Witness Follow-up Questions – Dr. John Everett
House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans
April 17, 2007
Oversight Hearing Regarding Wildlife and Oceans in a Changing Climate
13 May 2007
Dear Chairwoman Bordallo,
Thank you very much for the opportunity to participate in the hearing and to provide responses to the follow-up questions.
I worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1988 to 2000 on five impact analyses: Fisheries (Convening Lead Author), Polar Regions (Co-Chair), Oceans (Lead Author), and Oceans and Coastal Zones (Co-Chair/2 reports). Since leaving NOAA, I have remained an Expert Reviewer within the IPCC system.
I support the IPCC process. It is a reasonable way to coordinate the development of policy advice on global issues. However, there does appear to be "cherry picking" of science and results to advance some agendas. The growing body of scientists outside the IPCC process often come to different conclusions based on the same science, and their concerns are not fully considered. Having difficulty myself in ferreting out the facts, I have kept track of information from both camps, eventually putting it on a website so I could access it anywhere. I have recently made it available to everyone at http://www.ClimateChangeFacts.info.
I believe we are on the wrong path. The worst-case impacts, from worst-case scenarios, that have been run through an under-achieving model are insufficiently discounted in the IPCC reports vis-ŕ-vis better analyses. The result is a gross exaggeration of impacts in the press. We do not hear about minor impacts and benefits, only the “newsworthy” elements. To do realistic impact assessments, I have to sort through the science and projections. A summary of considerations that shaped my written statement and this response to your questions are that:
§ The Earth's natural processes also contribute, and remove, CO2. Since plants first appeared on the Earth, they have converted nearly all available CO2 to oxygen, fossil fuels, and to other long-term storage. Today, less than 4/100 of 1% (379 ppm) of our atmosphere is CO2, a small amount relative to other periods in Earth's history. Some popular IPCC scenarios include rising CO2 (2%/year) from an increasing supply of fossil fuels for 100 years, yet we know that this is improbable. Production will soon peak (if not already) and prices are rising.
§ The projected temperature rise defies logic, given that the USA and global temperatures have risen by (at most) only 1 deg F (.5 C) in 100 years (NOAA, May 2007), during the height of industrial expansion. This is a trivial amount in the natural variation of the Earth, and to suggest the rise would accelerate 5 fold (IPCC best estimate) in this century is incredible. NOAA’s new data set, released on May 1, addressed some of the urban heat island issues, dropping the warming 44% (below IPCC 2007), but significant other data issues still remain. Also, the Earth was much warmer in the prior interglacial, just 125,000 years ago.
§ The IPCC 2007 rate of sea level rise adds 1 mm/year to the 1-2 mm/year that has been happening in recent centuries. This additional amount is only 4 inches over 100 years.
§ Other projections, such as for hurricanes, rainfall, and snow cover, are not significantly different than under natural variability, and most will advance more slowly than the decadal oscillations. With regard to ocean acidity, shell formation problems should have shown up already in areas where there are naturally high levels of CO2. They have not.
Above all, the IPCC Impact Assessment discounts the benefits that come with a warming climate and accentuates the negatives. Most negatives lie within the unrealistic worst case climate scenarios. Whether a fish in the ocean, a shrimp in a pond, or a bean on a vine, it will grow faster when it is warmer, all things being equal. Humans will be quick to take advantage of a warmer climate. More crops grow where it is warm than in frozen ground, and CO2 is a primary food of plants - basic facts that seem lost in this discussion. However, the impact is visible to NASA satellites, which have detected a 6% greening of the Earth in the last 2 decades from a warmer, wetter, higher-CO2 Earth (NASA 2003). Findings like this are rarely highlighted in IPCC SPM documents.
Supporting details for the above and for my responses are on my website. I would be pleased to elaborate further, if requested.
Dr. John T. Everett
Ocean Associates, Incorporated
4007 N. Abingdon Street
Arlington, Virginia USA 22207
On the web at http://www.OceanAssoc.com, and
QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE MADELEINE BORDALLO
In your testimony you note that a combination of human activities including overfishing, pollution of estuaries and the coastal ocean, and the destruction of habitat-particularly wetlands and seagrasses-currently exert a far more powerful effect on world marine fisheries than is expected from climate change.
