Aquaculture For Economic and Environmental Sustainability

As part of the quest for sustainability, we believe marine aquaculture could be one of the most viable solutions to the growing worldwide demand for leaner proteins in diets. Defined as “the means, the propagation, and rearing of aquatic species in controlled or selected environments, including, but not limited to, ocean ranching” by the National Aquaculture Act of 1980, it has become a highly globalized industry with US aquaculture valued at $1 billion out of the $70 billion worldwide.  Fueled by the continued exponential growth in the demand for seafood, aquaculture has come to encompass everything from the commercial fish farming most people are familiar with, to the research to vaccinate fish, improve feeding methods for cultivated sea life, and even raising seaweed for human consumption.

Salmon is one of the most popular seafoods in the United States and is regularly imported from countries including Chile and Norway. Image: Great Planers Trout & Salmon Club

The original regulatory act of the 1980s was meant to address the increased demand for seafood that was leading to unsustainable yields from wild stocks.  It also attempted to address the fact that in 1980, the US was already importing approximately 50% of all its seafood from outside sources.  However, despite increased research and improved technology over the last two decades worldwide, there is still a marginal commercial aquaculture industry in the US.  Part of this may be due to misinformation regarding the quality of imported seafood as well as the quality of fish coming from aquaculture in general.

Many arguments opposing aquaculture have already been debunked by scientific research just in the last 15-20 years, according to Dr. Paul Olin, an expert in aquaculture from the extension office of California Sea Grant that is affiliated with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California.  One project in particular which is partially funded by Sea Grant and headed by Mark Drawbridge of the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute (HSWRI) in San Diego, developed a fish feed that relies less on fishmeal, one of the arguments of farmed fish opponents.  They tested the feed on fish fingerlings from a hatchery in Carlsbad, CA also maintained by Hubbs-Sea World.  Their findings indicated that this new feed, developed using high quality poultry by-products and algae, did not hinder fish development and has the potential to be the answer to the feeding of fish proteins to such species as yellowtail tuna and sea bass.  If this feed could be mass produced and made for other species, including the highly prized Bluefin tuna, sustainability of such fish in a controlled environment could be a much more viable solution to the dwindling wild stocks.

Another aquaculture myth that has been debunked by research is in regards to the use of antibiotics to treat cultivated fish.  According to Dr. Olin, fish feeds used twenty years ago may have included antibiotics due to the lack of research and technology in the early years of aquaculture.  However, with research partially funded by cooperative public and private sector partnerships such as Sea Grant, vaccinations against fish diseases have resulted in a 97% drop in the use of antibiotics.

HSWRI has operated small surface cages using standard containment net technology in southern California as part of its white seabass enhancement program for over a decade with no escapement incidents.  HSWRI has also participated in demonstration projects in Northern Baja, CA, Mexico designed to promote the development of offshore aquaculture using regionally important species raised from egg to market.  These projects have used both standard surface cages and submersible cages with no escapement incidents.

View from inside a Hawaii offshore aquaculture cage with Moi swimming near the surface. Image: NOAA

Lastly, the argument regarding opening up the 200 nautical miles of ocean, which comprises the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), could turn the tide for fish farming in the US. Currently, most farms operate within state waters but opening up the EEZ could encourage larger commercial finfish cultivators to help reduce the gap between imported and local seafood.  One high-profile project in particular, spearheaded by Hubbs-Sea World suggested creating the first commercial-scale aquaculture farm off the coast of San Diego.  Unfortunately, with the release of the recent NOAA aquaculture draft policy, it was decided to table the project after two years of trying to get permit approval.  As the project demonstrated, the process of obtaining all the necessary permits is lengthy and can result in companies moving to Mexico’s waters instead where it only takes a few weeks to gain approval.

That is why it is crucial for NOAA and the Department of Commerce who have drafted complementary aquaculture policies to implement regulations that encourage commercial aquaculture industry in the US.  Having a regulatory system in place that makes it reasonable and affordable for a company to want to come in and develop within the EEZ is vital. There is significant scientific research that shows fish raised in aquaculture are no more harmful than fish caught in the wild. So long as organizations have the resources and support, research will continue to improve the industry as a whole.  This means that there should also be a greater movement to encourage public knowledge of this research to prevent misinformation. There are not only economic benefits of fewer imported seafood species but the notion of ocean sustainability and public trust that the products they are consuming are both safe to eat and beneficial for our environment.

