlier this summer. ACES will reduce the pollution that causes ocean acidification and global warming by setting national limits on carbon emissions for the first time ever in America. The bill reduces carbon emissions 17% by 2020, and that target goes up to 80% by 2050. Now, we will look to the Senate leadership to strengthen the bill, and follow through on its enormous promise to lead our country in a new direction - toward a future of clean energy and healthy oceans.

It took hard work to ensure that this bill reflects the views of many different voices and regions from across America. Now there is growing momentum across the country - including business leaders, entrepreneurs, labor, faith groups, veterans, and many others - for action on clean energy and climate. I hope you'll join NRDC as we turn to the Senate, and fight hard to strengthen and swiftly pass strong climate legislation to help avoid the worst impacts of climate change and acidification.

In addition to curbing CO2 emissions, which is all-important, we also need to make the oceans more resilient so that they are better able to withstand the impacts of global warming and ocean acidification. Just like a healthy person is better able to handle an illness, a healthy ecosystem is better able to withstand additional stress. President Obama is showing exactly the kind of leadership we need to save our seas and revive our Great Lakes by pursuing an overarching national policy for these resources. On June 12, he issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for the development of a national policy to protect and restore the health of marine and coastal ecosystems, and an interagency taskforce is now in the process of developing specific recommendations on how to implement such a policy. We hope President Obama will issue an Executive Order formally establishing a national oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes policy to protect, maintain, and restore the health of these ecosystems - and all that depend on them. You can join us in telling the President you want to see this happen here.

By taking these steps to make our seas more resilient against the myriad threats they face, and by curbing carbon emissions - we can help guarantee the health of our oceans and a sustainable future for ourselves.