SYDNEY: Sea urchins and marine abalone – large sea snails – will not develop skeletons if the ocean continues to warm and acidify as predicted, new research has shown.
The results of a new study show that abalone and sea urchins born into ocean conditions 100 years from now will be unable to calcify their shells or grow their spines – suggesting that key sources of protein will be lost due to climate change in the future.
“We wondered about the impact of climate change on shelled marine animals since ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate ions, which they need to make their calcium carbonate skeletons,” said Maria Byrne from the School of Biological Sciences and School of Medical Sciences at Sydney University, Australia.
In a collaboration with researchers from the University of Wollongong and Southern Cross University in Queensland, Bryne investigated how simultaneous exposure to increased temperature and acidity affects development – from fertilised egg to juvenile stages – of sea urchins and abalone.
Climate change is resulting in oceans that are simultaneously warming, acidifying and increasing in dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2).
“We focussed on two ecologically and commercially important groups of marine invertebrates from South-Eastern Australia, which is a climate change hotspot where the ocean is warming several times faster than the global average,” said Byrne.
The researchers reared abalone and sea urchin embryos in ocean conditions projected for the years 2100 and beyond by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These included three temperature (current ambient, plus 2 and 4 degrees Celsius) and three pH (current ambient, pH 7.8, pH 7.6) treatments, which were used in all combinations.
Abalone were particularly sensitive to change and did not do well in even slightly warmer and more acidic conditions (plus 2 degree Celsius/pH 7.8). The sea urchins fared better and some offspring made it to the juvenile stage in these conditions and the interaction between the two stressors indicated that slight warming reduced the negative effect of lower pH.
If the urchins were pushed to conditions projected beyond 2100 (plus 4 degrees Celsius) however, the juveniles produced were abnormal and had fewer spines.
“The embryos and larvae of certain marine shelled animals will have a difficult time surviving in tomorrow’s oceans, which will be seriously detrimental to the persistence of those species,” said Bryne.
“It is worrying to see how vulnerable abalone embryos are to near-future levels of warming and acidification, since this species has such commercial significance for fisheries. Similarly sea urchins are ecologically important as they function as grazers that structure habitats.”
“Considering that the oceans are on a irreversible track of change for the foreseeable future and are a key source of food and prosperity for humans, it is important to consider how we are going to meet the needs of growing human population. Marine invertebrates are a major food source – some species such as abalone are unlikely to adapt, while others such as some hardy oysters may persist.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson faced down her Republican critics on Wednesday, defending her agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as critical to the public’s health.
Jackson’s appearance before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked the first time the administrator has testified at a hearing on climate change since the GOP took power. House Republicans have proposed legislation that would block the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
One by one, Republicans on the committee railed against the pending regulations, arguing that climate rules would hurt the economy and kill jobs.
“Like cap-and-trade, these regulations would boost the cost of energy, not just for homeowners and car owners, but for businesses both large and small,” committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in his opening statement. “EPA may be starting by regulating only the largest power plants and factories, but we will all feel the impact of higher prices and fewer jobs.”
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if it found that the emissions endangered public health and welfare. The Obama administration’s EPA made such a finding in 2009.
The Obama administration today said accelerated permitting and financial incentives have helped fuel a booming interest in developing wind, solar and geothermal power on public lands but warned that future development will depend on a strong commitment from Congress.
At a renewable energy forum hosted by the Interior Department, Secretary Ken Salazar joined officials of major solar companies to tout the success of a Treasury Department grant program and loan guarantees from the Energy Department in spurring 12 renewable energy and transmission projects on public lands in 2010.
But Salazar warned lawmakers that investors will need dependable incentives and regulations to continue building. The Treasury grants were extended by Congress in December but expire at the end of the year.
“The package signed into law by President Obama in December is helping unlock the potential of solar, wind and geothermal and other projects,” Salazar said, flanked by the secretaries of energy and agriculture and the officials of six solar companies. “In particular, the 1603 renewable energy grant program under the Recovery Act has been an essential tool in deploying renewable energy resources in the U.S. over the past two years.”