— Alyssa Magat Crutchfield, Undergraduate Intern

** The views expressed in this article are purely personal and do not represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of California San Diego. **

Catch Shares: An Antidote to Overfishing

Tuna being cut in a fish market in Japan.  Bluefin tuna is an integral part of sushi and sashimi.  Image: WikiCommons

As a food staple that has captured the hearts of people everywhere, there is little doubt of the healthful and delicious qualities of fish as alow-fat, high-in-omegas alternative to red meat.  However, if rising consumer demand continues to be met unabated, it is clear that increased accountability is absolutely necessary to conserve dwindling fish stocks and the imminent economic collapse of the fishing industry.  Yet, it is not difficult to understand how overfishing has continued generally unabated over the last five decades.  When a single Bluefin tuna can go for over $100,000 in a Japanese fish market, the drive to meet those demands can be a strong motivator to limit restrictions.  The Chilean Sea Bass, Atlantic cod, haddock, various species of Marlins and even the Orange Roughy are also in danger due to increased demands on ocean fish in restaurants worldwide.  However, as the United States and a few other nations are demonstrating, there are viable solutions to prevent and possibly reverse potential devastation.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), overfishing can lead to the economic collapse of the commercial fishing industry.  Their conclusion is that implementing catch-shares has the potential to rebuild fish stocks while protecting commercial and fishing from economic failure.  So as overfishing continues to meet increased demand, the long-term consequence for the industry as a whole is far grimmer. Unfortunately, economic profitability in the short-term tends to be the overriding factor preventing international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) from effectively enforcing more policies that would protect both declining fish species and the fisheries.

Domestically, the US has recognized the necessity in conserving fish stocks both economically and environmentally within its own waters for several decades.  Passing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 1976 officially claimed and recognized the sovereign rights of the US to manage fish and resources within the 200 miles of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  The Act also created eight Regional Fisheries Management Councils who create management plans for the fisheries within their jurisdiction.  In turn, RFMCs must abide by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) national guidelines for conservation.  Various amendments since 1976 have reflected growing concerns over the years regarding the rebuilding of overfished stocks as well as the management of highly migratory species of such fish as the Bluefin tuna.

In a recent lecture at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator for the NOAA,  reiterated the importance of sustaining ecosystems and discussed the NOAA’s newly enacted policy of “catch share.”  Although domestic RFMCs have been using forms of catch share in their management of regional fisheries since the 1990s, the NOAA policy effectively echoes its efficacy at a national level.  It was also studied and implemented within a year of inception, which indicates that given adequate resources, it is more than feasible to put such a program into place without too much difficulty.  Internationally, Australia, Iceland, and New Zealand have been using catch share as the only policy in their management of EEZs since the 1970s.  While this is a testament to the catch share program in striking a generally successful balance between fish stock rebuilding and preserving economic viability domestically, there is still significant difficulty in enforcing fishing regulations on a global level.

Alaskan purse seiner lifting a catch of herring to the deck. Image: NOAA

Following the US’ lead in the creation of RFMCs, the UN implemented the UN Fish Stocks Agreement of 1995 (FSA) which gave RFMOs responsibilities that mirror those of RFMCs but on an international scale.  Made up of individual nations who voluntarily participate as member states, there are approximately thirty different RFMOs that govern various species of fish, including the Bluefin tuna.    Unfortunately for the UN, perhaps due to the large scale on which RFMOs must regulate international policy, there are increased problems in successfully enforcing conservation policies.

In particular, a handful of individual nations have been vocal in reducing the effectiveness of international attempts to protect stocks.  France, Spain and other countries that greatly profit in the industry exert an unequal influence on fishing regulation, especially in the European Union (EU).  In 1995, the EU readily defended Spain and Portugal over an accusation of exceeding fishing quotas set forth by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) by Canada off the coast of Newfoundland. This accusation included proof of using illegal practices to catch turbot (black Halibut.) While they would eventually reach a settlement, it goes to show the lengths to which individual countries continue to ignore conservation efforts.  Spain alone has received over €2.7 billion from the EU which has gone to subsidize vessels recognized for overfishing, something which the EU admits as a failure on their part despite regularly making attempts to protect declining fish stocks.

While the UN has tried to do what it can in terms of setting forth more policies, it is clear that more accountability must occur in nations who fail to encourage their enforcement by commercial vessels. RFMOs who are responsible for implementing fishery management plans also need to reassess current fishing quotas to adequately account for the rebuilding of fish populations.  However, more countries must also choose to act.  Scientific observations of hugely declining fish stocks seem to go largely ignored, especially by the EU, as evidenced by the continual overfishing of Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean.

