Hetch Hetchy Valley Debate- Molly Bass

The Hetch Hetchy valley is a water system in California that lies northwest of Yosemite National Park. In 1923 in the lower end of the valley, the O’Shaughnessy Dam was constructed. There have been efforts over the past 25 years to tear down the dam and restore the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park. The construction of the dam stemmed from the aftermath of a terrible fire and earthquake in 1906. The dam was intended to bring water to San Francesco, flooding the valley itself in the process. The construction of the dam became a fight between preservation and conservation, and has been a topic of discussion for many years.

tr-muir
Steinberg discusses in chapter 9 the dispute between John Muir and Gifford Pinchot. John Muir, who represented a preservationist’s point of view, opposed the construction of the dam. Muir’s views on the environment stemmed from Henry Thoreau’s idea that nature enhanced the human experience, and could be used as an escape from modern society. In 1892, he founded the Sierra club, whose ultimate focus was on the preservation of the environment. Muir eventually lost the battle to Pinchot, thus the dam, whose construction was led by Michael O’Shaughnessy, was built, which resulted in the valley being completely flooded.

100 years later, there is a debate on whether the O’Shaughnessy dam should be drained in order to restore the natural order of the valley. A California state report in 2006 estimated that the cost of removing the dam would be anywhere between $3 billion to $10 billion dollars. This construction would change the water system from a natural gravity-based system to a system that would replace its lost water storage and hydropower. The bill for the damage results in an increase in local taxes and utility costs, which would drive up the water rates during California’s drought.

Hetchhetchyprojmap
Restore Hetch Hetchy, a group devoted to promoting the remodeling of the Hetch Hetchy valley, claim to the voters that the prices are inflated. There is also the argument given by Spreck Rosekrans, the policy director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, that there are numerous reservoirs in the Hetch Hetchy valley complex, so there would be ample room for water space after the destruction of the O’Shaughnessy dam.

Rosekrans also argues that adjusting the lost storage space would result in losing no more than 5% of the water delivery capacity, and only a fifth in dry years. During that time, San Francesco would take advantage of the local groundwater and recycled water.

In an interview given in 2005 by PBS, Spencer Michels investigates by asking people who come in contact with the dam to give their opinions. Susan Leal, the general manager of San Francesco Public Utilities Commission, argues against the destruction of the dam, stating “It’s not like Legos where you can just take out one piece and you can just replace it. You’re removing the gravity part of it, you’re removing the clean hydropower, and as you know, we’ve had energy crisis in this state.”

One frequently mentioned solution after destroying the dam is to take advantage of the surrounding reservoirs. By filling up the reservoirs (including Don Pedro, the closest lake to the Hetch Hetchy reservoir), a $1 billion to $10 billion cost of a new system could be avoided.

What was once a major feat in construction history in the early 20th century has turned into a controversy rooted in the very ideals Muir argued 100 years ago. Whether it is right or wrong for the dam to be destroyed, there will be many environmental consequences that will effect the San Francesco area for years to come.

Citations:

Steinberg, Theodore. Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment-july-dec05-dam_8-12/

http://www.sierraclub.org/about

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/31/local/la-me-hetch-hetchy-20121101

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hetch_Hetchy

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GMO’s: Improving crop production, but at what cost? – Hayley Pettinato

Have you ever stopped to think about what went into the food you eat? Not just the ingredients, but how it got from the farm to your plate? Only 150 years ago, the answer would have been simple. As discussed in Down to Earth, farmers planted their own seeds and harvested the crops; many farmers were merely focused on providing food for their families or for small surrounding populations. However, as time went on, it became necessary to meet the demands of a growing population. In order to meet this need, scientists and farmers utilized technology and created a controversial solution to many of the problems that come along with farming crops. Today, there is a hidden ingredient found in the majority of food that Americans eat. This mystery ingredient has only been around for roughly 25 years, and it’s not a preservative, additive, or pesticide. It’s also banned in at least 26 countries. It’s genetic modification, and it can be seen in over 80 percent of the crops that the United States produces. On one hand, genetically modifying food epitomizes scientific advancement and ensures crop resilience and sustainability. On the other, it raises questions about the ethics of farming, and whether their usage has negative impacts on human health and the environment.  

