[Coral-List] CO2 and the inconvenient truth

Thomas Goreau goreau at bestweb.net
Sat Nov 4 19:10:39 EST 2006

Dear Paul,

We are certainly not objecting to reducing the standard list of  
stresses to reduce on reefs that we have all been talking about ad- 
nauseum for half a century with no real impact, we are only  pointing  
out that these have no real bearing on the causes and effects of  
coral bleaching, and it is disingenuous to claim so.

Because coral reefs are affected by so many stresses simultaneously,  
all must be abated at the same time, it is not a matter of choosing  
those that are cheap or politically fashionable to address. Only  
serious reductions in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations can  
remove bleaching stresses. just as only serious reductions in  
nutrient loading can stop eutrophication.

The fact that if we don't solve global warming all our other efforts  
will be for naught does not mean that all these other steps should  
not be done anyway, after all pollution will sicken many other life  
forms even after corals are gone, and terrestrial sedimentation must  
be stopped because we are losing our best soils even if there are no  
more corals to smother.

Coral reef countries need to get serious about protecting their real  
long term interests by insisting that the UN  Framework on Climate  
Change, which calls for protecting the Earth's most climatically  
sensitive ecosystems, explicitly list coral reefs in that category,  
and include a trigger mechanism to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to  
levels needed to save them. Otherwise the treaty is just a death  
sentence for coral reefs. But at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro  
all the island nations were induced to go along by (largely  
unrealized) promises of support from the rich countries. rather than  
stand up for protecting their own reefs, islands, and people from  
global warming and sea level rise. While we must do all the other  
right things, we must pressure our island governments to protect our  
own natural resources in the international negotiations on grounds  
that even though our islands are a trivial cause of global  
atmospheric pollution, we are the first victims.

With regard to  your last comment below:

They would never invite me to ITMEMS. I was sent to the first ITMEMS  
meeting in 1998 from the climate change negotiations in Buenos Aires  
by IUCN explicitly to show our global temperature database records.  
This was during the height of  the coral mortality. The ITMEMS  
organizers would absolutely NOT permit to me to speak at the  
meeting.  They finally grudgingly arranged a secret closed meeting on  
the other side of town for me to show the data to only around 10 hand  
picked invited people, almost all Australians, but would not let any  
of the managers see the data. Wilkinson then declared that bleaching  
was not that bad, that no one knew why it was happening, but that  
nobody should worry because it was only affecting a few places and  
there was so much healthy resilient reef out there. The Minister of  
Science and Technology, Robert Hill, shortly after declared in  
Parliament in Canberra that there was absolutely no evidence to link  
bleaching to global warming. Afterwards all of the people at IUCN who  
arranged for me to attend ITMEMS lost their jobs for doing so.

Please take a look at the lovely corals we are growing in Sint  
Maarten when you next go there. The best thing we can do is to grow  
corals much faster and much more resistant to environmental stress,  
which only our method does. I hope we can do so throughout the  
Netherlands Antilles as we are doing in Sint Maarten.

Best wishes,

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD
Global Coral Reef Alliance
37 Pleasant Street, Cambridge MA 02139
goreau at bestweb.net

> Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2006 09:54:44 -0400
> From: Paul Hoetjes <phoetjes at cura.net>
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] CO2 and the inconvenient truth
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Message-ID: <4549F8A4.1050300 at cura.net>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"
>    Dear Tom, James,
>    I  think  you  need to also consider this publication (a guide  
> to help
>    local  managers  respond  to  the fact of bleaching, and yes,  
> probably
>    also  handy  to  find  funding)  from the viewpoint of the non- 
> wealthy
>    nations.  In Curacao (Dutch Caribbean) at least, but I suspect  
> in most
>    small  island  developing  states,  it  is  very  hard to  
> convince the
>    decision makers of the need to protect the reefs and the way NOT  
> to go
>    about  it is to stress the effects of global warming to them,  
> which is
>    locally  considered  a  hopeless  problem, and about which they  
> are in
>    flagrant  denial. The fact is that the easy way out for  
> governments of
>    such  islands  is  to say, "what's the use of allowing  
> conservation of
>    coral  reefs  to hamstring our economic development if the coral  
> reefs
>    are going to be gone anyway due to climate change, against which  
> we as
>    a  small  nation  are  powerless." It gives them an excuse to  
> not curb
>    nutrient   and   chemical  pollution,  erosion,  uncontrolled   
> coastal
>    development, and overfishing of the reefs. This is an attitude  
> we have
>    to  fight on a daily basis in our islands, basically at the  
> expense of
>    being able to also advocate local CO2 reduction
>    The  report  you  are reviling, finally provides us with  
> ammunition to
>    counter  this  situation.  It  basically  says  that of course  
> climate
>    change  will  destroy  the  reefs if it doesn't stop, but if the  
> world
>    does   manage  to  stabilize  temperatures  at  some  higher   
> but  not
>    catastrophic  level  (which is probably the best we can hope for  
> since
>    realistically  speaking it is already too late for anything  
> else), and
>    you  still want to have at least some reefs left, you had better  
> start
>    attending  to  your  local  problems  while the big guys get  
> their act
>    together.
>    This  report  finally  allows  us to beat the decision makers  
> over the
>    head  with  (it  is pretty heavy)the need to locally reduce  
> greenhouse
>    gas  emissions,  AND  to  safeguard  the reefs by costly/ 
> unpopular but
>    sustainable  solutions  for  waste  water,  solid  waste,  and  
> coastal
>    development problems, by providing a framework which  
> acknowledges that
>    bleaching  is  with  us to stay (until the wealthy nations - but  
> let's
>    not forget Russia, India, and China either) do something about  
> it, but
>    then  goes on to say that it makes the need to continue  
> addressing all
>    the  other threats to our coral reefs even more essential  
> because they
>    work  synergistically  with bleaching and will kill off the  
> reefs even
>    faster. It may be restating all the things you and I already  
> know, but
>    it  nicely  integrates  bleaching  with all the other threats in  
> a way
>    that can be more easily understood by decision makers.
>    I assume that this is why all the hundreds of managers from all  
> around
>    the  world  gathered  at the ITMEMS meeting (by the way, they  
> were not
>    'paid'  by the Australian and US governments; travel and lodging  
> costs
>    of  a  number were covered, not only by those governments, but  
> also by
>    UNEP,  and  ICRI,  allowing  managers who would otherwise not  
> have the
>    means to do so, a unique opportunity to network and exchange  
> knowledge
>    with  their  peers)  welcomed  the  publication  and did not  
> raise any
>    criticism  such as you do. It's a shame you could not be at this  
> forum
>    uniting  protected area managers from around the world to  
> present your
>    views there in order to generate some healthy discussion.
>    Best,
>    Paul Hoetjes

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