Board meeting turns ‘toxic’ as UN climate fund runs low

Rich and poor country representatives clash over policy priorities and replenishment at Green Climate Fund board meeting

By Megan Darby, Climate Home News, 7/3/18

Paul Oquist and Lennart Båge, co-chairs of the Green Climate Fund board, were accused of poor preparation for this week’s meeting (Photo: GCF)

A meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board in Songdo started unevenly on Sunday, as co-chair Paul Oquist was detained by political turmoil in Nicaragua, leaving Sweden’s Lennart Båge to run the session single-handed.

With developing countries complaining their priorities were not properly represented, it took nearly two days to agree on the agenda for the meeting.

“I have never served on a board that is this dysfunctional and toxic in my life,” said US representative Geoffrey Okamoto, as the discussion dragged on.

In the context of Donald Trump’s US cutting off contributions to the fund, however, Okamoto’s comment rankled with some.

“It is typical playing to the crowd,” said Zaheer Fakir, who represents South Africa. “The reason why it is dysfunctional and toxic is the way [the co-chairs] prepared for this board meeting.”

He said there had been a “serious lack of consultation” and the chairs had not responded to comments regarding the agenda before the meeting.

The barely veiled hostilities come as the fund faces a cash crunch. It has $2.8 billion left to allocate from its start-up donations. Projects up for consideration on Wednesday would claim $1bn of that.

As well as the US withholding $2bn of its pledge, the pot has lost some $1bn in value due to exchange rate fluctuations since 2014, officials reported.

Discussions on how to top up the budget were rolled over to the final day of the meeting, after lively but inconclusive talks on Tuesday. There were divisions over how much to hinge donations on closing policy gaps, many of which have defied resolution since the fund started.

Trump’s refusal to contribute has driven a wedge between other wealthy countries and the developing world, which still expects governments to fulfil a collective promise to deliver $100bn climate aid a year by 2020, partly through the GCF.

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Washington’s gas-price surge not enough to deter summer travelers

Comment from Global Ocean Health: “The Seattle Times reports that drivers aren’t hanging up their car keys to avoid high fuel prices this summer. No surprise. This report further confirms one of our main findings from research on policies that seek to reduce carbon pollution: Price signalling alone is not the best tool in the kit. Effective carbon policies go beyond merely putting a price on the carbon released by burning fuels. They use the money from a carbon price to help people afford to “become the solution.” That means investing to boost fuel efficiency, produce more clean energy, and reduce both the pollution and the costs that come from burning more fuel than we need.”

Christine Clarridge, Seattle Times, July 6th, 2018

Over the past year, a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Washington gas prices have soared over the past year to among the highest in the country, but that’s not expected to change anyone’s summer driving plans, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The state’s average gas price per gallon is the third-highest in the nation and is 20 percent higher than the national average, according to AAA data. Over the past year, the price of a gallon of regular unleaded has increased by 63 cents, a bigger jump than in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Jennifer Cook, spokeswoman for AAA of Washington, said her organization projects about 47 million Americans traveled during the Fourth of July holiday stretch, a 5 percent increase over last year.

Surveys from AAA clubs around the country indicate that Seattle will be among the top three domestic destinations, behind Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., Cook said. That’s partly because the city is a starting point for cruises to Alaska.

Still, this year’s rising costs at the pump are nowhere near the record set on July 6, 2008, when regular unleaded reached $4.35 a gallon.

While higher prices in Hawaii and Alaska are attributed mostly to the cost of transporting fuel, in Washington, Oregon and California, prices are boosted by stricter standards for fuel cleanliness, Cook said.

Washington drivers pay 67.8 cents per gallon in taxes, 49.4 cents a gallon to the state and 18.4 cents to the federal government. That’s the second highest gas tax in the nation after Pennsylvania, where drivers pay nearly 77 cents per gallon.

Eastern Washington has less expensive gas than the western part of the state because the region uses cheaper, dirtier crude oil from Montana rather than the cleaner kind imported from Alaska and Canada, she said.

Of those travelers — about one million of whom originated in Washington — 85 percent traveled by car, she said. And the travel boom is forecast to last all summer, likely setting new records, she said.

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Battery-backed solar power to undercut coal in China by 2028: report

Comment on story from GOH Executive Director Brad Warren: “The future of healthy oceans and fisheries depends on rapidly reducing carbon emissions. That’s one reason why it matters that falling costs for solar + battery storage are starting to knock out coal in some markets, and may do so in China soon.”