Apples, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, soy, cottonseed, rapeseed, alfalfa, wheat, and sugar beets all originate from genetically altered seeds.

Apples, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, soy, cottonseed, rapeseed, alfalfa, wheat, and sugar beets all originate from genetically altered seeds.

In order to comprehend the impact of GMO’s, it is crucial to understand how the genetically modified seed became so sought after. It all begins with Monsanto, the company that spearheaded the genetically modified seed in 1994. Owned by the Koch brothers, Monsanto aims at “Sustainable agriculture [that] focuses on empowering farmers- large and small- to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world’s natural resources” (Monsanto). In other words, the company seeks to provide enough food for the nation’s growing population by creating more resilient crops.  

One of the main reasons that GMO’s have become so successful is because they take the guesswork out of crops; genetic modification leads to creating the “ideal” version of a plant or crop. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, “A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process where genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans” (IRT). This technology allows crops to become resistant to inclement weather conditions, and can even increase the nutrient value of a certain crop. As stated in Ashu Singh’s article, Golden Rice: Biofortification to Combat Malnutrition, Monsanto created Golden Rice to help combat vitamin deficiencies in Southeast Asian countries: “In 2009, researchers were able to demonstrate that Golden Rice was an effective source of vitamin A. This investigation was done with a group of healthy adult volunteers in the USA. The study showed that the β-carotene contained in Golden Rice was highly available and easily taken up into the bloodstream by the human digestive system” (Singh).

Golden rice gets it rich color from beta-carotene, which is rich in Vitamin A.

Golden rice gets it rich color from beta-carotene, which is rich in Vitamin A.

 While GMO’s may have benefits in terms of crop resilience and the ability to feed the nation, there are concerns over methods of farming and health and impacts. As mentioned in the documentary Food, Inc., Monsanto sends spies to large farming areas and sues farmers for saving seeds. Many of these farmers settle their cases because they do not have the financial resources to go up against a big corporation like Monsanto. Farmers like Troy Roush often feel that they are growing what the market demands, regardless of whether it is healthy or ethical. After the release of the movie, Roush “…came out in support of California’s Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would mandate labeling genetically modified food, a move that could affect Roush’s business” (Antoniades). The debate of labeling GMO food has also become an issue, as many consumers feel that it is their right to know if a food product they purchased is genetically modified or not. Currently, there are no mandates on labeling GMO products; however, organizations like the Non-GMO project aim to label foods that contain no GMO’s. 

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMO food products. California could become the first US state to enforce labeling of genetically modified foodstuffs.

Labels on bags of snack foods indicate they are non-GMO food products. California could become the first US state to enforce labeling of genetically modified foodstuffs.

Apart from concerns over informed consent, potential negative health impacts of genetic modification have consumers approaching GMO’s with some reserve. As the Institute of Responsible Technology stated, “Numerous health problems increased after the introduction of GMO’s in 1996.The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems and others are on the rise”(IRT). While GMO’s may not be the only cause of these health issues, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that they have played a role in the aforementioned ailments.

The whole point behind genetic modification is to develop resilient crops that are less prone to disease and insects, heartier, more adaptable to climate change, and more capable of a higher yield. Ultimately, farming is not the same practice as it was 150 years ago. Farmers now are concerned with feeding a massive population while carrying out the responsibilities that Monsanto dictates. 150 years ago, farmers made their own rules for planting and were concerned with feeding their families. Terms like “organic” or “genetic modification” had no place in farming, let alone the vocabulary of the populus. Back then, crops were grown as nature intended; they were not tampered with to increase their vitamin content or adapted to grow in a different climate. Monsanto has successfully created the science to bring bigger, brighter, and questionably better produce to supermarket shelves. But in doing so, have farmers lost their individual voice in the world of agriculture? Are GMO’s putting the health of consumers at risk? Genetic modification harnesses the power of nature and allows man to take the best qualities of one crop and insert them into another. This notion of “frankenfood” shows how science has allowed us to engineer food into whatever we want it to be, rather than what nature intended.