1. Do you think we are currently doing enough to address those problems here in the United States? If not, can you elaborate on what we should be doing differently?
I think we are putting about the right amount of resources into these issues, but we could do more if we weren’t hampered by our institutional arrangements. I think the people in NOAA, the states, EPA, the Corps, and all the other bodies are working hard towards achieving the correct goals, but that institutional barriers are more of a hindrance than lack of funding. For a dozen years I was Director of NMFS Policy and Planning. I was also a Senate staffer and during that time I led the negotiations on behalf of both Houses on the first reauthorization of the FCMA. I also have been closely affiliated with FAO since 1999. These are some of the experiences underlying my view. We have had over 30 years to get it right and we are not there yet. This, alone, serves as a reality check for the merits of the system we have established.
I have always said that if I were Prince of Fish, I would do things much differently. Our problem in managing fisheries is that we live in a democracy where authority is diffuse and nearly everything requires negotiation. This may lead to a better solution, but everything takes a long time to accomplish and the driving force is usually some disaster, whether a crashed stock or some ecosystem imbalance which disrupts normal function, such as sharks replacing codfish. Sometimes there are stalemates that may prevent rational management.
The different entities involved in resource management, such as communities, counties, states, tribal organizations, state commissions, Councils, international treaty bodies, and bilateral organizations all complicate the process. As much as I admire our system of government, I think it sometimes brings chaos to resource management. Imagine for a moment having one agency (or a Prince) responsible for all fisheries throughout their range, able to cut across all agency fiefdoms. There would be no hiding behind some perceived failure of somebody else. If there is mismanagement, we know who is responsible and if something needs to be done, we know who gets the task. So, if we want to do something dramatic, that reduces the cost and inefficiencies in the existing system, I think we should start with a clean slate, design an ideal system, then modify our institutions to accommodate it. This will require a very heavy hand indeed.
2. Dr. Everett, like Bill McKibben, you acknowledge that a changing climate will produce winners and losers. Yet unlike Mr. McKibben, who views climate change as an opportunity to transform our society into a 21st Century “Green Economy” which will produce many more winners than losers, you seem satisfied to tinker around the edges the status quo to avoid taking potentially unnecessary changes to address the problem.
I support moving towards a Green Economy, and working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is a valid objective within this ideal. However, it may or may not be important to the Earth’s climate system. Let us not forget that just a few years ago, many of the same NGOs who are alarmed about warming and CO2 emissions, were arguing with the same fervor that our fossil fuels were running out. Many still are. It can’t be both ways - using more for decades and running out in a few years. There are probably not enough fuels left in the ground to allow the forecast acceleration of their consumption. We are seeing some price increases now, across all fuels, and even for corn, driven by the shortage of fossil fuels. I believe this will continue and will accelerate remarkably in the decades to come, greatly restricting CO2 emissions. The market place and the finite resources will largely reduce consumption, but we should also subsidize research to clean up coal (and other difficult fuels) consumption throughout the world. I was alarmed by some of my fellow panelists who advocated cessation of coal production. We hold the world’s largest inventories of coal and it is a major competitive advantage. We need to make it more environmentally friendly and use it.
The green economy goal is excellent and I agree with it, but it cannot be reached in one country alone because there is a world marketplace. When there are equal or lower costs, this is great for all of us. If we move to wind power by legislative fiat, on the other hand, and the production costs in our factories rise, our jobs will migrate overseas even faster than at present. Thus, we run the very real risk of having far more losers than winners in the USA if we respond to this threat in an unwise way.
I am glad you consider me to be “tinkering”. Tinkering is good, provided you have established goals. It is one of the best strategies for dealing with a complex problem such as this (Lindblom, 1959) where the issue is fuzzy at best, the correct course of action is uncertain, and a wrong course is perilous. We do not know enough to put all our eggs in the global warming catastrophe basket. Any eggs we put there should be refundable and of value on other objectives, such as energy independence and efficiency, and leaving some fossil fuels in the ground for use by future generations.