By Soila Apparicio, Climate Home News, 3/7/2018

Falling battery costs will allow for renewable power to grow rapidly, analysts predict, replacing traditional baseload generation

Solar and wind energy is predicted to supply almost 50% of the world’s electricity by 2050 (Photo: Kenueone)

Wind turbines or solar panels with batteries will be able to provide on-demand power cheaper than old coal plants in China by 2028, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predict.

In the US, the combo can outcompete gas generation by 2027, according to the same New Energy Outlook report, presented in London on Friday.

BNEF expects battery prices, which are already down by 79% per megawatt-hour since 2010, to continue falling fast. That will enable grids to integrate more variable renewables and ultimately end reliance on coal, gas, and nuclear to meet peak demand.

By 2050, the report predicts 71% of electricity worldwide will be generated by carbon-neutral sources, with 50% coming from renewables.

“The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” lead author Seb Henbest said at the launch.

Rechargeable, high-energy density lithium-ion batteries are the main focus of this analysis. There are several different types of lithium battery on the market with varying lifetimes. They are used to store excess energy from solar panels and wind turbines and release it when needed.

David Howey, an engineering science professor at Oxford University, told Climate Home News lithium-ion technology is going to be “with us for at least ten years, possibly even beyond.”

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Northeast Carbon Market Keeps Delivering Major Benefits to All

New report details sustained economic and environmental gains enjoyed by states participating in regional carbon cap-and-trade market.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, continues to succeed at reducing pollution, creating jobs, and boosting economies for all participating states. It’s no wonder that Virginia will soon add its name to the RGGI states, New Jersey is in the process of rejoining, and that states are exploring ways to reap the benefits of carbon markets to drive investments in transit and cleaner mobility options.

A new report released last month by the Analysis Group found that, over the past three years, RGGI helped grow participating states’ economies by $1.4 billion, while adding 14,500 job-years (equivalent to full-time jobs for one year of employment). Nine states participate in RGGI, including the six New England states plus New York, Delaware, and Maryland. Key findings from the report are detailed in the infographic below.

Figure 1

RGGI is a cap and trade program; it requires energy producers that emit carbon dioxide to buy pollution allowances through an auction process. This means that they must internalize some of the costs of carbon pollution related to fossil fuels. It also incentivizes investment in cleaner fuel sources.

Altogether, since the program was implemented in 2009, the nine RGGI states have collected $2.8 billion in auction proceeds. States typically use RGGI auction revenues to pay for energy efficiency and clean energy programs – a “cap-and-invest” approach that further cuts emissions, reduces energy costs, and creates jobs. When states invest RGGI proceeds in energy efficiency, they get the biggest “bang for the buck” as they add more businesses and jobs in activities such as energy audits and installing energy-efficiency equipment. RGGI also helped reduce by $1.37 billion the amount of money sent out of the region to import fossil fuels.

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Mining power: EPA’s Pruitt aims to short-circuit Clean Water Act

By Jessica Hathaway  

Three days before the deadline for public comments on the proposed Pebble Mine project  in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directed his staff to create a rule limiting the agency’s ability to regulate projects under Clean Water Act guidelines.

These are the exact guidelines that commercial fishermen and local tribes urged Obama-administration EPA officials to invoke to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska’s salmon gold mine.

In a memo dated Tuesday, June 26, Pruitt directed the EPA’s Office of Water to submit the following changes, at minimum, to the Office of Management and Budget within the next six months:

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a section 404 permit application has been filed with the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”

• Eliminating the authority to initiate the section 404(c) process after a permit has been issued by the Corps or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”

• Requiring a regional administrator to obtain approval from EPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) process.

• Requiring a regional administrator to review and consider the findings of a final Environmental Assessment or environmental impact statement by the Corps or a state before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.

• Requiring the agency to publish and seek public comment on a final determination before such a determination takes effect.

“The guiding principle should be to provide landowners, developers and entrepreneurs with certainty that the EPA will not short-circuit the permitting process… before taking any steps to veto a permit application,” the memo reads.

Mining permits are typically submitted by massive global corporations that have the lawyers, lobbyists and money to push through the permit phase. Users of clean water are typically lowly individual American citizens with an ever-dwindling influence on their federal government.

No one who has followed the Pebble process for the last two decades could possibly say the fishermen pulled a power play over the massive Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. A multinational company named “dynasty” can hardly invoke a pity party for lack of power.

Thousands of Bristol Bay’s fishermen have fought hard to protect their livelihood from being invaded by a foreign investor who is free to cut and run after it makes its 50-year cash-out investment in Pebble — leaving behind the toxic waste resulting from the metals mining process. Forever.

