California steps up its climate leadership

The week of September 10, people from around the world are gathering in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brings together leaders—representing nations, states, cities, companies, investors and citizens—to celebrate climate action, and step up their ambitions to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Ken Alex, senior policy advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, reflects on  California’s leadership at this pivotal moment.


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Ken Alex is senior policy advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and chair of the Strategic Growth Council.

I grew up in Southern California, and spent lots of time at Seal Beach, Sunset, Huntington, and Bolsa Chica. Those beaches were a central part of my childhood. Today, scientists say they may be gone within 80 years.

Just last month, the state of California issued its most recent evaluation of climate change impact, California’s Fourth Assessment. The report states that as many as two-thirds of Southern California beaches could completely erode by 2100 without large-scale human interventions. By 2050, just 32 years from now, an estimated $17.9 billion worth of residential and commercial buildings across the state could be inundated by sea-level rise.

We already know the impact of fires, heat and drought, exacerbated by climate change, on our state. Climate change is real. It is dramatic. It impacts all of us. Fortunately, action is at hand—and more is on the way. Continue reading California steps up its climate leadership

Protecting the ocean, the heart of Earth’s climate system

The week of September 10, people from around the world are gathering in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit. Convened by the State of California, the Summit brings together leaders—representing nations, states, cities, companies, investors and citizens—to celebrate climate action, and step up their ambitions to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard reflects on the central role of the ocean, the heart of Earth’s climate system, in this historic moment.

To solve the climate crisis, humanity must address the health of the ocean—the largest ecosystem on our planet. The ocean is our first line of defense against the impacts of climate change, absorbing a significant share of the excess carbon dioxide and heat we produce by burning fossil fuels. And a healthy ocean helps protect humanity from the intensifying impacts of climate change.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

For too long, the ocean has been left out of climate conversations. That will change at the Global Climate Action Summit, where for the first time ocean stewardship is on the priority agenda.

A group of government and nongovernmental representatives, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, are calling on all sectors of society to protect the ocean—our most powerful tool to mitigate, and adapt to, the impacts of climate change. We’ve outlined that challenge, and provided a blueprint for action, through an Ocean-Climate Action Agenda.

The attention is overdue. And the need is urgent.

Our lives depend on a healthy ocean

As land creatures, we may not be wired to think much about the ocean—how its cycles are directly linked to our own survival, and how our choices affect it.

Seafood from the ocean provides one-sixth of the protein that sustains our population. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Selfishly, we should. We depend on the ocean in so many ways. Its marine life provides one-sixth of the animal protein we eat. Its waters carry more than 90 percent of the world’s trade—moving goods and raw materials more cost-effectively than any other mode of transport. Its shores are home to nearly half of all people on Earth.

The ocean drives global weather systems. A warming ocean and atmosphere is sparking changes in stable weather systems that have allowed civilization to flourish. Photo courtesy NASA.

The ocean is the heart of Earth’s climate system; its currents and winds circulate heat and moisture around our planet. The weather patterns we associate with different regions of the world have been relatively stable throughout human history, thanks to the ocean. Continue reading Protecting the ocean, the heart of Earth’s climate system

Julie Packard: Proposed EPA rollback of fuel economy standards ‘doomed to fail’

A statement from Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard:

Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. Photo courtesy Motofumi Tai.

Today the Trump Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency have formally proposed weakening national fuel economy standards and rescinding California’s waiver to set more stringent targets. By doing so, they are abandoning their responsibility to the American people and directly challenging California’s climate leadership.

It’s an effort that is doomed to fail.

Monterey Bay Aquarium stands with the State of California as we have in the past in the face of similar challenges.

An extended wildfire season across the American West and unprecedented extreme weather events around the world are evidence of the impact of global climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions. Rim Fire photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

The science is clear: The accelerating pace of greenhouse gas emissions threatens the health of ocean life and the living systems that support human civilization. New science emerges every day to support these conclusions, and this summer’s unprecedented global heat waves, torrential rainstorms and catastrophic fires demonstrate with clarity that we have no time to lose.

Now is the time to act with urgency to address the threat, not to reverse course on the progress we’ve already made.

California Gov. Jerry Brown will co-host a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September.

The Aquarium will use its voice—including at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco—to mobilize support for actions that reverse our self-destructive course, and put us on a path to a secure and sustainable future.

Learn more about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s work to address global climate change.

 

The world is taking climate action at COP23

wsi-imageoptim-cop23The ocean is about to take center stage at the United Nations’ annual climate change conference in Bonn, Germany. November 11 is officially Oceans Action Day at COP23, when leaders of government, businesses and organizations around the world turn their attention to the sea that covers more than 70% of our planet.

Speakers at the international gathering will discuss how carbon emissions from human activities are changing the world’s ocean (and not for the good)—including impacts on marine wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture, and coastal communities. They’ll also explore science-based solutions, such as ramped-up development of renewable energy and ecosystem-based adaptation to the changes already underway.

Ocean Action Day includes a program at the U.S. Climate Action Center—the largest pavilion at the climate talks. Michael Bloomberg (the former mayor of New York City and a U.N. Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change) and California Gov. Jerry Brown will release a new “America’s Pledge” report detailing what U.S. states, cities, and businesses are doing to keep the U.S. on track to meet its Paris Agreement carbon reduction goals. They will be joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Laura Phillips, Senior VP of Sustainability for Walmart, to discuss specific actions to meet the emission targets established under the Paris Agreement.

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Bikes lined up outside COP23 in Bonn, Germany. Photo by UNClimateAction via CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

The day will conclude with a signing ceremony for the “Because the Ocean Declaration,” an effort led by Chile, urging nations of the world to protect the ocean as they map paths toward implementing the breakthrough Paris Agreement—the commitment, adopted two years ago by nearly every nation in the world, to reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases. The island nation of Fiji is also leading a collaborative effort, called the Ocean Pathway Partnership, to give the ocean the prominent place it deserves in the U.N.’s ongoing climate conversations.

Continue reading The world is taking climate action at COP23

Science on the front lines of ocean acidification

Life seems easy for the little red tuna crabs delighting Monterey Bay Aquarium visitors. The temperature and water chemistry in their exhibit are carefully controlled and stable. In the wild, it’s a different story. Conditions are changing—fast. Crabs and other critters are in a race with time, as record levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) warm the planet and change ocean chemistry.

Our colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) are on the front line, documenting the impacts and identifying potential solutions for this serious threat to ocean health.

CO2 bubbled up slowly

For more than a century, scientists have known that burning fossil fuels warms our planet. They’ve also long been aware of another impact—this one affecting ocean chemistry.

In 1909, a brewery chemist discovered that CO2 both creates bubbles when it’s dissolved in liquid, and makes it more acidic.

In 1909, a chemist at the Carlsberg Brewery Laboratory discovered that CO2 dissolved in water not only creates tiny bubbles (like in beer). It also makes liquid more acidic. In other words, our burning of fossil fuels is changing the chemistry of the ocean, a process called ocean acidification.

The impact of rising atmospheric CO2 developed slowly and subtly. By the 1960s, however, climatologists began raising alarms. Decades later, Al Gore’s landmark book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth, framed climate change as an urgent threat to human survival. As the scientific community worked to build accurate models of climate dynamics and explore ways to deal with rampant carbon, some eyed the ocean—which absorbs 25 percent to 30 percent of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere—as a solution. Could we stash even more atmospheric carbon in the sea, sparing the planet the worst impacts of global warming? Continue reading Science on the front lines of ocean acidification