Equally important, Salazar said, is Congress’ passage of an 80 percent clean energy standard as outlined by President Obama in his State of the Union address last month.
Clearing up the regulatory hurdles that are slowing development of electricity transmission lines would provide a significant boost to U.S. wind power development, industry officials said Wednesday.
The American Wind Energy Association is holding a two-day workshop in Omaha focused on the challenges of transmitting power to places that need it. The biggest regulatory barriers have to do with who pays for high-voltage transmission lines and who decides where the lines will go.
Wind power may play a significant role in helping the nation reduce its dependency on coal, natural gas and nuclear power. President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address last month that he wants 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from clean sources by 2035.
Cheryl LaFleur, one of five commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told a group of about 250 people at the conference that energy transmission development is a priority. The commission is in the middle of reviewing a rule that will help resolve questions about how the lines are paid for.
Maryland utilities would have to sign multi-decade contracts to buy offshore wind energy under a proposal Gov. Martin O’Malley could introduce as soon as Thursday.
A draft of O’Malley’s offshore wind bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, would require the state’s four utilities to sign fixed-price contracts of at least 20 years with offshore wind developers who are expected to build wind turbines a dozen miles off the coast of Ocean City.
The measure will likely cost Maryland ratepayers an additional $1.60 a month on their utility bills, said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration.
The wind turbines would take years to develop.
“If all goes well, we’re hoping to have wind turbines spinning in 2016,” Woolf said Wednesday.
Under the O’Malley proposal, Maryland’s Public Service Commission would help negotiate the purchase of 400 megawatts to 600 megawatts of wind power generated by offshore turbines.
President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people, officials briefed on the subject told National Journal.
It’s the biggest domestic spending cut disclosed so far, and one that will likely generate the most heat from the president’s traditional political allies. Such complaints might satisfy the White House, which has a vested interest in convincing Americans that it is serious about budget discipline.
One White House friend, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier today that a Republican proposal to cut home heating oil counted as an “extreme idea” that would “set the country backwards.” Schumer has not yet reacted to Obama’s proposed cut. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., declared: “The President’s reported proposal to drastically slash LIHEAP funds by more than half would have a severe impact on many of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens and I strongly oppose it.” A spokesman for Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., declared similarly: “If these cuts are real, it would be a very disappointing development for millions of families still struggling through a harsh winter.”
In a letter to Obama, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., wrote, “We simply cannot afford to cut LIHEAP funding during one of the most brutal winters in history. Families across Massachusetts, and the country, depend on these monies to heat their homes and survive the season.”
Several renewable energy and consumer advocacy groups have come out against a proposed rate increase for customers of New Mexico’s largest electric utility.
Western Resource Advocates, New Energy Economy, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and others have filed statements of opposition with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission over Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s revamped request for a rate increase that would average nearly 11 percent for residential and business customers around the state.
The utility, a subsidiary of PNM Resources Inc., initially asked for an increase of about 21 percent but settled on the lower rate after negotiating with commission staff, the attorney general’s office and others. The commission must still hold public hearings prior to approving the request.
Opponents consider the proposal “a backroom deal” and contend it violates consumers’ due process rights.
Looming U.S. rules that power utilities face on air pollution could create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years, according to a report.
Engineering, construction and pipefitting are some of the professions that could see a rise in jobs as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules push utilities to invest in new capacity and pollution controls, said the report “New Jobs – Cleaner Air”. The report was commissioned by Ceres, a coalition of environmentalists and institutional investors.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have slammed the EPA’s looming air rules on utilities as “job killing”, saying they could push older coal plants into early retirement and raise electricity prices.
But the report, produced by researchers at University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, said investments to comply with the Clean Air Act have been good for the economy. It quoted the Office of Management and Budget, which said in 2003 that every dollar spent on compliance with the act since 1970 has led to $4 to $8 in economic benefits.