Ocean Acidification: A Basic Problem

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an organization dedicated to preserving plant and animal life, has recently petitioned the EPA regarding acidity regulations for state waters. The CBD believes that the regulations are too lax, and wants the EPA to crack down on states that are allowing to much of a fluctuation in acidity in their ocean waters. Acidity is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic. The acidity of the water will naturally vary from region to region, but it is not optimal to allow the acidity to vary within a region. The latter type of variance is a side effect of carbon dioxide emissions, so the CBD wants states to develop a better system to evaluate their emissions. The CBD is also hoping that the EPA will tighten its standards for ocean acidity. Currently some states will allow up to a full 1.0 change in acidity before taking action. This is far beyond what is ideal for marine life, which requires acidity stability within about 0.1 of its natural levels. Once an increase in acidity occurs past that, certain marine life begins to struggle to form the hard outer shells that are necessary for survival.

The EPA should heed the advice of the CBD. The ramifications from increased ocean acidity span beyond marine extinction and ecosystem upset and could impact commercial fishing and the seafood industry. There are already frightening amounts of plastic bits (and who knows what else) in the ocean that will probably never get removed, so it is important that the states do everything they can to keep the ocean functioning properly. Plus, the benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions are two-fold: Carbon dioxide reduction will also slow down the erosion of the ozone.

It is time that the states throw their weight into this cause. Much like with ozone depletion, the reduction will not be able to reverse acidification, but it could slow it down or stop it. Even though it is not a perfect solution, it is the best one, and it requires immediate action.

Sources:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=petition-filed-to-force-epa
http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/acidification/

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