Ocean heat waves like the Pacific’s deadly ‘Blob’ could become the new normal


A fin whale found on an Alaskan beach in 2015 might have been among the victims of The Blob. BREE WITTEVEEN

ScienceMag.org By Warren Cornwall, January 21st, 2019

When marine biologist Steve Barbeaux first saw the data in late 2017, he thought it was the result of a computer glitch. How else could more than 100 million Pacific cod suddenly vanish from the waters off of southern Alaska?

Within hours, however, Barbeaux’s colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, Washington, had confirmed the numbers. No glitch. The data, collected by research trawlers, indicated cod numbers had plunged by 70% in 2 years, essentially erasing a fishery worth $100 million annually. There was no evidence that the fish had simply moved elsewhere. And as the vast scale of the disappearance became clear, a prime suspect emerged: “The Blob.”

In late 2013, a huge patch of unusually warm ocean water, roughly one-third the size of the contiguous United States, formed in the Gulf of Alaska and began to spread. A few months later, Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle, dubbed it The Blob. The name, with its echo of a 1958 horror film about an alien life form that keeps growing as it consumes everything in its path, quickly caught on. By the summer of 2015, The Blob had more than doubled in size, stretching across more than 4 million square kilometers of ocean, from Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Water temperatures reached 2.5°C above normal in many places.

By late 2016, the marine heat wave had crashed across ecosystems all along North America’s western coast, reshuffling food chains and wreaking havoc. Unusual blooms of toxic algae appeared, as did sea creatures typically found closer to the tropics (see sidebar). Small fish and crustaceans hunted by larger animals vanished. The carcasses of tens of thousands of seabirds littered beaches. Whales failed to arrive in their usual summer waters. Then the cod disappeared.

The fish “basically ran out of food,” Barbeaux now believes. Once, he didn’t think a food shortage would have much effect on adult cod, which, like camels, can harbor energy and go months without eating. But now, it is “something we look at and go: ‘Huh, that can happen.’”

Today, 5 years after The Blob appeared, the waters it once gripped have cooled, although fish, bird, and whale numbers have yet to recover. Climate scientists and marine biologists, meanwhile, are still putting together the story of what triggered the event, and how it reverberated through ecosystems. Their interest is not just historical.

Around the world, shifting climate and ocean circulation patterns are causing huge patches of unusually warm water to become more common, researchers have found. Already, ominous new warm patches are emerging in the North Pacific Ocean and elsewhere, and researchers are applying what they’ve learned from The Blob to help guide predictions of how future marine heat waves might unfold. If global warming isn’t curbed, scientists warn that the heat waves will become more frequent, larger, more intense, and longerlasting. By the end of the century, Bond says, “The ocean is going to be a much different place.”

More about the potential effects of ocean waves here

To curb climate change, we have to suck carbon from the sky. But how?

Once considered a distraction, scientists now say using technology—and nature—to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is not only possible: It’s a must.

By Craig Welch, January 17th, 2019, nationalgeographic.com

At McCarty Family Farms, headquartered in sun-blasted northwest Kansas, fields rarely sit empty any more. In a drive to be more sustainable, the family dairy still grows corn, sorghum, and alfalfa, but now often sows the bare ground between harvests with wheat and daikon. The wheat gets fed to livestock. The radishes, with their penetrating roots, break up the hard-packed surface and then, instead of being harvested, are allowed to die and enrich the soil.

Like all plants, cereal grains and root vegetables feed on carbon dioxide. In 2017, according to a third-party auditplanting cover crops on land that once sat empty helped the McCarty farms in Kansas and Nebraska pull 6,922 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil across some 12,300 acres—as much as could have been stored by 7,300 acres of forest. Put another way: The farm soil had sucked up the emissions of more than 1,300 cars.

“We always knew we were having a sizable impact, but to have empirical numbers of that size is inspiring to say the least,” says Ken McCarty, who runs the farms with his three brothers.

Moves like this are among a host of often overlooked steps that scientists now say are crucial to limiting the worst impacts of climate change.

From planting more trees and restoring grasslands to using sophisticated machines with fans and filters to capture CO2 from ambient air, these far-ranging steps are all aimed at one thing: Sucking greenhouse gases from the sky.

