Truthout: The “Mega-Drought Future,” the Disappearance of Coral Reefs and the Unwillingness to Listen by Dahr Jamail

Monday, 02 March 2015 00:00 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. A World Resources report states that all coral reefs will be gone by 2050 "if no actions are taken," a study published in BioScience states that oysters are already "functionally extinct" since their populations are decimated by overharvesting and disease, and the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, and others around the globe, continue to break size records. (Photo via Shutterstock)Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. (Photo: Dead Coral Reef via Shutterstock)

Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often-terrifying ways. Climate disruption and world leaders’ unwillingness to act have put us at risk of experiencing mega-droughts, the disappearance of coral reefs and other ecological impacts of an anthropogenically warming planet.

The UN World Meteorological Organization recently announced that 14 of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. Ponder that for a moment before reading further.

In what is perhaps eerily prophetic timing, this February marked the 50th anniversary of US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s warning about carbon dioxide. In a 1965 special message to Congress, he warned about the buildup of carbon dioxide and said, in what would become the harbinger warning of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD):

Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

The potential consequences of this warming are also multiplying, as witnessed by a recent NASA study that shows that the United States is “at risk of [a] mega-drought future.” The research shows that the Southwest and Central Plains are both on course for super-droughts, which have not been witnessed in over 1,000 years.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

In this month’s climate dispatch, we document a wide range of research along similar lines: Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often terrifying ways.

Earth

After the single worst mountaineering accident in history took place last summer on Mount Everest, the standard climbing route for that mountain has become off limits. Many mountaineers, including this writer, credit ACD with making the section of the route where the deadly accident occurred more dangerous than ever before.

Climate Disruption DispatchesAn increasing number of reports now demonstrate that ACD is leading to new disease outbreaks around the world. In fact, many scientists fear that ACD is already creating the ecological basis for infectious deadly diseases to spread to both new places and new hosts as the planet’s atmosphere changes.

Other scientists are warning of a coming “climate plague,” and say that exotic diseases like Ebola, SARS and West Nile virus will become “increasingly common” as ACD progresses. Less dramatically but equally pertinent, recent studies are already linking ACD to longer and more intense hay fever seasons in the United States.

Wildlife is reflecting the changes to the climate as well. Grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park emerged several weeks early from their winter hibernation due to the arrival of spring-like weather, with warmer temperatures and rain falling instead of the usual snow, according to a park spokesperson.

Dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that “profound” societal changes are needed in order to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

Madagascar’s lemur species, most of them already imperiled, are now being severely impacted by the effects of ACD, which will cause an average of half of their current habitats to be removed over the next 70 years.

Although it’s not as though we needed any further evidence that ACD is real and progressing rapidly, a study recently published in Nature, drawn from evidence taken from ancient plankton fossils drilled from the ocean floor, supports current predictions about ACD, as it verifies what we are seeing today, and where it will lead, since it has happened in the past.

On the human front, a recent report shows how disasters resulting from ACD are pushing India’s poorest children further into poverty and sometimes human trafficking, as parents are displaced.

Lastly, researchers at an annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the United States reported that the dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that “profound” societal changes are needed in order to feed the world’s ever-growing population. One example of these changes is the fact that, according to one of the scientists at the conference, in order to feed the planet between 2000 and 2050, agricultural output would have to produce the same amount of food as was produced in the last 500 years.

Water

As usual, the impact of ACD is extremely clear when it comes to water and water-related issues around the globe.

In Alaska, the annual Iditarod sled dog race is in increasing jeopardy, as warmer temperatures and dwindling snow cover are making it more challenging to run the race. Mushers are having to skirt open-water sections of previously frozen rivers, run their teams and sleds over long sections of bare ground, and run their dogs at night because daytime temperatures are sometimes too warm.

In the Pacific Northwest, a possibly record-setting bad snow year is in full swing, as mountain snowfalls remain at record low levels, and forecasts for the rest of the season are calling for more of the same. By way of example, the snowpack in the Olympic Mountains is at only 8 percent of its usual level.

The planet is experiencing “unabated planetary warming” when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.

A recent report revealed that anthropogenic air pollution in the northern hemisphere is reducing rainfall over Central America. Scientists explained that sun-masking pollution cools the northern hemisphere where most global industry is based. This then pushes the intertropical convergence zone (a rain band that encircles the globe) south because it moves toward the warmer hemisphere.

Researchers from the University of Arizona have shown that melting ice is causing the land to rise up in Iceland, and possibly elsewhere. The result of this could be a dramatic increase in the number of volcanic eruptions around the globe – yet another unintended consequence of ACD.

While it’s no secret that glaciers are melting in Antarctica and Greenland, a recently published study provided new evidence that the carbon from melting glaciers is impacting the downstream food chains and having a significant impact on those ecosystems. This means substantial changes to the base of the food web, changes that will have clear ramifications for global fisheries and ultimately, humans’ ability to feed themselves.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, titled “Smothered Oceans: Extreme Oxygen Loss in Oceans Accompanied Past Global Climate Change,” revealed that abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen occurred in the oceans when the global ice sheets melted approximately 10,000 to 17,000 years ago. These findings explain similar changes that are already occurring in the oceans right now.

New analysis of thousands of temperature measurements taken during deep ocean probes confirmed that the planet is experiencing “unabated planetary warming” when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.

Life in the oceans is being impacted in what are increasingly obvious ways. Rutgers University professor Malin Pinsky, who studies the effects of ACD on fisheries, recently announced a study showing species redistribution (having to move to new areas due to temperature changes) of fluke, which are being pushed north toward cooler waters. Pinsky has already studied a similar phenomenon happening with flounder.

In California, nearly 1,000 sea lions have been washed ashore this year in what rehabilitation centers state is a growing crisis for the animals. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are blaming warming ocean temperatures for the problem.

ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.

It’s important to place this distressing news for the planet’s oceans in a larger – and even more distressing – context. Now is a good time to recall an alarming 2011 report, in which the International Program on the State of the Ocean warned of mass extinction, based on the then-current rate of marine distress. The expert panel of scientists warned that a mass extinction event “unlike anything human history has ever seen” was coming, if the multifaceted degradation of the world’s oceans continues.

Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. A World Resources report states that all coral reefs will be gone by 2050 “if no actions are taken,” a study published in BioScience states that oysters are already “functionally extinct” since their populations are decimated by overharvesting and disease, and the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and others around the globe, continue to break size records.

Other water-related effects of climate disruption abound.

The massive snowfall in Boston this winter set all-time records for snow within 14, 20, and 30-day periods, and has been tied to ACD.

ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and wealthiest city that typically has access to one-eighth of the fresh water on the planet, is now seeing its taps run dry as the region struggles to cope with “an unprecedented water crisis.” And in the United States, California’s drought continues to make front-page news, as usual. The state suffered one of its driest Januarys on record, indicating that, without a doubt, the state is headed into a fourth straight year of drought.

Also in California, scientists are seeing that state’s shrinking snowpack as a harbinger of things to come. They are expecting the snowpack to shrink by at least one-third as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, and expect that by the end of this century, more than half of what now functions as a massive natural freshwater reservoir could be gone.

Indeed, a recent NASA study warns us of an “unprecedented” North American drought, and shows that California is currently in the midst of its worst drought in more than 1,200 years. The study also shows how things are only going to get worse.

Meanwhile, the distress signals from the Arctic continue to make themselves known, in the form of melting ice.

A study recently published in the Journal of Climate shows that the amount of ice already lost in the Arctic dwarfs any of the ice gains that have occurred around Antarctica. ACD deniers had pointed toward increasing ice buildup in parts of the Antarctic as a sign that ACD was not happening, but this study blows that “argument” out of the water. “I hope that these results will make it clear that, globally, the Earth has lost sea ice over the past several decades, despite the Antarctic gains,” wrote study author Claire Parkinson, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Seattle-based urban planner Jeffrey Linn produced a series of maps that show what is going to occur as sea levels continue to rise and major cities are submerged in hundreds of feet of water. They are worth looking at closely.

A study just published in the journal Nature Communications shows that sea levels north of New York City “jumped by 128mm (5 inches)” in just two years. This is an unprecedented rate in the history of tide gauge records. The US scientists who authored the study warned that coastal areas now need to prepare for “short term and extreme sea level events.”

Lastly, on the subject of rising sea levels, researchers recently reported that rising sea levels are already impacting Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the historic and iconic launch pads 39A and 39B are under threat as nearby beachfront is washing away at an alarming rate.

Fire

A recent state-commissioned study in the US projects between a 2.5 to 5.5-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2050, which would bring more disease, crop damage and wildfires to the state of Colorado, along with other states in the center of the country.

To make matters worse, another recent report makes it clear that wildfire season in the United States, which used to be confined to the months of July and August, has grown two and a half months longer in the last 40 years – and continues to expand.

Beyond the US, a recent study in the New Scientist revealed that ACD-augmented wildfires could begin releasing radioactive material locked in contaminated forest soils around Chernobyl, allowing them to spread all over Europe.

Air

A recent study published in Scientific Reports reveals that the forests’ ability to suck carbon from the atmosphere is likely slowing down. The ramifications for this are obvious: With forests’ ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere compromised, the impacts of ACD speed up dramatically.

Climate Central recently published an interactive tool called Winter Loses Its Cool, which allows you to see how daily low temperature projections for US cities are being impacted by ACD.

A modeling study published in LiveScience in February shows how ACD is spawning even more tornadoes in the US Southeast.

Another report – which shouldn’t surprise anyone living in the frigid northeastern US – shows how ACD is clearly shifting the jet stream that drives the weather for that region. This has been evident throughout most of February, where record-breaking bitterly cold air from Siberia wracked the region, along with the eastern half of Canada, with incredibly low temperatures and record snowfalls. It is obvious that something is amiss with the planet’s atmosphere when the US Northeast is getting weather, regularly now, that used to be found only within the Arctic Circle. As global temperatures slowly equalize as a result of ACD, the jet stream is no longer contained to its previous patterns.

January 2015 showed that worldwide temperatures are showing little sign of relenting from 2014’s record high levels, as January matched the warmest records for the month in 125 years of data records, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency.

Lastly, the giant craters in Siberia that are believed to have been caused by methane gas eruptions in melting permafrost are now sparking fears of the unfolding of an Arctic natural disaster. That disaster would look like increasingly escalating temperatures that cause self-reinforcing feedback loops to kick in, and cause the permafrost in the Arctic to continue melting, hence releasing the rest of the trapped methane.

Denial and Reality

There is some big news on the ACD-denial front this month, as it was recently revealed how the deniers’ favorite scientist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Wei-Hock Soon, has been taking cash from corporate interests – and the documents are there to prove it. He has accepted more than a cool $1.2 million in money from the fossil fuel industry, and opted not to disclose that minor conflict of interest in the vast majority of his so-called scientific papers.

Nevertheless, others who are taking massive amounts of cash from the fossil fuel industry, like the infamous Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), continue to spout on about how only God can cause climate change.

A recently published op-ed in LiveScience asks the question, “Is it safe to be a climate scientist?” given how aggressive and even dangerous the pushback has been against scientists for simply doing their jobs.

It’s a legitimate question because given the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record and all the other overwhelming evidence that ACD is in full swing and accelerating by the day, the denial movement has began to reach new heights of lying and propagandizing. By way of example, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s top business advisor Maurice Newman says that he believes ACD is a “myth.”

“We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears.”

Meanwhile, talk of “geoengineering” as a “solution” for ACD continues to grow in frequency and volume, to the extent that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently issued two firmly pessimistic reports on the subject. The NAS refused to call it “geoengineering,” however, instead calling it “climate intervention.” The NAS panel rejects the use of the term “geoengineering” because, “We felt ‘engineering’ implied a level of control that is illusory,” according to Dr. Marcia McNutt, who led the report committee.

Another, little-noticed factor that may be driving denial: noise pollution. A senior US scientist recently expressed concerns about how human-created noise is making us oblivious to the sound of nature. Rising background noise in some areas threatens to make people deaf to the sounds of birds, flowing water and wind blowing through trees, and the problem is exacerbated by people opting to use iPods during their hikes. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears,” the scientist said. Along with the fact that the majority of the global population now lacks regular access to wilderness, it is becoming ever easier for people to avoid thinking about ACD, since they are out of touch with the planet.

