It is ironic that despite relatively progressive clean energy policies the West Coast is paying an unusually high price for global carbon emissions. Ocean water off the Pacific coast has absorbed so much carbon that it is becoming acidic enough to melt the shells of sea creatures. Our national and global addiction to fossil fuel and unwillingness to seriously reduce carbon emissions is taking its toll, right here, in real time, with profound implications for the Pacific Ocean.
The oceans act like a massive sponge soaking up airborne carbon. As carbon dissolves in the ocean it forms carbonic acid. Once acidity becomes high enough the shells literally dissolve.
Due to a uniquely structured coastline and system of currents, deep, older water surfaces along the Pacific coast. This older water has been soaking up carbon for a relatively long period of time and therefore is unusually acidic.
The first economic casualty of ocean acidification is the multi-million dollar West Coast shellfish industry. Acidity levels are already high enough to hinder oyster larvae in forming shells. Some hatchery businesses have moved to Hawaii. Others are installing expensive monitoring equipment and shutting down operations when acidity is too high.