Symposium at UO: Ocean impacts of climate change

EUGENE – Leading Oregon scientists and scholars will discuss Ocean Impacts of Climate Change: Science, People and Policy, in a one-day symposium at the University of Oregon’s Knight Law Center on Sept. 10. The symposium, which is free and open to the public, runs from 8:30 am to 4:30 p.m.

Organized by 2010-11 Resident Scholar Richard Hildreth, the symposium is co-sponsored by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and the UO School of Law.

The earth’s oceans buffer us from climate change by absorbing heat and dissolving CO2 initially discharged into the atmosphere. The resulting thermal expansion of the ocean contributes to sea level rise along with melting ice caps and glaciers. Further, the ocean’s increasing acidity is adversely affecting important ocean ecosystems and species. Accelerated sea level rise adversely affects low-lying island and coastal communities as well as the ecosystem. This conference highlights the relevant science, the impacts on people, and potential policy and legal responses to these impacts of climate change.

Scientists and scholars taking part in the symposium include Oregon State University oceanographer Jack Barth, Dr. Mary Ruckleshouse of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and Meg Caldwell of Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions. Topics range from marine ecology, biology, and physical science to social consequences, including the disparate impact of climate change on poor communities, international ocean law and environmental justices.

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Newport celebrates NOAA fleet move

NOAA R/V Miller FreemanNEWPORT – The impending arrival of  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific research fleet is being celebrated in Newport this week with ceremony, festivities – and visits from a pair of the vessels that will eventually be berthed here.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Congressman Kurt Schrader were among the officials expected on hand to break ground for the new facility, dubbed “Marine Operations Center – Pacific” – or NOAA MOC-P, in government parlance.

The ceremony was also expected to mark the end of a bureaucratic battle with the state of Washington, which has raised numerous objections to NOAA’s decision,  announced last year, to move its operations center from Seattle to the central Oregon coast.  Governor Kulongoski and others said they expected to get the final word that the agency had affirmed its decision just before this morning’s groundbreaking.

The $35 million, five-acre facility is scheduled to open in June 2011, with a staff of 175, including 110 officers. It will be home port to four ships and host visiting ships, as well. It will mean hundreds of family-wage jobs for the Newport area, and it’s expected to pump $19 million a year into a local economy hit hard by fishing cutbacks and the global economic slump.

The Port of Newport was able to make the winning bid largely because the state had offered $19.5 million in Oregon Lottery funds to the project, allowing the port to offer a 20-year lease for only $2.4 million.

This weekend’s celebration includes a family-style “welcome” picnic from 1-4 pm Sunday under a a tent at the construction site, just west of Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. The event, open to the public will include live music and  refreshments, and a chance for local residents to meet some of the team charged with getting the new operations center up and running.

In addition, if weather permits, two of the NOAA research vessels that will be relocating to Newport are expected to visit this weekend. the R/V Miller Freeman is expected to arrive Saturday afternoon, followed on Sunday by the R/V Bell M. Shimada, with an honorary Coast Guard escort and vessels from the Newport commercial fishing fleet on hand to welcome the ships and their crews.

(Photo of R/V Miller Freeman courtesy of striatic)

NOAA confirms plans to move research fleet to Newport

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday affirmed its intention to move its  its fleet of Pacific research vessels from Washington state to Newport, on the central Oregon Coast.

The General Accounting Office had asked the agency to review the planned move, first announced seven months ago, after officials in Washington State objected.

NOAA issued its finding Tuesday morning, saying none of the three competing Washington sites — Bellingham, Port Angeles or Lake Union — offers a practicable alternative to Newport.  Among other things, the report addressed a major objection – that the Newport site is located a flood plain – by noting measures that will be taken to mitigate flood risk; it also notes that the Washington contenders are also situated in flood plains.  The analysis  gave all three   Washington locations lower technical ratings – and higher estimated costs – than the Port of Newport site.

The report report has a 30-day public comment period, and Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell vowed to continue fighting the relocation. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, however, called the report definitive.

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Read the full NOAA report (.pdf)

Scholar urges change in renewable energy approach

Maria StefanovichPolicymakers would do well to change their approach to “selling” renewable energy by focusing on more than  just the potential environmental good.

So writes Maria Stefanovich, Oregon Sea Grant Malouf Scholar, in an editorial in a recent issue  of Sea Technology Magazine.

Stefanovich cites an Oregon  energy policy survey by researchers at OSU that found strongest support for wave energy development among conservative,  “human values”-centered males – a group not conventionally viewed  as friendly to  “green” projects.

Instead of focusing entirely on the environmental benefits of renewable energy, Stefanovich writes,  “policymakers may be more effective in getting the public to adopt renewable energy more quickly if they leverage the public’s economic bias and stress the socioeconomic benefits that wave energy could provide.”

A native of Bulgaria with degrees in Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations from the Affiliated Institution of the University of Sheffield in Greece, and   in Business Administration and Southeast European Studies the American University in Bulgaria, Stefanovich came to Oregon State University in 2007 to pursue a PhD in Environmental Science.

She is the 2009 recipient of Sea Grant’s Robert E. Malouf Marine Studies Scholarship.

Read Stefanovich’s editorial in Sea Technology.

Climate change adds uncertainty to fisheries management

A new analysis of fisheries management concludes that climate change will significantly increase the variability of the size and location of many fish populations, creating uncertainty for fisheries managers – and the need for greater flexibility.

Most management processes are slow and cumbersome, as well as rigid, the authors say, and don’t adequately take climate change and human behavior into account.

“What climate change will do is pit the increased resource variability against the rigidity of the process,” said Susan Hanna, a fishery economist from Oregon State University and co-author of the report.

“Over time, managers will have to become more conservative to account for the greater uncertainty, and we will need to do a better job of understanding the effect of uncertainty on human behavior,” said Hanna, a long-time Oregon Sea Grant economics specialist.

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Podcast features Nobel economics winner

Elinor OstromCongratulations to Elinor Ostrom, the Indiana University political scientist who is one of two recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize for economics.

Ostrom, known for her work on the management of common resources, is the first woman to win a Nobel in economics.

A year ago, Dr. Ostrom sat down with Oregon Sea Grant’s Joe Cone to talk about the challenges of communicating about climate change. The two-part interview, in which she discusses system-based approaches to thinking and talking about the resilience of social and economic systems, is available on our Communicating Climate Change podcast. The episode also includes a link to her 2007 National Academy of Sciences article, “A diagnostic approach for going beyond panaceas.”

Ostrom is among several leading social scientists interviewed for the podcast over the past year and a half.