Countries that regularly allow for the abuse of fishing regulations must reassess to what extent short-term gains are worth possible extinction of the very fish species that provide such significant profits. Research regarding overfishing and the need for greater conservation continue to provide grim forecasts, especially if perceptions about conservation equating to lower profit margins do not change.  One solution is for the UN and RFMOs to consider a comprehensive catch share program as implemented by the US, to protect the interests of prized fish species while making conservation a more attractive proposition to an industry in danger of disappearing with their stock.

— Alyssa Magat Crutchfield, Undergraduate Intern

** The views expressed in this article are purely personal and do not represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of California San Diego. **

Interrelations Between the Environment and National Security

Ambassador (Ret.) Center for Environment and National Security Director Reno Harnish held a lecture on November 15, 2010 for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  In my opinion the discussion after the lecture, “Climate Impacts on National Security,” demonstrated that the relationship between climate change and national security is not widely understood by the public.

Climate change should be seen as an accelerant of instability or conflict. A traditional definition of national security typically includes protection from national threats by maintaining armed forces, guarding state secrets and focusing on the well-being and security of individuals.  Climate change on the other hand is the change of weather patterns caused by human activity over a long period of time. The relationship of environment and national security therefore, examines the impact of the environment across borders,  political stability of fragile states, and positive military impacts.

Another issue raised by members of the audience was the lack of hard data for climate impacts on national security.  I think the primary issue is the lack of publicized attention about the topic. Research data exists.

Ambassador Harnish covered several climate security case studies. One case study is how climate change has impacted civil conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa (Hendrix and Glaser 2005). Another example is China’s climate and security challenges as a result of warming due to climate change (Lewis 2009). It is predicted that China will lose about 150 km2 due to climate change. He further cited a case study about the linkage of climate change, crop yields and the Mexico-US cross-border migration. The Mexico-US border emigration increases to about 2% when there is a 10% reduction in crop yields (Feng, Krueger, and Oppenheimer 2010).

Evidence of support for combating climate change is shown in current California policy in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and the recent defeat of Proposition 23. It is a response to the threat of increased greenhouse gas emissions as a result of climate change. Additionally, the Low Carbon Emission Fuel Standard, Executive Order S-1-07, aims to mix fuel sold in the California market to meet targets for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

All these examples provide evidence of  the interrelation between the environment and national security, making it an important factor to consider in environmental policy formulation.

The views expressed in this article are purely personal and do not represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of California San Diego.


Erika Marie C. Go

The United Nations’ Environmental Achievements

The United Nations has spearheaded an international effort to combat global environmental problems such as a thinning ozone layer, global warming, and unsustainable development. The UN system provides international assistance with annual loans and grants for developing countries and countries in economic transition. It includes the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) 1972, which has adopted strategies in order to curb the depletion of natural resources, support alternative energy, and protect and preserve the environment.

The United Nations has been responsible for negotiations in the realm of environmental sustainability and development. For example, the UN Convention on the Environment and Development in Rio De Janeiro in 1992 resulted in biodiversity and climate change negotiations. It established the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In addition, countries adopted “Agenda 21,” which promotes sustainable development while protecting the Earth’s natural resources. This conference catapulted two major environmental issues into public conscious, resulting in two major international agreements and has served as a model for environmental policy making.

The United Nations Environmental Programme or UNEP give priority to climate change problems. UNEP was a driving force in passing the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. The protocol orders the complete phase out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2030, reversing the decline of ozone thinning. Through the UNFCC, nations have reduced the reliance on fossil fuels and increased focus on the development of green energy.

The United Nations has promoted green energy by providing loan programs with the development of solar energy. According to a study by the Worldwatch Institute, which is funded by the UNEP, the global market for environmental products and services is projected to double by 2020 (from $1.37 trillion per year to $2.74 trillion). The increase in demand of these products will provide future jobs. An important financial resource is the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), which provides grants to developing countries and countries in economic transition related to climate change, international waters, and the thinning of the ozone layer to name a few. Since 1991, it has allocated $8.8 billion and provided $38.7 billion in co-financing environmental projects.

Some additional UN environmental departments are the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of 1988, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The United Nations has not only provided jobs but it is combating major environmental issues by promoting, and providing assistance to countries. It has also encouraged environmental development, and international policies that protect the well being of people and the environment.
The views expressed in this article are purely personal and do not represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of California San Diego.