Most processed foods sold at the grocery store can trace their origins to genetically modified seeds.

Most processed foods sold at the grocery store can trace their origins to genetically modified seeds.

Sources:

Pollution from Vehices and Causes of Gas Prices- Nick Rolli

When purchasing a vehicle, many people never think about the outrageous impact it has on the 5d81d81b5f08c6bd31fa8075d6f0fe22aeb3d3a4_largeenvironment. To say that people should not drive vehicles is more than unrealistic. However, many people are aware but not overly concerned that every time one is driving their vehicle to any location, they are causing harm to the environment.

Vehicles produce nearly one-third of air pollution in the U.S. (National Geographic, 1). Pollution frvehicles-air-pollutionom vehicles is one of the most influential causes of global warming (Green, 1). Vehicles emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which factor to one-fifth of the United States’ population for global warming (Green, 1). “Warmer global temperatures affect farming, wildlife, sea levels and natural landscapes” (Green, 1).However, without greenhouse gases, Earth would be covered in ice (Green, 1). Burning an excessive amount of fossil fuels, like gasoline and diesel, have cause an increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit since pre-industrial times (Green, 1). At the rate that vehicles are being used, this statistic will only increase in the future.

Vehicles have a major health concern to humans. Air pollutants from vehicles include nitrogen diesel-exhaust_galleryoxides, particles, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, which all have a damaging impact on the lives of humans, animals, and vegetation (Car Pollution, 6). Diesel engines emit high levels of particulate matter, which causes skin and eye irritation and allergies (Green, 1). These particles lodge deep into the lungs of humans and animals, causing respiratory problems (Green, 1).

Oil dependence is affected by the use of vehicles. Fromgasprice0626 an economic standpoint, the supply of gas outweighs the demand. When the supply for gas is greater than the demand of gas, then the price goes down. When the supply for gas is less than the demand of gas, then the price increases.

An indirect impact to the environment from the use of vehicles relates to suburban growth (Salerno, 10/19/15). Vehicles allow more people to migrate out of the city and to live in the suburbs. With that being said, more energy is being used. Commuting into the city causes people to use vehicles more often than before. Also, people living in the suburbs using air conditioning units and taking care of their property (lawn, cars, materials, etc.), all require the use of energy (Salerno, 10/19/15). Although some of these factors of energy use are not directly coming from vehicles, the increasing amount of people using vehicles caused more chances for humans to use more energy.

Another environmental impact that vehicles have are material costs. Model changes in vehicles from every year require a lot more material to make these updated models. (Salerno, 10/19/15). Just imagine all the rubber being used for the tires of cars. A surplus amount of new cars each year require a lot of vulcanized, synthetic rubber for the tires, as well as a variety of other material that is necessary to build a vehicle (Salerno, 10/19/15). The increasing amount of people that are using vehicles means that more interstate highway systems need to be developed. Interstate highway systems are developed through destructing habitat and changing the perception of nature (Salerno, 10/19/15).

Pollution from vehicles is an issue humans should be concerned about. It occurs in just about every aspect of the human life, from affecting your own personal health, to causing the climate public%20transitto change, pollution that comes from cars is taking a toll on our environment. Because vehicles are such an immense part of everyday human life, this problem will likely never extinct. However, there are alternative ways of transportation to limit the use of a vehicle. Simply walking or biking to a nearby location instead of using a vehicle to reach your destination makes a difference. Also, car pooling and using public transportation are another way of eliminating the amount of vehicles on the road. Another alternative is the newly founded electric vehicles which are more beneficial in terms of pollution and oil dependence. These vehicles have battery pack stored with energy in order to operate the vehicle, rather than needing gasoline.