This singular victory for a sustainable fishery and a renewable resource hardly warrants EPA’s attempt to shut down one of the few powers we have as citizens to protect our access to a public resource.

Source: https://www.nationalfisherman.com/viewpoints/alaska/mining-power-epas-pruitt-aims-to-short-circuit-clean-water-act/

Climate Change May Be Creating A Seafood Trade War, Too

June 15th, 2018, Marshall Shepherd, Forbes.com

One of the grand challenges that I find as a climate scientist is conveying to the public the “here and now” of climate change. For many people, it is still some “thing” that seems far off in time or distance from their daily lives of bills, illness, kids, and their jobs. Ironically, climate change touches each of those aspects, but the average person does not often make the connections. People eat seafood and fish, but most people will not make any connections between tonight’s dinner of flounder, lobster or mackerel to climate change as they squeeze that lemon or draw that butter.

A new Rugters University study caught my eye because it is a good example of a “here and now” impact. Climate changes is causing fish species to adjust their habitats at a more rapid pace than current policy can manage. Many species of flounder, lobster, mackerel and crab are migrating to find colder waters as oceans warm.  The study suggests that such shifts may lead to international conflict and reductions in fish supply. Seafood is a pawn in the trade chess game.

NOAA

Fishers on deck

Researchers at Rutgers University say that an obsolete and outdated regulatory system has not kept pace with how the ocean’s waters are warming and shifting fish populations. I actually wrote a few years ago in Forbes about how warming waters were shifting crab populations in the North Pacific and affecting fishers as well as one of my favorite TV shows, The Deadliest Catch. This new study published in one of the top scientific journals in the world, Science, has provided new insight that has implications for our food supply and potential international conflict. According to a press release from the university:

for the first time that new fisheries are likely to appear in more than 70 countries all over the world as a result of climate change. History has shown that newly shared fisheries often spark conflict among nations. Conflict leads to overfishing, which reduces the food, profit and employment fisheries can provide, and can also fracture international relations in other areas beyond fisheries. A future with lower greenhouse gas emissions, like the targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, would reduce the potential for conflict, the study says.

Malin Pinsky is an assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers and one of the authors of the study. He, postdoctoral associate James Morley and a group of international co-authors reported that commercially important fish species (in other words things you like to eat and that many depend on for sustenance) could continue to migrate further northward in search of colder waters.

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China’s emissions reversal cause for ‘cautious optimism,’ says study

July 2, 2018, University of East Anglia

china pollution

The decline in China’s carbon emissions is likely to be sustained if changes to the country’s industrial structure and energy efficiency continue, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

As part of the Paris Agreement, China pledged to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030. In fact, China may already have fulfilled this commitment, with emissions peaking in 2013 at a level of 9.5 Gigatons of CO2, and declining in each year from 2014 to 2016.

After nearly two decades of rapidly rising emissions the study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that slowing economic growth in China has made it easier to reduce emissions. The decline of 4.2% in the years since to 2016 is largely associated with changes in industrial structure and a decline in the share of coal used for . Decreasing energy intensity (energy per unit GDP) and emissions intensity (emissions per unit energy) also contributed to the decline.

The study authors say the peak prompts important questions about what factors are driving the current decrease, their relative importance, and whether or not the decline can be sustained or even accelerated. In particular, if China’s emissions are have fallen primarily as a result of slowing economic activity, as happened in the US during the global financial crisis, renewed  could reverse the decrease.

The team from UEA, the University of Cambridge and UCL, together with researchers in China and the US, explored this by assessing the drivers of Chinese CO2 emissions from 2007-2016, using the latest available energy, economic, and industry data.

They warn that China’s emissions may fluctuate in the coming years and that may mean that 2013 may not be the ‘final’ peak. Indeed, preliminary figures for 2017 have shown an increase. However, the changes in industrial activities, coal use, and efficiency that have caused the recent decline have roots in the changing structure of China’s economy and long-term government policies.

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‘We can’t see a future’: group takes EU to court over climate change

Litigants from eight countries claim EU institutions are not protecting fundamental rights

Daniel Boffey. The Guardian, May 24th 2018

 Maurice Feschet, 72, a lavender farmer from Provence, says he lost 44% of his harvest in six years because of climate change. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Maurice Feschet, 72, a lavender farmer from Provence, says he lost 44% of his harvest in six years because of climate change. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Lawyers acting for a group including a French lavender farmer and members of the indigenous Sami community in Sweden have launched legal action against the EU’s institutions for failing to adequately protect them against climate change.