There have been important recent developments on the reality front for this section.

As a mitigation option, a recent Reuters story reminds us, “Giving more women who want it access to birth control to limit their family size, in both rich and poor countries, could be a hugely effective way to curb climate change, according to experts.”

Truthout also recently published an analytical piece on this topic, noting that there are 225,000 people at the dinner table tonight who weren’t there last night – and that the vast majority of carbon emissions are coming from so-called developed countries, rather than poorer “developing” countries.

In an action geared toward raising global awareness, Catholics in 45 countries aim to send an ACD message through their Lenten chain of fasting this year. In addition, Pope Francis’ scheduled address to a joint session of Congress this fall is aiming to put Republican lawmakers who are ACD deniers square on the hot seat.

Given recent reports and events, let us remember the shockwaves caused in the global scientific community when, in 2010, Australian emeritus professor of microbiology Frank Fenner, who helped eradicate smallpox from the planet, predicted the human race would be extinct within the next 100 years. Believing humans will be unable to survive the ongoing twin-headed dragon of unbridled population explosion and overconsumption, Fenner stated unequivocally, “It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.”

On that note, researchers at Oxford University recently compiled a “scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion” that predicts various scenarios of how human civilization will most likely end.

With ACD listed as the No. 1 most likely way we perish, the list goes on to include other possibilities like global thermonuclear war, a global pandemic, ecological catastrophe and global system catastrophe. Only two of the 12 scenarios – major asteroid impact and a super volcano – were not anthropogenic.

Regarding ACD, the researchers believe the possibility of global coordination to mitigate the impacts to be the largest controllable factor in whether or not catastrophe can be prevented. However, they also warned that the impact of ACD would be strongest in poorer countries, and that large human die-offs stemming from migrations and famines would cause major global instability.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Dahr Jamail

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

His third book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with William Rivers Pitt, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in Washington State.


 

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New York Times DotEarth: Politics: Politics-Minded Marine Group Targets ‘Ocean Enemy #1’

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/politics-minded-marine-group-targets-ocean-enemy-1/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1&
By ANDREW C. REVKIN SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 11:56 AM
September 1, 2014 11:56 am
 
This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.
 
Randy Olson, who shifted long ago from an academic career in marine biology to a focus on filmmaking, science communication and effective storytelling, offered this “Your Dot” contribution on Ocean Champions. This group has the simple – if daunting – goal of electing or re-electing lawmakers who fight for the oceans. Congressional politics is a rough-and-tumble arena and the group, as Olson describes in the context of a Florida race, is not afraid to play hard. Here’s his piece:

Ocean Champions:  Leading the Attack on Congressman Steve Southerland, “Ocean Enemy #1”
 
Long before Bill Maher introduced his “Flip a District” concept on his HBO show, the folks at Ocean Champions perfected the idea. Supporters of the group choose an “Ocean Enemy #1” – the member of Congress who does the most to harm the oceans – then the organization goes after the politician who receives the dubious title.

The organization, led by the marine biologist David Wilmot, is different than many other conservation groups in that it is a 501(c)(4) organization with a connected political action committee called Ocean Champions PAC. It does three main things – get good people elected, help develop sound ocean policy, and, what I think is the most fun (but that’s just me), they go after “Ocean Enemies.”

In 2006 they put the label on California congressman Richard Pombo and not only helped get him defeated, but kept him in their crosshairs – helping make sure he lost again in 2010 when he attempted another run.

Now Ocean Champions has identified Representative Steve Southerland of Florida as its current “Ocean Enemy #1.”  The latest poll commissioned by Ocean Champions shows the challenger, Gwen Graham, has taken a slight lead.  Ocean Champions made a nice TV commercial featuring a local fisherman speaking out against Southerland:

By November Southerland may be joining Pombo in Davy Jones’s locker.
The chair of the Ocean Champions board is my friend Samantha Campbell. I asked her a simple question – is it working?


She replied, “Absolutely. Just look at our record of accomplishments – we’ve backed 52 members who are now serving in the 113th Congress, we recently orchestrated a bipartisan effort to defeat legislative action that would have killed funding for a sustainable fishery program, and played a major role this summer in the passage of the first piece of freestanding ocean legislation this Congress – a bill to combat harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and dead zones.”

So let me offer a view that will probably offend some conservation folks. I sometimes look at paralysis on marine conservation issues and think, “Why doesn’t someone just go to D.C. and fix this?” Ocean Champions is one group I’ve seen over the past few decades that has really taken this sort of real-world philosophy and put it into action for the oceans.
 
I’m a big fan, and encourage you to support them so you can help sink the ship of Southerland on election night.

David Wilmot, a marine biologist, is the president of the organization Ocean Champions.
Credit
Ocean Champions

E&E: Kerry’s ‘Our Ocean’ conference spurs domestic and global commitments to sea conservation

Elspeth Dehnert, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference, hosted by Secretary of
State John Kerry, concluded yesterday with well over $1 billion in
pledges to protect and preserve the world’s oceans.

For two consecutive days, heads of state, foreign ministers,
policymakers, scientists, environmentalists and experts from nearly 90
countries, gathered at the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters
with the goal of developing strategies to combat marine pollution,
overfishing and ocean acidification.

President Obama led the charge early in the day when he announced
plans to make a vast portion of the south-central Pacific Ocean off
limits to energy exploration, fishing and other harmful activities,
thereby creating one of the largest ocean preserves in the world.

The administration will attempt to expand the Pacific Remote Islands
Marine National Monument with the guidance of scientists, fishermen,
conservation experts and elected officials.

“If we drain our oceans of resources, we won’t just be squandering one
of humanity’s greatest treasures, we’ll be cutting off one of the
world’s major sources of food and economic growth,” Obama said in a
video message. “And we can’t afford to let that happen.”

The president also said he will be directing federal agencies to
develop a comprehensive program to combat black-market fishing by
addressing seafood fraud and preventing illegally caught fish from
entering the marketplace.

Other domestic efforts include $102 million in Department of Interior
grants to restore natural barriers and floodplains, such as the
wetlands and marshes that run along the Atlantic Coast, and the
release of a white paper on ocean acidification by the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Now that’s just some of what we’re planning to do here in the United
States,” Kerry said. “But as President Obama made clear this morning,
we’re really just getting started.”

