[Coral-List] Bleaching

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Sun Apr 10 19:40:18 UTC 2022

     You are, of course, entitled to your views, and to express them
publicly.  Including on coral-list.  Others are equally entitled to reply
to you and try to show you're wrong; if they wish.
      The following is far too long, as usual.  I plead guilty to that.  So
an abstract: my first point is that CO2 does not go to zero after 125
years.  Second point is that the goal people usually bring up, for reducing
emissions to zero, is 2050, 28 years from now, not 8 years from now.  I
believe people are saying that we need to get reduction to half in 8
years.  I do not know whether either of these is feasible, I'm sure they
will NOT be trivially easy.  Likely some sources are easy and some are
difficult.  But any reductions we manage to do will reduce the severity of
the absolute disaster the world is facing.  Since when do we shrink from
even trying things that may have difficult parts in them, because we're too
lazy to even try??  Things which involve a threat to the entire world?  "Oh
no, that would take some effort?"  We only do easy things?  And last point,
of course the reason that the time left is so short to fix these huge
problems is because the deniers, some funded by Big Oil, have been super
successful in their propaganda campaign to sow doubt among the public.  If
we don't have enough time to get the job done, the blame lies at their

      I'm not sure, so it would be great if someone who knows would explain
to us, exactly what the 125 years means.  I suspect it means something like
"half life."  That term is applied to radioactive decay sources.  In a
certain amount of time, the "half life," the rate of radioactive decay will
go down to half of its previous value.  But not to zero.  Then in an
additional span of the same amount of time, it will go down further to half
of that value, and so on, essentially forever.  It will never reach zero
until the last atomic nucleus decays, and there are a vast number of atoms
in even a small sample (Avagadro's number is incredibly large).  The
reduction of these gases in the atmosphere is NOT radioactive decay, which
is a property of atomic nuclei.  Rather for these gases it depends on the
rate of various chemical reactions that reduce the amount of the gases
remaining.  For CO2, for instance, one of those reactions is
photosynthesis.  Forests and other plants are very good at using up CO2 in
the atmosphere.  That depends, then, on how much plant life there is on
earth, and how fast it uses up CO2, and whether that CO2 is stored, such as
in wood in trees, or in peat or organic chemicals in soil, or dead
vegetation frozen in high latitude permafrost, etc etc.  So surely not
trivial to estimate, and subject to change, when humans destroy forests,
rising temperature melts permafrost, people dig up peat to use as fuel, etc
etc.   But it would be helpful if someone would tell us what that 125
number refers to, is it that the gas is completely gone at 125 years, or
roughly that is the estimated half life, or something else.  Your
presumption that at 125 years it will all be gone is something that depends
on the definition of what the 125 refers to.  I'm willing to bet that CO2
will not be totally gone after 125 years.  Rather, to get large reductions
will take millenia.

      You keep referring to "reducing present levels in 8 years."  That's
not very specific.  I took from your original post that you seemed to be
saying that people were proposing to completely end all emissions 8 years
from now.  But you didn't specify.  You do have a way of leaving things
vague and not being specific.  My memory is that people are saying we need
to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to close to zero by the year 2050.
That would imply, since it is now 2022, that they are saying we need to
reach close to zero net emissions in 28 years, not 8 years.  Indeed I've
also read that people are saying we need to get started and make
substantial reductions such as maybe reduced to half, by 2030, and that
would be indeed 8 years.  Your statement could be interpreted as saying
that it is not realistic to accomplish ANY reductions in 8 years.  That
seems to me to be obviously incorrect.  How realistic it is to reduce
emissions to half in 8 years, I don't know.  Surely that will be a point
for debate.  It surely would not be a trivial thing to reduce emissions to
half in 8 years.  But my guess is that different sources will present
different levels of difficulty to reduce emissions by some particular
amount, like half or to zero.  Some may be relatively easy, such as
reducing energy waste.  I used to live in Seattle, Washington State, USA,
and I remember a few years ago returning, and while on the train into the
city, there was snow on the ground and on buildings, and a fair number of
houses had snow melted off their whole roof while others had snow still
completely covering their roof.  The difference is insulation.  Insulation
is relatively cheap and easy to put into attics in houses, I've done it
myself in past years.  It's a bit more to put it into walls of wood houses,
but I've also paid for that to be professionally done in past years.
Obviously, a bunch of people have not.  My guess is many of those are
rental units.  Neither the owner of the house nor the renter have an
incentive to install insulation, it won't save the owner anything because
the renter pays the heating bills, and the renter will only save if they
stay there for a long time, and often renters don't stay long and/or don't
know how long they will stay.  Plus it would be them spending money to fix
someone else's house.  Anyhow, that's a social/economic problem to fix, but
the cost of reducing energy waste is relatively low and for some things
technically trivially easy to do.  Trying to figure out how to produce
cement without producing CO2 sounds a lot harder to me, and trying to
figure out how to reduce the rate of deforestation is a very vexing
problem, for social, economic, political, and governance reasons.  So you
pick the low-hanging fruit first, and prefer big improvements over small,
and with time start tackling more difficult ones and smaller sources.
That's a strategy to try to help make a difficult thing less difficult.
I've never ever heard anyone say that reducing greenhouse gas emissions
to zero will be trivially easy.  Rather more likely is that it is highly
likely to be quite difficult.  Not necessarily impossible.  And my guess is
that the last stages will be the most difficult.  So starting as soon as
possible, to get plans figured out how to do it, would seem wise.

