When atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolves in ocean water, it creates carbonic acid. This process, known as ocean acidification, is the result of increasing carbon emissions and the impact of man-made climate change. While ocean acidification is a major environmental concern all over the world, carbon dioxide is most soluble in colder water temperatures, posing an even greater risk to our local northeast coast. According to NOAA, the ocean absorbs roughly 30% of all atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is slowly decreasing ocean pH. The current average surface water pH is 8.1, but is projected to fall to 7.8 by the end of the century — reaching levels that have not been actualized in the last 14-17 million years. This changing environment will significantly impact aquatic life and habitat, along with the humans who utilize the ocean for their benefit. While ocean acidification has yet to be fully understood, New York State and City have been working diligently to better understand these impacts in hopes of developing meaningful and effective solutions.
In August 2018, The New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) unveiled its 14-member Ocean Acidification Task Force as a means to assess the impacts on ecological, economic, and recreational health. Established by Governor Andrew Cuomo, this force of appointed individuals with a wide range of expertise will identify local contributing factors and recommend actions to reduce negative impacts. The Ocean Acidification Task Force last met on December 3, 2019.
In January 2019, DEC and the New York Sea Grant announced $570,000 in ocean research funding to Stony Brook University, CUNY York College, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to better understand climate change impacts on marine resources. This grant has been prioritized as part of the 10-year Ocean Action Plan (OAP). While projects have been delayed, they are currently underway and are projected to continue through 2021. As we begin to better understand the changes taking place in our oceans, we can push forward to develop the innovative solutions necessary to combat man-made climate change and ocean acidification impacts.