The machines to do that are still cumbersome and expensive. But managing forests and grasslands and farms with an eye toward atmospheric carbon removal is often a matter of doing what we already know how to do, only better.

“We know how to deal with forests; we know how to store carbon in soil,” says Richard Birdsey at Woods Hole Research Center. “These are strategies that are ready right now—things that can basically be deployed immediately.”

A study last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by a team from The Nature Conservancy suggests that the right incentives could drive the world to get up to a third of the carbon reductions it needs by 2030 simply by using nature better.

Read more about carbon capture

Trump OKs Seismic Tests for Oil in Atlantic

The surveys, which haven’t been conducted in decades, are criticized by environmentalists as extremely harmful to marine life.

By Alan Neuhauser, The Atlantic, November 30th, 2018

ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS slammed the Trump administration’s announcement Friday that it plans to allow oil-seeking seismic surveys across an enormous swath of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in decades, saying the tests will take a massive toll on ocean wildlife.

The move, which would allow five companies to conduct the tests in waters spanning Delaware to Florida, marks the most significant step since the 1970s to open the Atlantic to drilling, although several steps remain before such production might begin.

“What’s exceptional is to see five companies all covering a region at this scale at the same time. It reflects a gold rush mentality,” says Michael Jasny, director of the Marine Mammal Protection Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Seismic surveys are believed to be particularly harmful to marine life. The tests involve repeatedly blasting deafening booms underwater, often seconds apart for months at a time. Whales and dolphins, as well other underwater creatures, have especially sensitive hearing, and environmentalists fear the tests will injure or kill thousands of the mammals as well as fishes.

“Seismic airgun blasting would harm marine mammals and threaten fishing, and it is a precursor to drilling that coastal communities strongly oppose,” Alex Taurel, director of the conservation program at the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “Rather than setting our shores on the path to dirty and dangerous drilling, we should be investing in our nation’s clean energy economy.”

The move by the Trump administration Friday inherently acknowledges the harm that environmentalists fear. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued what’s known as an “incidental take” permit, which allows companies to injure even endangered and threatened wildlife while engaging in activities such as seismic surveys.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department, still needs to issue its own permits before the tests can begin, but the agency’s acting director told Congress earlier this year that he would expect to greenlight the surveys as soon as two weeks after the approval from the Fisheries Service. A legal expert for one environmental group called is “a fait accompli.”

Read more here.

In Memory of Dr. Brock B. Bernstein

A Tribute to a Great Mind

Dr. Brock B. Bernstein served as President of the Board of the National Fisheries Conservation Center (the parent organization of the Global Ocean Health program) for 25 years. A marine ecologist and oceanographer, Brock was a sought-after facilitator in efforts to tackle complex marine science and policy problems.

Suzanne Iudicello, another founding board member, recalls: “Brock was not just brilliant in rare and breathtaking ways, across disciplines, interests, and sectors. He was magical in that he could call forth knowledge, analysis, empathy, and insight in everyone around him. The world, especially the ocean, is better because of Brock.”

Brock’s crowning accomplishments were collaborative efforts that transformed the way scientists and agencies monitor the health of waters: instead of isolated studies of narrow patches of coast, he successfully cajoled, inspired and taught researchers to link efforts in order to answer bigger questions that urgently confront us all: Can these waters keep making abundant seafood and life? Is it safe to swim? Is it safe to drink? He drew scientists, policy leaders, fishermen, and even surfers together to forge robust and reliable systems for prioritizing and tackling the really important problems first. The results: cleaner and more abundant waters, and stronger stewardship of coastal and marine resources.

In honor of Brock’s work, we founded the Brock Bernstein Memorial Fund for the Oceans in May 2018, to honor our friend, colleague, and founding member who passed away in January of that year. The fund will support the mission of NFCC’s flagship Global Ocean health program: to protect seafood at the source. The fund allows us the freedom to pursue projects and opportunities we otherwise couldn’t.

Brock leaves behind a wife and two children, as well as innumerable colleagues and friends. He was a treasured member of our team and we will continue to honor his example of kind, patient, and wise collaborative problem-solving.

