[Coral-List] Approaching game over

Michael Risk riskmj at mcmaster.ca
Wed Mar 21 10:55:15 EDT 2012

Hello Sarah.

First of all-the experiment to determine whether scientists can change the world's environmental mindset has been running for a long time. So far, the answer is-no.

Second, here is some Canadian perspective:

Those are not "oil sands." They were described as "TAR SANDS"  when Tyrell found them >100 years ago. They sat as tar sands for a long time, until oil extraction began. Then some PR flack decided "tar" sounded dirty, and the rest is history. Same as when "global warming" got banned from the lexicon, to be replaced by "climate change."

The present Canadian federal government was recently elected as a "majority", receiving about 35% of the popular vote. Their constituency seems to be old angry white men (not me!) who are deeply religious and conservative. (There are echoes here with our neighbour to the south…) They are profoundly anti-science, because scientists believe in evolution and say bad things about development. While dramatically increasing the size of the civil service, they have quietly laid off almost every scientist working on the impacts of the tar sands. Which are immense. The damage done will last generations-it takes longer to train a scientist than a flack.

This has relevance to coral reefs only as a parable, and as a reminder that the climate impacts are unavoidable.

On 2012-03-21, at 10:22 AM, Sarah Frias-Torres wrote:

> Dear Coral-ListersI think we are approaching game over. 
> President Obama will announce tomorrow the permit approval for the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipelinehttp://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2012/03/21/exp-early-myb-keystone.cnn
> This is a pipeline operated by TransCanada, that will connect the oil sands in Canada with U.S.  oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. While the approval is still pending for the portions of the pipeline that go through the U.S. heartland (and one of the most valuable aquifers in the country), approval of the southern portion of the pipeline means that, unless something dramatic happens, the pipeline will become a reality.
> Once the Keystone pipeline is operational, it will be game over for Earth's climate and for the coral reefs.
> When you follow the debate about this project, it's interesting to see that scientists are almost non existent. Reporters talk about "environmentalists" and use the words "believe" to frame the consequences of using the Canadian oil sands and the pipeline. As if environmentalists are running around in some mystical trance, playing with crystals, singing kumba-ya, and using their believes to "stop the progress of America". Whereas the statements from the oil companies are framed as facts. They even go to the extend of saying "Canadian oil sand use will diversify the country's energy resources".
> Where are the climate scientists, the marine scientists, the coral reef scientists in this debate? Are any of the top scientists on those research areas talking to government officials, warning them against using the oil sands?I don't know if Canadian scientists have approached the Canadian government asking to reconsider the use of oil sands. If they had, it didn't work.
> Considering the U.S. is the largest fossil fuel consumer in the world, you would expect top scientists have approached the government and demonstrated this madness has to stop. I'm not aware of a commission of top scientists speaking up... the Union of Concerned Scientists seems missing in action.
> What can we do?  
> July brings the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium. I wonder if this will be the last ICRS held while there are still living coral reefs out there. Besides the many activities during the Symposium, those attending should think about the 13th ICRS, in 2016. If nothing changes, the Keystone pipeline will be operational, the Canadian oil sands will have had 4 more years to burn, and so all the other fossil fuel burning all around the world.Maybe the 13th ICRS will be renamed as the "International Coral Reefs We Used to Have Symposium"
> Perhaps the world renowned scientists attending the upcoming ICRS could draft a letter to both the U.S. and Canadian governments, explaining the major environmental damage of oil sand usage, for land and marine ecosystems, willing to provide their scientific expertise to answer whatever questions politicians might have... maybe it can be signed up by those attending the Symposium. 
> Or perhaps, some of you in this list can get into the power circles in either government (or knows someone who can), and initiate a conversation with someone who still has a working brain in there.
> Or maybe someone in this list has a better idea on how to deliver the message.
> Think about it. Imagine if scientists could really change the world.
> Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Schmidt Ocean Institute Postdoctoral FellowOcean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) 1420 Seaway Drive, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949 USA Tel (772) 467-1600http://www.teamorca.orghttp://independent.academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres
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Michael Risk
riskmj at mcmaster.ca

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