A case is being pursued in the Luxembourg-based general court, Europe’s second highest, against the European parliament and the council of the European Union for allowing overly high greenhouse gas emissions to continue until 2030.

The families, including young children, claim their lives have been blighted by the policy decisions in Brussels, and that the EU’s inadequate emissions targets will cause more suffering.

The legal complaint asserts that the EU’s existing climate target to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, does not protect their fundamental rights of life, health, occupation and property.

The litigants, from Portugal, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Kenya, Fiji, and the Swedish Sami Youth Association Sáminuorra, say the EU should define a higher reduction target.

The claim specifically targets the EU’s emission trading scheme directive, the effort sharing regulation and the land use, land use change and forestry regulation.

The plaintiffs, who are not seeking compensation for their loss, are asking the court to declare the three acts null and void, “since they violate the plaintiff’s rights and are not in line with higher ranking law”.

According to a legal summary of the complaint, to avoid a vacuum, the court will be asked to keep the acts in force until a stronger version of them has been enacted. Lawyers claim there is a case for this in article 263 of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.

In 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut its emissions by at least 25% within five years, ruling that its plans to cut emissions by 14-17% compared with 1990 levels by 2020 were unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The government has appealed the decision, which will be heard in The Hague on Monday.

Maurice Feschet, 72, a lavender farmer in Grignan, Provence, told the Guardianhe became involved in the action against the EU after losing 44% of his harvest in six years because of climate change.

He said: “My family has been farming here since the 1800s. I am taking this action for my 38-year-old son who lives on the farm. We want him to continue to be able to farm, but it is not going to be easy. There must be more done.”

Alfredo Sendim, 52, an organic farmer in central Portugal, said the irregularity of the climate in his area raised serious doubts about the long-term sustainability of his business. He said: “Last year we had almost the entire year without a drop of rain. Then we had two weeks and all the rain that we should have had fell.”

In Sweden, the traditional Sami way of life herding reindeer is said to be under pressure from rising temperatures that threaten the size of herds. Warmer winters mean less snow and more rain freezing into ice, making it harder for the animals to reach the plants they need to eat.

Read more here

Global Ocean Health May 11th fundraiser – join us for oysters, salmon, crab and more aboard the F/V North American

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Join us aboard the F/V North American (as seen on “Deadliest Catch”) for an oyster bar, salmon, crab, beer, wine, and other delicious local foods.  Check out the suite of emissions-reducing, fuel-saving technologies onboard and support National Fisheries Conservation Center’s Global Ocean Health program.

Learn how we’ve enabled local fishermen, seafood businesses, tribes, and coastal communities to modify a proposed carbon pollution law in Washington so it protects abundant waters and gives fishermen a fair deal. Initiative 1631, which will be on statewide ballots in November, would provide carbon revenues to reduce emissions and cope with unavoidable consequences of carbon pollution. It includes funding to enable owners of vessels and vehicles to invest in efficiency-improving technology on vessels and funding to help adapt to and remediate the effects of ocean acidification. Also included are funds to protect healthy forests, watersheds, and resource-dependent communities from climate impacts.

National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program have been part of the waterfront for decades: spreading the word and exploring how to tackle ocean acidification, harmful algal blooms, warming/species shift, and other changing conditions. This is your opportunity to show that work matters to you.

Hear from Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish and Pete Knutson of Loki Fish Co about the work of Global Ocean Health in ensuring that the ocean continues to produce the fish and shellfish we love, for our grandchildren and beyond. Participate in our silent auction and help the organization grow. We hope to see you there!

Buy your tickets at: https://globaloceanhealth.brownpapertickets.com

Opportunities for sponsorship or donation of food or products are available – reply for more information. If you can’t attend but would like to make a tax-deductible donation, visit: http://globaloceanhealth.org/donate/.

Thank you to our Gold Sponsors:

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Thank you for your support — looking forward to seeing you May 11th!

Brad Warren, Director

Julia Sanders, Deputy Director

Special thanks to all our generous in-kind donors: Taylor Shellfish, Grand Central Bakery, Proletariat Wine, 192 Brewing Company, Baywater Shellfish Company, Olympia Oyster Company, Morning Glory Chai, The Central Co-op, Jensen’s Smokehouse, Anne Kroeker and Richard Leeds, Palisade, Chinook’s, Key City Fish, Vicki Sutherland-Horton, Chandler’s Crabhouse, Holly Hughes, Candere Cruising, Alki Kayak Tours, Seattle Theater Group, Jeffrey Kahrs, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Heronswood Gardens, Marche Restaurant, Cynthia Blair, The Old Alcohol Plant, Sleeping Lady Resort, Bellflower Chocolate, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Clipper Vacations, Northwest Outdoor Center, Beacon Charters & RV Park, OceanLink, Claire Oravec, Caffe Appassionato, Vicki and Marc Horton and of course Erling Skaar/GenTech.