— the team at National Fisheries Conservation Center

Washington Tribes Support Initiative 1631

Washington tribal leaders released a series of videos endorsing initiative 1631. Tribes were integral in crafting the initiative to ensure it works well for rural and resource-dependent communities. They brought their wisdom and their muscle to the table and really improved the final result.

Yes on 1631. Protect fishing towns, fight pollution, cut fuel bills

By Mike Cassinelli

Last fall I advocated steps to improve a proposed statewide initiative to cut carbon pollution—making it work better for rural, resource-dependent communities like Ilwaco. Now I’m proud to report that we got the improvements we needed. I’m supporting Initiative 1631.

As a charter fishing operator, and former mayor of Ilwaco, I know we have a lot at stake. Fishing communities like ours can’t afford to be left behind by a policy to protect healthy resources and build stronger, cleaner local economies.  We need a policy that cuts pollution while keeping our fuel costs under control and growing jobs here at home. That’s what we got with Initiative 1631, contrary to the scare stories from the oil industry.

What’s at stake for us? Let’s start on the docks. Our fisheries are being eroded by ocean acidification and climate impacts: overheated waters killing salmon, toxic algae closing crab and shellfish harvests, plankton dissolving before fish can eat them. Here in Ilwaco, fishing is the backbone of our economy. As the old saying says: “No fish, no fishermen.”

Now look at the tab we already pay for climate damage. As taxpayers and bill payers, we are on the hook for out-of-control costs caused by climate-related disasters. Wildfires alone cost Washington state $1 billion since 2014, thanks to hotter summers and droughts along with poor fuel management practices. NOAA tells us climate-related disasters have cost Americans $1.5 trillion since 1980.

That’s about $10,000 for every taxpaying American‚ and it rises every year. Most of us in Ilwaco don’t have an extra $10,000 to fix preventable damage.

If voters pass Initiative 1631 on November 6, we’re protecting our wallets, not just our fisheries. Even if you don’t eat fish, you still buy fuel. In fact, the average household in Washington spends more than $5,000 a year on fuel, mostly for our vehicles. This initiative will help us invest in fuel efficiency and clean energy so we can buy less gas, oil, and coal.

Let’s be frank. The oil industry has spent $30 million to scare and confuse citizens about this initiative because they know it will help us buy less fuel.

They claim the money from the carbon fee will be wasted. That’s bunk and they know it. If they weren’t convinced it would work, they wouldn’t be spending the largest sum in Washington history to blitz our TVs, Facebook feeds and mailboxes with misleading claims.

How do they know we’ll buy less fuel? That’s what happened in other states that adopted similar policies.

Just like I-1631 would do, nine states on the East Coast already put a price on carbon emissions and invest most of the proceeds to increase fuel efficiency and clean energy supplies. Those folks avoided buying $1.37 billion worth of imported fossil fuels over the last three years. They added 14,500 jobs building a cleaner economy. And since they started in 2009, the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cut their targeted emissions by more than 50 percent.

This initiative will benefit rural, resource-dependent people. It took some arm-twisting, and a lot of the credit goes to our friends in Washington tribes. They negotiated with the initiative authors, insisting on improvements in the plan, and they embraced most of the key provisions I suggested. The resulting initiative language isn’t light reading, but it protects our hard-earned dollars, our working lands, and our productive waters.

Among the improvements we won:

Deep emission cuts. The initiative now is designed to achieve Washington’s emission targets. We pushed to focus carbon-revenue investments so they deliver. We depend on healthy marine resources, so we need a credible policy to protect them. This policy will enable Washington citizens to do our part, working with dozens of states and nations that are already doing theirs.

Protecting rural communities.  The initiative provides money to deal with wildfires, floods, ocean acidification, and other carbon-pollution impacts. Farmers, foresters, and estuary restoration teams can get paid to sequester carbon in soil, trees, and wetlands. And at least 35% of the investments are reserved for vulnerable, low-income communities (like Ilwaco) where the impacts and risks are greatest.

Fuel efficiency in vehicles and vessels. Some climate activists want everyone to “go electric,” but that’s still impractical in many places. We prevailed here by observing that there is still no Tesla to catch our fish, and we still need diesel to haul logs, crops and seafood. But we can burn a lot less fuel with simple efficiency retrofits that this initiative could help fund. A Hytech Power system boosts diesel efficiency, saving 20% or more. A GenTech generator saves 80% of the fuel needed to produce power for refrigeration and equipment on a working boat. A Fitch fuel catalyst boosts gas or diesel efficiency by about 2-7%.

