President of H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and The Environment
The ocean's food chain is at risk
We were one of the first to call attention to the acidification of the oceans. The oceans take up a huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. A portion of that carbon gets turned into carbonic acid, so that the more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more acidic the oceans become. The oceans are now 30 percent more acidic than they were before the Industrial Revolution. It's the most chilling change I've seen in my professional career. If it continues, tiny organisms at the base of the food chain will have their shells dissolve while the animals are still alive. It will also threaten coral reefs, which are already stressed by rising temperatures and fishing practices. We issue a report every five years called The State of the Nation's Ecosystems, which includes 113 indicators of environmental health, from chemical contaminants to harmful algae blooms. We're trying to boil it down to just three or four that could be released quarterly, like the leading economic indicators, but for the environment. It would give people a sense of whether we're making progress or losing ground.