[Coral-List] carbon offsetting AND the need for innovative problem solvers to halt climate change

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Mon May 20 14:49:43 UTC 2019

Thanks for Maria's post to articulate the cumulative value of small things.
I have had many discussions with colleagues in the politics department here
who argue that individual efforts will not provide the results we need re.
climate change and that the problem will not go away until major, organized
political milestones are met. I have never understood whether this
perspective is realism or an excuse for not taking any personal action. It
is probably just my curmudgeonly bent, but I like to do small things on my
own as it reinforces my perception of government as less relevant. I want
to defend the value of small individual actions and the tremendous losses
derived from ideas that "my piece is so small......". Rather than returning
to the 16th century to lower our footprint, we have solar panels that cover
much of our electrical needs. It may be worth noting that the installer had
never built a system as small as ours because our habits developed living
on an island have left a smaller-than-average footprint, Rather than
traveling no farther than I can walk, we drive a plug-in hybrid and I put
ca. 5,000 miles on my bike a year. We do not have a brand new, maximum
efficiency solar home. In contrast, we have been working with a 19th
century home to create the same efficiency standards without having to tie
up tremendous volumes of carbon to create a new shell.

By way of confession, I do travel for work and research and do feel some
guilt for the blazing trail of carbon I leave behind. However, being a
human, I do not want to give up the gains of face-to-face contact -
evolution has made us social beings. The unplanned productivity that comes
from just sitting down and talking with a friend or colleague has comfort,
if not value. Deciding how far we want to take personal responsibility is a
tricky endeavor. How much carbon went into the computers we use to have
these discussions? How about the physical infrastructure of the internet.
Would we save more carbon by giving up meeting travel or destroying all
cyber infrastructure? Who gets to decide that the footprint related to
supporting facebook and other social media is more or less harmful than the
emissions from a plane ride? I have long argued that cell phones are among
the worst inventions of all time. In addition to the incredible drain on
valuable natural resources needed for their production, cell phones and
myriad social media have created an artificial environment that devalues
personal contact. I think this is one of the greatest losses over my
lifetime. We say horrible things on social media and in emails that we
would never say in a face-to-face conversation. We lurk on media sites or
spend countless hours of impersonal and abstract interaction. I am not
arguing that facebook (or this listserve) is the devil. My simple point is
that face-to-face contact creates both community and personal
responsibility for what we advocate..... and how. For me, the value of
meetings is not in the scripted talks but in that presentation that you
stumbled into that changed how you thought about a particular subject......
or that conversation at dinner or during a coffee break that just totally
changed what I thought I understood.



On Wed, May 15, 2019 at 7:38 AM MariaJung89--- via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Dear Doug, Franziska and reading coral-listers,
> Yes, changing to a sustainable lifestyle requests some sort of
> "self-sacrifice" which most people probably are not willing to perform.
> However, I don´t agree that "the effect of one person doing it is
> undetectable" - the most recent example for that is the "Fridays For
> Future" movement, initialized by a single person. I´m not saying that it
> will change the world if some people decide to not attend conferences like
> the ICRS in Bremen. I rather think it´s time that we all stop pointing at
> other people´s behaviour to make ourselves feel better about our lacking
> contribution to fight the climate crisis. I think it´s time that we start
> to think about what we can do and if this "just" means raising this topic
> among other scientists and bringing it up at conferences, although there
> are many more options which don´t imply reinventing the world (e.g.
> becoming at least a flexitarian). The more we are the more attention we
> will gain - while we wait for the government to start doing something on a
> bigger scale (and this will most likely be a long wait).
> @Franziska: Great to hear that you already addressed this topic to the
> ICRS organizers. I will do the same - perhaps they will implement this
> topic if more people ask for it.
> Ideas could perhaps be to create several time slots per session which are
> specifically reserved for (and advertised as) "Online-Talks" in order to
> promote the idea of an "online conference" (especially for those who can´t
> switch to more sustainable transportation). Providing a live stream of the
> whole conference could further increase the attraction of this idea, so no
> one is missing out on information. Also, the proposed option of attending
> the conference online could be strongly promoted prior to the conference,
> hopefully raising (more) awareness among the attendees whether it is really
> necessary to be physically present or not. Nevertheless, I think it´s also
> important to highlight the need of more sustainable structures in science
> at the conference as well (perhaps in a form of session/workshop).
> In the meantime, I´m looking forward to read about the outcomes of the
> AMLC meeting.
