[Coral-List] Community consensus on whether or not local efforts are of value to coral reef conservation

Simon D Donner sddonner at Princeton.EDU
Fri Nov 3 18:29:13 EST 2006

Les and Mark’s comments about the importance of the Reef Manager’s Guide
were on the money. There are two important time lags with climate change
that we need to take into account:


i)                    Societal: If we decided today to drastically cut
greenhouse gas emissions, it will take time, years, maybe decades to enact
those cuts.

ii)                  Climate: As Mark mentioned, even if were could freeze
emissions today, the residence time of greenhouse gases and the memory of
the atmosphere and ocean imply an unavoidable “committed warming”, maybe
0.5-1 degree C, that could lead to more frequent and severe bleaching


My colleagues and I have been examining point (ii) using climate models. The
implication is that some damage to coral reefs may be inevitable at this
point. Therefore, to ensure coral reefs withstand climate change, we should
not cut greenhouse gas emissions, we should do our absolute best to reduce
the other stressors (that are still under our control). That's how the Guide
can help


Now, that being said, climate scientists will be rightfully displeased with
some of the wording in the climate change sections of the report. For
example, section 4.3.1: “Some studies predict future increases in global sea
temperatures of 1.4- 5.8ºC by 2100 (citing the IPCC report)”. That
temperature result comes from the international, comprehensive review of all
peer-reviewed literature (and model simulations) on climate change: the word
“some” implies a sizeable proportion of studies predict otherwise. Another
example: while I agree it is not necessary for every report that involves
corals bleaching to include a long discussion of the causes of climate
change, it is quite unusual that the words “greenhouse gas” do not appear
anywhere in the body of the report. 


I point out these examples not to make accusations -- they could be flukes
of editing. I point them out because with so much scrutiny over reporting of
climate change science by the US (and Australian) governments, it is all the
more important to be very transparent and very accurate in representation of
the literature. Fair or not, a lot of people may perceive this report as
minimizing the extent of the human role in climate change.

Simon Donner
Princeton University 

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