Erika Marie Go

Algae and Electric vehicles in San Diego Transportation

Thinking about energy for transportation has gone through many fashions over recent years. Driven by visions of energy independence and fears about the carbon footprint of gasoline powered vehicles, the country has seen government support for hydrogen fuel cells, bio fuel and electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries. This is not to mention the call by billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens for a natural gas powered vehicle, which was recently seen as a major component of a Senate energy bill.

The costs and benefits of two quite different technologies may be revealed locally. San Diego is home to a strong biotechnology community integrated with other disciplines in the research and development of algae bio fuel. We also are an early test bed of infrastructure for electric vehicles.

There is a real team effort through the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology (SD-CAB). This is a project of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Scripps Research Institute, San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego. In June they received $9 million from the Department of Energy and an additional $3 million from a consortium of companies for basic research on algae as a transport fuel.

Also, Sapphire Energy received from the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture grants and loans for $105 million. The support is for the construction of a commercial demonstration plant in New Mexico for algae to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Sapphire already has big name investors such as Cascade Investment inc. (Bill Gates) and Venrock Associates (Rockefeller family) that provided more than $100 million.

Finally, ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) announced in July 2010 the opening of a new greenhouse facility to enable the next level of research and testing in their algae bio fuels program. This greenhouse, located in La Jolla, California, is part of an ongoing commitment to advance breakthrough energy technologies to help address the world’s long term energy challenges. Last year Exxon-Mobil committed $600 million over five years to produce transportation fuels from algae and teamed up with Synthetic Genomics.

At the same time, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune of August 3, 2010, the region will be receiving 1500 new charging stations for electric vehicles as a consequence of the American Relief and Recovery Act (stimulus bill). The funding is included in the Department of Energy Electric Vehicle program. Some chargers will be provided at public sites, and will provide a fast charge that would provide 15 miles of travel for every five minutes at the device. Other chargers will provide a slow charge of 12-15 mi, in an hour. Fast chargers will be used along freeways and at gas stations or coffee shops. Slow chargers will be used at workplaces, malls and shopping centers.

Scientists and engineers will face unexpected developments as they seek a clean energy source for transportation. The taste and cost preferences of consumers will select a technology to succeed.

The views expressed in this article are purely personal and do not represent the Scripps Institution of Oceanography or the University of California San Diego.

Reno Harnish

Environmental Stewardship

This year, a Department of Defense request for proposals called for the development of new economic models.  They should allow military base environmental managers to make cost-benefit decisions between ecosystem services and the use of land for core mission activities like training.

When I mentioned this to a University faculty member, he remarked that new models hardly were needed.  The US Forest Service in his view had developed analytical tools to assess the ecosystem services provided by a forest versus the economic value of a road for instance.

The problem was not the lack of robust economic models for cost-benefit analysis, but the lack of funding by the military to do the complicated ground-truthing and data development that allows one to truly understand a local ecosystem.

In practice, bases continue to make decisions on the management of endangered and threatened species of plant and animals.  In many cases, they do quite a good job.

One such environmental management group is the Marine Corps Installations West.  They manage seven major facilities including Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms.  All together the 7 facilities comprise 60% of the Marines housed in the U.S. Stan Norquist, the Director of Environmental Security, has a staff of 100 to help the Command Leadership sort out knotty environmental decisions.  I met him this week and he filled me in on the many achievements of Marine Corps Installations West.  It was clear to me that this concern for environmental stewardship extends right to the top—Major General Anthony Jackson.

Their work at Camp Pendleton is described in a massive Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan, which reflects the topography of the area.  The Estuarine and Beach Conservation Plan is designed to sustain and enhance Camp Pendleton’s coastline.  The Riparian Ecosystem Conservation Plan aims to “sustain and improve the biological diversity of the Riparian ecosystems on base.”  The Listed Upland Species Management Program uses predator control management strategies and restricted access to nesting colonies to protect breeding areas.

Camp Pendleton houses over 850 plant species, including 3 threatened/endangered species (Brodiaea filifolia, Navarretia fossalis, Eryngium aristulatum), and 39 sensitive species.  There are 12 California listed threatened/endangered animal species that breed on or migrate through the base.

The Snowy Plover and Least Tern are both on the endangered species list.  Because of the conservation efforts of the Navy at Coronado Naval base the Least Tern population has increased 7000% in the last 10 years while the Snowy Plover increased 600%.

