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October 31, 2014, 11:07 pm

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Ocean acidification: Connecting science, industry, policy and public

 Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) recently launched a new short film “Ocean acidification: Connecting science, industry, policy and public” (http://www.youtube.com/user/PMLAdministrator?feature=mhee), at the International Ocean Acidification Reference User Group meeting in Brussels.  

Ocean acidification is a recently recognised phenomenon which results from the growing quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth’s atmosphere. Much of this gas is being absorbed at the ocean surface, pushing seawater down the pH scale towards acidity and posing a potential threat to marine ecosystems and those dependent on them. As scientific research reveals more about how the oceans and the life they contain might be affected, there is a need to engage with a wider community including policy makers, environmental managers and the general public to understand what is happening, how we might be affected and what actions could be taken to reduce any risks.

The film brings together a wide range of stakeholders including HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, school children, a Plymouth fishmonger, a UK government Chief Scientific Adviser, representatives from industry and policy making departments, as well as a group of internationally recognised expert scientists.

It has become obvious that each of the interest groups has its own concerns and level of understanding. Dr Carol Turley OBE, who led the film production team at PML in her role as Knowledge Exchange Coordinator for the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, explains this can lead to confusion and misunderstanding: “Scientists are reticent to make long-term predictions until they have a sound scientific basis for doing so; policy makers often require immediate answers that can lead to timely solutions, while industry needs to plan ahead; and the public want to know how they may be affected and what is being done to face any likely threats. Such a diversity of information requirements sounds like a recipe for confusion. This film highlights the need for clear communication at the earliest opportunity to ensure that all stakeholder groups go forwards with an understanding of each others’ positions and responsibilities, by using a real example of how this is already working within the ocean acidification community.”

Although the final impacts are still not clear, ocean acidification is relatively newly recognised, happening now and should be a concern for all of us as it has the potential to affect everyone. However, making sure the message gets through can be a real challenge. Speaking the same language, understanding the different requirements of the various interest groups and accepting the importance of working together is the first step.

Dr Faith Culshaw from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), who commissioned the film, added “Communication between these groups is essential if we are to face up to the world’s pressing environmental challenges. This short film, which we at NERC were pleased to support financially, shows that getting all interests around the same table to face up to a challenge, understand what needs to be done and sharing the responsibility can and does work.”

Prof Dan Lafolley, Chair of the international Reference User Group on Ocean Acidification, is clear about the importance of this film "Everyone should see it. A powerful new film. Fantastically clear, it gives a fresh look at ocean acidification - one of the most important environmental issues of the modern generation".

The 12 minute film “Ocean acidification: Connecting science, industry, policy and public”, can be viewed via: www.oceanacidification.org and www.pml.ac.uk or directly on: http://www.youtube.com/user/PMLAdministrator?feature=mhee.