Obama answers science questions

Obama has answered 14 questions on science and technology, thanks to the hard work of the folks at Sciencedebate 2008. The questions are all across the board,  from climate change to stem cell research to funding for research, but I’m going to focus on his answer to the ocean question.

The question:

9. Ocean Health. Scientists estimate that some 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are in serious decline and habitats around the world like coral reefs are seriously threatened. What steps, if any, should the United States take during your presidency to protect ocean health?

Excerpts from Obama’s answer. To read the whole thing, go here.

Global climate change could have catastrophic effects on ocean ecologies. Protection of the oceans is one of the many reasons I have developed an ambitious plan to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases 80 percent below 1990 by 2050. We need to enhance our understanding of the effect of climate change on oceans and the effect of acidification on marine life through expanded research programs at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

He (or his science advisors) are aware of the nasty effects of climate change and ocean acidification on marine ecosystems, which is good. And more money for research would indeed be nice. However, I agree with Kevin Z: we need some kind of Oceans Agency with clear objectives. Otherwise NASA, NOAA, and USGS (not to mention all the states) will be running every which way duplicating effort and delaying results.

I will propel the U.S. into a leadership position in marine stewardship and climate change research. Stronger collaboration across U.S. scientific agencies and internationally is needed in basic research and for designing mitigation strategies to reverse or offset the damage being done to oceans and coastal areas.

I would have liked to see him mention marine protected areas here. The United States is becoming a leader in marine protected areas, between the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the Marianas Islands and California’s new network. I hope that Obama continues Bush’s legacy (No, I can’t believe that sentance came out of my keyboard either) and continues to create – and fund enforcement for – large marine protected areas.

The oceans are a global resource and a global responsibility for which the U.S. can and should take a more active role. I will work actively to ensure that the U.S. ratifies the Law of the Sea Convention – an agreement supported by more than 150 countries that will protect our economic and security interests while providing an important international collaboration to protect the oceans and its resources. My administration will also strengthen regional and bilateral research and oceans preservation efforts with other Gulf Coast nations.

The Law of the Sea Convention is a UN treaty which regulates use of the oceans, including fishing, mining, and environmental protection. The United States has signed it, but conservatives in the Senate have blocked ratification. Obviously, international cooperation is critical to any sensible management of the open oceans, and this would be a good first step.

I’m not sure why Obama specifically mentions Gulf Coast nations – does it have to do with drilling? With fisheries? With the total messed-up-edness that is the Gulf, thanks in large part to the pollution from the Mississippi?

Our coastal areas and beaches are American treasures and are among our favorite places to live and visit. I will work to reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act in ways that strengthen the collaboration between federal agencies and state and local organizations. The National Marine Sanctuaries and the Oceans and Human Health Acts provide essential protection for ocean resources and support the research needed to implement a comprehensive ocean policy. These programs will be strengthened and reauthorized.

Yes, good, but somewhat vague. As far as I know, none of these acts are controversial. Though I’m glad they’re there, they clearly don’t provide the kind of protection that the coastal oceans need when faced with massive development, population growth, and climate change.

I wish Obama had said that he _would_ implement a comprehensive ocean policy, instead of “support the research needed to implement a comprehensive ocean policy.” The United States is a long way away from getting global climate change under control, but there are more concrete problems that we can solve now, like overfishing and pollution. Healthy ocean ecosystems will have the most resistance to climate change. Sad overfished and polluted ecosystems could crash and burn even without the stress of warming.

Nonetheless, I am nitpicking. Obama and his science advisors actually answered 14(!!!) science related questions. Though I’m dubious of his promises of tons more funding, Obama is paying attention, or at least paying people that pay attention. Under an Obama administration, science would no longer be relegated to this:

Check out more reactions at Reconciliation Ecology, The Scientific Activist, and Deep Sea News.

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2 Responses to Obama answers science questions

  1. […] September 15, 2008 McCain answers science questions Posted by Miriam Goldstein under Uncategorized | Tags: Oo |   McCain has answered the 14 questions on science and technology posed by Sciencedebate 2008. (Obama answered two weeks ago, and you can see the answers side by side.). Here’s what McCain thinks of the problems facing the ocean, interspersed with my commentary. See my take on Obama’s answer here. […]

  2. Justice says:

    Your’s is the intleleingt approach to this issue.

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