I grew up as a fisherman, learning from my father the need to put the little clams and lobsters back gently, and to protect them from predators while we could. I am very conscious of our role as a good steward of the Earth and have practiced stewardship all my life.
I am concerned we are at the verge of a potential colossal public policy failure that will damage our economy. This is a similar situation to that of several decades ago when uninformed hysteria led to halting the growth and technological advancement of our nuclear power industry. Other nations, such as France, with no significant fossil fuels, continued on the nuclear path, soon replacing us as exporters of nuclear technology and gaining clean electrical power that is largely from nuclear sources. We were left only with a fossil fuels option and now we are in a catch-up mode.
3. Your position seems contrary to our Nation’s history of boldly confronting new challenges. Why are you advocating for a more cautious and incremental approach? Do you believe that our Nation is not up to this daunting task?
The daunting task is to keep ourselves informed and cautious in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence that global warming is man-induced and that it is harmful. I am not convinced either is true. In fact both are probably mostly false. Therefore, we must move cautiously on things that will cost us competitive advantage in the marketplace, but expeditiously on things that make sense in their own right. This is an adaptive, incremental approach following the teachings of Charles Lindblom, 1959. If there is warming, things will be different, not worse, just as they are different whenever the Atlantic Oscillation and the Pacific Oscillation and the ENSO (El Nińo Southern Oscillation) change phase, with far greater (and immediate) temperature and wind changes than are forecast by IPCC models. The easiest way to see this is to consider what might happen if the temperature were to be falling, which it just might be since reaching the latest peak in 1998. Just a slight cooling would largely destroy our agriculture (as we know it) – yet a slight warming would mean faster growth, and longer, more productive seasons. This is evident from NASA satellites showing a 6% increase over the last 20 years in the greenness of the earth. Further, the Earth’s temperature has been higher and the CO2 has been higher many times in the past, certainly during the last time we were between ice ages, and perhaps since the last one ended just 10,000 years ago.
On my website (http://www.ClimateChangeFacts.info), I explain this in considerable detail, providing the claims of scientists who think we are having unprecedented warming and that it is caused by humans. I also have the non-trivial counter claims by those who disagree on both aspects, with links to resources supporting all the views and ideas. I also have a series of items I believe we should do whether the Earth is warming or cooling and whether or not mankind’s small contribution to the total CO2 budget matters or not. I also have a series of items we should not do. Since these latter items are more important, for the present discussion, I will start with them first.
What Actions Should We Not Take to Respond to Climate Change?
We must respond prudently to the threats from climate change. We live in a global economy, much of it with lower production costs than our own in the developed world. Whether we live in the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand or the EU, we know our job losses are draining our countries, making it more difficult to support our retirement programs, health benefits, schools, and even our national defense. We must not exacerbate the high costs of our products and services. So we --
· Should not commit to actions that put us at a competitive disadvantage in the world market for goods and services, whether it is through the Kyoto protocol or some other vehicle;
· Should consider that if a taxing regime is implemented to discourage use of fossil fuels, it must separate production uses (such as manufacturing, agriculture, and fishing) from personal consumption such as in home heating, and for personal cars used for discretionary travel. We should not place taxes on inputs to production and services that will hurt our ability to compete in the global market place.
· Should not forget that the most valuable things we have are our health, our lives, and our family, and we should not place them at risk by driving, or riding in, vehicles that put ourselves at risk in order to save energy or other costs.
· Should not stop breathing even though it would be one of the most immediate steps to slow CO2 emissions.
· Should not do things without thinking. There are many ideas that may not have merit. For example, buying local vegetables to reduce transportation costs may actually increase energy use if the far off producer is more fuel efficient. Another example is in using biofuels that have a high fossil energy input in fertilizer or machinery, or planting trees to reduce CO2, but finding out they also absorb solar radiation (heat) more than what they replace.
What Actions Should We Take to Respond to Climate Change?
