OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Climate change conference to explore ocean impacts and policy

09/03/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A one-day symposium in Eugene will bring together policy experts and marine scientists – an important step in exploring how climate change impacts on the world’s oceans may necessitate new policies and management approaches.

The free public symposium will be held at the University of Oregon’s Knight Law Center (Room 175) on Friday, Sept. 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. More information on the event, including registration, is available online

Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth will moderate the morning panel that will outline some of the oceans’ responses to climate change. Other panels on community impacts and policy issues will follow in the afternoon.

“The ocean scientific community would really like to see more focus on the oceans in international discussions concerning climate change,” Barth said. “Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol were atmospheric-centric when it comes to looking at climate change impacts, mitigation and policy needs.”

Barth is a principal investigator with PISCO, the Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans. The multi-institution research initiative coordinated by OSU is a co-sponsor of the symposium, along with the University of Oregon Law School, the UO Office of the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, and the OSU Foundation.

A key question that the conference will address is whether the impacts of climate change on the oceans will be sufficiently mitigated by atmosphere-related policies, or if specific policies need to be developed to protect the world’s oceans.

“The discussion on ocean impacts rarely goes beyond the simplistic, which is to say that as the planet warms, sea level will rise,” said Barth, who is a professor in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “But there are a number of other issues out there including ocean acidification, decreasing dissolved oxygen levels, increasing wave heights and vulnerable marine ecosystems.

“There also is a growing need for marine spatial planning and siting, which has major implications for the Pacific Northwest, as we wrestle with maintaining fisheries while trying to accommodate wave energy, marine reserves and other needs,” Barth added.

Francis Chan, an assistant professor in OSU’s Department of Zoology, will present a report on changing ocean chemistry, and discuss the extent of the 2010 “hypoxia season” off the Oregon coast. One of the newest twists is how increasingly acidified water is being driven into Oregon bays during the summer upwelling season and affecting oyster-growing operations.

Among the other speakers at the conference are:

  • Mary Ruckelshaus, NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, who will discuss climate change impacts on oceans and humans;
  • Julia Parrish, University of Washington, the effects of climate change on the marine food web and upper trophic levels;
  • Meg Caldwell, the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, will give the keynote talk at lunch on “Climate Change Policy for the Oceans: When Scientists and Lawyers Talk.”
  • David Freestone, the George Washington School of Law, on international law and ocean impacts of climate change;
  • Maxine Burkett, the University of Hawaii, climate-induced migration.

Richard Hildreth, a UO professor of law and the Morse Resident Scholar, will present concluding remarks at the symposium.