> Cheers,
> Maria
> -----Original-Nachricht-----
> Betreff: Re: [Coral-List] carbon offsetting AND the need for innovative
> problem solvers to halt climate change
> Datum: 2019-05-14T14:56:44+0200
> Von: "frahome--- via Coral-List" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> An: "Douglas Fenner" <douglasfennertassi at gmail.com>, "
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> Dear Doug,
> I understand flying is essential for your work as an expert of coral
> taxonomy and you need to travel to survey and document coral
> biodiversity, but I believe that should not push you to dismiss the idea
> that we should change lifestyles, consume less, fly less, highly tax all
> the behaviors that are disruptive to life on this planet and overall change
> an obsolete unsustainable economic system that pushes us madly to do the
> opposite.
> Offsetting might work in some cases like yours (and work like a taxation),
> but I seriously doubt offsetting will work in a growing economy where large
> masses of people engage in unsustainable lifestyles. You won't bring US
> people 8 planets worth of ecological footprint down to 1 planet solely with
> "offsetting" unless that means highly taxing consumption and that should
> have the effect of reducing it. Let's say, if you are right (people and
> government won't do what needs to be done), then we are doomed.
> Growing the economy 3% a year as main stream economists say it is
> necessary, means doubling our economy in 24 years. Can you imagine almost
> (accounting for some efficiency gain) doubling our current energy and
> resource consumption? Here some interesting papers on the subject of
> economic growth:
> Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible?
> http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0164733
> Incrementum ad Absurdum: Global Growth, Inequality and Poverty Eradication
> in a Carbon-Constrained World:
> http://wer.worldeconomicsassociation.org/files/WEA-WER-4-Woodward.pdf
> The EU needs a stability and well being pact, not more growthhttps://
> www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/16/the-eu-needs-a-stability-and-wellbeing-pact-not-more-growth
> Is Green Growth Possible?
> https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964?journalCode=cnpe20
> We might still be a "very, very small minimalist self-sacrificing"
> minority, as you define it, that chose to change life style, career, habits
> and engage in activism towards change in our communities and institutions
> but I am afraid we are the only hope to get out of this mess, if any is
> left.
> Francesca
>       From: Douglas Fenner via Coral-List <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>  To: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>  Sent: Monday, May 13, 2019 11:45 AM
>  Subject: Re: [Coral-List] carbon offsetting AND the need for innovative
> problem solvers to halt climate change
>       Well, removing the root cause of the problem is certainly vastly
> better than "mitigation" by band-aid solutions or just "learning to live
> with it" such as learning to live with dead reefs, temperatures so high
> that people die every summer, and so on.  I can't agree more that the cause
> of the problem MUST be fixed for reef survival and the survival of many
> humans and avoiding a decrease in the quality of life for many if not most
> people in the world.
>       The problem is that avoiding flying and other consumption that causes
> emission (driving cars, heating houses in the winter, using cement, and a
> myriad of other things) calls for self-sacrifice which I don't think will
> ever become popular.  I'm American, and looking at American culture now,
> there is just about no way that is going to work.  Everyone wants to make
> more money and consume more.  Or waste more, as exemplified by the many
> American garages full of stuff people buy  and don't use, no space left for
> a car in the garage, and so stuff gets put into "mini-storage" places.
> People with more money in the modern American culture can't resist buying
> more stuff, which they mostly store or throw away or donate instead of
> using.  Consumer purchases are 70% of the US economy, and everything is
> built around growing the economy endlessly larger.  People are hooked by
> all this, everybody's in it.  There used to be a phrase, "the rat race" for
> working hard endlessly.  I hadn't heard it for a long time so asked
> someone, the answer they gave me was that nobody talks about it "because
> the rats won."  And, Americans work shorter hours by far than people in
> some societies like Japan, where working to about 10pm is the norm for
> businessmen, I've read.  (mind you, in other societies there isn't nearly
> as much pressure to work so hard).
>       But the basic problem with self-sacrifice (voluntarily consuming
> less) is that the effect of one person doing it is undetectable (even for
> flying, the plane will fly whether you are on it or not, and the plane will
> emit the same CO2, if they have less passengers they load more freight).
> And it is trivially easy to be a free-rider, consume all you want and share
> in any benefits that those who self-sacrifice produce.  This is the most
> extreme case of the "tragedy of the commons" I know of.  All the incentives
> are to work harder, earn more, so you can spend more, buy more, consume
> more, waste more.
>       There IS a very, very small "minimalist" movement.  They say that
> once you leave the rat race and stop trying to get ahead of the Joneses and
> endlessly make more money and stop buying things you don't need, suddenly
> you have lots more spare time, you don't have to work at a high-paying job
> you hate, and your quality of life goes way up.  Will anything but a tiny
> fraction of the public do that??  I have my doubts.  It would be great if
> they did.  But I don't see it happening.