We should respond prudently to the threats from climate change. Our actions should include things that make sense in their own right and which will be important whether the Earth warms or cools in the near future, or continues about the same until the next ice age arrives some 30,000 years or so in the future, according to our present knowledge of solar variability and orbital mechanics (IPCC 2007). We should aim to reduce the production costs in our industries and, at the consumer level, our living expenses, while at the same time "cleaning up our act" in the amount and type of energy we consume. Here is what we should do now:
· Lead by personal example. One way to check progress? Look at your household energy consumption. It should be dropping steadily over the years through
o household maintenance and upgrading of insulation
o appliance replacement and replacing light bulbs with fluorescents (all lights on timers, for example, should be fluorescents.
o adjusting the thermostat for when nobody is home or awake
o limiting our shower from being just a little too long
o getting a watt-hour meter and seeing what each home appliance, electronics, and plug-in light costs to run.
o reducing the number of parasitic loads. If a TV or VCR or Cable TV Box is sitting in the basement, and is rarely used, put it on a powerstrip and shut everything off when you leave the room.
o getting an energy audit, particularly if it is free from the power company.
o considering energy efficiencies on all appliances and vehicles.
o check our home’s water heater, or the pipes leaving it. If hot, insulate them. It is not just a loss of energy, but in the summer, the heater is fighting the air conditioner.
o Shut off the light when it is not being used. Put your computer to sleep or shut it off (and all the peripherals).
o Use fans and open windows for cooling.
o When the air conditioner is on, be extra careful about adding heat that then has to be removed, doubling the amounts of energy used, and often at the higher “summer rate”.
· Build our reliance on domestic energy sources. This includes the green technologies of wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, and tidal and recycling sources such as biogas and municipal solid waste. It also includes fossil fuels (from the time the Earth was really warm and productive), coal, oil, and gas - but in as clean a mode as possible. We need to be mindful that wind and solar are intermittent sources and require a backup supply AND a larger electrical grid (with more transmission lines and towers) than any other source.
· Conserve our energy through efficiency in all we do. This includes mundane things such as multipurpose trips when we run our errands or visit our clients.
· Make mass transit more extensive, more economical, and user friendly.
· Review building codes to ensure new homes and buildings are constructed to be more energy efficient, perhaps having different grading levels (with payback periods estimated) so purchasers can choose how far above a threshold value they wish to go. Standards for commercial buildings need to consider the global economy and whether production costs will be increased. Innovative ideas, such as using waste water from restroom sinks, or laundry machines, to flush toilets on lower floors, need to be considered.
· Implement consumer education programs at all levels, particularly within commercial establishments that produce goods and services. For example: provide energy saving tips, and management advice and software to truck and automobile fleet owners, to fishing vessel and maritime vessel owners, and highway designers.
· Develop and disseminate practical energy conservation packages for the general population and for industry sectors such as agriculture, trucking, airline, fishing, mining, refining, warehousing. These packages should contain reasonable energy reduction targets, milestones and estimates of savings if achieved.
· Review traffic flow measures that cause vehicles to stop and go, or wait unnecessarily for non-existent pedestrians or intersecting traffic.
· Vehicles: share rides in a car pool; inflate tires properly; time for a tuneup with new sparkplugs?; air filter dirty?; unnecessary weight in the trunk?
· Pay or subsidize research on all the above energy forms, particularly big ticket items such as nuclear and coal and on efficiencies in how we use power.
· Conserve our energy through less use of machinery. Examples are using clothes lines for drying, walking or riding a bike to work or for neighborhood errands and visits, using the stairs instead of elevators, forgetting about motorboats and buying sail boats, and putting down the leaf blower and picking up the rake.
· Make it easy everywhere for excess energy to be added to the electricity grid by consumers and industry with permanent or temporary excess power, such as from wind, methane, hydro, and solar - and at reasonable rates, at or near the highest rate tier actually being used at the time. This provides incentive to oversize individual production systems, leading to extra robustness in the overall grid.
· Foster new residential and commercial construction near mass transportation hubs, such as subway and railroad stations, airports, and bus terminals.
· Ensure that all our communities have safe routes where people can walk or bike to work, or at least use motorbikes safely. Highway and bridge rebuilding projects should provide dedicated lanes with appropriate separation of pedestrians and bicycles from motor vehicle traffic.
· All jobs should be reviewed by employers to determine if it makes sense to allow telecommuting one or more days per week.
· State extension agents (e.g., agricultural agents) should be trained in energy conservation approaches and benefits.
