[Coral-List] political arguments on coral-list

Karsten Shein karsten.shein at noaa.gov
Thu May 22 11:25:55 EDT 2014

All indications are pointing to a significant El Nino developing this 
year.  If this is anything like previous moderate to strong events, the 
reefs in many parts of the world are in for some widespread and 
potentially fatal bleaching.  Yet, because we are being distracted by 
these sort of politically-charged discussions over what might happen to 
SST 50 years from now or where to place blame, I feel we have put very 
little of our communication and research into the question of whether we 
can do anything other than sit back and watch the proverbial train 
wreck?  We saw and documented the wrecks in 1982-83, 1997-98, 2005 and 
again in 2010. We developed wonderful tools that allow us to monitor the 
train approaching, and capture the wreck from multiple angles for later 
playback - we've even built metaphorical viewing platforms so everyone 
can get a better view of the carnage as the derailed train plows into 
the unsuspecting town.  We also have a pretty good idea of why the train 
wrecks on this particular section of track.  These are all great 
advances, but where are the urgent calls for the mitigative or adaptive 
solutions to either keep the train from jumping the track in the first 
place or else at least keep the train from destroying the adjacent town?

We went from drawing board to men on the moon in less than 10 years, and 
from discovery of the CFC-Ozone connection to the Montreal Protocol in 
14.  We've had at least 30 years (since Peter Glynn's 1984 article 
connecting El Nino to bleaching) to work on these problems - heck, even 
Gene way back in 1966 documented the connection between coral growth and 
water temperatures. The problems coral faces from El Nino and long-term 
climate change are similar. We have a documented connection between 
anomalously warm water and coral mortality.  Regardless of future 
climates, we will probably still experience El Ninos - some strong.  But 
the bleaching appears to be getting more severe with each one, likely 
because the El Ninos are coming atop waters that are on average warmer 
than existed back with the El Ninos of 1957,65, or 72.

If we are truly interested in the long-term survival of reefs, we need 
to focus on solutions to helping corals survive these warm water 
temperatures (and, importantly, communicating that need). Then, if the 
climate models are proven correct, we already have the "El Nino" 
solution ready to help combat the threat of future warmer waters.  But, 
if we continue to be distracted by political noise, all long-term 
climate assessments will probably be moot wrt corals because inevitable 
strong El Ninos in the coming decades sitting atop the already warm SSTs 
will ensure there are few if any shallow tropical corals left to be 
affected by 2050 or 2100.

Just my personal observations and opinions,

Unless explicitly attributed, any opinions expressed in this message are 

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