       But I agree with you that it is far from obvious that reaching the
goals people propose will be feasible, certainly zero net emissions will be
difficult.  So, do we shrink from even trying?  There are things like
energy efficiency, which are quite easy, I contend.  And since when do we
just say "oh, it's not easy, so we won't try" even if something is
important, like necessary to save coral reefs not to mention huge numbers
of human lives.  After all, already, more American lives are lost due to
heat than all other weather events combined, I've read.  And it is going to
get worse, much much worse.  Did President Kennedy say "we chose not to go
to the moon because it would not be easy, it would take some effort and
money, and besides the world will not stop turning if we don't go."???  I
don't think so.  He said something like "We choose to go to the moon, not
because it is easy, but because it is hard."  And it was done, was it
not???  Isn't the prospect of parts of the world becoming uninhabitable,
first predicted on the coast around the Persian/Arabian Gulf, but in time
surely including Florida where you live, an important reason to stop global
warming and climate change???  I think it is.  But you're entitled to your
views and to express them.  And others are entitled to disagree and express
different views if they wish.  Isn't that the case?

         So why are we in this fix of having so short a time to do this
difficult task???  It's pretty obvious.  Fossil fuel companies, notably big
oil, have vast amounts of money to spend on lobbying, and favoring them are
all the arguments that they employ people and inject money into local
economies, and so on.  In addition, they have tried to keep secret the fact
that they have contributed money to groups advocating that climate change
is a hoax, CO2 is good for us, that we shouldn't do anything, and so on.
Those groups are often called "deniers" since they at least initially
denied that there was a problem and a need to do anything.  They
increasingly have become more sophisticated and claim to simply be
"skeptics" since of course being skeptical is viewed much more favorably.
They realized that all they needed to do is to get the public to not be
sure that there was a real threat and action needed to be taken, mere doubt
in the public's mind would do the trick of delaying if not stopping, any
action to fix climate change and global warming.  And they have been
incredibly successful, no doubt helped by the fact the public doesn't like
their hard earned money wasted (a good attitude to take) and political
leaders are very sensitive to what the public wants.  And so many leaders
have been very timid about pushing for action.  So, now the deadline is so
close that we may not get everything done as soon as is needed.  Of course,
if we do even some, and reduce emissions some, that will avoid the worst
catastrophes that would come from endless "business as usual" which not
only puts more emissions into the atmosphere, but the rate at which
emissions are produced goes up over time as economies grow and populations
grow and developing country economies grow and people consume more.  And
so, with the help of the fossil fuel industry and the large and vociferous
denier groups, here we are, with an all too short time left to get the job
done.  Thanks very much.  Reefs will be destroyed and many human lives lost
as a result.

       Cheers, Doug

On Sun, Apr 10, 2022 at 5:55 AM Eugene Shinn via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> Doug, I maintain that reducing present levels in 8-years clearly is not
> realistic. I  said, "if Co2 were stopped today it would take about half
> a century for Co2 levels to drop to pre-industrial levels." I was being
> conservative because I am too lazy to look up the correct figure. Phil
> Dustin wrote me and assured me because of the half life of Co2 in the
> atmosphere it would actually take 125 years to reach pre-industrial
> levels. Now think about it. Do you really believe we humans will be
> around 125 years from now to appreciate coral reefs? The way things are
> going now we will be lucky if our culture last another 2 generations.
> History shows (except for ancient Egypt) it takes more than 100 or 200
> years for a culture to peak but they fail within about 2 generations. I
> am now 88. As I watch what is happening  I suspect we reached our peak a
> couple of generations ago already. We do it to our selves. We just can't
> help our selves. I suppose if we are gone the reefs might come back as
> they have throughout geologic history. Gene
> On 4/8/22 3:08 PM, Douglas Fenner wrote:
> > Gene,
> >     I'm curious.  You long criticized evidence of global warming, then
> > that humans caused it, and it sounds like you are now saying we
> > shouldn't do anything about it.  I say "sounds like it" because as
> > usual, you don't say it clearly.  Sounds more like you are trying to
> > distract people and obfuscate.  I think you prefer to call yourself a
> > "skeptic" than a "denier."  Skeptic sounds more legit.   But it's in
> > the same cause, obviously, stopping any action on climate change. All
> > you have to do is spread enough doubt.
> >     So I'm wondering, how about it, are you still skeptical of global
> > warming, climate change, humans causing it, it killing coral or
> > threatening corals worldwide, and think we shouldn't do anything about
> > it?  In other words, are you still a skeptic or denier?
> > Cheers, Doug
> >
> > On Wed, Apr 6, 2022 at 1:22 AM Eugene Shinn via Coral-List
> > <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:
> >
> >     Thanks Austin, I have become so used to broken promises by governmens
> >     and businesses that it just bounces off. I recall many climate change
> >     authors claiming that if all sources of Co2 were stopped today it
> >     would
> >     take about  half a century for Co2 levels to drop to pre-industrial
> >     levels. Reducing present levels in 8-years is not realistic. Gene
> >
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