Car Buying Guidehttp://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/green-guide/buying-guides/car/environmental-impact/

Effects of Car Pollutants on the Environment- http://classroom.synonym.com/effects-car-pollutants-environment-23581.html

Car Pollution- http://www.environmental-protection.org.uk/committees/air-quality/air-pollution-and-transport/car-pollution/

Second Hand (Exhaust) Smoke: Negative Effects of Car Emissions – http://www.greeneffect.me/second-hand-exhaust-smoking-negative-effects-of-car-emissionss/

Putting a Stop to Car Idling: Emissions Worsen Global Warming Conditions – http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/64074.aspx

Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health – http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/vehicles-air-pollution-and-human-health#.VjPHABGFPIU

Quit Griping About Gas Prices — It’s All in Your Head!-http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/06/26/quit-griping-about-gas-prices—-its-all-in-your-.aspx

How The Internet of Things Improves Public Transportation For Passengers- http://www.davranetworks.com/news/how-the-internet-of-things-improves-public-transportation-for-passengers

Beth Salerno, Hi109: Environmental History class, Saint Anselm College, October 19, 2015

 

Rising Sea levels and Consequences-Stephanie Bosworth

We have all seen those movies about the world ending in which the city of Manhattan has been swamped. The clearest image that comes to my mind is the poster for the movie 2012. Although this may never happen in the way it is portrayed in movies it will eventually. It will come slowly and surely if we continue to live in the way that we do.

A poster for the 2012 movie

A poster for the 2012 movie

National geographic makes some stunning conclusions about why and how the sea levels will continue to rise. They contribute the issue to thermal expansion, melting of glaciers, and ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica. They claim that if sea levels continue to rise it will cause disturbing effects on coastal habitats such erosion, flooding of wetlands, lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.

It will also strip away land making people more vulnerable to flooding causing the relocation of millions of people.  They claim that oceans will rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet by 2100. This will clear out many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. Living only 45 minutes away from Manhattan during hurricane Sandy I saw the massive effects of what happens when sea levels rise. Professor Salerno was not lying when she said that hurricane Sandy was horrible for Manhattan.  They also claim that it may even rise by 23 feet.

rise-of-sea-levels

What Manhattan would look like under water

Rising sea levels have always been an issue in the past. Throughout history sea levels have fallen naturally due to the fact that there has always been relative change in the volume of water in the sea due to thermal expansion.  Thermal expansion happens when certain areas of water become trapped as ice and as the air warms up the ice then melts into the ocean. This can also be attributed to the melting of large glaciers as national geographic mentioned before. We can see the impact of melting glaciers because the polar bear is slowly starting to become extinct. Thermal expansion then causes loss of habitat to many animals.

Also the movement of tectonic plates has caused issues with rising sea levels. As tectonic plates move the ocean’s surface becomes bigger in some areas and smaller in others. The oceans then rise and fall causing flooding (the lost sea of Atlantis anyone) and exposing land. Even 20,000 years ago, sea level was 400 feet below what it is today and it continues to rise. This can be contributed to the fact that some fish die in certain areas because they do not have enough water that they would typically have elsewhere.

Ironically there are also some effects of rising sea levels that don’t necessarily have to do with losing land or different populations. Here are some to name a few.

  1. Our drinking water will be contaminated. As sea levels rise the sea water will come into contact with clean drinking water. As we all know we cannot drink salt water. It is possible to purify the water but it is costly and time consuming.
  2. Farming would be affected. That same water that we drink we also use for irrigation. So again it would be a problem to use salt water to water crops and other things because they would probably die. In addition most farmers could probably not afford to purify their water source.
  3. Tourism would be affected. Since many people like to go on vacation to the beach rising sea levels may sweep the water over the beach. This would destroy not only the beach but potentially the houses and properties along with it. Imagine the Cape for example being completely underwater. This would also hurt the economies of towns and villages where most of their income and revenue depend on beachfront properties or people themselves coming to the beach

    sandy-pier-rollerc_2384216k (1)

    The Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy

All in all these are some pretty devastating effects that rising sea levels will bring to the U.S. These also could be used in a global context to in the sense that all of these things can happen anywhere. It is not prone to one location. One can agree however, that unless there is something done about rising sea levels or we will have dire consequences.