In a different example of environmental stewardship, Camp Pendleton in June 2009 opened the South Mesa Lodging Facility.  It is constructed of 20% recycled materials and will be 100% recyclable when demolished.  The Facility saves more than 20% water, lighting and overall utility usage.

Ironically, environmental stewardship and conservation management could be of help to the Marine Corps training mission.  On the one hand, the relatively untouched military lands need to be protected and conserved by the Marines and this requires inconvenient mitigation measures right down to the platoon level.  On the other hand, the presence of so many threatened and endangered species should cause us to think twice before we propose major development projects on the facility, like high-speed rail or desalination facilities that might even more seriously impact the training mission.

The views above are personal and do not represent the views of Scripps Institution of Oceanography or its faculty.


Reno Harnish

Water for Development, Diplomacy and Defense

On an April 5-7 trip to Washington D.C., I could still hear the echoes of Secretary Clinton’s March 22, 2010 speech on water at the National Geographic Society.  A number of people I met in a number of Government Agencies and in non-governmental organizations were full of praise that she discussed water in its broadest sense including as a diplomatic, development and defense issue.  The lack of fresh, clean water influences for the worse global health, food security and areas of regional conflict.

The size of the world’s water problem is hard to grasp.  The World Health Organization estimates that globally today, 1.2 billion people or twenty percent of the world’s population lack access to clean water supplies.  By 2025 nearly 66 percent of the world’s population will be living under water stressed conditions.

As water becomes increasingly scarce, it could lead to conflict either within or possibly even between countries.  Water scarcity is said to be a contributing factor to the seemingly endless strife in Sudan. We have seen water tensions between Syria and Israel play a part in the run up to the 1967 war.  Also, Egypt reacted strongly in the past when Nile upstream nations such as Ethiopia suggested that they would use a bigger share of water in the future.

Secretary Clinton sees this as an opportunity, “Water is actually a test case for preventive diplomacy.  Historically, many long-term global challenges-including water- have been left to fester for years until they grew so serious that they could no longer be ignored.  If we can rally the world to address the water issue now, we can take early corrective action and get ahead of the challenges that await us”.

The Secretary named Under Secretary for Global Affairs Maria Otero and USAID Administrator Raj Shah to head up US policy on water.  Important figures for implementation will be Oceans, Environment and Science Assistant Secretary Kerri-Ann Jones and International Organizations Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer.  Under all circumstances, the State Department’s  Co-ordinator for Water issues, Aaron Salzberg is a key figure defining the issues and pointing the way to new solutions.

Contacts in Washington expected that between US Agency for International Development and Millennium Challenge Corporation funds, the US would invest close to $1 billion on international water issues this year.

Part of the reason for increasing water shortages in some parts of the world will be climate change.  One source estimated that 20 percent of the increase in water scarcity will be accounted for by climate change.  This prompts water managers to ask for long range precipitation forecasts.  Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists like Tim Barnett and Dan Cayan have done a number of studies with the United States Geological Survey and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on hydrological conditions over the Western United States that have proven quite useful in decision making by the California Water Resources Control Board.

The views above are personal and do not represent the views of Scripps Institution of Oceanography or its faculty.


Reno Harnish

GHG emission verification: How and For Whom?

Green house gas verification services are practically a commodity.  There are a great number of companies advertizing on the internet that specialize in verification for the European Union green house gas Emission Trading System (ETS).

As for the United States we expect green house gas verification services to become a growth industry. In December 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required reporting of GHG emissions.  Under the rule, suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions are required to submit annual reports to EPA.

Similarly, under AB 32, the State of California requires reports on April 1, 2010, from operators of stand-alone Cogeneration or Electricity Generation facilities, and operators of General Stationary Combustion facilities (except oil and gas).

Even, the Copenhagen Accord notes that developing country mitigation actions supported by Annex 1 (developed) countries would be subject to verification.

However, according to “The Hindu”, an Indian national newspaper, China and India have declared that mitigation actions reported in Annex II of the Copenhagen accord are voluntary.  As such they should be measured, reported and verified solely by national means.  China and India state that international monitoring of these steps would be an interference with their sovereignty.

The U.S., European, Chinese and Indian approaches to verification largely involve bottom up measurement at the facility or company level.  Verification in this sense means understanding the production process, taking measurements in the plant and interviewing employees.

But, what if we could measure directly GHG concentrations in the atmosphere?  This could help to calibrate the bottom up techniques of facility verification.  It might remove the incentive for green house gas producers to misreport when the price of carbon dioxide and other GHG rises.

