Climate Change Impacts and Solutions: Ocean Acidification in New York City


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.   

Fish Are Friends. And Yes, Sharks Count.

Environment, film

Summer wouldn’t be the same without those quintessential blockbuster hits that we all know and love. Jaws, one of the most prominent and successful blockbuster films of all time, reeled in $14 million in its first weekend back in 1975. Though the film came out more than 40 years ago, its impact has been everlasting—in a very negative way.

A preview for the upcoming film The Meg, —a term short for Megalodon, the largest prehistoric shark in the world—reminded me of the messaging behind Jaws. If you haven’t seen the preview yet, think Jaws, but with a submarine instead of a boat.

While these films can be fun and thrilling to watch, they send a terrible message about these astonishing sea creatures. Sharks are dubbed as “killing machines” or “deadly predators” when really sharks are nothing to fear. In fact, sharks should be fearing us. In 2013, Marine Policy reported that roughly 100 million sharks are killed by humans annually. And how many humans are killed from shark attacks annually? About five. According to National Geographic, you have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime.

When we negatively depict something, we don’t care what happens to it. In fact, we often go out of our way to cause harm. Now due to overfishing and human-caused climate change, a variety of shark species are endangered, ranging from vulnerable to critical. We need to protect these creatures with all of our being, along with the numerous other endangered species on the planet.

We’re in the midst of the one week completely dedicated to these super swimmers—and yes, I’m talking about Shark Week. I encourage you to take the time to learn about the various species of sharks (there are hundreds!) and appreciate them for what they are and offer. In order to protect something, we first must love and understand it.

Look, I’m not saying you can’t support films like Jaws and The Meg, though that wouldn’t be the worst idea. However, if you do decide to support these films and others like them, please don’t support the negative messaging. Sharks are widely misunderstood, just like some of us humans out there. Give them a chance.


To learn more, tune into Shark Week on Discovery Channel or check out some of these other resources below:

Have a fin-tastic #SharkWeek!