Other impacts of rising sea levels

http://www.businessinsider.com/5-terrifying-impacts-of-rising-sea-levels-2015-2

Sources of rising sea levels

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/

History of rising sea levels

http://www.beachapedia.org/Sea_Level_Rise

 

Conflict Minerals-Joan Mitsinikos

In 2006 the movie Blood Diamond came out. For those of you who have not seen the movie it shows the atrocities of diamond mining in the Sierra Leone. Something similar is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is not the same as the Republic of the Congo. Minerals there are being mined for everyday things we take for gmap_drc_smallranted.

Here is an extremely brief overview of the DRC’s history: Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries European merchants came to the DCR for the abundance of resources, minerals, and slaves. In 1879 the DRC was established as a colony by King Leopold II of Belgium. Under Belgian control millions of Congolese were killed or died due to poor working conditions. It is not until June of 1960 that the DRC becomes independent. In 1996 a civil war started, which drew in some neighboring countries. The war ended in 2003. In 2006 the DRC had their first free elections in 4 decades. Joseph Kabila won the election. The DRC has a history of being a place of corruption and conflict.

conflict-minerals_0

The four main minerals being mined there are tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold. These things can be found in automobiles, sports equipment, jewelry, and electronics. Without tantalum phones would be silent, tungsten is what makes phones vibrate, tin is used in circuit boards, and gold coats wiring. The militias are able to get workers by threatening them and their families. Workers are forced to work as a way to “protect” themselves and their families. They are held at gun point and physically forced to work. If this is a not enough to scare workers and keep them in line rape is used as to humiliate and silence workers and their wives. The militias running these mines make millions of dollars from trading conflict minerals. The money made is used to buy weapons such as guns and grenades. The minerals are smuggled into neighboring countries and eventually shipped to Asia where they are refined and mixed in with other minerals from around the world. The minerals are processed and turned into finished products that are distributed around the world.

In 2010 Obama passed the Dodd Frank Consumer Protection Act. This law requires companies to state where the minerals they use in their products come from. As a result the mineral revenue created by militias has been reduced to 65%. IBM has started making conflict free electronics and hopes that in the future they will be able to make all their products with conflict free materials and minerals.

After reading all this it might be kind of hard to relate all this back to what we have learned in class, but there are actually a couple of things that are similar to what we’ve learned. For example Europeans coming in and exploiting resources and labor forces is nothing new. The British came to America, turned it into a colony, and exploited their resources. Another example would be putting something bad into products. People are allowing these big meat and poultry companies to feed their animals things like corn and soy beans, things they should not be eating. So why are they allowing conflict minerals to be put in electronics?armed-groups_0 One could argue that the meat example is invalid because it is something people are ingesting and it affects their bodies as well, but these conflict minerals are affecting people’s lives and whether or not they are given the right to live.

http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/initiatives/conflict-minerals

http://www-03.ibm.com/procurement/proWeb.nsf/ContentDocsByTitle/United+States~Conflict+minerals

http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/conflicts/profile/democratic-republic-of-congo#reasons

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13286306

http://www.sourceintelligence.com/what-are-conflict-minerals/

Playing a Round with Pesticides- Nicholas Cadigan

For those who golf, going out to play a round of golf with a group of friends can be a fun and relaxing way to spend an afternoon, especially if the course conditions are pristine. What many might not know is that they are making themselves more vulnerable to certain cancers and other negative side affects.

Today in America there are now 18,000 golf courses covering 1.7 million acres, more than half of the entire world’s 35,000 courses (Organic Consumers). Golf even contributes more than $49 billion to the U.S. economy every year. According to Neil Lewis, executive director of the Long Island Neighborhood Network in New York, “Many environmentalists feel that Tiger Woods was one of the worst things to imageshappen to the environment because of the enthusiasm he created for the game of golf and the growth that has ensued,” (Organic Consumers).

