On Monday, Congressman Jared Huffman met with scientists, fishermen and business owners in Bodega Bay to discuss a looming threat to marine ecosystems in Northern California and around the world: ocean acidification. It’s caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. The health of the oceans was also the focus of an international conference at the U.S. State Department this week. We’ll examine the problem and talk about President Obama’s plan, announced on Tuesday, to use his executive authority to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

Jared Huffman, U.S. congressman representing California's 2nd District and co-sponsor of the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act
John Largier, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at UC Davis
Emily Jeffers, staff attorney in the oceans program at the Center for Biological Diversity
Terry Sawyer, co-owner of the Hog Island Oyster Company
Monica Medina, senior director for ocean policy at the National Geographic Society and former chief of staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Ben Rawner

    This information is quite scary but it seems that nothing is being done because the client change opposers won’t even admit a change is happening. My question is, how likely is it for the world to respond accordingly, particularly in China and Europe?

  • Terry Mullen

    It seems that this important issue is always framed around economic impact to fisheries and oyster farms, but what about the overall health of the ocean as a key part of life on earth? Humanity treats the ocean as a garbage can, with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and carbon emissions (which of course most Americans will deny the science), fertilizer runoff has ruined the Gulf of Mexico for many marine animals; along with oil spills and the rest of pollution. Can we care about the ocean for itself and not just because of how it affects our dinner plate?
    And a side question for the scientists; how much is fertilizer runoff from industrial agriculture and gold courses affecting the acidification?

  • Jenny

    Great Show, thank you for highlighting these important coastal issues and yes reducing CO2 is the utmost important thing our societies can do. I would love to hear how the recent Dept of State conference addressed this most important need.

  • William – SF

    For more info, see Dec 16, 2013 The New Yorker 2-part article Annals of Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.

    Be sure to avoid eating before you read it.

  • Liz Garcia Cortina

    With all the recent push-back on the health benefits of eating organics, we need to push back even harder that buying organic is something small that everyone can do to help our oceans!

  • Pamela_X

    Since China has not stepped up to admit it is part of the problem, how about our federal government find a legal way to discourage any American companies to do business with China (listen up tech companies) until China comes to the table and meets some minimum standards to show it’s trying to move away from coal power. A good start for all of us would be a major world-wide commitment to solar panels on every possible roof. That would be an obvious start.

  • Christopher Evans

    Michael, Yesterday’s Forum discussion about the influence of the Koch brothers on public policy is relevant to today’s topic of ocean acidification because an un-checked fossil fuel industry is one of the greatest sources of CO2 in the atmosphere. If our political leaders are unable or unwilling to regulate the burning of coal and oil because Big Money won’t let them then there’s little hope of stopping ocean acidification.

  • Paul

    The CBD lives on the edge of sheer hypocrisy, when on one hand, is certainly a strong advocate of reducing CO2 emissions, but on with the other hand will litigate at the drop of a hat against any and all new solar & wind energy generation facilities. CBD is simply a gaggle of lawyers who gladly take your hard-earned contributions, then threaten to kill all new green projects by “sue and settle” tactics, and hold projects in the courts until the defendants relent. The result is energy companies simply giving up on green technology (except for their media campaigns), and go back and re-invest in more profitable oil & gas exploration, by drilling, fracking & refining. Lesson here: Be very careful to whom you contribute, if one of your goals is to reduce GHGs.
    1) http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/solar/concentrating-solar/green-groups-agency-staff-urge-no-on-palen-solar-project.html
    2) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/2013/05/30/california-condors-wind-turbines/
    3) http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059981817
    4) http://docketpublic.energy.ca.gov/PublicDocuments/09-AFC-07C/TN200968_20131021T152056_PSH's_Rebuttal_Testimony_to_Intervenor_CBD's_Opening_Testimony.pdf

    …ad nauseam

  • BenBoardman

    Great show today on a topic that all too few people know about. As the guests pointed out, ocean acidification threatens our food supply. But I also appreciate the discussion of the dangers to ocean animals, which surely deserve better than to be wiped out by all the carbon pollution we’re recklessly spewing out of our tailpipes and smokestacks. And I love that the Center for Biological Diversity is taking legal action to get something done about this disturbing threat to our oceans. Sometimes a lawsuit is the only way to overcome inertia and vested interests that block efforts to save our environment.