· Increase taxes on energy consumption that is not used for production of goods and services. This is not a blind "carbon tax", but a tax aimed at consumer level consumption.
· Recycle items as much as is worthwhile. Sometimes this can be counterproductive if there is not enough volume or recycling requires too much energy or cost.
· Conduct research on the effect of any these actions on wildlife and on human health, and on the economic vitality of our nation.
· Increase the amount of our business done electronically to minimize travel and transportation and the use of paper.
QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE PATRICK KENNEDY
Regardless of whether or not we take actions to control and reduce green house gas emissions, wildlife and wildlife habitat and the ocean environment are going to change and adapt, often unpredictably, to a warming climate. Consequently, we should take steps now to develop strategies to allow for the future conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of a healthy and resilient environment.
1. Keeping in mind that any transition to a new “Green Economy” will take decades to achieve and that most members of Congress will want to limit unnecessary disruptions of social and economic systems, can you be more specific on what practical types of adaptive management strategies we should consider to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on our collective wildlife and ocean resources?
There are a series of steps that we should do whether or not the warming (1 deg. F) of the last 150 years continues or, having reached a peak in 1998, continues to decline, or stays at the new plateau.
I will address oceans and fisheries, because I have greater knowledge in this area. We need better information at the ecosystem level on how organisms interact with their environment. Information is most valuable if there are institutions and management mechanisms to use it. Research on improved mechanisms is needed so that fisheries can operate more efficiently with global warming, as well as in the naturally varying climate of today. There is relatively little research underway on such mechanisms. Knowledge of the reproductive strategies of many species and links between recruitment and environment is poor.
The following items are needed specifically because of climate change. Other types of research, which are prerequisites for dealing with such concerns but which support the day-to-day needs of fisheries managers or relate more to understanding how ecosystems function, are not included.
· Determine how fish adapt to natural extreme environmental changes, how fishing affects their ability to survive unfavorable conditions, and how reproduction strategies and environments are linked. Link fishery ecology and regional climate models to enable broader projections of climate-change impacts and improve fishery management strategies.
· Implement regional and multinational systems to detect and monitor climate change and its impacts—building on and integrating existing research programs. Fish can be indicators of climate change and ecological status and trends. Assemble baseline data now so comparisons can be made later.
· Develop ecological models to assess multiple impacts of human activities.
· Determine the fisheries most likely to be impacted, and develop adaptation strategies.
· Assess the potential leaching of toxic chemicals, viruses, and bacteria due to sea-level rise and how they might affect both fish and the seafood supply.
· Determine institutional changes needed to deal with a changing climate. Such changes are likely the same ones needed for mastering overfishing and coping with the variability and uncertainty of present conditions. Improved institutions would probably reduce stock variability more than climate change would increase it.
· Study the historical ability of societies to adapt their activities when their resources are impacted by climate changes.
· Research activities to better understand processes in the oceans, in particular the role of the oceans in the natural variability of the climate system at seasonal, interannual, and decadal to century timescales.
· Long-term monitoring and mapping of: water-level changes, ice coverage, and thermal expansion of the oceans; sea-surface temperature and surface air temperature; extratropical storms and tropical cyclones; changes in upwelling regimes along the coasts of California, Peru, and West Africa; UV-B radiation, particularly in polar regions, and its impact on aquatic ecosystems; regional effects on distribution of species and their sensitivity to environmental factors; changes in ocean biogeochemical cycles.
· Socioeconomic research activities to document human responses to global change
· Establish management institutions that recognize shifting distributions, abundances and accessibility, and that balance conservation with economic efficiency and stability
· Support innovation by research on management systems and aquatic ecosystems
· Expand aquaculture to increase and stabilize seafood supplies and employment, and carefully, to augment wild stocks
· Integrate fisheries and CZ management
· Monitor health problems (e.g., red tides, ciguatera, cholera)
· Coastal planners and owners of coastal properties and infrastructure should carefully consider projected relative sea level changes when evaluating new or reconstruction projects.