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‘One morning we came in and everything was dead’: Climate change and Oregon oysters

 

By Travis Knudsen Wednesday, March 1st 2017, KVAL.com
KVAL oyster pic Whiskey CreekTILLAMOOK, Ore. – The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery is quietly tucked away off the Netarts Bay in Tillamook.

As the state’s only shellfish hatchery, it’s a large part of the oyster industry in the region.

Alan Barton is the Production Manager at Whiskey Creek.

He’s worked there for the past decade and says they play a big part bringing shellfish from ocean to plate.

“We probably produce about a third of all oyster larvae on the West Coast,” says Barton.

In 2007 and 2008, the whole operation was nearly shut down.

Something changed in the waters of Netarts Bay, which Whiskey Creek uses to spawn oysters.

Their output was reduced by nearly 75 percent each year.

A hatchery out of business would have had a substantial impact on the oyster industry.

The Washington Shellfish Initiative estimated that shellfish growers employ, directly and indirectly, more than 3,200 people across the Pacific Northwest with an economic impact around $270 million.

“In these rural areas along the coastline, 3,000 jobs are pretty important,” says Barton. “These are just blue collar guys.”

Initially, Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery staff believed their mass die-offs were caused by biological problems, like foreign bacteria – or the wrong type of algae used for food.

“I remember one morning, we came in and everything was dead, all of it,” says Barton.

“It was our worst day, but also our best day. Because it’s when we realized the problem might be with the water from the bay.”

That is when the hatchery turned to Oregon State University for help.

The Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery believed “ocean acidification,” a byproduct of climate change, was to blame.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) define ocean acidification, or “OA” for short as, “a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.”

In essence, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the more it will sink into the ocean.

Once enough of it gets into the water, it’s chemical makeup changes.

That can have a wide variety of effects on local animals and the ecosystem they live in.

George Waldbusser, Associate Professor at OSU, says ocean acidification is undoubtedly connected to climate change.

“By burning fossil fuels, we’ve increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 30 percent,” he says. “That’s lowered the pH of the ocean — or the acidity of the ocean — by about 30 percent, which shifts the saturation state and makes it harder for organisms to make shells.”

The drop in acid in water is troubling for shellfish.

During the first two weeks of an oyster’s life they are especially sensitive to the level of oxygen and acid in the water.

In high acid events, oyster’s shells deform – and often times they die.

Waldbusser believes conditions will only get harder, not easier on shellfish.

“We know the chemistry will change and these extreme events will get worse and worse. And so periods of time that are easy or good to grow oysters will diminish in time for the hatchery,” he says.

Fortunately, OSU was able to help the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery.

Burke Hales, a professor at OSU, created a way to measure the chemistry of the water used to spawn shellfish.

That allows the hatchery to treat the water and provide a successful growing environment for their oysters.

“With that knowledge,” Hales says, “the Whiskey Creek folks are able to change their operations: the timing of their water pumping, how they condition the water. Now they’re back to almost 100 percent of their pre-crash productivity.”

But Hales believes the current method of overcoming ocean acidification is not a long-term solution.

“Netarts Bay has always had some good times; it’s always had some bad times. But the frequency of the good times is less and the frequency of the bad times is greater. And the bad times are a little bit worse than they used to be,” says Hales.

To combat the problem for the long term researchers at OSU point to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere which causes ocean acidification.

“We have to recognize that fossil fuel emissions are a cause of climate change and ocean acidification. We also have to recognize that we’ve relied on them for a long time and we have to find reasonable transition plans to move away from fossil fuels and into alternative energy,” says Waldbusser.

For Barton at the Whiskey Creeks Shellfish Hatchery, he’s thankful they’ve found a way to overcome the effect the effect carbon dioxide has had on the ocean.

“If we had not figured out what ocean acidification was doing to this hatchery we would for sure be out of business,” he says.

However, he is not confident their current techniques for treating the water will sustain them forever.

“The short term prospects are pretty good. But within the next couple of decades we’re going to cross a line I don’t think we’re going to be able to come back from,” he says. “A lot of people have the luxury of being skeptics about climate change and ocean acidification. But we don’t have that choice. If we don’t change the chemistry of the water going into our tanks, we’ll be out of business. It’s that simple for us.”

Originally published here