A global effort

The island country of Palau will be following in the United States’
footsteps with the creation of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary,
which will protect up to 500,000 square kilometers, or 80 percent, of
the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone by banning industrial-scale
fishing in the area.

“Palau comes to the table with a call for more marine protected
areas,” said the country’s president, Tommy Remengesau Jr. “It’s not a
one-size-fits-all formula but a call for all of us to put a share of
the solution on the table.”

Norway, meanwhile, made one of the biggest strides with a pledge to
allocate more than $1 billion for climate change mitigation and
assistance, including a substantial contribution to the Green Climate
Fund. The Scandinavian country also said it will spend more than $150
million to promote sustainable fisheries and put $1 million toward a
study looking at ways to combat marine plastic waste and
“microplastics.”

“We need clean and protected oceans to safeguard our existence,” said
Norway Foreign Minister Børge Brende. “The better we take care of the
ocean, the better the ocean can help us take care of our needs.”

Hollywood was also present at the event in the form of award-winning
actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who gave opening remarks alongside Kerry and
pledged $7 million to ocean conservation projects. “I’ve learned about
the incredibly important role our oceans play on the survival of all
life on Earth,” he said, “and I’ve decided to join so many people and
others that are working here today to protect this vital treasure.”

Souring seas in the spotlight

Conference speaker Carol Turley, of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in
the United Kingdom, rang the alarm bells on the rapid pace of global

ocean acidification, saying “it is happening at a speed we haven’t
seen for millions of years.”

“If we keep doing what we’re doing,” she added, “we’re going to end up
with a world that is between 3 and 6 degrees warmer and end up with
seas that are between 100 and 150 times more acidic.”

NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan later announced that the federal
agency will contribute more than $9 million over the next three years
to the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network. It is a financial
boost that Kerry said will enable the international effort to “better
monitor ocean acidification around the world.”

“And so out of this conference has come more — a commitment to a
combination of effort with respect to climate and oceans, but
specifically focused on acidification and sea level rise,” said the
secretary of State.

“We will convene again,” he concluded. “It will be in Peru, and after

that maybe back here. We will convene again.”
_________
 
Senators vow to do more to address pollution, maintenance concerns

Jessica Estepa, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

At the State Department’s Our Ocean Conference, Sen. Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who co-chairs the Senate Oceans Caucus, yesterday
called for a greater focus on monitoring and tracking marine debris.

As the Obama administration advances ocean conservation, senators
passionate about the seas will likely take on some of those same
issues in Congress.

In an interview, caucus co-Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) later
said that the caucus has discussed “doing more.”

“Our reality is we might have these systems out there, if you don’t
maintain them, it’s tough to get the data you need,” the Alaska
Republican said.

The group also may take up ocean acidification, Murkowski said,
another of the oceans issues brought up at the conference. The problem
has long been acknowledged among the senators — it was discussed at
the caucus’s first meeting in 2011 — and at least one member of the
caucus, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), has repeatedly called attention
to the issue at hearings and on the Senate floor.

Murkowski noted that the caucus has done its part to advance another
issue on the administration’s agenda: dealing with illegal, unreported
and unregulated fishing. Earlier this year, the caucus served as the
force behind the Senate’s approval of four fishing treaties that have
long awaited ratification, including the Port State Measures
Agreement.

She said she was “encouraged” by President Obama’s announcement of a
national strategy to combat illegal fishing, noting that the issue has
gained some traction.

“I appreciate the fact that the president is looking at this as an
issue that is important not only from the conservation perspective but
also from the perspective of support for a major economic sector,” she
said. “We’ll see where the task force goes and the kind of direction

he gives it.”
Special thanks to Richard Charter

Environmental Action: Stop fracking in the Everglades

logo and head

Sign here to stand up to fracking in the Everglades with our friends at Progress Florida.

Tell DEP to stop illegal fracking in FloridaThe Texas oil company Dan Hughes Co. was caught illegally fracking near the Everglades last month and public outcry continues to grow. Our friends at Progress Florida need your help to ensure that Hughes Co. faces serious consequences for its actions, not just a slap on the wrist from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

Join thousands of Floridians to demand that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel Vinyard revoke all drilling permits for Hughes Co. and set a strong example against fracking in Florida.

Since Progress Florida’s campaign launched last month, momentum has been building for Hughes Co. to be held accountable. The Collier County Commission unanimously approved a resolution calling on the DEP to revoke Hughes Co.’s permit1. Sen. Bill Nelson has called for federal investigators to look into the activities of Hughes Co2. It’s clear DEP is responding to the pressure by forcing Hughes Co. to shut down a second well close to where the first violation occurred3.

We can’t let Hughes Co. get away with what they’ve done. Join thousands of your fellow Floridians in demanding the DEP revoke the company’s drilling permit.

Thanks for standing up for our land and water.

For Florida,

Jesse and the team at Enviromental Action

1. “Collier County wants oil company’s permit revoked” Associated Press, 4/25/14.

2. “Sen. Nelson calls for federal review of Hughes Co. well drilling in Collier” Naples Daily News, 5/1/14.

3. “Oil drilling company ordered to shut down second Florida well pending tests” Tampa Bay Times, 5/2/14.