Accountability. The initiative creates a carbon fee, not a tax. That means the money can’t be diverted to unrelated pet projects. By law, fee revenue must be used for the purpose it was raised to address. The investments are already allocated: to reduce pollution (70%), to support climate adaptation and resilience in our forests and waters (25%), and to help people cope with wildfires, floods, and other impacts of climate change (5%). A slice of the pollution-reduction money is reserved to help fossil fuel workers transition to other jobs.

Keep costs low. Investing carbon revenues in efficiency and clean energy helps keep the cost down by reducing fuel consumption, saving us money. Since their price-and-invest system started in 2009, ratepayers in the RGGI states have saved $1.56 billion on fuel they no longer need.

It isn’t every day we get a chance to tackle tough environmental problems while growing jobs and saving money. Initiative 1631 is the real deal. Let’s get this done.

Mike Cassinelli owns and operates Beacon Charters, and is the former mayor of Ilwaco, Washington.

Fight Pollution, Cut the Oil Boy’s Allowance: Pass I-1631, say Fishermen

Nov 2, 2018

By Brad Warren, Erling Skaar, Jeff Stonehill, Amy Grondin, Jeb Wyman, Pete Knutson, and Larry Soriano

Erling Skaar with the F/V North American

As voters consider a November 6 ballot measure to cut carbon pollution in Washington state, you might not expect fishermen and marine suppliers to defend an initiative that big oil—in a tsunami of misleading ads—claims will drive up fuel bills and achieve nothing.

Nice try, oil boys. Keep huffing. Initiative 1631 is our best shot to protect both our wallets and the waters that feed us all. We’re voting yes.

We depend on fisheries, so we need an ocean that keeps making fish. That requires deep cuts in carbon emissions. And yes, we burn a lot of fuel to harvest seafood and bring it to market—so we need affordable energy. Washington’s Initiative 1631 provides the tools to deliver both.

Carbon emissions are already damaging the seafood industry in Washington and beyond. This pollution heats our rivers and oceans and it acidifies seawater. These changes drive an epidemic of harvest closures, fish and shellfish die-offs, even dissolving plankton. Pollution is unraveling marine foodwebs that sustain both wild capture and aquaculture harvests—jeopardizing dinner for more than 3 billion people worldwide. Today Washington’s endangered resident orca whales are starving for lack of Chinook salmon. To us, that’s a sobering sign: No one catches fish better than an orca.

We are not amateurs or do-gooders. We are Washington residents who have built careers and businesses in fisheries. Several of us come from families that have worked the sea for generations. All of us have benefited from our region’s strict and sustainable harvest management regimes.

Our legacies and our livelihoods are being eroded by the ocean consequences of carbon emissions. Even the best-managed fisheries cannot long withstand this corrosion. Knowing this, we have done our homework. We opposed an ineffective and costly carbon tax proposed two years ago in Washington. We did not lightly endorse Initiative 1631. We pushed hard to improve it first.

We like the result. The initiative charges a fee on carbon pollution, then invests the money to “help people become the solution.” That is a proven recipe for cutting emissions and building a stronger, cleaner economy.

In the Nov. 6 election, Washington citizens have a chance to face down the oil lobby that has stifled progress on carbon emissions for many years. But we cannot watch silently as some of our neighbors fall under the $31 million blitz of fear-mongering ads that oil has unleashed to fight this measure. We know and respect people in the oil industry. But they are not playing straight this time.

Here we refute their misleading claims.

MYTH: Oil pays, but other polluters are unfairly exempted

REALITY: A fee on all heavy industries would kill jobs, exporting pollution instead of cutting it

If you want to cut pollution, it pays to aim. Targeting carbon prices where they work—not where they flop—is necessary to reduce pollution and build a stronger, cleaner economy. That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

For some key industries, a price on carbon emissions kills jobs without cutting pollution. That’s what happens to aircraft manufacturers, or concrete, steel and aluminum makers. They use lots of energy and face out-of-state competitors (I-1631 Sec. 8). Suppose we slap a carbon fee on them as the oil boys pretend to want. Sure enough, their competition promptly seizes their markets and their jobs, and factories flee the state. Way to go, oil boys! You left pollution untouched, and you crushed thousands of good Washington jobs!

