[Coral-List] Call to Action Re: New paper on coral bleaching in Science

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Wed Jan 10 11:53:48 EST 2018


Thanks for your engagement on this. I've thought a lot about carbon issues
over the years and have come to a couple of conclusions on both of the
fronts that you address, so here are my two cents worth on the first half
of your question.

On carbon, there are two levels where we can address this. One is at the
large, political scale. While I think that we need to keep slogging on this
front, I'm not holding out a lot of hope (some of this is magnified by
recent political events at home, but I was already getting skeptical
beforehand). At the other end of he scale, there is personal engagement,
which I particularly like because it makes politics irrelevant. We recently
installed 3 kw of solar panels. The interesting thing i that this was the
smallest system they could install and is 50% above our electrical needs.
Going back to my time on  St. Croix, we had neither heat not air
conditioning - we faced into the Trade Winds. We have to do something about
heat in northern Ohio and fortunately we can use an abandoned gas well to
supplement natural gas from the local supplier. Gas is not perfect, but
ironically it turns out that it's carbon footprint is  on the order of
60-70% of most distributed electricity, regardless of how green the source
is - included distributed solar. The only thing that beats it here is the
fact that Oberlin burns landfill gas to generate 50% of the city's
electricity; this is all "free" carbon-wise as it is being flared off
already with no payback in "work". I won't get into the environmental
justice issues tied to this - a saga for another day.

To help offset some of the carbon from the well, we also installed a heat
pump to use up some of that excess power we can't use from the panels. And,
we should be taking delivery on a plug-in hybrid within the next 30 days
(we have a 10-year olf gen-!! Prius that is slowly dieing). With the
back-and-forth to work (less than 2 miles - passive choices like living
withing within walking distance of work are often overlooked), the mileage
approaches 100 mpg - and whatever isn't coming from the gas tank is coming
off the panels. We also, just packed the walls of a ca. 1850 house with
cellulose to cut down on heat loss. I'm a big advocate of retrofitting old
buildings over building new uber-efficient replacements. We have two of the
most efficient buildings on the planet on the Oberlin campus. One is the
Lewis Center, brain-child of David Orr. It is the most efficient building
on campus. Ironically, the least efficient building on campus is the new
science center, even with all of it's fancy bells and whistles. I really
enjoy he irony of the fact that the second-most-efficient building on
campus with respect to heat is the geology building - built ca 1850... it's
hard to beat 2 ft of sandstone (plus new efficiency measures) when it comes
to keeping heat in. We use efficient heat-recovery systems for our fume
hoods, unlike the science center that just vents heat out in the winter and
cool air in the summer. (they are working on that as a retrofit, but it
should have been part of the original plan). And, it was built from
sandstone that was sledded down from the local quarry when the streets were
frozen - a low carbon answer based on a stone age solution to a space-age
problem - embedded carbon.

So, I guess my bottom line here is personal accountability. While it does
little to affect political change, I do think a lot more about my personal
footprint. I do feel that we too often leapfrog over our personal
responsibility while we admonish "the system" for not coming up with the
answers we want to see. I wish the "system" did more to reduce our carbon
footprint. In the meantime, however small my personal part of this bigger
problem might be, I feel that starting in my own back yard gives me the
right to point fingers. At the College, we have spent a lot of time
thinking about offsets and have come to the conclusion that we'd prefer to
not use them to reach carbon neutrality as an institution. However, because
"you can't get there from here" without offsets, we've spent a lot of time
thinking about ways to make them more palatable.  Te main problem is that
you really don't understand where the few dollars you pay to an airline
actually go; there are similar problems throughout the offset system. At
Oberlin, we have set up something called the "Green Edge Fund", paid for by
student fees. The fund covers the costs of small-scale start-ups (we could
have even used it for some of our solar start-up at home). The goal is to
have home-grown projects in place that we understand from a carbon
perspective. Hopefully, when we have to start thinking about offsets to get
that last little bit of carbon to achieve neutrality by 2025, there will be
local entities in place that we understand from a carbon perspective. So,
rather than investing in  a rain-forest tree that might no actually get
planted, we can invest in things like locally sourced food (a program that
serves as a middle man between sustainable farmers and restaurants so that
farmers just have to farm and restaurants just have to turn out sustainable
meals at a profit) or a sustainable dairy, or some other project for which
we know the pros and cons because we helped provide the funds to get it

I've gone on way too long about just the first part of your question. So,
I'll save the list-serve from my ranting on the second half and put that
off for another day. The short preview is that I have no fundamental
problem with the motivation to "fix what we've broken." My major concern is
less about under-performance than it is with unintended consequences.
But... stay tuned for part II.



On Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 11:08 AM, Sarah Frias-Torres <
sfrias_torres at hotmail.com> wrote:

> As Pogo says, "We have met the enemy, and he is us"
> The recent Science paper (Hughes et al 2018;
> http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/80) shows a bleak global
> picture for coral reefs. We must stop burning fossil fuels if we want a
> future for coral reefs as we know them.
> At this crossroads, we can either give up or keep fighting.
> I choose to fight.
> This is a Call to Action to those who still want to fight, against all
> odds, so coral reefs will have a future.
> We have many strategies on the table. It's uncertain which strategy is
> going to work.
> From the angle of coral reef restoration, I call on the restoration
> community to work together, to share failures and successes and move
> towards large-scale restoration.
> To the critics of coral reef restoration, I ask you to work with us. Don't
> just say: "this won't work". Give us constructive criticism, share your
> concerns with us. Is it a failure of the scientific process (validity of
> hypothesis testing) or is it an engineering concern (bringing the process
> to scale)?. The solution is very different in each case.
> For everyone on this list, let's find ways to work together, from science
> to implementation, to communication, to everything in between.
> It's all hands on deck now.
> Sarah Frias-Torres, PhD
> Twitter: @GrouperDoc
> Science Blog: https://grouperluna.com/
> Art Blog: https://oceanbestiary.com/
> https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Frias-Torres
> ________________________________
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov <coral-list-bounces at coral.
> aoml..noaa.gov> on behalf of Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal <
> mark.eakin at noaa.gov>
> Sent: Friday, January 5, 2018 12:07 PM
> To: Coral Listserver
> Subject: [Coral-List] New paper on coral bleaching in Science
> For the first time, an international team of researchers has measured the
> escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics over
> the past four decades. The study documents a dramatic shortening of the gap
> between pairs of bleaching events, threatening the future existence of
> these iconic ecosystems and the livelihoods of many millions of people.
> "The time between bleaching events at each location has diminished
> five-fold in the past 3-4 decades, from once every 25-30 years in the early
> 1980s to an average of just once every six years since 2010," says lead
> author
> Prof Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef
> Studies (Coral CoE).
> “Reefs have entered a distinctive human-dominated era – the Anthropocene,”
> said co-author, Dr C. Mark Eakin of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric
> Administration, USA. "The climate has warmed rapidly in the past 50 years,
> first making El NinÞos dangerous for corals, and now we're seeing the
> emergence of bleaching in every hot summer."
> For more, see the full paper at:
> https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fscience.
> sciencemag.org%2Fcontent%2F359%2F6371%2F80&data=02%7C01%7C%
> 7C28c288a0e1314412a06d08d554606f2c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaa
> aaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636507695516397420&sdata=%2FOiYD4VTlVb%
> 2BnUWgRfXbfPnwRT6ZA80OXJ48dtqH0Aw%3D&reserved=0
> Cheers,
> Mark
> ------------------------------------------------------------------
> C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
> Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
> Center for Satellite Applications and Research
> Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
> e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
> url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov
> Twitter: @CoralReefWatch FB: Coral Reef Watch
> NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP)
> 5830 University Research Ct., E/RA32
> College Park, MD 20740
> Office: (301) 683-3320     Fax: (301) 683-3301
> Mobile: (301) 502-8608    SOCD Office: (301) 683-3300
> “You would have to reject the “greenhouse effect” outright to conclude that
> human activities pumping millions of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse
> gases into the atmosphere every year are having little or no impact on the
> earth’s climate. That is simply not a tenable position."
> William K. Reilly, EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush,
> June 18 2014
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"

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