Coral-list: New study reveals timeline of future coral reef decline, highlights urgent need for action by Dr. van Hooidonk and Dr. Jeffrey Maynard

 

http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/climate/projections/piccc_oa_and_bleaching/index.php

Contact: Jeff Burgett, PICCC Science Coordinator 808-687-6149   Email: jeff.burgett@piccc.net
>
>
> Honolulu, Hawai’i.  February 18, 2014 – An international team of coral reef scientists has used the latest global climate models to reveal timelines for the accelerating decline of the world’s coral reefs through the end of the century.  If global emissions of greenhouse gases keep rising at or near the current rate, “within 40 years, nearly all coral reefs globally will be subjected to stressful conditions so regularly that reefs are unlikely to persist as we know them,” says study co-lead Dr. Ruben van Hooidonk.
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> Dr. van Hooidonk and his co-lead Dr. Jeffrey Maynard developed interactive online maps of their study results, showing the timelines for when each coral reef area will experience critical levels of temperature stress and ocean acidification.  The study is published in Global Change Biology in its January 2014 issue.
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> Coral reefs provide food and commercial fisheries, protect coastlines from waves, support tourism, and are inextricably interwoven into the cultural foundations for millions of people throughout the tropical oceans.  Seychelles Ambassador for Climate Change and Small Island Developing State Issues, Ronald Jumeau noted that, “It is a common misconception that sea level rise is the greatest threat to small island countries, when in fact the decline of the coral reefs that help feed and protect us and contribute to our wealth and well-being is a more immediate threat to the economic viability and the very physical existence of many of our islands.”
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> In the Pacific, island societies already are struggling with effects of global climate change on the habitability of their homelands.  Coral reef decline will further affect the ability of these nations to navigate a changing future.  Minister Tony DeBrum of the Republic of the Marshall Islands states, “Our islands and cultures have always been defined by our ability to interact with our marine and terrestrial environment. The impacts of climate change threaten the very existence of our unique identity as people and our sovereignty as a nation – a recognized member of the global community.”
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> Deanna Spooner of the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative that provided funding for the research said, “This study makes complex information about climate change impacts on coral reefs available for the first time in an accessible format.  Now, coral reef managers and other decision makers can see what the future likely holds for their region’s reefs and better communicate about the need for immediate conservation actions.”
>
> “This is another important scientific study that demonstrates the peril facing coral reefs today and into the future,” says Dr. Robert Richmond of the University of Hawai’i.  “There is a clear urgency in responding to greenhouse gas emissions.  Unless effective actions are undertaken at the global level, the future of coral reefs and those who depend on these incredible ecosystems is bleak.”  Coral reef managers attempt to protect reefs and increase their resilience to stress by minimizing human impacts such as overfishing, polluted runoff, and invasive aquatic species.  Strengthening these efforts through better land-use practices and the use of marine protected areas is also essential, Dr. Richmond stresses, “in order to buy time to address the ever-increasing problems caused by climate change.”
>
> What the Study Reveals
>
> Abnormally high ocean temperatures cause corals to “bleach” or lose the symbiotic algae that give them color and provide nutrients (food).  Prolonged bleaching events can kill corals over large reef areas, and repopulation by corals, fish and other reef species may take a decade or more.  As global warming proceeds, the temperature stress that causes bleaching is projected to become more severe and recur more often, eventually happening every year. It’s unlikely that most coral reefs can survive annual bleaching events.  In addition, rising carbon dioxide concentrations will cause increasing ocean acidification, gradually reducing the ability of corals to form the stony skeletons that give reefs structure.
>
> The study shows that the decade in which these stresses to reefs reach critical levels varies by latitude, and depends on rates of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Annual bleaching is projected to occur sooner near the equator and later at higher latitudes. However, these high-latitude reefs will have more time to be exposed to ocean acidification.  The online maps, hosted by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, use Google EarthTM and allow users to select emissions scenarios, coral sensitivity levels, and different levels of ocean acidification.  Users can then see when climate models suggest stressful bleaching events will occur or when various levels of acidification will be reached.
>
> This work was supported by the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional support from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.
>
> The Google Earth tool can be accessed at this link:
> http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/climate/projections/piccc_oa_and_bleaching/index.php
>
> High resolution images can be accessed at this link:
> http://piccc.net/coral-media-release.htm
>
> Full citation for the Global Change Biology article:  van Hooidonk, R., Maynard, J. A., Manzello, D. and Planes, S. (2014).  Opposite latitudinal gradients in projected ocean acidification and bleaching impacts on coral reefs.  Global Change Biology 20: 103–112. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12394
>
>
>  The Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC) is a self-directed, non-regulatory conservation alliance whose purpose is to assist those who manage native species, island ecosystems and key cultural resources in adapting their management to climate change for the continuing benefit of the people of the Pacific Islands – http://piccc.net
>
>

——————————

———————
C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin@noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.govNOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
College Park, MD 20740
Office: (301) 683-3320     Fax: (301) 683-3301
Mobile: (301) 502-8608    SOCD Office: (301) 683-3300

“A world without coral reefs is unimaginable.”
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, March 25 2010

Environmental Sustainability: Graham, N.A.J., Cinner, J. E., Norström, A.E., Nyström, M. 2013. Coral reefs as novel ecosystems: embracing new futures

Reef corals such as staghorn corals have been damaged due to overfishing, disease and global warming. Novel systems formed in their absence requires a new thinking on management and conservation, a new study argues. Photo: B. Christensen/Azote

Coral reefs — Back to the future:  Unrealistic to think coral reefs can return to pristine conditions, more pragmatic management approaches needed

Few, if any of the world’s coral reefs have been left untouched by humans. While it might still be possible to restore some damaged reefs to their historic function, a growing number of them may are now turning into “novel ecosystems”. Realising this might help researchers and managers to set up more sensible goals.

This is the conclusion by a team of scientists from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and James Cook University who recently published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

“It is unfortunately unrealistic to think coral reefs can return to pristine conditions, realising this enables more pragmatic approaches to maintaining or re-building the dominance of corals,” explains centre researcher Albert Norström, one of the authors of the study.

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One well-known example is how most Caribbean coral reefs have changed due to overfishing, disease and global warming. This has greatly reduced the abundance of large branching elkhorn and staghorn corals, which are very unlikely to become dominant again in the future. The novel systems formed in their absence are often dominated by leaf-like or plate-like corals.

Forward thinking research
Some fear that raising the issue of novel ecosystems might pave the way for a more laissez-faire attitude to conservation and restoration, that it could be misused and justify inaction. However, even though many coral reefs are changing beyond full repair they may still provide valuable goods and services, like fish production and shoreline protection.

Consequently, there is a need for forward-thinking research to understand the properties of these emerging ecosystems.

So far, most work on novel ecosystems has been done on land, but given the increasing human impact on a range of coastal and marine ecosystems, the scientists argue that a need to evaluate whether the concept is also applicable to the marine environment.

Embrace change
With coral reefs changing in unprecedented ways due to greenhouse gas emissions, overfishing, pollution and other threats, we must change our understanding of reefs as well, argue the authors of the new study. This means embracing change and exploring how human societies can adapt and respond to novel futures.