· Coastal planners and environmental decision-makers should consider that a healthy environment is a prerequisite for coral reefs, mangroves and sea grasses to keep pace with a rising sea and to continue their coastal protection benefits
2. Should we be doing more to re-evaluate our current policies for land use planning and public acquisition of land for wildlife habitat? Should we be adopting a broader landscape and ecosystem-based approach for protecting wildlife?
I do not feel qualified to provide guidance in this area and defer to more land-based people.
3. Finally, how might such ideas be applied to the ocean and coastal environment and the wildlife therein?
This is addressed above. In essence, we need to stop our species-by-species approach to management and embrace the ecosystem-based management concept we have been discussing for more than 30 years. In some fisheries and protected species, we are closing in on the amount and types on information necessary, but major changes will be needed in how society and resource managers view these interactions. Not all is as it appears to be. Over fishing is blamed for problems that likely are rooted in ecosystem imbalances among species and in environmental effects that are just beginning to be understood, as was pointed out in the testimony of Dr. Gary Sharp. Further background is available at his website at http://sharpgary.org .
QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE HENRY BROWN
MINORITY RANKING MEMBER
1. Do you or have you (or your organization) received any funding from the Pew Charitable Trust or the David and Lucille Packard Foundation? If so, please elaborate.
2. Are you currently a party to any law suit against the Department of the Interior or the Department of Commerce (or any of the agencies within these departments)? If so, please describe
QUESTIONS FROM THE HONORABLE WAYNE GILCHREST
1. If paleo-records show that corals existed in the past under high atmospheric CO2 concentrations, why is it a problem now?
I do not believe it is a problem. I think we will run out of easily-available oil, gas, and coal before the oceans become so acidic that there is a significant problem. I understand that many of the same coral genera were present during the mid-cretaceous period when CO2 was 2-4 times higher and coral reefs much more expansive, per the NOAA paleo website. If the corals and other animals with shells that cannot form due to high CO2 concentrations are impeded, their ecological niche apparently becomes filled by other organisms, some with silica based shells. Things will be different, but life continues.
2. Among the various effects of climate change to wildlife and the oceans, are there issues that are more pressing than the others? Why?
For fisheries, the most important issue is the movement of centers of fisheries production to new locations, perhaps across a national border. Institutions and communities are not set up to deal with this. At present the El Nińo and the Atlantic and Pacific Oscillations give us an indication of what will happen.
Also, near the top of the priorities list is a decision whether to encourage or retard opening of the Northwest passage to shipping, and secondly, how do we deal with the possible pollution effects, and the eased migration of whales and other mammals between the oceans. This Arctic ice has probably been blocking exchange for about 120,000 years. There are a myriad of important questions, such as; Do we want the gene pool refreshed in both oceans?
3. In the U.S., as plant and animal species migrate north and to higher elevations, what does that mean for the regions they leave behind? For instance, it has been said that some U.S. states that border Canada might actually benefit from the next few decades of climate change, but what will it mean for the states further to the South, and especially those on the coast?
The way to look at this is to see what happens closer to the equator. All suitable places have life and the speciation is greater there than further north. If there is food and water, all voids will be filled quickly. Warmer, wetter climates have the most diverse life. Further, within the average global temperature change, more change occurs as one moves towards the poles. The southern states will see less change. Sea level rise is also important. It has been going on since the last ice age ended just 10,000 years ago. Georges Bank, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket were part of the mainland just a few thousand years ago. The first settlers walked there and did not need canoes. Whether or not there is any impact (acceleration) caused by human actions, it will continue until we start our slide towards the next glaciation, some 30,000 years away. During the last period between ice ages (about 125,000 years ago), the global average sea level was 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) higher than during the 20th century, and average Arctic temperatures at that time were 5.7 to 9.5 deg. F (3 to 5 deg. C) higher than present (IPCC, 2007). El Nino and other climate oscillations show us that the distribution of species and their mix changes in a few months to a year, with winners and losers everywhere, just as with the industries and communities that depend on these resources. From a practical standpoint, nearly everything in the ocean grows faster when it is warmer, as do the things they eat. Some will no longer be available nearby, and some will be greatly reduced by interrupted feeding patterns, but they are here today, somewhere, just as they have been through countless other cycles of warming and cooling, waiting for their turn once again.
