The Blue Economy: The Role of the Oceans in our Nation's Economic Future 9 June 2009
As the debate on global climate change garners more attention around the world and in the halls of Congress, lawmakers have become more interested in ocean acidification and its impact on the “blue economy.” On 9 June 2009, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Justice, & Science's Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmospheres, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing Entitled "The Blue Economy: The Role of the Oceans in our Nation's Economic Future."
The Chairwoman of the Subcommittee, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and its Ranking Member, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), both expressed their extreme concern for ocean acidification and the impacts it would have on their coastal states' economies. Witnesses stated that due to climate change, there will be significant "sea level and sea temperature rise, oxygen depletion, and ocean acidification."
During the question and answer portion of the hearing, Senator Snowe wondered what the most effective investments we can make in regard to climate science, infrastructure, and adaptation are. Dr. Judith Kidlow of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute stated it is vital that state and federal government work together to preserve and restore estuaries, beaches, shorelines, and coastal ecosystems, noting that many local communities want to act but are not sure what to do. Furthermore, she added that people will be more inclined to migrate to the coast due to changes in weather patterns as a result of climate change and so we can expect “coastal population pressures.” Dr. William Fenical of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography added that it is important to convince the public that coastal resources and oceans are of great value as these resources contribute enormously to our daily lives. Finally, Brad Warren of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership said it is imperative to have a strong carbon policy.
Chairwoman Cantwell asked if there is already sufficient data and science linking climate change to ocean acidification and, if so, how do we make the case to the public? Dr. Fenical answered with the fact that there is very limited funding given to research that is needed to attack ocean acidification. As a result, overarching legislation is growing in importance every day. Dr. Kidlow added that we do not have definite predictive capacities in order to determine the impact of acidification on living resources. This kind of research, however, is very expensive, especially in deep water. Chairwoman Cantwell also asked what resources are needed to address ocean acidification. Dr. Kidlow emphasized that people do not truly understand the urgency and that “there will be calamitous effects if we do not act.” She noted that people in the Midwest do not understand that the U.S. economy is the coastal economy.
Finally, the issue of adaptation was discussed. Dr. Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware said he finds adaptation to be very frightening because it means essentially abandoning Delaware as the state will become an archipelago. Senator Cantwell closed with the idea that “there are some who believe that if we were to do the work behind adaptation it would become clear to everyone that that's not a sustainable route. [Adaptation] is only a temporary issue for dealing with the impacts but the real issue is to change course.”
Please visit the Witness Statements for more information.