>         We need to find things that actually solve the problem and reduce
> the emissions, and self-sacrifice has essentially NO chance of doing that
> (especially as quickly as it must be done), unless everyone converts to
> minimalist living almost immediately.  Not going to happen (and if
> everybody did it economies might well collapse).  Among other things, the
> majority of the world, including the largest countries, are going full
> blast to grow their economies (to get out of poverty), including
> consumption, and they all want to eat much more meat, and fly whenever they
> want, and drive cars instead of riding bicycles, and on and on.
>         So it is a wonderful, altruistic idea, but it will not solve our
> problem.  Even one whole country doing this will not solve it, the whole
> world (including, notably, the USA) must do it in a vastly more extensive
> way than they have even proposed, for it to work.  So far all the good
> words of the Paris agreement have not made even a tiny dent in emissions,
> and this year emissions are even above what they have been, since some
> economies are doing well (at least for the moment).
>       So unfortunately, not flying is not going to be a solution.
> Projections are (unfortunately) that in coming decades, the amount of
> flying that is going to occur is going to grow dramatically, and a few
> self-sacrificing people won't make any dent in that.  It would be wonderful
> if it worked, but it has essentially zero chance of working (unless a
> miracle happens and suddenly everyone becomes a minimalist.  That certainly
> won't happen in the US, nor will it in developing countries that want to
> get out of abject poverty (as well they should)).
>         On the other hand, flying carbon-neutral is surprisingly
> inexpensive.  Countries could just mandate that airline tickets must
> include carbon offset, and it would increase flying costs less that taxes
> do.  Then they could do the same for gasoline for cars and trucks.  And so
> on.  Probably won't happen because that would raise prices.
>         Sorry to be such a pessimist.  But we need solutions that will
> actually solve the problem, and self-sacrifice has no chance of doing it.
> The situation isn't hopeless, after all we know the basics of what the
> problem is and how to solve it (in at least general terms).  The world's
> societies have to take decisive action, but they are dragging their feet
> and delay makes it so action has to be even more drastic and expensive to
> reduce emissions enough to avoid disaster (though still orders of magnitude
> cheaper than the costs of inaction).
> Cheers, Doug
> On Sun, May 12, 2019 at 8:31 AM MariaJung89--- via Coral-List <
> coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> > Hi Emma, Franziska and all coral listers,
> >
> > I´m glad this topis has been raised which I personally think is very
> > important and overdue. I absolutely agree that avoiding/reducing is much
> > better than offsetting.
> >
> > My motivation to study Marine Biology was ocean conservation and I ended
> > up studying the resilience of corals to bleaching and their capacity to
> > recovery. A very important aspect since bleaching events are increasing
> in
> > frequency and severity - which we all know and this is highlighted in
> every
> > paper we write and in every conference talk we give.
> > However, to do so, I travelled from Bremen to Australia which brings an
> > enormous amount of CO2 emissions with it. Ironically, to be able to
> attend
> > the ICRS next year, I would have to do the same the other way around
> since
> > I no longer live in Bremen. So unfortunately, I´m contributing more to
> the
> > climate crisis than to its solutions and I´m sure that I´m not alone with
> > these thoughts since many projects require field trips/meetings all over
> > the world.
> >
> > Without doubt - conferences like the ICRS are extremely important because
> > a large proportion in science is based on communicating and connecting
> on a
> > global scale. Nevertheless, I think there is an urgent need of improving
> > our networking and maybe even moving away from the "traditional" science
> > structure so that we will be able to organize global (and regional)
> > conferences/meetings in a sustainable way which exeeds the important
> aspect
> > of avoiding/reducing plastics at the events. This is necessary since we
> are
> > already in the middle of the climate crisis.
> >
> > So my question is: Are there any thoughts/ideas/developments towards
> > alternative approaches, for example purely online-based conferences? This
> > would perhaps also be a good topic for a session at ICRS?
> >
> > I´m looking forward to reading your comments, ideas, inputs.
