Global Warming and Reefs: Statements at Buenos Aires Conference of Parties 14 Nov

Gregor Hodgson rcgregor at
Sun Nov 15 02:24:31 EST 1998

Dear listers,

Here are a couple of provocative statements picked up by Reuters at the
COP-4 (Global Warming) negotiations in Buenos Aires on reefs and global
warming. While many of us do not feel that the scientific data back up
this headline, the most recent climate model results from the Hadley
Climate Change Centre, UK, indicate a much faster warming trend than
previously expected. If true, this will be bad news for some reefs.

I would like to urge coral-listers to take the time to look into how our
government leaders are selling us and reefs for a bargain price by
playing games with "flexibility mechanisms" such as "emissions credits."
The U.S., with only 4% of the world's population, creates 25% of global
greenhouse gases, with China the number two producer. Both are dreaming
up ways to avoid directly implementing the 5-6% reduction agreed in
Kyoto while about a 60% cut is needed.

For the sad details of COP-4 see:
For solutions that we should be pushing our leaders to implement see the
Sierra Club or WWF sites.


Saturday November 14 12:17 AM ET

Scientists Say Global Warming Killing Coral Reefs

By Peter Lardner

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Global warming is killing the world's coral
reefs, and with them the swarming sea life they shelter and support,
scientists said at the Buenos Aires climate talks Friday.

Vast expanses of reef have been destroyed by abnormally high 1998
sea-surface temperatures, specialists from the United States and Canada
told the United Nations summit.

The reefs are limestone formations mainly produced by colonies of
millions of tiny organisms known
as corals, which secrete the stony material to form their exoskeletons.
``More corals have died from heat stroke this year than have died from
all other human causes to date,'' said Thomas Goreau, President of the
Global Coral Reef Alliance.

Some 4,000 species of reef fish and 89,000 species of invertebrates and
algae have so far been identified and scientists suggest coral reefs may
actually nurture up to a million species.

Their colorful pageants of sea life and the coral sand beaches that
accumulate near them support a giant tourist industry and the rich
fisheries they nourish provide protein, jobs, and income for developing

``The biggest branches of the tree of life are in the ocean, and most
life there is in coral reefs,'' said
Don McAllister, a Canadian coral scientist with the World Conservation

Satellites measuring the surface temperature of Earth's oceans have
tracked a steady rise since 1982. Warmer seas have led many corals to
``bleach,'' turn white as the algae that feed and color them are driven
out, and die.

Abnormally high 1998 sea temperatures, the warmest on record, are
thought to have bleached and killed most of the corals in the Indian
Ocean, and in many areas of the Western and Eastern Pacific, the
scientists said.

Coral mortality has been especially high in the ecologically prized
Maldives, where up to 90 percent of reefs have been laid bare, they

Around 170 nations have gathered at the United Nations global warming
conference in Buenos Aires to discuss ways of cutting emissions of
heat-trapping gases. 
``Unless this conference takes immediate effective action to stop global
climate change, coral reefs and the benefits they provide will be
condemned to death. Other ecosystems will follow,'' the World
Conservation Union said.

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Institute for Environment and Sustainable Development
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Clearwater Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2358-8568    Fax (852) 2358-1582
Email: <rcgregor at>
Reef Check:

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