By waiving the fee for vital but vulnerable industries, Initiative 1631 keeps jobs and manufacturing here in Washington. The initiative helps these companies reduce emissions over time, just as it does for the rest of us. In fact, it even reserves funds for retraining and assistance so fossil-fuel workers can transition to new careers. That could become necessary as the state migrates from dirty fuels to a cleaner, more efficient economy (Sec 4,(5)).

In a clean-energy future, Washington will still need local manufacturing and basic materials. Keeping these businesses here allows the rest of us to buy from local producers, instead of paying (and polluting) more to haul those goods back to Washington.

The oil boys also whine about Washington’s last coal plant, in Centralia. It is exempt from the fee because it is scheduled to close by 2025 under a legal agreement. Why shoot a dead man?

MYTH: This is an unfair tax on low-income families.

REALITY: The poor get help to cut fuel and energy bills.

Initiative 1631 provides both the mandate and the means to avoid raising energy costs for lower income people. Carbon revenues fund energy efficiency and more clean power—permanently reducing fuel consumption. The measure reserves 35% of all investments to benefit vulnerable, low-income communities (Sec 3, (5)(a)) —ensuring a fair share for those of modest means. It also funds direct bill assistance where needed to prevent unfair energy burdens on those who can least afford it (Sec 4, (4)(a)).

MYTH: The fee would burden businesses and households

REALITY: I-1631 will cut fuel bills by boosting efficiency, clean energy

Despite the scaremongering from oil companies, consumers and businesses are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in states that have policies like I-1631. How? Carbon revenues fund more clean energy and fuel-saving improvements (such as heat pumps, solar and wind power, and fuel efficiency retrofits). That’s what 1631 will provide in WA. These investments reduce fuel bills. Even the big oil companies use internal carbon pricing, as do hundreds of major corporations. Their internal prices drive energy efficiency and lower emissions in their own operations, cutting their costs; they also help position the firms to thrive in a carbon-constrained world. If this didn’t pay, big oil wouldn’t do it. Big oil producers like Exxon hate spending money on fuel they don’t need to burn. They just don’t want the rest of us to have the same tool.

Nine East Coast states are using carbon revenues to cut both their fuel bills and their emissions. Their Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) helped them avoid spending $1.37 billion on imported fuel in the last 3 years alone.  If refineries do pass along Washington’s fee to consumers (as we expect), households and drivers here will still reap the same kind of benefits as ratepayers back East: efficiency and clean energy investments funded by the fee will reduce our energy bills. A heat pump alone can cut home heating costs by half to two thirds. The fee starts in 2020 at less than 5% of today’s gasoline prices, and rises to about 13% by 2030. Fuel efficiency investments help protect people who still need fuel-burning trucks and vehicles: you can’t haul timber or fish to market with a bus pass. For those who cannot switch to transit, electric vehicles, or low-carbon fuels, the initiative funds fuel efficiency improvements (Sec 4, (1)(d)(iii)). The resulting fuel savings can easily outpace the cost of the fee. One example: HyTech Power, in Redmond, sells a system that increases combustion efficiency in large diesel engines, saving at least 20%. This retrofit alone (one of many proven options) could save diesel users more than the future cost of the carbon fee projected by its opponents.

MYTH: I-1631 is an unproven policy.

REALITY: Price-and-invest policies are clobbering pollution in other states.

Pete Knutson with the F/V Loki

Carbon price-and-invest policies are delivering strong results worldwide. Here in the US, a price-and-invest policy helped California cut emissions enough to surpass its 2020 goals back in 2016—four years early. The East Coast states in the RGGI price-and-invest system have reduced their emissions by 50% since 2009, far surpassing their goal. By cutting harmful pollution, the multi-state RGGI program avoided $5.7 billion worth of healthcare costs and associated productivity losses, saving hundreds of lives. From Maryland to Maine, the RGGI program generated 14,500 job-years of employment and net economic benefit of $1.4 billion during 2015-2017 alone. This program saved ratepayers more than $220 million (net) on energy bills over the last three years. The nine RGGI states achieve this by committing 70% of their carbon revenues—about the same as I-1631—to increase efficiency and clean energy. That’s a recipe for success.