 

Due to the extremely large jump in the popularity of golf, the opportunity to make a lot of money off new courses widened the eyes of people previously involved with the sport. With so many new courses to choose from, courses now had to make sure their conditions were perfectly pristine so people wanted to play on their grounds instead of their competitors. This added unwanted pressure to grounds crews across the nation.

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Creating and maintaining a new course has an immense amount of negative environmental impacts.The pesticides put into the turf on the course are probably the most damaging factors to the environment. A statement regarding toxins and 52 Long Island golf courses was published by the New York State Attorney General’s office and claimed that those 52 golf courses used and applied 50,000 pounds of pesticides in one year (Beyond Pesticides). That is 25 tons of deadly chemicals poured into the environment every year, for only 52 of the 18,000 golf courses in America. That means around 450,000 tons of pesticides and chemicals go into our environment just because of golf courses.

These pesticides applied to the courses have negative affects on the ecology around the course but can also be a cause of cancer to people associated with the game of golf. In the 1990s, a Medical school professor at theUniversity of Iowa did a study pertaining to pesticides and mortality rates of superintendents in the Golf Course Superintendents Association. The study was done on 618 death certificates of Superintendents between 1970 and 1992(Beyond Pesttoxicsicides). The professor studied the death rates from these cancers in superintendents and compared them to the general population. The results discovered were that golf course superintendents are more likely to die from different cancers including lung, brain, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, large intestine and prostate.

A study to see if golfers are also more likely to be diagnosed with those certain types of cancers has not been conducted. But there has been studies on farmers, pesticide applicators, and agricultural workers in general. The study showed that people exposed to pesticides and other chemicals used are at an increased risk to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia (Beyond Pesticides). Pesticides are very diverse and can lead to different side affects. Of the 30 most commonly used turf pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants (Beyond Pesticides).

caution-pesticide-spraying-in-process-2

The public has become more aware of the possible impacts of being around pesticides and in affect golf courses everywhere have started informing users and the public about pesticides dangers and the times of application (Beyond Pesticides). With the public starting to discover how bad the pesticides can be for their health, golf courses everywhere are thinking of and trying new possible techniques to fix the problem.

 

Some golf courses are trying organic practices that focus on building up soil health as a way of maintaining healthy turf. If the soil and turf is healthy, then there is no need for the pesticides to killawn-aerationl weeds. One method to build the health of your turf and soil is aerating compacted soil so water and fertilizers can enter the turf more easily to grow the roots deeper. Second, the height that you cut the grass matters a lot. Turf that is cut “lower than1 ½ to 1 ¾ inches can kill the root system by preventing photosynthesis” (Beyond Pesticides). Cutting at a higher height helps the roots grow deeper and prepares turf for drought like conditions which helps the grounds. These steps along  with some other more technical techniques can help limit the amount of pesticides used in the long run.

If courses everywhere can collaborate together and all practice cleaner ways to grow and protect the turf, the side affects of dangerous pesticides will be reduced and the environment will be cleaner.

Sources:

http://www.golfturf.rutgers.edu/golf-courses-and-the-environment.asp

http://www.beachapedia.org/Golf_Courses:_Friend_or_Foe%3F

https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/corp/golf042604.php

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/golf-and-the-environment/organic-alternatives

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl

Effects of Greenhouse Gases on the World’s Oceans – Jenna Lyons

When most people think of global warming, they think of icecaps melting, sea levels rising, and huge smokestacks pumping out noxious black smoke. When most people think of the ocean, they see a beautiful blue expanse of water, sandy beaches, and the sounds of seagulls and crashing waves. Now, put those two together and what do you have? A very big problem.

a diagram of the ocean's food chain

a diagram of the ocean’s food chain

A recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed and explained how global warming and greenhouse gas emission will affect the oceans’ ecosystems, a problem made worse by overfishing and localized pollution. The report focused on increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean, and how this will affect ocean temperatures and acidity.

