Sheril reports that Barack Obama has taken up the challenge and answered the 14 questions posed by the ScienceDebate08 coalition. These 14 issues run the gamut from space to health to security and education. In particular to myself and you the reader, there was one very important question about the ocean’s health:
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?
“Oceans are crucial to the earth’s ecosystem and to all Americans because they drive global weather patterns, feed our people and are a major source of employment for fisheries and recreation. As president, I will commit my administration to develop the kind of strong, integrated, well-managed program of ocean stewardship that is essential to sustain a healthy marine environment.
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). 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.
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.
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.”
There are several things I would have loved to hear more about. He was stuck on the global warming mantra, which is undoubtedly important, and brought up acidification. I would have liked to hear him say he supports the creation of a Oceans Agency of some sort that unifies the disparate federal arms of USGS, NOAA, NASA, USFWS and provides them with a budget and clear set of objectives. I also want to know how he intends on increasing funding. I’ve his tax structure next to McCain’s. But with all the other things to pay for, where do you think the compromise will be? How important does an Obama government view the oceans, relative to social issues? From this answer, it is hard to judge because he seems to have a generally positive view about science (see all his answers to the 14 questions), which certainly gladdens my heart. But when the ocean research funding line has to be drawn, where is the line going to be in the sand? I am anxious to hear how John McCain answers this question.