MYTH: 1631 lacks oversight, will waste money.

REALITY: Accountability and oversight are robust.

Accountability is built into this initiative from the ground up, starting with the revenue mechanism: It is a fee not a tax, so the money can’t be diverted. By law, fee revenues must be spent addressing the problem the fee is meant to tackle—in this case reducing carbon pollution and its many costly consequences in Washington. That means no pet projects, and no sweeping money into the general fund.

All investments must earn approval from a 15-member public board that includes experts in relevant technology and science, along with business, health, and community and tribal leaders (Sec. 11). The legislature and board will periodically audit the process to ensure effectiveness (sec. 12).

The oversight panel is deliberately designed to hold state agencies accountable. Washington treaty Indian tribes—who both distrust and respect the agencies— insisted that public members must hold more votes than bureaucrats, who get only four voting seats (Sec. 11 (5)). That power balance restrains the agencies’ ability to grab funds, yet it ensures the panel can tap their genuine expertise. To lead the oversight board, a strong chairman has an independent staff within the governor’s office. This provides the spine and staff power needed to ride herd on agencies and lead a crosscutting mission to combat climate change—a task that spans authorities and talents found throughout the state government.

A word about wasting money: If the oil boys honestly believed 1631 would waste our money, they wouldn’t fear it. They condemn the fee, but we know the price doesn’t worry them, since they use carbon prices themselves. They have poured more than $31 million into fighting 1631—the most expensive initiative campaign in Washington history—for one simple reason: The money will help the rest of us buy less fuel. Pity the oil boys. By passing this initiative, voters can cut their allowance.

Let’s do it.

Note: The authors are Puget Sound-based fishermen, marine suppliers, and policy leaders.

Fishing Industry Businesses Endorse I-1631

FOR IMMEDIATE GENERAL RELEASE:

October 23, 2018

To whom it may concern:

Erling Skaar with his Bering Sea crab vessel the F/V North American. It’s outfitted with his GenTech system, allowing it to operate with far lower emissions and fuel costs than similar vessels.

We write today to announce our support for Washington’s Initiative 1631. As businesses who rely on healthy fisheries for a significant portion of our income, we believe this is a well-designed policy that offers us – and our customers – the best possible chance against an uncertain future fraught with the threats of changing ocean conditions.

It’s become clear that our fisheries need a lifeline. Here in Washington, we are experiencing the worst ocean acidification anywhere in the world. Research has firmly established the cause of this problem: emissions from burning coal, oil and gas mix into the ocean, altering its chemistry. The consequences loomed into headlines a decade ago when the oyster industry lost millions and nearly went out of business during the oyster seed crisis. Temporary and limited adaptation measures in hatcheries are keeping them in business, but in the rest of the oceans, fisheries that put dinner on billions of tables are at risk. Here in the Northwest, harvests are already being eroded and even shut down by the effects of unchecked carbon emissions.

The “warm blob,” an unprecedented marine heatwave off the West Coast, reached its height in 2015 and caused mass fatalities. In the Columbia River, a quarter million salmon died. The largest recorded toxic algae bloom shut down the Dungeness crab fishery for months. The food web crashed, and marine creatures were spotted farther north than ever before. Sea surface temperatures never returned to their previous norm, and new research indicates another blob is forming.

Summers have become synonymous with a smoky haze from wildfires causing poor visibility and poor health – this summer the National Weather Service warned even healthy adults in some Washington areas to stay indoors due to hazardous air quality. At the same time, our iconic Orca whales are starving from a lack of Chinook salmon. The Chinook in turn are suffering from a lack of the zooplankton that juveniles eat.

Research has made it clear that some of our most lucrative fisheries are vulnerable to ocean acidification: king crab, Dungeness crab, and salmon. Scientists also warm that combining stressors – like warming with ocean acidification – makes survival in the ocean all the more precarious.

We studied to understand how to protect our businesses and the natural resources we rely on. The answer was clear: reduce carbon emissions. Reduce them now, and reduce them as quickly as possible.

