UCSC biologist: Sea otters could help fight climate change

From the San Jose Mercury News and Santa Cruz Sentinel, an interesting article relating our recent otter/carbon paper to California’s new carbon emission trading program.

Designated by the California Air Resources Board, carbon offset credits qualify as environmental processes scientifically proven to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The board has four carbon offset categories: forestry management, tree planting in urban areas, capture and destruction of methane emissions from livestock manure, and destruction of coolant gases. Whereas the first two directly suck carbon out of the atmosphere, the latter two eliminate existing greenhouse gases.

Legally establishing these categories takes time. The forestry project alone took a decade to make scientific sense within the framework of carbon credits, said board spokesman Stanley Young.

Otters currently do not fit into any of these categories. And Wilmers, an assistant professor in UCSC’s Environmental Studies Department, acknowledges that getting them in the game would be difficult.
“Literally trying to do that in the future would take a lot of work,” he said.

But officials involved in evaluating offset programs for the board say the idea is not entirely out of the question. The board, eventually, intends to expand its list. A wetland management category, for example, is among the most promising potential additions — and has been in the works for several years.

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