“We are by no means suggesting that current management and conservation activities should be abandoned, but rather highlight the need to re-evaluate our actions and goals,” explains centre researcher and co-author Magnus Nyström.

Novelty can mean hope
In some cases, novel coral reefs are not only a bad thing. For example, due to changes in temperature, reef corals in Japan have been extending their range northward at rates of up to 14 kilometres per year, generating new reef structures along these coastlines. Similar development has been seen in the Australian Great Barrier Reef  and in the Caribbean. This will of course influence the already existing systems at these latitudes, but not necessarily only in the negative sense.

“The emergence of novel coral reef configurations gives some hope that coral reefs may persist if the grand challenges facing them are rapidly tackled,” the authors write.

Undoubtedly, coral reefs will look different in the future. Most likely, management and scientific research will need to change as well if we want to save some kind of reef-like systems and the services they might generate to us humans.

“Understanding what kind of coral reef configurations that are possible and how best to manage them represent major gaps in our current scientific understanding of coral reefs,” Albert Norström concludes.

Request publication

Graham, N.A.J., Cinner, J. E., Norström, A.E., Nyström, M. 2013. Coral reefs as novel ecosystems: embracing new futures, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Volume 7, April 2014, Pages 9-14, ISSN 1877-3435, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2013.11.023

Albert Norström is research coordinator for the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) and is currently assessing and predicting regional coral reef resilience in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Magnus Nyström’s research is focused on the effects from human interventions, such as climate change, overfishing (including trade) and pollution, on ecosystem functions and processes – and how this impacts on resilience in ecological and social-ecological systems.

E&E: A largely unmapped food resource continues to shrink — study

Daniel Lippman, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, January 10, 2014

Japan, Greece and the Philippines are among the countries that enjoy
lots of marine biodiversity but are at highest risk of damage from
human impacts like overfishing, marine pollution and climate change,
according to a new study.

There are varying estimates of how many species are in the world’s
oceans (2.2 million is a common estimate), but the vast majority of
them have never been seen or named by scientists. Decreases in marine
biodiversity can threaten coastal protection services and ecosystem
services like fisheries.

The new study used a database of where 12,500 marine species are
located and combined the data with maps of where human impacts are
having major negative effects on oceans. With limited resources to
protect the ocean, finding out which areas have the most marine species
and are at highest risk can help policymakers decide how to prioritize.

“Our results emphasize the importance of both developing policies that
promote sustainable fisheries management and that also reduce the human
activities responsible for climate change,” said Elizabeth Selig, the
study’s lead author.

For Japan, the risks to its coral reef species and cold-water species
include fishing, climate change and shipping pollution. For Greece,
risks include overfishing and runoff from land pollution. Marine
species in the Philippines are threatened by shipping traffic pollution
and damaging practices such as dynamite fishing.

Where protein supplies are at risk

The oceans that are most at risk include the southwest Indian Ocean,
the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, and the so-called Coral Triangle in
Southeast Asia.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, fish and marine
invertebrates provide more than 2.6 billion people with at least a
fifth of their protein intake. A major loss of marine biodiversity
could threaten parts of that food source.

Selig, director of marine science at Conservation International, warned
that high temperatures can particularly affect coral reef systems in
the tropics where, when temperatures are high enough for an extended
period of time, it can cause coral bleaching and coral deaths.

“Because those corals are the foundation on which all the species in
those regions depend, coral deaths can lead to a major ecosystem
collapse,” she said in a telephone interview.

However, the news isn’t all bad, and there are opportunities to protect
marine biodiversity. Areas that have lots of marine biodiversity but
are relatively unaffected by human activities include southern Africa,
Australia and South America, according to Selig.

She acknowledged that there can be natural changes in species
composition but said “the levels of change now are really unprecedented
and a real cause for concern.”

The study was published this week in PLOS ONE.

Special thanks to Richard Charter

Impactiq.org: Financing Sea Grass Restoration with Carbon Credits

 

 

Photo courtesy of Beau Williams of Seagrass Recovery.

 

Sea grass restoration helps halt erosion and arrest habitat loss. And sea grass meadows may also be one of best carbon investments around.

That suggests an economic model for seagrass restoration projects and a win-win for the oceans – by sequestering carbon, seagrass may slow ocean acidification.

The world’s seagrass meadows have declined significantly over the past century. Combined with mangrove forests, about one-third of the earlier global mass has been lost. Despite its efficiency in sequestering carbon, seagrass relies on slower clonal (versus sexual) reproduction.

In 2008, the Ocean Foundation began funding sea grass restoration projects around the US, mainly to repair damage caused by boats. Carbon sequestration was a secondary consideration for projects, behind erosion-control and habitat-protection.

The foundation found that seagrass, along with mangroves, take up considerable amounts of carbon. Indeed, scientists think that seagrass meadows take in and stores up to twice as much atmospheric carbon per acre than terrestrial forests.

So the foundation offers “Blue Carbon Offsets.” On the foundation’s SeaGrass Grow! website, donors can calculate their carbon footprint and sponsor seagrass planting as an offset. The offsets have raised about $80,000 so far.

For now, the program is voluntary, but the emergence of viable carbon markets in California and elsewhere creates the possibility of an income-generating, self-sustaining model. The foundation has partnered with Restore America’s Estuaries to certify aquatic vegetation carbon protocols, four for mangrove species and one for seagrass (eel grass).

Mark Spalding, president of the Ocean Foundation, says he expects to generate between $250,000 and $750,000 annually in the early years, as the market for such certificates develops. Certification in California is a year or two away, but once accepted, the protocols should meet the European criteria as well, he says.

“We really want to take this endeavor toward a paid offsets model,” Spalding says. “Right now carbon offsets are really associated with terrestrial forests, but the ocean is the number one carbon sink on the planet.”

Photo courtesy of Beau Williams of Seagrass Recovery.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Oceans and Sustainable Fisheries,  in association with SOCAP 13, the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, Sept. 3-6. Impact IQ readers can get a 30% discount for SOCAP 13 by registering here.

