New York has finally passed legislation to carry out formal measures to prevent further ocean acidification. Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law mandating the assembly of an ocean acidification task force, which will determine the exact consequences New York faces from ocean acidification, and measures that can be taken to reduce the problem. Government leaders in a variety of different positions will assemble the task force, including the Secretary of State, State Assembly, State Senate, and County Executives of Nassau and Suffolk counties. The members assembled will have a variety of expertise in climatology, oceanography, ecology, and economics.
The biggest source of oceanic acid comes from the dissolution of C02 into water. About 30-40% of atmospheric CO2 ends up dissolving in oceans, raising acidity levels and throwing the ecosystem off of its equilibrium. Because of the current rates of CO2 emission, the Atlantic Ocean’s acidification rate is currently 100 times larger than any other rate in the last 200,000 years. Acid decreases the availability of carbonate, which is a key component for shellfish life. New York’s shellfish industry, worth $5 billion with 42,000 jobs, has been losing $24 million/year over the last 10 years. Nitrogen compounds, which are also acidic, have been causing algal blooms in the Atlantic. These blooms cause huge growths of algae to consume oxygen in the water, suffocating marine life. Climatologists believe that rising ocean acidity increases rainfall frequency and intensity, which increase groundwater runoff into the ocean. Since that runoff is one of the sources carrying acid in the first place, this is a problem that positively feeds back onto itself, escalating exponentially.
Ocean acidification is part of the package of consequences from current CO2 emissions. At this point, it is clear that governments have to step up to reduce the emissions, but also work to understand the effects of CO2 emissions and climate change. This legislation is part of New York’s share of the challenge to build a sustainable world for itself, and will carry positive effects on the economies and ecosystems of other states too.