Opinion: California lawmakers must take action to tackle climate crisis
The climate crisis is more urgent than ever, and California’s lack of action is not helping.
Over the past century, ocean surface temperatures have increased an average of 0.13 degrees Celsius each decade. This rise in temperature is the result of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the 1970s, and 93% of this excess heat was absorbed by the ocean, according to to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In addition to this, ocean acidification, a process that occurs when atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in water, is also affecting the oceans at an increasingly alarming rate.
These two effects of climate change on the ocean are interconnected and have disturbing effects. A recent UCLA Study found that higher water temperatures weaken the resilience of reef-building corals against the effects of ocean acidification.
Despite the focus of this research on tropical coral reefs, his discoveries still touch close to home in California. Ocean acidification affects many species which, like coral, depend on calcification for survival. Many of these organisms, such as coccolithophores and crustaceans, live off the coast of California.
In order to tackle the global problems of rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, California lawmakers must adopt concrete policies to limit carbon emissions into the atmosphere. In doing so, they will also help solve many other serious problems caused by the climate crisis.
Inaction on climate issues is no longer an option.
California can take small steps to slow ocean acidification. For example, California can fund efforts to limit the effects of already dissolved carbon in its ocean waters.
One way to do this is by sequestering blue carbon, transplanting more carbon-absorbing plants into the ocean to soak up the dissolved carbon dioxide before it harms the calcifying fauna, said student George Shenusay. in fourth year in environmental sciences and in Japanese project manager at Bruin Home Solutions.
“In the same way that trees take in carbon dioxide and give us oxygen, so do things like kelp and algae,” Shenusay said. “Underwater plants absorb this carbon before it leaves and degrade the shells of crabs, mussels and other crustaceans. “
However, to bring about lasting preventive change, the state must also address the problem of ocean acidification at its source – carbon dioxide emissions. Although California remains as part of its 2020 carbon emissions target limit of 431 million metric tonnes – likely a statistic influenced by the pandemic – emissions must be further reduced as the state rolls out its reopening initiatives.
“We really need to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere,” said Daniele Bianchi, assistant professor of atmospheric and ocean sciences. “This will reverse the trend of ocean acidification.”
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions would not only help correct the problems of rising temperature and ocean acidification, but many other climate-related problems as well. natural disasters.
Wildfires, which are all too familiar to many UCLA students and Angelenos, are just one example.
The increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has exacerbated global warming, prolonging the hot and windy California wildfire season. And, in turn, forest fires release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which can lead to ocean acidification. Mitigation and prevention policies are essential to avoid the cumulative effects of climate change.
“We are facing a big problem that needs a big solution, and we need this solution ASAP,” said Prabhdeep Rai, a fourth-year history student who directs California Public Interest Research Group at UCLA’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy in California by 2030. “We need to turn our economy to 100% clean energy as quickly as possible. “
Research universities like UCLA can help guide state actions when implementing solutions to environmental problems. Work like the recent UCLA study on ocean acidification provides clear outlines of environmental problems and their causes, which can be instrumental for government officials when creating environmental policy.
“You need solid science to then convince the public and convince lawmakers that this is a problem that needs to be solved,” Bianchi said.
It is true that rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and increasing carbon dioxide emissions are global problems requiring international solutions. That still doesn’t excuse California for doing its part to tackle climate change – and so far it has. For example, Governor Newsom has already issued Executive Decree N-79-20, calling for the sale of zero-emission vehicles only by 2035, and Executive Decree N-82-20, creating the goal of keeping at less 30% of the California coast. by 2030.
But these actions alone will not be enough to reverse the effects of increased carbon dioxide.
However, California has always been a leader in sustainable politics in the United States and can encourage other states to follow suit.
“California is setting the trend for the rest of the country,” Rai said. “If we organize ourselves here and get policies at the state level, we can change policies everywhere else and protect people’s futures even more. “
The research needed to solve environmental problems such as rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and frequent forest fires already exists.
It is up to California to listen to these findings and implement the solutions necessary to create lasting change.