  • Julia Sanders

    Very much enjoyed today’s show. We at globaloceanhealth.org have been fighting ocean acidification since 2007 when nobody even knew how to pronounce it. When West Coast oyster hatcheries experienced 90% mortality in the late 2000s, we got them the funds to figure out what was happening and put the apparatus in place to protect oyster seed. We brought a proposal for a Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel to Gov Gregoire, and she jumped on it, even starting a center for OA at U of Wa. Gov Inslee has been just as committed. Please check out our website for a great resource of information on ocean acidification and our work to fight it. If you can, chip in $3, it all helps! Thanks to KQED, Rep Huffman, Dr Langier, andf Terry Sawyer and others for this great look at an overwhelming problem.

  • John Schaefer

    Acidification may be even more serious than climate change, and the only way to arrest both is to reduce CO2 pollution. A predictable and gradually rising carbon tax is the best way to get a grip on that problem. A carbon tax is better than cap and trade, in which carbon prices turn out to be unpredictable. And the benefits can either be returned to citizens or used for other worthy purposes. I can think of a few.

  • Great Show, thank you for highlighting these important coastal issues and yes reducing CO2 is the utmost important thing our societies can do. I would love to hear how the recent Dept of State conference addressed this most important need. in ly

  • Claudia Charles

    We really need to understand all our wrongdoings to our planet and her ecological system.
    If we won`t change our ways now it won`t take that long for her to pay us back,
    She allready gave too much for too long time….
    And it`s us humanity that freaks our planet….I am so sorry for being part of humanity.
    I am afraid those multi-nationals won`t ever learn there lessons to what really matters in live!

  • JimmyOo

    Am “discussing” this issue with some deniers in my family. Received a rebuttal citing http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/01/09/scripps-paper-ocean-acidification-fears-overhyped/ and http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203550304577138561444464028?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052970203550304577138561444464028.html#printMode, which claim that a Scripps study discounts human-caused increases in atmospheric CO2 as a cause of ocean acidification. My reply follows, and I would appreciate further enlightenment, particularly with respect to the actual conclusions of, and valid inferences from, the Scripps paper.

    me: “One of the speakers on the audio, which you probably didn’t listen to, says that the current human-caused CO2 increase contributes to the acidification caused by upwelling. I also respect Scripps, but UC Davis also knows a thing or two, and I notice that your source is a link to a link (to how many links? maybe I’ll chase it down if I find time), so no doubt the Scripps paper has been spun. Anyway, next time you’re on the coast, take it up with the folks at Hog Island Oyster Farm.”

    • JimmyOo

      more from me:

      You may find these direct quotes from actual Scripps documents interesting:

      “It is well established among researchers that the uptake of increased amounts of carbon dioxide will make ocean water more acidic as the gas dissolves to create carbonic acid. Ocean chemistry is changing 100 times more rapidly than in the 650,000 years that preceded the modern industrial era and since the late 1980s, researchers at Scripps Oceanography and others have recorded an overall drop in the pH of the oceans from 8.16 to 8.05.” https://scripps.ucsd.edu/news/ocean-acidification

      [global warming quotes thrown in for good measure]

      “as humans burn fossil fuels, we are creating a new driver of snow and ice melt and accompanying sea-level rise. This time, additional CO2 entering the atmosphere is coming from sources of carbon that had previously been sequestered in fuels such as oil and gas. We know from basic physics that CO2 traps heat. The phenomenon is perhaps best demonstrated by Earth’s neighbor Venus, which has 100,000 times the amount of CO2 in its atmosphere as Earth does. Its average temperature of 462° C (863° F) is high enough to melt lead.

      “Thus, while in the past sea-level rise as a result of melting glaciers and thermal expansion was driven by changes in Earth’s orbit and amplified by oceanic CO2 released after initial warming, today anthropogenic CO2 is directly driving this melting and sea-level rise.”


      “we know that over the timescale of several decades, climate will continue to warm as we pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”


Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor