[Coral-List] Climate change

John Ware jware at erols.com
Tue Jun 8 16:22:35 EDT 2004

Dear Kate and List:

While there have been many papers that use the words "reef degradation" (or
similar) and "global warming" or "global climate change", I know of no work
that has attempted to determine a direct link between putative warming and
coral bleaching and/or reef degradation.

Determining a link between global warming and reef degradation or bleaching
requires an analysis based upon a 'signal detection approach' or, perhaps, a
Bayesian approach.

In the early days of attempting to link global warming and bleaching, there
were many references to coral reefs as being like 'canaries in the coal
mine'.  I think it was Bob Buddemeier who wondered how an uncalibrated and
highly variable response to temperature change (e.g., coral bleaching) could
be a better indicator of warming than a thermometer.  I wonder too.

In any event, we don't hear much about 'canary in the coal mine' any more -
perhaps most reef scientists recognize the difference between predicting a
response to a change (bleaching as a response to global warming) and
affirming a change after observing a response (is bleaching an indicator of
global warming?).

The latter is more difficult to determine.  If anyone has published on this
topic, I would love to hear about it.

In the meantime, showing 'horror pictures' of degraded reefs (which many of
us have) and stating global warming or global climate change as the cause is
a leap of faith, not a leap of science.

John Ware

Kate Forbes wrote:

>  Hi there,
> I am doing some research for the BBC into Climate change. We are filming
> in different areas around the world to analyse different examples of
> climate change, and we'll be holding studio debates and other discussion
> on the causes of the examples we find. I am writing to ask if your list
> members may be able to recommend any sites of dramatic and visual coral
> degradation or change which may be attributable to climate change. I am
> keen to invite discourse from those involved in coral research on any
> aspect of this project.
> Kate Forbes (kate.Forbes at bbc.co.uk)
> (NB: BBC News is part of the BBC, a public broadcasting corporation)
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/ - World Wide Wonderland
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