New work is getting underway at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to do just this.  In collaboration with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Professors Ray Weiss and Ralph Keeling will model atmospheric time series measurements at two points in California to infer emissions of a wide range of regulated green house gases.

As the nations of the world gather this year on the road to Mexico City, they may wish to consider how this valuable new research might evolve into a tool to support a system for control of green house gas emissions.

The views above are personal and do not represent the views of Scripps Institution of Oceanography or its faculty.


Reno Harnish

Arctic Environment: Sovereignty and Cooperation

Canada is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers of the five Arctic Ocean coastal states (Russia, Canada, US, Denmark and Norway) on March 29, 2010, in Chelsea, Quebec.  According to Canadian newspapers, the meeting will demonstrate Canadian leadership on Arctic issues.

Similarly, on February 28, as reported in the Montreal Gazette, Canada asserted its Arctic Sovereignty by announcing new shipping rules.  The Northern Canada vessel traffic services zone was announced as a proposed regulation.  According to the Canadian government the system is designed to avert terrorist activity, pollution and search and rescue failures.

The five Arctic states that will meet in Quebec think sovereignty is a critically important issue.  Each keeps a wary eye on those that seek to impinge on what they see as their exclusive economic zone.  My guess is that the US Government will object that what Canada proclaims as a vessel traffic services zone is, in the US view, an open route for international navigation.

Judging by the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review (see blog post 1) the US Navy has a keen interest in future Arctic Ocean operations.   The Arctic region has an incredibly difficult climate and very few are adapted to its rigors.  However, the Navy wants to know how and when its mission will be influenced by a possible increase in Arctic Ocean activity including, greater shipping traffic, mineral extraction, adventure tourism and commercial fishing.   All of this is dependent upon the pace of Climate change.

What can we say about the future Arctic climate by decade?  Perhaps, more rain will fall on Arctic coastal areas.  Perhaps, climate changes will be gradual enough that the indigenous people will be able to adapt.  Regional decadal climate forecasting is not fully developed so it is unlikely there will be definitive answers.  We have more confidence when we are looking at what will happen by 2100 and what will be the global rise in temperature.

Despite this uncertainty, it seems to me that there should be room for the US and Canada to work together on Arctic policy issues as they do in the mapping of the extended continental shelf to their North.  As one observer said, the US and Canada should present a united front to the world in the Arctic as they do in the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The views expressed above are purely personal and do not reflect upon the University of California or Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Reno Harnish

Navy Goals Create new Renewable Energy Demand

In a February 19 blog post, the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), reports that the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus expects the Navy to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The goal was cited in a speech by Rear Admiral William French Commander, Navy Region Southwest to the SDMAC.  He said to meet the goals Navy Region Southwest (NRSW) will need to shift its alternative energy perspective from what it has been doing.  He summed this up by saying NRSW, which employs 55,000 military and 22,000 civilian employees, must move from many small projects to a few really big projects.

This is a significant statement because far from being a laggard on the environment and renewable energy deployment, NRSW consistently is decorated for its achievements.  In February, six NRSW facilities were honored with Chief of Naval Operations environmental awards.

Renewable infrastructure in place includes 1.8 mega watts from solar power, often associated with car parks, 675 kilo watts on San Clemente Island from wind and 4,950 mbtu from concentrating solar power.  A project on San Nicolas Island could bring on an additional 1 megawatt of wind power.

We believe that a key to meeting the goal set by Mabus is energy conservation and efficiency.   NRSW electricity consumption is now in the neighborhood of 1,000 giga watt hours.  (NRSW) reduced energy use by 40 percent over the period 1985-2005.  If energy efficiency measures continue to be as successful over the coming 10 years as they have been, then NRSW needs to find many fewer giga watts of renewable energy capacity.

After conservation and efficiency measures are taken, there is still plenty of demand that must be satisfied by renewable energy.  Federal and State tax credits provide some incentives.  Never the less the largest renewable energy source that the Navy has is Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake with a geothermal power facility of some 275 megawatts.  Contractor owned and operated, it provides power to the grid.  The Navy is also evaluating potential geothermal sites with 25 mega watts at Naval Air Station Fallon and Naval Air Facility El Centro.  Let us hope that the strong efforts of NRSW are not burdened by the NIMBY attitude that is greeting some other attempts to site renewable energy in the deserts of the South West.

We can infer something from the fact that NRSW electricity generation is roughly 50 giga watt hours.  There will be more demand by the Navy for renewable power generation leading to power purchase from private sector producers and the need for industry partnerships.

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