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New Film Captures Link Between Imperiled Oceans and Climate Change

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Last week President Obama called for a national ocean policy to protect critical marine ecosystems. At the same time, climate negotiators wrapped up a major international meeting in Bonn. These may seem like two unrelated events--one is about water, after all, and the other about air. But in fact, the global warming talks and the health of the oceans are deeply intertwined.

A new film called Acid Test powerfully illustrates the fateful connection between global warming and our oceans. Acid Test will be featured on the Discovery Planet Green in August, and the channel just released a trailer for the film. You can watch it here.

I am very proud of this film. It was co-directed by NRDC's Daniel Hinerfeld, and it is narrated by my college roommate and dear friend Sigourney Weaver. It also draws on the expertise of NRDC's Dr. Lisa Suatoni to explain what has only recently emerged as a serious threat.

As Dr. Suatoni explained in a recent post, we have known for some time that oceans are like giant sponges that absorb carbon dioxide. Scientists used to think this was a good thing, since it reduced the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. But the pace and volume at which carbon dioxide is being pumped into the seas have grown so dramatically that the oceans are becoming overburdened.

High carbon dioxide levels are changing the ocean's pH and making the water more acidic. As water becomes more acidic, it causes a drop in the amount of carbonate -- a key component of shells. When carbonate levels fall, it is more difficult for organisms to make their shells, which become thinner and more brittle.

Corals will be especially hard-hit. Coral reefs are already suffering a death of a thousand cuts from pollution, warming temperatures, and overfishing. Many scientists worry that more acidic water will deliver the final blow that pushes corals into extinction.

But a central thrust of Acid Test is that solutions exist. Marine biologists have noticed that coral reefs undamaged by pollution and fishing are still thriving despite warmer water and lower pH levels. This means ocean life that remains healthy has a better chance of weathering the onslaught of global warming than species weakened by other environmental impacts.

NRDC is pushing Congress to ensure that ocean protections are included in any global warming legislation it passes.

We must act now to cut carbon dioxide emissions, which will protect all life on the planet, including in our vast oceans. And we must act now to convert to clean energy solutions. As Sigourney Weaver says in the film, "We can go on as we have, or we can move beyond fossil fuels. We have to choose."

NRDC has also been pressing federal agencies for years to help revive ailing ocean ecosystems by halting overfishing, reducing pollution, and creating marine reserves--the equivalent of national parks in the oceans. The Presidential Memorandum Obama released last Friday could be an excellent start.

You also have a role to play in protecting the world's oceans and their marine life. You can tell your representatives to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act--a bill to reduce global warming pollution that will likely go to a vote in the next month or so. You can also click here to tell your representative to co-sponsor the Healthy Oceans Act. And don't forget to check with Planet Green about local air times for ACID TEST.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

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