Friday, November 28, 2008

Cost to tackle Ocean Acidification: just $237 billion

Cost of Tackling Ocean Acidification: Just $237 Billion
New Documentary Examines and Offers Solutions for the Sleeper Environmental Issue of Our Time
by Ned Sullivan
November 25, 2008

The electrifying redemption of America’s revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet.
— Al Gore, The New York Times (Nov. 9, 2008)

The results of the recent election promise a sea change in how the U.S. confronts the most daunting challenge facing us — reducing greenhouse gas emissions. President-elect Obama has made it clear he intends for America to lead by example in efforts to halt climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences, including extreme coastal flooding, sweltering temperatures and cataclysmic storms. As he said during the campaign:

“The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much we’re contributing to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere and how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.”

Part of this catastrophe — the acidification of our oceans — gets very little attention. That should change shortly. Hudson Valley filmmaker Barbara Ettinger and her husband, Sven Huseby, are putting the finishing touches on an eye-opening film (which I originally wrote about Sept. 18, 2007) showing how the huge amount of carbon absorbed by our seas is decimating fish, shellfish and coral reefs. Without immediate action, experts predict more than one million aquatic species will become extinct within the next century.

There is hope. A Stanford University scientist interviewed in the film says technology already exists to slay the two-headed monster of climate change and ocean acidification. The cost: $237 billion. That’s just a third of what Congress approved for the banking system’s bailout, or two-thirds of what Americans spend eating in restaurants each year. It goes without saying that the return on such an investment would be astronomical.

Climate change demands the same urgency that compelled our leaders in Washington and across the globe to work together to tackle the world economic crisis. Nothing our elected officials do — whether in the U.S. Capitol, our statehouses or our town and village halls—must be allowed to take precedence. It’s incumbent on us as citizens to hold them accountable until we achieve the sea change necessary to ensure all future generations can begin life on a healthy, welcoming planet.

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