San Diego County Chapter

beach pres

Idling Hurts Oceans


We’ve all done it. We pull up to a beach parking lot for a “spot check” or to catch the sunset. The view from the car is good, so we stay in the car and leave it running.

The irony here is that while we’re enjoying the beauties of the ocean, we’re also causing damage to it. Even when a car is just idling, it still burns gasoline.

When cars burn gasoline they expel greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere which are responsible for global climate change. The ocean absorbs 25% of the greenhouse gasses humans have emitted and 90% of the heat. Imagine what life on earth would be like without this service from the ocean. However, this great favor provided by the ocean does not come without consequences.

One of the issues climate change creates for the ocean is called Ocean Acidification. When carbon is absorbed into the ocean, it turns into carbonic acid. The ocean is 30% more acidic today than it was before the industrial revolution and could double by the end of the century. Ocean Acidification makes it difficult for marine calcifying organisms, such as coral and some plankton, to form shells and skeletons, and existing shells become vulnerable to dissolution. The impacts of this are still largely unknown, but will affect marine life all throughout the food chain.

Warmer water simply holds less oxygen and, unfortunately, fish require even more oxygen in warm water. A warmer ocean also becomes stratified, which means that the different depths stop cycling oxygen and nutrients to one another.

Another consequence of a warmer planet is sea level rise. About half of the sea level rise we have seen to date is from melting ice around the world; the other half is caused by thermal expansion as water simply expands as it gets warmer. Most estimates now suggest that seas could rise from 2 to 6 feet by the end of the century. For every foot of sea level rise, 30-100 feet of beach is lost inland. How many feet inland does your favorite beach go?

Now knowing these impacts, is having the AC or radio on while watching the waves really worth contributing to the devastating impacts it has on the ocean? Starting a car requires the equivalent amount of gasoline as idling for 5 seconds. If it’s over 5 seconds, turn it off!

Idling Hurts Oceans hopes to push people to ask the bigger questions, beyond just the impacts from car idling. This campaign is about encouraging people to consider the broader climate impacts from how they use transportation,which is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Whenever you take the train, bus, walk, or bike to your destination, know that the ocean thanks you for leaving your car at home.