From our News Partners at WCBD-TV:
Nestled on James Island is the South Carolina Marine Resources Center which houses scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the College of Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, MUSC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It is a place climate change and it's affects on the world's oceans are put under a microscope.
"I study phytoplankton, a microscopic algae that live in the ocean and produce half the world's oxygen. And we're trying to understand how changes in carbon dioxide and temperature that's going to be occurring in the ocean in the next 100 years will affect different species of phytoplankton and their ability to photosynthesize" explains Dr. Jack DiTullio of his research. He works at the College of Charleston's Grice Marine Laboratory. DiTullio is one of the many scientist who presented their research to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island when he visited the center.
"I'm learning about what is happening along the coast line, and the effects of climate change. Whether its coming through the rising sea levels, or the changes in the acidity levels or the changes in temperature. And then, of course, the way all the different animals and grasses react to it," says Senator Whitehouse of his visit to the South Carolina coast.
"People care a lot about what's happening in their home states. And having home state information makes me a better advocate with my colleagues," explains Whitehouse. He says he's learning how climate change is affecting other states than his own in order to become a better advocate.
"I think that climate change is a serious issue and I think ours is a country that needs to lead on not only this issue but others. I'm trying to find ways to build better bipartisan consensus in Washington that climate change is real and that the things we can do about it will actually be good for our country," says Whitehouse.
"When you look at how important it is to people, its lower down the list than economic concerns that people still have. But this is one of those problems where if we don't get it now, by the time it does become people's number one priority, they're going to be looking around and wondering 'where were you? why were you not paying attention to this? you're job is to look ahead,'" says Whitehouse of his role in as a politician. "If it's pollution that's causing it and there are going to be public health problems and economic problems that the american people suffer as a result. The number one job of the government is safety and economic security. And if we're ignoring a problem that's going to harm those, shame on us."
The senator explains that scientists, like those at the Marine Resources Center, don't just provide the information though.
"Really terrific scientist work, not only at NOAA, but also at the universities in their marine science departments along the coast. So it's a real treasure of good information. And then you also get the good idea and the possible solutions that can come out of this," Whitehouse points out.
And scientists are all for bipartisanship between science and politics.
"I wish we had more of these politicians senators like Senator Whitehouse that are interested in the science that's being done. And trying to learn more about what's happening to the world's oceans and the world's climate," says DiTullio.
We reaches out to our U.S. representatives here in the Lowcountry. Congressman Mark Sanford says:
"At our family farm in Beaufort, I've watched over the last 50 years as sea levels have risen and affected salt edges of the farm. I applaud Senator Whitehouse for getting people together in the Lowcountry today to discuss this problem, and while we would likely approach solutions differently, building the conversation is a necessary first step."
Image courtesy of WCBD-TV.