Distributed Energy

Warming Water

Crab fishermen point to the fossil fuel industry’s role.

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In a simultaneous contradiction, it appears that oil companies likely concealed knowledge of the negative effects of fossil fuel combustion while actively protecting their infrastructure from rising sea levels.

A number of citizen groups and government agencies have filed lawsuits recently, asserting that fossil fuel producers knowingly subjected the public to the destructive impacts of their industry’s actions.

The latest organization to hold the oil industry accountable is The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. In a suit filed on November 14, fishermen in California and Oregon explain that warming water and the resultant growth of algae has damaged the Dungeness crab fishery, pointing directly to the fossil fuel industry’s role.

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Since 2014, scientists in the Pacific Northwest have charted dramatic temperature changes in the Pacific Ocean. Warmer temperatures have caused toxic algae blooms that can make shellfish unsafe for consumption by humans and other wildlife—specifically algae that produce the neurotoxin domoic acid.  The toxic conditions have, on several occasions, delayed the opening of crab season or closed it down completely.

The executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Noah Oppenheim, told NPR’s Alastair Bland that the 2015–2016 crab fishing closure resulted in direct financial losses that caused a number of boats to leave the fishery. Subsequent closures, also caused by domoic acid concerns, have further strained the Pacific Coast’s $445 million industry.

Additional studies have emerged recently which suggest that fossil fuel companies were aware that their industries were contributing to climate change while actively promoting public relations campaigns to misinform the public and discourage the development of alternative energy sources.

The city of Baltimore filed suit against 26 companies in July for concealing the dangers of fossil fuel combustion and preventing the development of alternative energy sources. Similar suits have been filed from the states of Rhode Island and California.

What are your thoughts? What level of responsibility should fossil fuel producers assume? Going forward, what role do you think the energy industry can play in reversing climate change? DE_bug_web

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  1. Fossil fuel producers are no more responsible for climate change that any person benefitting from its combustion. Scientific evidence of any conceivable human connection with planetary climate changes is lacking. Anthropogenic-sourced atmospheric carbon is a neglegible fraction of the total and the total extant is in a virtual total eclipse by water vapor (humidity), which is the only significan greenhouse gas and one that has virtually no anthropogenic connection.

    1. The two comments above by Geoff and Alvin Lowi that a) believe NPR not to be a trustworthy source, and b) assert corporations that actively hid evidence are no more culpable than the average user of the energy they produced, exemplify the sad state of civic discourse in our nation today. To further argue that the evidence is lacking of a human development connection to the processes that cause global warming is a sign of someone duped by right wing propaganda. As was true with the connection between nicotine and cancer, the fossil fuel industry understood decades ago that the release of carbon would likely lead to processes that warm the planet. There is ample social scientific evidence (see the work of Aaron McCright, for instance) that the industry worked hard to manufacture discourses the likes of which Mr. Lowi, above, repeats. The resultant problem of algae blooms — a combination of processes, including warming seas and lakes — is global and could have the result of dramatically impacting livelihoods. It makes sense for those whose livelihoods have been harmed to receive some compensation from corporations that reaped billions having hid information that might have curtailed their profits. The reality is that we should be thinking of a myriad of ways to change practices and technologies to mitigate climate change, and to pay reparations to those who have already paid the cost.

  2. Do all the crab trappers use vessels without engines that use petroleum? Do their land vehicles use petroleum? Are their homes heated/cooled with petroleum?

    Is it possible that the petroleum industry looked at the historical record for the past few hundred years of sea level rise and decided that it would most likely keep rising? The earth has had climate change long before there was petroleum being burnt. What is the political reason for pointing at one industry as the cause of something that started occurring long before they were in business?

  3. The climate change deniers in this thread didn’t get the main point, that energy industry collectives are actively protecting their members from the side effects of global warming even while denying their responsibility for effects on other industries. Is there no way to have a civil discussion about this nest of issues without descending into castigation?

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for understanding the fundamental intention of the post, Bernard. I agree that open discussion is the best way to untangle the issues.

  4. There is plenty of evidence from a variety of credible sources (like NASA, the US Navy, or even the real estate broker in FL whose trying to sell beach front property that now has flooding issues) that prove climate change is real, is caused by humans and is impacting our livelihoods – and will continue to do so in our future.

    Our problem is that money is too precious to us. We value it more than clean water. And we have a problem with taking responsibility for things. I don’t believe that human nature will ever be free from our “profit now and damn the future” business plan….which is the most expensive and ineffective plan possible.

    If we all do what we can (especially the large violators) in our own communities to protect the water, air and soil EACH of us depend on to survive, we would not be having this argument. We would actually be productive and healthier.

  5. NPR is Biased by their recently ‘womanized’ on-air commentary. I rarely listen so their sexism and professional hysteria aside; where is the warming and acidification occurring and why?

    NASA recently published a graphic of the flows of warmer water along the coast of New England. Not surprisingly, it was warmest in estuaries of outflowing rivers; tapering off as the warmer, more acid fresh water mixes with the colder offshore waters.

    I’ve examined sewerage treatment plant outflows and the pH. is usually below 6.5. The integration of storm sewers into the system further increases acidification. Take the last ten years and chart the increase in impervious surface runoff in your region and deforestation; tree roots will temper the water and it will be returned to the aquifer.

    While water outflow temps are not controlled the pH. is or can be; and it is set up Statute. So if acidification is a problem raise the pH. to 7.0 and treat the water.

    Erosion at POPHAM BEACH, a cherished beach a few miles from the house; has been a subject of concern to environmental writers, especially the erosion of large beams along the immediate shore. Still going on, still threatening the new’ish bathhouse….but enormous amounts of sand have created islands right off shore, where in places sea grass has sprung up. GOOGLE EARTH can go back in time, and you can see both the erosion and build up…the open ocean two days ago was about a mile from the edge of the beach. In between were small islands and sand dunes. If you look at the aerial view, you’ll notice how far inland the ocean once went…and it has 140′ to rise to previous heights.

    We and other species adapt, move around, or like the oyster colonies, stay put for centuries. If the Gulf Stream meanders our way , I don’t think there is much man can do to push it back ‘in place’.

    Work with nature, your results will be more rewarding….off shore plantings are a great idea!

  6. When you show me conclusive evidence that the increase in human activity 10,000 years ago caused the last glaciers to recede from the Midwest USA… oooh never mind….

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