Earth's oceans - A report published as the result of a Coral Reef Targeted Research (CRTR) Program tells us that manmade carbon emissions are killing the coral reefs, and all life which depends upon them. Without immediate attention and swift remedy, the various reefs around the world will not survive the century. This, according to Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the Science paper, "The Carbon Crisis: Coral Reefs under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification".
Coral reefs tell the tale
Based out of The University of Queensland (Australia), Professor Hoegh-Guldberg says the coral reefs provide a type of barometer for judging ocean damage. They are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, salinity, acidity and other environmental factors. He says that raising the temperature by just 1 degree Celsius is enough to stress the reefs into mass bleaching. If the temperature is raised a little more, they begin to die.
Professor Hoegh-Gulberg states that the current concentration of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere is 380 ppm. This figure is at least 80 ppm (27%) higher than it has been for the past 740,000 - 20 million years, depending on which set of data is used. The increase in CO2 is responsible for a 0.74C rise in temperature, according to the professor, resulting in environmental conditions the coral have not experienced previously. Their delicate biological chemistry and processes are not able to keep up with the drastic changes, hence their state.
He suggests that if current trends continue, CO2 concentrations exceeding 500 ppm, with associated temperature increases of 2C, are possible by the year 2100. "We clearly have to do more to reduce CO2 emissions and still more in preparing vulnerable communities to the almost inevitable problems that they will face as a result of an already entrained climate change." [Entrained means it's part of an observable cycle already in motion. -Ed]
Australia alone brings in $6.8 billion in tourist related travel to the Great Barrier Reef, a huge coral reef in the waters around parts of Australia. Around the globe, it is estimated that 10s of billions of dollars of revenue are at risk. Professor Hoegh-Guldberg says, "The livelihoods of 100 million people living along the coasts of tropical developing countries will be among the first major casualties of rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere".
Dr. Marea Hatziolos, a team leader for the CRTR, and a member of the World Bank, who co-authored the report with Professor Hoegh-Gulberg, agrees. He says, "There is an urgent need for high carbon growth countries to reduce their total CO2 emissions and a responsibility on the part of industrialized nations to assist the most vulnerable coral reef states adapt to climate change impacts while reducing local risks to reefs (sic)".
How to fix it?
Dr. Hatziolos says there's already a range of policy and management tools available today, some of which have been refined through support from the CRTR Program, and no time should be lost in applying them more widely and effectively. She says, "The tools include coastal zone management, co-management arrangements between governments and local communities to foster effective stewardship, integrated catchment approaches to managing water quality and environmental flows, enforcement and compliance with fishing regulations, restoration of reefs and coastal vegetation and sustainable tourism."
There is significant concern among the research scientists that action won't be taken soon enough to prevent irreversible damage. Dr. Hatziolos says, "...[these changes are] unlikely to happen, at the intensity and scale required, unless industrialised nations make funds available to assist the most vulnerable coral reef states manage these reducible risks".
FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt. Anytime someone from the World Bank says anything that's going to dip into all of our pockets, or curtail the way we travel, or change significantly our means of energy use ... I am immediately and significantly suspicious of their motives. Scientists tell us the Earth has been here for billions of years. It's had life on it for hundreds of millions of years. We've survived ice age after ice age, warm period after warm period, and even great asteroids which smashed into the Earth so significantly that nearly all life was wiped out. One ice age was so severe that it carved out the Great Lakes! And yet, here we are, doing just fine.