This is where I-1631 comes in. This fee on carbon, which starts at $15/ton and rises by $2/year, will raise around a billion dollars a year. That revenue will be spent on clean energy projects, energy efficiency, and climate resiliency. Fisheries and ocean acidification projects are specifically included as priority investments.

Maritime fuels will be exempt, so struggling fishing vessel operators won’t pay any additional cost for their fuel. However, they will still qualify for energy efficiency funding. Many of our businesses offer technologies that greatly increase efficiency: sometimes by more than 50%. But over and over, we hear from our customers that despite the obvious advantages and quick return on investment, they simply don’t have the capital to invest in energy efficiency. A billion dollars a year, every year, would provide unprecedented access to that sorely needed capital. Businesses and fleets of vessels or trucks would reap the savings in energy costs, and our environment would reap the benefits of lowered carbon emissions. It’s an obvious win-win.

The fee will likely add about $.14/gallon to the cost of diesel for road transportation, and other energy costs will rise a bit too. But the additional cost could be eliminated by just a 5% increase in efficiency in year one; even in year ten, a 14% increase in efficiency would more than pay the fee. Such efficiency gains are easily achievable with existing technology. Fleets of vessels could be outfitted with more efficient engines or generators, processing facilities could receive grants for more energy efficient refrigeration systems or boilers.

The initiative will also fund work to prevent and mitigate wildfires, flooding, and other extreme weather events, and research to understand the threats to fisheries and investigate mitigation methods.

And the truth is, we’re already paying much more for climate change than I-1631’s fee will cost. We don’t just pay in harvest closures, reduced catches, and lost jobs. We get stuck with an out-of-control tab for the impacts of carbon pollution through our taxes and insurance bills.  Since 1980, the US economy has already endured climate disaster costs of more than $1.5 trillion, according to NOAA. That works out to nearly $10,000 for each individual taxpayer. And those costs are rising. In 2017, NOAA reckons that extreme weather disasters rang up a $306 billion bill in the US. That’s another $2,000 a year on each of us who do the work and pay the bills around here.

In Washington alone, the $1 billion in wildfire response cost since 2014 adds up to a cost of $371 per household. Enough already. I-1631 will combat these threats. Washington will join a global network of price-and-invest policies with a proven track record of improving economies, creating jobs, decreasing health costs, and dramatically reducing emissions. The initiative protects critical Washington industries that can’t afford an added fee, and ensures that low-income households bear no additional burden. It gives tribes and rural communities their due, and because it’s a fee rather than a tax, the funds can never be diverted for other uses: not for the general fund, not for pet projects. The revenue can only be used for emissions reductions and climate resiliency.

Along with a diverse coalition including labor, tribes, physicians, and environment and science experts, I-1631 is also supported by major Washington businesses. Vigor, Microsoft, Expedia, Virginia Mason, MacDonald Miller, and REI are just a handful of the biggest endorsers. We proudly add our names to theirs, and ask other businesses to join us.

For more information contact the Working Group on Seafood and Energy at info@globaloceanhealth.org.

Sincerely,

Erling Skaar
F/V North American and GenTech Global

Pete Knutson
Loki Fish Co

Matt Marinkovich
Matt’s Fresh Fish

Amy Grondin
Duna Fisheries

Greg Friedrichs
F/V Arminta

Mike Cassinelli
Beacon Charters

Lars Matthiesen
Highland Refrigeration

Bob Allen
MER Equipment

Larry Soriano
Alaska Ship Supply

Robert Loe
Robert Loe & Associates

Business, taxpayers save money with Initiative 1631. Vote yes.

This commentary originally appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal 

By Jeff Stonehill

Over decades running Alaska fishing and Seattle construction businesses, my crew and I burned a lot of fuel. Ironically, our livelihood came from fish stocks and forests that now are choking on the fumes from burning fuel. The costs of carbon emissions were hidden in the past, but they’re coming home to roost.

Pollution has become a fast-expanding hole in our wallets. As taxpayers, we pay billions to fight wildfires, floods, droughts, and a roster of other troubles that are either caused or amplified by carbon emissions from all that fuel we burn.

