Credit: Don Brubaker

California’s 24th District Congressmember Salud Carbajal teamed up with Congressmember Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) this month to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change on U.S. coastlines and coastal industries.

Introduced on April 20 (two days before Earth Day), the two bills would individually support ocean research and help prepare coastal states for sea-level rise and other effects of the worsening climate crisis.

“Ahead of this year’s observance of Earth Day, I’m proud to partner across the aisle with Rep. Fitzpatrick to reintroduce these two critical bills that will help coastal communities navigate the impacts of climate change and promote research on growing threats to our fisheries and all who rely on them,” said Carbajal. 

Congressmember Salud Carbajal | Credit: Courtesy

Carbajal’s newest legislation, known as the Ocean Acidification Research Partnership Act, would authorize up to $5 million in funding for studies on the effects of ocean acidification.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ocean acidification is sometimes referred to as “climate change’s evil twin,” as our oceans have been absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Acidification has an “osteoporosis-like” effect on marine ecosystems by creating conditions that “eat away” at the minerals used by shellfish, coral reefs, and other marine life to build and maintain their shells and skeletons. As the ocean becomes more acidic, it becomes more difficult for marine life to build these calcium structures, which also become more prone to dissolving. 

And it’s not just shellfish feeling the effects. Worsening ocean acidification threatens the United States’ billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries, which provide tens of thousands of jobs to coastal communities like Santa Barbara. 

“Ocean acidification poses a significant threat to our marine, estuarine, and coastal ecosystems, such as our coral reefs in Puerto Rico,” said Congressmember Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR), co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus, who joined the introduction of the bill with co-chair Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR).

“I’m proud to support the Ocean Acidification Research Partnership Act.… I trust this will further inform our efforts to tackle this important issue,” she said.

The bill would authorize National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants for collaborative research projects on ocean acidification between seafood industries and academic communities. Bonamici said that the act will provide funding for studying the effect on the country’s fishing and tourism industries in particular, “which will help them prepare for changing ocean conditions.” 

The other bill introduced by the bipartisan team, known as the Coastal State Climate Preparedness Act of 2023, is a replication of their 2019 legislation that advanced out of the House but stalled in the Senate.

According to the bill text, it is meant to “amend the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972” to require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a “coastal climate change adaptation preparedness and response program.” 

The bill would provide grants to coastal states in order to help them plan and “implement strategies to mitigate climate change, prepare for sea-level rise, and address other impacts,” according to Carbajal’s office.

Climate change poses a serious threat to California’s Central Coast communities.The City of Santa Barbara expects sea levels to rise by a little more than six feet by the end of the century, and the Carpinteria and Goleta regions could see sea levels rise 2-10 feet by 2100 (10 feet being the worst-case scenario). 

Coastal states would be able to use the funds for climate change adaptation and to protect infrastructure and coastal ecosystems, including projects for restoring fish and wildlife habitats. 

“The climate crisis threatens all industries and communities, but one of the most acute ways that our nation is already feeling the impacts of climate change is through the rapidly changing face of our oceans and coastlines,” Carbajal said. “Whether it’s reduced capacity to fish, the erosion of our beaches, worsening storm surges and hurricanes, or devastation of our storied coastlines — coastal communities like mine will see widespread impacts and need support to navigate these challenges.”


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