 

About the author: Amanda Nagai

Amanda Nagai joined the Impact IQ/ImpactSpace team in 2013 as a writer and program manager. She has been an analyst and communications specialist for several government agencies, and has created original content for Fair Food Network, Brown Alumni Magazine, Trazzler.com and other publications. With a particular interest in impact surrounding food production and distribution, she studied aquaponics at the University of the Virgin Islands, food system reform at the University of Vermont, and received her bachelors from Brown University.

 

Special thanks to Mark Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation

Washington Post: Al Gore explains why he’s optimistic about stopping global warming

Al Gore was vice president of the United States from 1993-2001. Since leaving politics, he’s been heavily involved in the campaign to fight global warming, even winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. And he says he’s more optimistic than ever that the issue has reached “a tipping point.” In this lightly edited interview transcript, he explains why.

Al Gore speaks at Recyclebank. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/recyclebank/">Recyclebank/Flickr)

Al Gore speaks at Recyclebank. (Recyclebank/Flickr)

Ezra Klein: In 2005, when “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, I remember that the hope was we could keep the carbon load in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, and the fear was we would hit 400ppm. Now we’ve hit 400ppm and people are hoping to avoid 450ppm. This seems to be getting out of hand, and fast.

Al Gore: We have already crossed the 400 parts per million mark. We crossed it earlier this year. The question now is how high it will go before we begin bending the curve. But in spite of the continued released of 90 million tons of global warming pollution every day into the atmosphere, as if it’s an open sewer, we are now seeing the approach of a global political tipping point.

The appearance of more extreme and more frequent weather events has had a very profound impact on public opinion in countries throughout the world. You mentioned my movie back in the day. The single most common criticism from skeptics when the film came out focused on the animation showing ocean water flowing into the World Trade Center memorial site. Skeptics called that demagogic and absurd and irresponsible. It happened last October 29th, years ahead of schedule, and the impact of that and many, many other similar events here and around the world has really begun to create a profound shift.

A second factor is the sharp and unexpectedly steep decrease in prices for electricity produced from wind and solar and the demand destruction for fossil fuel energy from new efficiency improvements. The difference between 32 degrees fahrenheit and 33 degrees fahrenheit seems larger than just one degree. It’s the difference between water and ice. And by analogy there’s a similar difference between renewable electricity that’s more expensive than electricity from coal and renewable electricity that’s less expensive. And in quite a few countries in the world and some parts of the United States we’ve crossed that threshold and in the next few years we’re going to see that crossed in nations and regions containing most of the world’s population.

Another way to think about this is that back when mobile telephones first appeared, the market projections for how quickly they would increase market share turned out to be not just wrong but way wrong. This is a point made by Dave Roberts at Grist, but the projections made 5-10 years ago for the installation of solar and wind technologies were, similarly, not just wrong but way wrong. We’ve seen a dramatic increase that’s far more rapid than anybody projected and it’s accelerating — not just in the United States but even more rapidly in developing countries.

EK: Do the policy failures of the last decade put more pressure on technological advances to be the source of the solution?

AG: No, I seem them as intertwined. To some extent, the failure of policy at Copenhagen and before that in Washington has put more emphasis on the hopeful developments in technology, but as the conversation is won on global warming — and it’s not won yet but it’s very nearly won — the possibilities for policy changes once again open up.

We are seeing dramatic progress towards new policies in China, Korea, Ireland. We’ve seen a coal tax in India. We’ve seen changes in Australia, the largest coal producing nation. We’ve seen Mexico take a leadership position. We’ve seen action in California and other states. And some 17 other countries are in various stages of adopting either a cap and trade or carbon tax or both. If China follows through in its stated intention to move its cap-and-trade pilot program into a nationwide program in two years, then we’ll see a new center of gravity in the global energy marketplace that will accelerate the shift towards a market-based set of policies that will speed up the phase-out of coal-based electricity.

EK: Let me push back on your optimism here. To again use “An Inconvenient Truth” as a time marker, when that came out, Republicans in the Senate were still introducing bills to fight climate change through policies like cap-and-trade or cap-and-dividend. In 2008, there was a cap-and-trade plan in the McCain/Palin platform. In 2009, Waxman-Markey passed the House. But since then, Republican opposition has solidified, and cap-and-trade and carbon tax ideas seem completely off-the-table in American politics.

AG: Well, it’s not unusual to find big political shifts that take place beneath the surface before they’re visible above the surface. A lot of Republicans have shared with me privately their growing discomfort with the statements of some of the deniers in their ranks. Even though they’re not yet willing to come back to advocate constructive policies, there is definitely movement. You have now the formation of the first organized caucus in the Senate, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse joining with others in a hard-hitting effort.

But you see it at the local level a bit more than at the national level. You see these state initiatives and laws. And you see maybe the biggest shift of all in the business community. I think that in order to be competitive internationally we’ll have to make the shift towards a price on carbon. People are increasingly aware that we’re already paying the costs of carbon and so it makes sense to put a price on it.

EK: But to play the pessimist again, wouldn’t carbon prices in other countries give us a competitive advantage the longer we resist them at home? It seems that if India is taxing fossil fuels and we’re not, that’s a slight edge for us. It’s easy to imagine it becoming a kind of protectionist, save-our-manufacturing-sector issue.

AG: It’s certainly something that can’t be dismissed out of hand. But remember the World Trade Organization rules explicitly allow the recapture of carbon taxes at the border, much in the manner of a value-added tax. The U.S. is in danger if it did not change of being subjected to those recapture provisions. And as the cost curve for renewable electricity continues plunging, the low-cost electricity in the future will be renewables. At Apple, for example, 100 percent of its server farms and headquarters are on renewables, and they’re on the way to 100 percent for the company. Google is going down the same road. The pressure is only going to build as the price of renewable electricity continues to fall.

That’s even more true as the consequences to society and to the future of human civilization become ever more apparent to people. Once questions are resolved into a choice between right and wrong, then the laws change. It happened with civil rights. It’s happening now with gay rights. It happened with apartheid and, in an earlier era, with abolition. And this is now being resolved into a question of right and wrong.

EK: What do you think of the Obama administration’s intentions to push regulatory approaches to limiting carbon emissions?