We can mend this hole by passing Initiative 1631 on November 6. This initiative applies a proven recipe for cutting pollution, reducing fuel consumption, and goosing economic growth. It’s called “price-and-invest” emissions policy: Put a modest price on carbon pollution, then invest the money to help people boost fuel efficiency, clean energy, and resilience against the consequences of pollution.

Don’t want your tax dollars wasted? Me neither. Wildfires are burning our money today—aggravated by climate-amplified heat and drought, along with poor fuel-management practices. Over the last five years, fighting the new wave of “megafires” cost Washington $1 billion, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Climate-intensified floods, hurricanes and rising seas aren’t free either. Our US tax dollars are bailing out a federal flood insurance system that was swimming in $30 billion of red ink by 2017.

That doesn’t even count the cost of degrading the natural resources that gave my family a good living. Cutting pollution will help control the growing damage to our fisheries, our forests, and our snow-fed water supplies. Seafood alone supports nearly 61,000 jobs in Washington. Wood products support 101,000 jobs. Nearly 200,000 depend on outdoor recreation.

Climate impacts and ocean acidification are undermining these jobs today. Puget Sound’s unraveling foodweb is forcing drastic measures to protect dwindling Chinook salmon and endangered resident orca whales that feed on them. Chinook salmon are dying within weeks after entering saltwater. Massive blooms of toxic algae are thriving in warm, carbon-acidified seawater, displacing healthy prey species that sustain our fish stocks. These toxic algae are undermining coastal tourism and fishing businesses by forcing health authorities to shut down razor clam and Dungeness crab harvests.

Tired of paying the tab for unnecessary pollution? Me too. Thankfully, we can prosper by cutting the emissions behind these problems. Other states are already doing it successfully.

Despite the fear-mongering claims in oil-funded TV ads, other states have demonstrated that cutting carbon pollution with policies like Initiative 1631 saves money and strengthens the economy.

On the East Coast, businesses and consumers saved $1 billion through efficiency and clean power funded by revenue from a carbon price over the last three years. Nine states from Maine to Maryland share a regional price-and-invest policy to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Instead of buying ever more imported fossil fuels, they kept $1 billion in their wallets.

Those same states reduced regulated emissions by more than 50% over the last nine years. Their efficiency and clean energy projects generated tens of thousands of new jobs, and added billions of dollars to their economy. They did it by investing carbon revenues to build a cleaner economy.

A key ingredient here is common sense. If we raise revenues to solve a problem, that’s what we should use those revenues for.  That’s what Initiative 1631 does.

Accountability matters. This measure proposes a carbon fee, not a tax.  That legal distinction keeps stray hands out of the till: Fee revenue can only be used for the purposes it is raised for. No unrelated pet projects allowed.

Under 1631, investments of carbon revenue will be dedicated to reduce GHG emissions (70%), to build climate resilience in waters and lands at the front lines of climate impacts (25%), and to help communities cope with impacts of climate change like wildfire, flooding, and the need to educate kids so they can deal with the problem (5%). About one twentieth of the money for pollution reduction is reserved to help fossil fuel employees transition to other work as demand for fossil fuels drops.

This initiative is not a retread of the “carbon tax” measure that voters rejected in 2016.  That year, some climate advocates promoted a wasteful and ineffective measure to tax carbon emissions and then give away the money in business tax breaks and “rebates” for low-income people. That might feel good, but it doesn’t do much to reduce pollution, and it doesn’t deliver the savings or the jobs we can get from this year’s stronger, smarter policy.

Come November 6, we have a chance to put our money to work where it delivers. Vote for Initiative 1631.

BIO: Jeff Stonehill ran a commercial salmon fishing business in Alaska for 20 years, and a construction business in Seattle for 15. He participates in the Working Group on Seafood and Energy, which supplied information for this article.

Note: Global Ocean Health and the Working Group on Seafood and Energy provided assistance with this piece

Brad Warren speaks about climate change, seafood, and initiative 1631

National Fisheries Conservation Center and its Global Ocean Health program’s Executive Director Brad Warren speaks on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross about ensuring initiative 1631 provides a fair solution for working lands and working waters, as well as rural communities. He tackles some of the most common opposing viewpoints and shares why price-and-invest policies like 1631 are the ones that work best. Interview starts at 12:47. Or, to listen directly from the start of his interview, click here.