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

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Wed Jan 10 13:05:10 EST 2018


this is a very interesting brainstorming.

Connected to your email (I think), yesterday Professor William Nordhaus received the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Climate Change. He pioneered the study of the economic impact of climate change.

One of his main conclusions is that it's too cheap to pollute. For example, in the European Union, the price of carbon is around 7.5 euros per ton, when according to Nordhaus it should really stand in the interval of 30 to 40 euros.

What if polluters are forced to pay at the rate Prof. Nordhaus suggests? Could we see a move towards less fossil fuel burning?


Sarah Frias-Torres, PhD

Twitter: @GrouperDoc
Science Blog: https://grouperluna.com/
Art Blog: https://oceanbestiary.com/
From: Dennis Hubbard <dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 11:53 AM
To: Sarah Frias-Torres
Cc: Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal; Coral Listserver
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Call to Action Re: New paper on coral bleaching in Science


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 started.

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<mailto: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<https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fscience.sciencemag.org%2Fcontent%2F359%2F6371%2F80&data=02%7C01%7C%7C349b091385954bb0052f08d5584ab90c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636512000325268481&sdata=Tb7a3CQWzGVJM9ELVsbOwscLoi1FTutin86xuQ3YVPc%3D&reserved=0>) 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/<https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fgrouperluna.com%2F&data=02%7C01%7C%7C349b091385954bb0052f08d5584ab90c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636512000325268481&sdata=UcSsgulEnkR781kT1RQ6%2BPTVZYe23igVq%2FlPAAEyYQk%3D&reserved=0>
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From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov<mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> <coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml..noaa.gov<https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnoaa.gov&data=02%7C01%7C%7C349b091385954bb0052f08d5584ab90c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636512000325268481&sdata=BcScuK5567dklumQFdRH%2B7ecym4QrZ1k6d2R5L0OfVk%3D&reserved=0>> on behalf of Mark Eakin - NOAA Federal <mark.eakin at noaa.gov<mailto: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:

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<mailto:mark.eakin at noaa.gov>
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov<https://nam02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fcoralreefwatch.noaa.gov&data=02%7C01%7C%7C349b091385954bb0052f08d5584ab90c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636512000325268481&sdata=QhpDlaeWb5oTIGMNpzkuFCXf7IrGnDBxwk1SKof9VSA%3D&reserved=0>
Twitter: @CoralReefWatch FB: Coral Reef Watch

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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"
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