Climate: Conservation group tries new path to limiting CO2 emissions

Increasingly corrosive ocean waters pose a serious threat to shell-building species and other marine life.

‘Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing the growing threat to the world’s oceans, environmental advocates want the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The regulations have been used to limit emissions of other harmful chemicals, including chlorofluorocarbons, PCBs and asbestos.

“Time’s running out to avoid a mass extinction of wildlife in our oceans,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It may not look like a toxic chemical, but when there’s too much CO2 in the ocean, it turns seawater corrosive and dissolves the protective shells that marine animals need to survive,” Sakashita said.

The oceans absorb more than 22 million tons of CO2 each day. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, oceans acidity has increased by 30 percent. Scientists have already documented the harm to marine organisms, including oyster larvae, corals and shellfish. A study released earlier this month warned that acidification could reach critical levels in parts of the Arctic Ocean within a few decades.

The petition filed this week by the Center for Biological Diversity and former EPA scientist Dr. Donn Viviani asks the EPA to regulate CO2 as a substance that presents an unreasonable risk to the environment.

According to the petition, the novel approach to regulating CO2 could complement other efforts to reduce the CO2 emissions that are contributing to ocean acidification.

“We’re asking the EPA to prevent ocean acidification now by regulating CO2 emissions under the same law that helped reduce the chlorofluorocarbons that were causing the ozone hole. We’ve solved big environmental problems before and our petition shows the EPA a path to take bold action and leadership to save our oceans,” Dr. Viviani said.

Under the Act the EPA has broad authority to require polluters to reduce emissions, keep records, sequester or take back chemicals produced. There are many industries that are not achieving the greatest CO2 reductions available through energy conservation and existing technology, and EPA action under this landmark law could implement many cost-effective CO2 reductions.

“Future generations will look back and wonder why we didn’t do everything we could to save the world’s oceans,” Sakashita said. “Failure to act is a decision to let our sea life die off and disappear. We can’t let that happen.”


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