4. How do shifts in habitat range of plants and animals affect human interests such as agriculture or the spread of invasive species and diseases? How can we adaptively plan for such changes?
I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to offer advice and I defer to land-based experts.
5. The IPCC reports with 80% certainty that the changes in water temperatures, ice cover, salinity and ocean circulation are impacting the ranges and migration patterns of aquatic organisms. How will this affect management and use of these resources, and how can we prepare for any changes?
Fisheries are most affected when artificial barriers (e.g., national borders) stop pursuit by fishers in one country, causing local disruption, as centers of abundance move. Also fleets and processing plants and related infrastructure will move once it appears a change will be long-term. This is disruptive to fisheries-dependent communities. Of course, there is an equal-sized winner within the gaining group. We can prepare for this by making arrangements with neighboring countries in advance, for example by issuing individual vessel catch quotas that can be bought and sold across borders, even if the vessels are not allowed to continue fishing.
6. In the Chesapeake Bay, we are losing marshland to rising sea levels. Can you talk about what is happening to coastal wetland areas in other areas of the country and what that is doing to their ecosystems and the local economies that depend upon these natural resources?
A very high proportion of all fisheries depend on estuarine waters and marshes. Within a few months a major NOAA/NMFS report will be published describing the status of our fisheries habitats. Under preparation for several years, it is called Our Living Oceans – Habitat. Generally the coastal habitats are in good condition and major habitat loss has been greatly slowed. There are local problems, and there are sea level problems, particularly where land subsidence adds to the ~2 mm/year natural rise of the sea.
7. What roll do marshlands play in sequestering carbon? Is marsh restoration a viable alternative in carbon sequestration?
I have too little background to answer this question adequately, but it would be difficult to imagine a worthwhile benefit/cost ratio for a restoration project for the purpose of carbon sequestration alone. Further the reflectance of the marsh will be much lower than whatever it replaces, perhaps contributing more warming as heat sinks than reduction through CO2 sequestration, much as trees have recently been found to do. If in doubt, walk across a marsh on a sunny day. The black and green colors absorb so much sunlight, the marsh seems like an oven.
8. The latest IPCC report warns that ocean acidification poses a threat to coral reefs and shell-forming organisms that form the base of the aquatic food chain. But the report says more study is needed to determine the full scope of the threat. What do we know about the potential impacts to U.S. coastal ecosystems today and how quickly is our understanding of acidification improving? What can Congress do to improve upon this understanding? Do we know enough to act?
As I stated above, I think this problem is overrated. However, I would support a research program that actually measures CO2 levels and coral health on reefs (not in a laboratory. One way to look at this is by noting the rapid growth of molluscan (e.g., clams and oysters) aquaculture. These shells certainly are in good shape and forming rapidly in waters all over the globe (note that these shells nearly permanently remove CO2 from the system). I am not aware of any incidence of failure to form shells, and I am actively involved in aquaculture consulting.
9. What additional resources or tools will the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service need to adequately prepare and address the impacts of global warming on wildlife over the next decade?
NMFS needs to finish the recapitalization of the research fleet and get more of its scientists broadly based in species interactions and similar ecosystem level science.
10. We’ve heard a lot about the polar bear and the petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Opponents of listing claim that the effects of global warming are in fact unclear. What evidence is there that global warming is already having a dramatic effect on the species across its range? How will an ESA listing help polar bears?
Polar bears have endured warmer periods than are forecast by IPCC, having evolved into their present form some 700,000 years ago (or 100,000 years ago) (or 200,000 years ago) (or before the beginning of the last interglacial) and their molars changed some 10,000 to 20,000 years ago. Importantly, polar bears were likely present in some final version of their present form, during the last interglacial (130-110,000 years ago) when there was virtually no ice at the North Pole and average Arctic temperatures at that time were 5.7 to 9.5 deg. F (3 to 5 deg. C) higher than present (IPCC, 2007). This date of evolution should be determined factually, as a first step, before taking action. If polar bears survived the past interglacial, the present warming may be of little consequence. In any case, the 20 polar bear populations need to be looked at individually, in terms of their threats and adaptability, and the management systems that govern their conservation.
This page updated or reviewed in April 2010