AG: I’m very encouraged. I thought the president’s speech on climate was terrific and it followed the inspiring comments in his inaugural address and his post-election State of the Union. And remember the impact of policy direction on business calculations is forward-looking. When business begins to understand the direction of policy, they have to start adjusting to where the policy is going. When you look at the EPA process, it’s undeniably clear that there will be a price on carbon one way or the other. Then when you look at the movement in other countries and the states and local measures being enacted, the direction is now quite clear and businesses are making plans to adjust to it.

EK: You’ve moved from the world of politics to the world of technology. How has that changed your view of how much technology can do to solve this problem, and in particular, has it changed your view on various geoengineering schemes?

AG: Let me deal with the geoengineering part of your question first. That’s complex because there are some benign geoengineering proposals like white roofs or efforts to figure out a way to extract CO2 from the atmosphere , though no one has figured out how to do that yet. But the geoengineering options most often discussed, like putting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere or orbiting tinfoil strips — these are simply nuts. We shouldn’t waste a lot of time talking about them. Some people will anyway, but they’re just crazy.

To the broader part of your question, innovation is already playing a major role in bringing about new potential solutions to the climate crisis. The tech world had a bitter experience after the burst of enthusiasm in 2005 and 2006 because of a perfect storm made up of four elements: First, the great recession, which had a huge, destructive impact on business generally. Number two, the Chinese juggernaut, which subsidized the production of several prominent renewable energy technologies to the point where their sales price fell below the price of production in the West. Third, the shale gas boom dropped the retail price of electricity to levels below what many renewable energy plans needed to be viable. And fourth there was the policy failure I mentioned earlier in the U.S. Senate and Copenhagen. And all the while there was this massively funded climate denier campaign by the Koch Brothers and Exxon-Mobile and others that hired tobacco industry veterans to work with them on consumer advertising and lobbying activities.

But that setback was only temporary because reality has a way of reasserting itself. There has been a 100-fold increase in the number of extreme, high-temperature events around the world in the distribution curve. And people have noticed for themselves — the rain storms are bigger, the droughts are deeper and the fires are more destructive. All of these things have not escaped notice and people are connecting the dots. The cumulative amount of energy trapped by manmade global warming pollution each day in the earth’s atmosphere is now equal to the energy that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima bombs going off every 24 hours. It’s a big planet, but that’s a lot of energy.

The consequences are now hard to escape. Every night on the news, it’s like a nature hike through the book of revelations. Eleven states today are fighting 35 major fires! People are noticing this. And simultaneously they’re noticing the sharp drop in the cost of carbon-free, greenhouse gas-free energy, and the combination is pushing us over this political tipping point and the trend is unstoppable.

EK: What’s your response to people who say those events simply can’t be confidently connected to global warming?

AG: The leading scientists have in the last two years changed the way they discuss that particular connection. It’s true that it used to be common for them to say you can’t blame any single extreme weather event on global warming. What you had to say is the odds have shifted and those events are becoming more common and extreme. They’ve now changed their description of that connection. The temperature has increased globally and there’s now 4 percent more water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere than 30 years ago. As a result, every extreme weather event now has a component of global warming in it.

If you look at superstorm Sandy on October 29th, the ocean water east of New Jersey was nine degrees fahrenheit above average. That’s what put so much more energy into that storm. That’s what put so much more water vapor into that storm. Would there be a storm anyway? Maybe so. Would there be hurricanes and floods and droughts without man-made global warming? Of course. But they’re stronger now. The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6 [Update: See this post for more on Gore’s remarks on hurricanes]. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.

EK: Give me the optimistic scenario on what happens next. If all goes well, what do the next few years look like on this issue? 

AG: Well, I think the most important part of it is winning the conversation. I remember as a boy when the conversation on civil rights was won in the South. I remember a time when one of my friends made a racist joke and another said, hey man, we don’t go for that anymore. The same thing happened on apartheid. The same thing happened on the nuclear arms race with the freeze movement. The same thing happened in an earlier era with abolition. A few months ago, I saw an article about two gay men standing in line for pizza and some homophobe made an ugly comment about them holding hands and everyone else in line told them to shut up. We’re winning that conversation.

The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace. But the political climate is changing. Something like Chris Hayes’s excellent documentary on climate change wouldn’t have made it on TV a few years ago. And as I said, many Republicans who’re still timid on the issue are now openly embarrassed about the extreme deniers. The deniers are being hit politically. They’re being subjected to ridicule, which stings. The polling is going back up in favor of doing something on this issue. The ability of the raging deniers to stop progress is waning every single day.

When that conversation is won, you’ll see more measures at the local and state level and less resistance to what the EPA is doing. And slowly it will become popular to propose steps that go further and politicians that take the bit in their teeth get rewarded. I remember when the tide turned on smoking in public places. People thought the late Frank Lautenburg was crazy for proposing a ban on smoking in airplanes, but he was rewarded politically and then politicians began falling all over themselves to do the same. That’s the optimistic scenario. And it’s not just a scenario! It’s happening now!

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re still increasing emissions. But we’re approaching this tipping point. Businesses are driving it. Grass roots are driving it. Policies and changes in law in places like india and China and Mexico and California and Ireland will proliferate and increase, and soon we’ll get to the point where national laws will evolve into global cooperation.

Coral List: Coralwatch releases educational DVD series including Shifted Baselines

Dear Colleagues

CoralWatch recently released an education DVD series, adapted from our book, Coral Reefs and Climate Change.  This series incorporates 22 short videos (3-8 minutes), each focusing on a key aspect of oceanography, coral reef ecology, climate change science, and reef conservation. Animated diagrams, interviews with scientists and footage from around the globe help to communicate the latest science to diverse audiences.

We have just uploaded the episode on Shifted  Baselines to be freely available on youtube.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chn_4EyTK9g&feature=em-upload_owner#action=share

Feel free to share with colleagues or use this in your teaching activities.

If you would like to order the full DVD, or find out more about CoralWatch, please visit our website www.coralwatch.org, or email info@coralwatch.org

regards,
Angela

Dr Angela Dean I Project Manager (Monitoring & Research) – CoralWatch I The University of Queensland l Phone: +61 7 3365 3127 l Fax +61 7 3346 6301 l Email a.dean@uq.edu.au