[Coral-List] Struggling with ocean optimism

Bill Allison allison.billiam at gmail.com
Mon Mar 19 12:18:39 EDT 2018

Bob Buddemeier states that what high latitude changes such as ice sheet
melting, methane release, and related positive feedbacks are horrifying.
Bill Macguire, in a number of publications including a 2012 book, discusses
these and additional global geological and geomorphological hazards likely
to be driven by AGW. Collectively the hazards he discusses are relevant
across latitudes and at various, difficult to constrain, time scales.
Although the topic was mentioned in a recent IPCC report I have not seen
much discussion of it outside specialized venues. A search on his name will
yield numerous hits, but this open access article seems like a good place
to start:

On Wed, Mar 14, 2018 at 11:04 AM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>

> Dear Coral-Listers,
> I received the following message off list, but thought it might provide
> stimulus for further discussion. Many of us want to embrace ocean optimism,
> but are questioning whether or not this is the best strategy to apply in
> reaching our common goal of providing the best chance for a bright future
> for the world’s coral reefs. I have the author’s permission to post his
> thoughts on the subject. What do you think?
> > Dear Steve
> >
> > I've been watching the coral-list exchanges prompted by your post, and
> finally decided to write and offer you what I can only call "discouraging
> encouragement."
> >
> > I did quite a bit of coral reef research in the 70s and 80s, and in the
> 90s was on the steering committee of the Land-Ocean Interactions in the
> Coastal Zone project of the IGBP.  Throughout, I've been involved with
> climate and climate change issues.
> >
> > Recently, in retirement, I've been asked to do some educational
> presentations, and have been catching up with recent developments.  The
> experience has greatly intensified my generally pessimistic view of the
> world -- I am now among those who are confident that changing climate will
> drastically alter the world economic, political, and social order, and not
> in ways that most of us would consider good.  Rather than by the
> comfortingly distant year 2100, I expect these changes to be well under way
> within the next few decades.  And, given that we really don't know if we
> have passed the tipping point for runaway change driven by positive
> feedbacks, I have to at least consider the potential for Homo sapiens to be
> included in the developing Great Extinction.
> >
> > Coral people are understandably focused on low latitudes, and if the
> problems seen there were all we had to worry about, then protection and
> restoration and  bio- and genetic engineering might have rosier prospects
> for success..  In my opinion, it is the high latitudes that are
> horrifying.  The Antarctic has recently shifted from net ice accumulation
> to rapid and massive loss of the ice sheets that are inhibiting the
> tendencies for glaciers to topple into the ocean.  In the arctic, sea ice,
> glaciers, and permafrost have all been thawing at rates much faster than
> was originally predicted when climate change started to be taken seriously
> 30+ years ago.  Positive feedbacks abound -- increased solar energy
> absorption, increased erosion, increased oceanic heat release, and
> especially increased methane release to the atmosphere, plus the effects of
> jet stream, ocean current and wind/wave energy alteration..
> >
> > This is all with the existing climate and atmospheric CO2 load, but we
> will have further committed warming due to CO2 already released, and even
> if there is a near-miraculous transition to carbon-free energy, there are
> many gigatons of CO2 still to be emitted during the transition period..
> And then there is methane, the release of which we know is increasing both
> from natural sources and from anthropogenic sources as "clean methane"
> (with a greenhouse effect much greater than that of CO2) replaces "dirty
> coal" (which ironically produced atmospheric particulates with a net
> cooling effect).  Even if we're not already in runaway mode, I'm certainly
> not alone in seeing no hope for achieving the 2 degree warming
> stabilization target.  Things will get much much worse.
> >
> > So, what about optimism?  Not justified, but I can see reasons for not
> completely discouraging it.  The experience, if not the outcome, of
> activism and attempts at environmental salvation can make people more
> effective if and when they give up bandaging hangnails and recognize that
> arterial bleeding is the problem.  We can't regrow the permafrost, but
> there is some hope that limits might be placed on further melting by
> attacking the root causes.  However, we are considering a group of people
> that has been trying to motivate the general population by publicizing how
> important and endangered coral reefs are for nearly half a century.  I
> don't remember the author, but somebody said that insanity is doing the
> same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time.
> >
> > What I want to do is to encourage you to keep looking at, and talking
> about, and working on, the big picture.  As you've discovered, there aren't
> nearly enough people who are able and willing to take that perspective.
> Even at low latitudes there's more to the problem than bleaching resistance
> -- if people fold in oxygen loss and acidification and pollution and
> overfishing with temperature, maybe they'll start to get a grip on the
> system level.
> >
> > Good luck (for all of us)
> >
> > Bob
> >
> > Robert W. Buddemeier
> >
> > PS  a year-old article, but it nails the sociology:
> https://amp.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/05/the-
> great-climate-silence-we-are-on-the-edge-of-the-abyss-but-we-ignore-it
> Sent from my iPad
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"... the earth is, always has been, and always will be more beautiful than
it is useful."
- Ophuls, 1977
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
- Shelly

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