Huffman wants research incentive

06/19/2014

Congressman Jared Huffman is co-sponsoring legislation in the House of Representatives called the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act, which would allow federal agencies to create contests and offer prize money to organizations that can devise ways to monitor or manage the threat. Ocean acidification, the consequence of massive amounts of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned up, has not only hurt oyster farms along the coast, but put the entire ecology of the ocean at risk. The sea absorb much of the carbon dioxide released into the air; that reaction increases the overall acidity of waters, and also uses up carbonate atoms that shellfish need to form shells. That, in turn, harms farmed and wild shellfish, both of which play a critical role in the food chain; their struggles to survive will have a vast ripple effect. Since the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of the ocean has jumped 30 percent. In the next century, scientists predict it could increase by as much as 170 percent. “If this continues to the levels some are projecting, I think all bets are off. What the scientists tell me is that basically everything [will suffer] except jellyfish,” Mr. Huffman said. Though he said it would be wonderful to simply allocate money for research into the problem, the political and financial climate is not friendly to those kinds of expenditures, so creative solutions to incentivize more research are needed. And contests can be successful—over $100 million was invested in low-cost spaceflight research after the X Prize Foundation offered $10 million to any N.G.O. that could send a manned spacecraft into space twice in two weeks. Although a number of conservative congressional representatives claim not to believe in climate change triggered by human actions, Mr. Huffman pointed out that two of the bill’s co-sponsors are Republican: Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler and David Reichart, from Washington state. “Anyone who listens to the impacts, to the science—this is indisputable. It is having far-reaching impacts, regardless of party affiliation… This [bill] is not the silver bullet, but it’s certainly one piece of it,” he said.