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Originally published October 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Page modified October 10, 2013 at 9:13 AM

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Guest: What we can do about ocean acidification and climate change

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action at a level not yet seen from government, industry and individuals, write guest columnists Jay Manning and Bill Taylor.

Special to The Times

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THE Seattle Times’ recent outstanding series on ocean acidification “Sea Change” stands as an uncomfortably vivid warning that our marine world — and the economies and lifestyles that depend on it — is under siege.

The images of coral reefs and oyster larvae ravaged by ocean acidification provide haunting notice to Northwest residents of the consequences of inaction.

Though the perils of ocean acidification are well-documented, reading this series prompted anew the questions, “What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening?”

The Pacific Northwest has some outstanding leaders and scientists on the cutting edge of addressing ocean acidification. Because of their actions, the region is not starting from square one.

The 2012 Washington State’s Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel identified a series of concrete steps that were codified in Executive Order 12-07 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Washington Legislature has also taken some critical first steps on this issue, providing funding in July to establish an Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington and the Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council. Created within Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, this Council, among other things, will advise and work with UW and others to conduct an ongoing analysis on the effects and sources of ocean acidification.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has taken the lead in Washington, D.C., securing federal support to help Washington’s shellfish industry monitor and adapt to the corrosive seawater conditions and making sure the nation’s top marine scientists are thinking about the next steps.

Inslee and Gregoire, who were among the first people at any level of government to acknowledge the threat of ocean acidification, are leading the charge to address the elephant in the room: ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere.

This common compound has always been present in our atmosphere — indeed it is necessary for life on earth. But when billions of people and businesses burn millions of tons of fossil fuels every day across the globe, this seemingly innocuous chemical becomes deadly. As The Seattle Times’ “Sea Change” series is showing us, this is impacting economies and ecosystems across the planet as it alters our ocean’s chemistry and threatens the life within them.

Gov. Inslee has brought legislative leaders together at a climate action table called the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup. It’s a dull name for a revolutionary idea — that politicians from each of our state legislative caucuses (House and Senate, Democratic and Republican) will come together to determine how Washington will meet carbon-reduction limits established by the 2008 Legislature.

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action. And it will require commitment at a level we have not yet seen from government, businesses, nonprofits and individual Washington state residents.

If you haven’t read The Times’ “Sea Change” series by reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman, please do. The warning bell has been sounded. If we are to preserve Puget Sound — with its vital marine life and sparkling waters — as well as our own economy, we need to act now.

We hope you will join us in urging the Legislature to support the governor’s plan for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.

Jay Manning, left, is the board president of Washington Environmental Council, former head of the state Department of Ecology, and a co-chair of the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Ocean Acidification. Bill Taylor is the fourth generation of his family to run Taylor Shellfish Farms, the largest producer of farmed bivalves in the United States.

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