Protecting Our Oceans for Earth Day

On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, at a time when our country's attention will be focused on what we need to do to protect our planet, I am honored to be in our nation's Capital to testify before Congress on an emerging environmental threat. I will be testifying before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the topic of ocean acidification.

Scientists have known for decades that when carbon dioxide mixes with ocean water it creates an acid; this is textbook chemistry. But only recently did they begin to realize what this growing quantity of acid would mean for ocean life. This new understanding has some of the world's leading ocean scientists deeply concerned.

What they say is this: the oceans are 30 percent more acidic today than they were during pre-industrial times and, if we continue burning fossil fuels as we are now, we will double the ocean's acidity by the end of the century. Scientists fear many organisms may not survive so radical a shift in chemistry. And some of those organisms form the foundation of ocean food webs. If they perish, what happens to the tens of thousands of species further up the chain? What happens to our shellfish -- our oysters, clams, mussels -- that appear particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification?

I first had the opportunity to address this issue in the Senate last fall, when I screened a short documentary I narrated on this phenomenon called Acid Test, made by my friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council. And after my Senate testimony this Earth Day, I am thrilled to show it to our nation's policymakers once again -- this time for a group in the House of Representatives.

Like that other film I was in this year, Acid Test has had an amazing run of its own. It aired on the Discovery Channel, has been shown in film festivals nationwide, and was selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to run in kiosks in major aquariums and museums across the country. If you haven't seen it yet, catch it online here.

More and more people -- at home and in the halls of Congress -- are learning about ocean acidification and what we can do to stop it. Thankfully, we have solutions that will not only fight ocean acidification, but climate change at the same time.

Our policymakers have the power to add to the legacy of Earth Day by taking action that will protect people and the planet. Along with millions of other Americans, I will be urging them to put aside their differences and begin America's transition to a clean energy economy that will increase our energy efficiency and invest in renewable power, while cutting carbon pollution. By passing strong clean energy and climate legislation, Congress has the power to move us toward clean energy, tackle climate change and protect our seas from acidification.

I hope you will join me in calling on our leaders in the Senate to act.