Thursday, July 19, 2012

Whistling in the dark

Coral reefs: More than 2,600 marine biologists have signed a Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs, warning of the unprecedented challenges faced by coral reefs from warming, acidifying and rising oceans (due to CO2 emissions), overfishing, sedimentation, pollution and habitat destruction.

Coral reefs (again): A world without coral reefs is coming, probably much sooner than you think, according to ANU ecologist Roger Bradbury, who thinks the statement mentioned above is a form of collective denial. "It’s past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation."

Perverse incentives: Why the US Farm Bill just encourages more of the same mistake.

US Drought: the largest agricultural disaster area ever declared, covering more than half the lower 48. This US summer has been off the charts, but on our present trajectory even the hottest summers of the late 20thC will be cooler than the coolest summers of the mid-late 21stC in much of the inhabited world. And you don't want to know what the 22ndC then has in store, since if we get that far, warming is unlikely to stop there.

Chernobyl: It's not over yet. Half the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is forest, mainly highly flammable pine forest, radioactive flammable pine forest. A major fire could send radioactive particules high into the atmosphere and across much of Europe. Again.

UK floods: It didn't take much foresight to see that cutting the budget for flood defences was not a smart move in a nation predicted to get wetter. And the victims are not confined to dwellers in low-lying houses.

Australia in denial: Joe Romm's popular climate blog highlights the precarious position of Australian climate policy, where the tiny baby steps so far made could soon be undone. From one perspective, the current climate legislation might actually be functioning as a distraction, given its lack of ambition yet the tepidness of popular support for anything stronger. But I suspect that the repeal of the legislation would only shift public opinion further into the sand.


byron smith said...

US$1.5b damage from hail storms during drought.

byron smith said...

CC: Links to all of CC's coverage of the US June-early July heatwave 2012.

byron smith said...

Guardian: US corn crop to be hit harder than currently expected, with implications for global security.

byron smith said...

Lester Brown: The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise.

byron smith said...

Andy Revkin: Follow up discussion of the Bradbury zombie ecosystems NYT piece on doomed coral.

NYT: A snapshot of a rapidly changing coral ecosystem.

"Looking back through my records from more than a decade, I calculate that 75 percent of our shrimp collections in this area consisted of social species — three out of every four specimens we collected. Now there are none, save for a few small colonies of one partly social species. It’s extraordinary. The finding puts into perspective a parallel and also puzzling pattern that we observed in Jamaica. Sampling there in 2008, we found abundant large colonies of social shrimp, but earlier this year colonies were few and much smaller in size. On the Caribbean side of Panama, our colleagues noted a similar disappearance of one of the social species over a few short years.

"It now seems clear that a regional decline of social shrimp is under way. And it’s part of a larger pattern of change. Below the deceptively sunny surface of the tropical sea, the loss of social shrimp is only the latest signal of a global ocean ecosystem on the brink of profound change. I and my colleagues everywhere have watched with alarm the astonishingly rapid transformation of the world’s coral reefs, the crown jewels of the planet’s encompassing ocean, over little more than a single human generation. When I began graduate school in 1985, the transformation was only just dawning on us. Most of us got into this business because of what can only be called a love affair with the ocean and its life. But we have been drawn into the unwelcome role of witnessing and documenting the death spiral of reefs and struggling to find some hope for keeping them alive."

byron smith said...

Grist: US drought and electricity generation. Half of all US water use goes to electricity generation. I had thought that this must surely exclude irrigation. But no, half of all water extracted from oceans, groundwater and surface water, including all agricultural uses, goes to electricity production. Wow.

byron smith said...

Guardian: Coral reefs in the Caribbean are down to 8% live coral cover. It was 50% just a few decades ago (and likely close to 100% not long before that).

The exec summary of the full report can be found here.