For a lot of environmentalists, at least the kind who believe that using organic massage oil and a sustainably harvested loofah at the day spa makes them green, the issue of global warming is the newest version of “Save the Rainforest” (remember back in the 80s when everyone including Michael Jackson cared about the rainforest).

But despite the denials of our Master in Commander in Chief, the Earth’s climate is really changing. That is not good news for the world’s oceans. In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert (“The Darkening Sea: What Carbon emissions are doing to the ocean”) examines how human related carbon emissions are turning the ocean acidic. Kolbert’s original work on climate change in The New Yorker is spelled out in her book, “Field Notes from a Catastrophe.” Kolbert’s piece should be required reading for anyone who believes that San Diego’s coast will be or has been immune from the impacts of climate change or that a small population of harbor seals at Casa Beach represents a threat to our way of life.

Some of Kolbert’s observations include the following:

  • “The concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today – three hundred and eight parts per million – is higher than it has been at any point in the past six hundred and fifty thousand years, and probably much longer.
  • “At the current rate of emissions growth, carbon dioxide concentration will top five hundred parts per million – roughly double pre-industrial levels – by the middle of this century.”
  • Increases in carbon dioxide levels “will produce an eventual global temperature rise of between three and half and seven degrees Fahrenheit, and that this in turn, will prompt a string of disasters, including fiercer hurricanes…and the inundation of many of the world’s major coastal cities.”
  • “Already, humans have pumped enough carbon into the oceans – some hundred and twenty billion tons – to produce a .1 decline in surface pH…a .1 drop represents a rise in acidity of about thirty percent.”
  • “Because of the slow pace of deep-ocean circulation and the long life of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is impossible to reverse the acidification that has taken place.”

Kolbert, as Ken Weiss did in the Altered Oceans series in the Los Angeles Times, argues that this drop in pH levels will give way to an increase in ocean slime and jellyfish that will occupy ecological niches now filled by fish and the rest of the ocean food chain. This is what Scripps scientist Jeremy Jackson refers to as the “rise of slime.”

The irony here is that while Jerry Sanders, Scott Peters and the City’s Recreation Department squander public monies on dredging projects for Children’s Pool, defend the bizarre rope barrier at La Jolla Shores, and oversee San Diego’s wasteful kelp eradication program, Mother Ocean will soon be taking its revenge on San Diego. The years of dumping millions of gallons of sewage into the ocean, failure to clean up Mission Bay, criminal contempt for warnings about the antiquated sewage treatment system, spending millions on sand replenishment projects, and ignoring the corruption of the Bajagua project, are now coming home to roost.

If a small population of harbor seals freaks out the anti-seal brigade in La Jolla, imagine the response to beaches filled with slime and jelly fish. It is rumored that Jerry Sanders, like President Bush once believed that global climate change is a hoax (although at least publicly he is now supporting the San Diego Foundation’s Climate Smart Initiative.) But Jerry needs to do a lot more and really take some leadership on the issue that will matter most to the future of San Diego.


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