> >
> > Cheers,
> >
> > Maria Jung
> > M.Sc. Marine Biology
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original-Nachricht-----
> > Betreff: Re: [Coral-List] carbon offsetting AND the need for innovative
> > problem solvers to halt climate change
> > Datum: 2019-05-10T15:00:15+0200
> > Von: "Franziska Elmer via Coral-List" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> > An: "emmalassiter at gmail.com" <emmalassiter at gmail.com>, "
> > coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
> >
> > Hi emma and coral listers,
> >
> > Awesome to hear you want to assess the quality of carbon offsetters. I
> > think this is veey important. Please let me know what you find out. I
> > personally use either of these whenever i fly:
> > https://www.oceanfdn.org/calculator
> >  i like this one because they plant seagrass which is important for coral
> > reefs. But i dont know how well they monitor the plots so I am unsure if
> > they are a good program of actually offsetting what they say they offset
> > (if you find out please let me know)
> >
> > Www.myclimate.org
> > I like myclimate because i know their story and they were one of the
> first
> > offsetters out there (if not the first). I trust their offsetting as they
> > have strict standards they follow. Plus they are swiss like me.
> >
> >
> > Please also keep in mind that offsetting is only the last option.
> Reducing
> > is much better and with the severity of the climate change problem (a
> > crisis), every conservationist or environmentally concious person should
> > focus in reducing their footprint drastically and only offset what is not
> > possible to reduce. Put time and energy asside to work on reduction plans
> > and think outside the box:  can meetings be combined, can they be done
> via
> > video, can you take the train, bus, a boat instead? What could you
> > accomplish in the extra time given to you if you choose to travel at a
> > slower pace? Undisturbed working time to finish up a manuscript may not
> be
> > a drawback but a bonus from less carbon intensive travels.
> >
> > As conservationist who want society and our governments to take climate
> > change serious we have to speak with actions. The next ICRS meeting in
> 2020
> > for example will likely make a statement about climate change and may
> call
> > for rapid and unproceeded actions. But how strong is that statement going
> > to be if the conference is held like it has always been with 1000s of
> > people flying to Bremen from all over the world? By then we have know
> about
> > the rapid and unproceeded changes that need to be done for almost 2 years
> > and were inactive in transforming our conference for almost 1/6 of the
> time
> > we have to act to save the coral reefs and a livable planet. The
> statement
> > made at the end of the conference will be a lot stronger if we make a big
> > effort to reduce (not offset) the emissions caused by it. Either hold
> > several smaller meetings that people can travel to without flying. Or
> have
> > as many people as possible arrive by cargo ships, trains and other low
> > carbon ways of transport. Or cancel the
> >  conference and ask participants to dedicate that week towards actions
> > that will lead to climate justice. All these actions would speak strongly
> > for the severity of the situation. If we continue as we are now, we will
> > reach 1.5 degrees warming in 15.5 years (https://climateclock.net) after
> > that our coral reefs will go extinct and we will have to find new
> careers.
> > Our number one priority should be to reduce carbon emissions drastically
> > world wide and we should dedicate a large amountof our time and energy
> > towards this.
> >
> > There is still hope and we are smart innovative people with an incredible
> > talent for creative problem solving. Think back to a time in your career,
> > when you had an impossible problem to solve and little time and money to
> do
> > so, either in the field, in the lab, working with locals or wherever
> else.
> > Let this inspire you of what you are capable of doing. And then use this
> > talent to find creative solutions to lower your own, your companies, your
> > countries or the worlds carbon emissions. We are some of the smartest and
> > most talented creative problem solvers on this planet and our talents are
> > desperately needed to solve this crisis.
> >
> > Sorry for going a bit off topic but I think this is very important to be
> > said.
> >
> > Franziska Elmer
> > Marine Ecology Lecturer
> > School for Field Studies
> > Turks and Caicos Islands
> > Felmer at fieldstudies.org
> >
> >
> >
> > Sent from the octopuses garden.
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Coral-List mailing list
> > Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > https://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> --
> Douglas Fenner
> Ocean Associates, Inc. Contractor
> NOAA Fisheries Service
> Pacific Islands Regional Office
> Honolulu
> and:
> Consultant
> PO Box 7390
> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA
> New book "The Uninhabitable Earth"  First sentence: "It is much, much worse
> than you think."
> Read first (short) chapter open access:
> https://www.pbs.org/newshour/arts/read-a-chapter-from-the-uninhabitable-earth-a-dire-warning-on-climate-change
> Want a Green New Deal?  Here's a better one.
> https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/want-a-green-new-deal-heres-a-better-one/2019/02/24/2d7e491c-36d2-11e9-af5b-b51b7ff322e9_story.html?utm_term=.a3fc8337cbf8
> Nations falling short of emissions cuts set by Paris climate pact, analysis
> finds
> http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/nations-falling-short-emissions-cuts-set-paris-climate-pact-analysis-finds?utm_campaign=news_daily_2018-11-28&et_rid=17045989&et_cid=2515903
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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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