Washington Governor Addresses Ocean Acidification

Gov. Chris Gregoire is taking on the problem of ocean acidification, making Washington the first state to adopt a policy to address what scientists describe as a growing environmental concern. The order signed by Gregoire last November, calls on the state to invest more money in scientific research, curb nutrient runoff from land, and push for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on a regional, national and global scale. She is proposing that the legislature reallocate$3.3 million in state funding to pay for research and other actions.

Ocean acidification stems from the sea’s absorption of human-generated carbon emissions. The ocean absorbs 30 percent of the carbon dioxide put into the air through fossil fuel burning. This triggers a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen, thereby lowering the water’s pH.

While the ocean is becoming more acidic worldwide, certain regions are affected more than others because local factors such as ocean currents or farm runoff can intensify the impact. Washington State has focused on the problem for several years because increasingly corrosive waters off the state’s shores threaten oyster-farming operations.

While other coastal states are expected to follow Washington’s lead in the coming years some have already started. Officials in Alaska, Maryland and Oregon are studying its impact and California has commissioned a panel on ocean acidification.

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