The rising CO2 levels in the oceans will increase the acidity of the water. Oceans naturally absorb CO2, taking in approximately 2.5 billion metric tons each year and helping keep atmospheric temperatures down (NOAA Ocean Acidification Program). However, the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases have increased to a point where it is extremely detrimental to the oceans. Excess carbon dioxide is detrimental to any organism containing calcium, since calcium cannot form in highly acidic environments.  Shells and coral will be affected, as will the bones of organisms.  Increased acidity would also lead to a decrease in dimethylsulfide gas, (produced by ocean plankton) which encourages cloud formation. Any change in cloud formation will affect the heat of the earth, and a reduction in the cloud cover would increase heat.

toxic algae in Lake Erie

toxic algae in Lake Erie

The overall rise of ocean temperature is expected to cause a drastic change in species numbers. Plankton will thrive in warmer waters (some develop into toxic algae blooms) and microbes will increase as well. Further up the food chain, the effects will be negative. Warmer water means metabolism rates rise, so all species will require and have to compete for more food. This will eventually decrease their populations as this lack of sustenance travels up the food chain.

The warmer water also negatively impacts coral reefs by bleaching and killing them. It has been predicted that “By the end of this year 38% of the world’s reefs will have been affected. About 5% will have died” (The Guardian).

bleached coral, a result of rising ocean temperatures

bleached coral, a result of rising ocean temperatures

Global warming effect everything in the ocean from the species that live in it, to the people that depend on it, to the land it touches. Marine life will suffer as “expected ocean acidification and warming is likely to produce a reduction in diversity and numbers of various key species that underpin marine ecosystems around the world” (University of Adelaide). Hundreds of millions of people rely on the seas for food, income, medicine, among other things. The warming of the ocean could even have impacts beyond the waters—coral die off, for example, could exacerbate costal erosion because reefs protectshorelines from storms. The changes in the ocean environment have also led to an increase in hypoxia (an oxygen deficiency). These factors, combined with overfishing and direct pollution, have prevented species from adapting to the changes to the ocean.

In Steinberg’s Down to Earth, he mentions how water pollution was apparent even in the 19th century. After the decline of organic cities, waste was flushed into rivers, streams, lakes, etc. This caused a massive increase in algae, a decrease in the oxygen content of the water as the bacteria broke down the waste, and a subsequent decline in species of fish such as whitefish, herring, and trout because of the lack of oxygen. The species of fish that were negatively effected by the pollution were also the most commercialized, which hurt the industry as well as people who depended on fish for food. While a different type of pollution caused this, the impacts on the organisms in the water and the people who depended on them are similar to today.

this is what we could lose if ocean pollution goes unchecked

this is what we could lose if ocean pollution goes unchecked

The problem of the pollution of the oceans is a difficult one. Even if all global emissions stopped, the effects would still continue. The study does not explain provide all the answers—there is still much that scientists don’t know. A solution was not provided by this report; however, stopping pollution and overfishing would give species more time to adapt. Scientists also plan on studying organisms that live on the ocean floor near natural CO2 vents, to observe how other creatures might react.

 

 

For more information, see:

Koronowski, Ryan. “How Climate Change Could Cause an Epic Collapse of Ocean Ecosystems”. Climate Progress, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.<http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/10/16/3712964/simplifying-the-oceans/>

Milman, Oliver. “Marine food chains at risk of collapse, extensive study of world’s oceans finds”. The Guardian, 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.<http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/13/marine-food-chains-at-risk-of-collapse-extensive-study-of-worlds-oceans-reveals>

Steinberg, Ted. Down to Earth: Nature’s Role in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

University of Adelaide. “Global marine analysis suggests food chain collapse.” ScienceDaily. SUcienceDaily, 12 October 2015. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151012181037.htm>

 

“What is Ocean Acidification?”. NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. Web. 28 Nov. 2015 <http://oceanacidification.noaa.gov/Home/WhatisOceanAcidification.aspx >