Acid reflux

Auntie Ruth is green to the eco scene. Read up each week as she weeds through the dirt and unearths new gems of environmental knowledge.

Auntie Ruth is freaked out: She recently learned that increased carbon dioxide emissions from human activities have led to a 30 percent rise in ocean acidity in the past 200 years, which is 10 times quicker than climate models predicted. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean and forms carbonic acid, which can jeopardize shellfish stocks and disrupt the marine food chain. For instance, in laboratory studies, as saltwater acid increases, the calcium carbonate shells and skeletons of many marine species begin to corrode. Scientists began measuring the acidity of seawater around Tatoosh Island off the coast of Washington state in 2000, but still don’t know the full impact on ocean ecosystems if this acidic change continues.

Trouble’s a-brewing among environmental groups on opposing sides of the carbon-trading debate. The latest battle occurred last week, when grassroots climate activists invaded the Washington, D.C., offices of the Environmental Defense Fund to protest the organization’s support of market approaches to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. These activists oppose cap-and-trade, because they say it gives the most-polluting industries allowances to pollute even more. They accused Environmental Defense of being concerned mainly with protecting corporate bottom lines and noted how market-based mechanisms to curb global warming have failed, as evidenced by the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. During the takeover, activists rearranged furniture to show how marketing carbon is “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” They also awarded the organization the Corporate Greenwash Award for its role in establishing the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of companies, such as Duke Energy, Shell, DuPont and Dow Chemical that support cap-and-trade.

Californians have made Auntie Ruth proud, as we recycled a record 7.6 billion beverage containers between January and June 2008, increasing the six-month California Refund Value recycling rate to 76 percent. This is a jump of almost 600 million beverage containers over the same period last year, when the recycling rate was 71 percent. Recycling 7.6 billion beverage containers is equivalent to removing about 300,000 cars from the road for a year. Recycling rates were up for all material types—aluminum, glass and plastic. In January 2007, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted legislation that increased the CRV payout for beverage containers.