I haven’t talked a lot about marine impacts of climate change on this website — mostly because it is quite thoroughly covered by Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg in his Climate Shifts blog and Dr Simon Donner on Maribo. But in short, the marine environment is under severe stress from chronic human impacts (over-fishing, dredging, pollution [e.g., chemical and oil spills], structural damage [e.g., dynamite fishing on coral reefs], traffic [boat strikes]. etc.) and a double-whammy from climate change. Assoc. Prof. Corey Bradshaw talked about this in detail here (slides and audio available).
A recent editoral in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, by Prof Charles Sheppard of the University of Warwick, UK, spells out just how grim this ‘marine nutcracker’ is. Why does he use the nutcracker analogy? Because: “…coral reef calcification is squeezed, by temperature near the equator and by acidification from the poles“. Let me explain further, by some selected citation from the essay.
It is not farfetched to say that in the marine environment, coral reefs will be the first major ecosystem to be functionally extinguished because of climate change. Of course, many entire small areas of global systems have disappeared already for a number of reasons, from industrial pollution or coastal construction, and many areas of soft substrate have been totally obliterated (trawled for example). But a whole ecosystem with a pan-tropical span? Probably not…
…Warming which causes, firstly, widespread bleaching of corals and which is then sufficiently severe and persistent to cause subsequent widespread mortality was not really noticed until the 1970s. It began to be increasingly noticed from the 1980s, and now occurs with frequent if erratic occurrence. The years 1998, 2001/2 and 2005 were seminal. Several predictions (calculations are a better word) have been made that severity and frequency of such events will increase so that the sea temperatures which cause widespread mortality will become a near annual occurrence well within the lifetime of most people alive today. Some suggestions are that, on average – there are many local variations – this will be most severe across a tropical belt and will expand outwards. Some extrapolations (Sheppard 2003) showed that the timing of critical dates are nearest close to the equator, becoming later as one moves polewards, in some oceans at least…
…But most importantly perhaps, the argument that corals can perhaps move polewards a bit overlooks ocean acidification. The oceans are having to absorb more CO2 than ever before and, to date, half to two thirds of all CO2 generated since the start of the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the surface layers of the sea. It is, in fact, only the smaller portion which has not been absorbed by the ocean which causes our greenhouse effect and which is giving rise to all those conferences about global climate change and warming. That portion which has been absorbed, however, has changed the pH of the surface ocean by 0.1, which is a 30% increase in H+ ions [Ed: Hydrogen] (Royal Society, 2005). As a result, the complexities of the carbonic acid – bicarbonate – carbonate buffering system mean that calcification by marine life is increasingly curtailed…
In simple terms, marine systems, especially sensitive areas like tropical coral reefs, are being regularly ‘shocked’ by extreme heat wave events, which causes loss of symbiotic algae (microscopic plants that live in the tissues of the coral polyp and provide a source of nutrition) and eventually coral death (and the loss of other shell-forming organisms). Further, as the oceans absorb vast amounts of CO2, the surface waters acidify, which undermines the ability of reef-building organisms to produce skeletons of crystalline calcium carbonate (calcite and aragonite).
…To risk adding despair to the despondency, the time lags in the system mean that even if the problem of produced CO2 was solved immediately, and the atmospheric level started to drop today, impacts from acidification will continue for a few decades to come. What we have done already and what we do in the next, say, 20 years, will have an inevitability about it which, as far as we know, will be irreversible in human terms at least…
…It appears to be part of the natural human scientific mind to prioritise problems. Hence there have been arguments about which is the worst problem of the two described above, or even which is the one to worry about most. This is a false debate. Recovery from a thermal shock of a particular magnitude may be possible in an aragonite saturation state of >4, but would it be possible in a saturation state which has fallen to, say, nearer 3?…
…it now seems likely that although temperature rise causes the present noticeable declines in many areas, the pH problem will inexorably assume the ascendancy in becoming the greatest inhibitor to marine life in the oceans as a whole, and that this will be increasingly noticed during the lives of most of us here today…
So just as with the ecological impacts of global change in land-based environments, the synergistic interactions of threatening processes are the overarching problem — a common systems feature of the Sustainability Crisis. With further impacts on the base of the marine food web — plankton — the whole biotic ediface begins to crumble. The worst-case-scenarios, at 5 to 6 C warming above pre-industrial levels, is described by Mark Lynas (based on a review of the peer-reviewed literature):
At sea there are only losers. Warm water is a killer. Less oxygen can dissolve, so conditions become stagnant and anoxic. Oxygen-breathing water-dwellers – all the higher forms of life from plankton to sharks – face suffocation… Then would come poisonous hydrogen sulphide from the stagnant oceans. It would be a silent killer: imagine the scene at Bhopal following the Union Carbide gas release in 1984, replayed first at coastal settlements, then continental interiors across the world. At the same time, as the ozone layer came under assault [from the hydrogen sulphide], we would feel the sun’s rays burning into our skin, and the first cell mutations would be triggering outbreaks of cancer among anyone who survived. Dante’s hell was a place of judgment, where humanity was for ever punished for its sins. With all the remaining forests burning, and the corpses of people, livestock and wildlife piling up in every continent, the six-degree world would be a harsh penalty indeed for the mundane crime of burning fossil energy.
Such a vision of the brave new climate is not close to the realm of ‘adaptation’ and cost-benefit analyses set against such scenarios are a mere farce. Yet that is the very future that we — the global human collective — are rapidly pushing the Earth system towards. Closer and closer, year by year, as incrementalism rules the day.
31 replies on “Squeezing the marine nutcracker”
This is a timely post just days away from the announcement of Australia’s 2020 targets for emissions reductions. The political stage is set for low targets.
It seems surreal that we can even imagine that policies that will destroy coral reefs and other marine ecosystems around the globe are acceptable and economically rational.
At today’s ocean and atmospheric temperatures we are witnessing:
– a catastrophic decline of the arctic summer sea ice
– a catastrophic decline of non polar glaciers and ice fields
– significant melting of arctic and antarctic sheets
– melting of large areas of frozen arctic soils
– increases in the loss of carbon from soils from land clearing and the 1 degree temperature increase
– continuing and accelerating rates of land clearing (reducing biomass, increasing atmospheric CO2)
– worldwide wildfires that are increasing in intensity, frequency and range (reducing biomass)
– the discovery of sub sea release of methane in shallow arctic coastal waters.
– significant decreases in rainfall in large areas of the subtropical zones (reducing biomass)
– a decline in natural carbon sinks, warming oceans absorbing less CO2, peat bogs becoming CO2 emitters
Even if we stop burning carbon fuels now, which we won’t, there is a another degree of warming to come from a summer ice free Arctic and system inertia. The physical observable evidence of and measurements of changes strongly indicate the earth has warmed to the point that all the dangerous positive feed backs have commenced. Any amount of wishful thinking or outright denial will not stop catastrophic warming of the planet if that is the case.
Also from rising sea levels which have already, if Nobel prize winer Al Gore is to be believed, have already forced the evacuation of a number of Pacific islands.
And of course if it hasn’t then every reputable “environmentalist” concerned about whether there are any genuine threats to the sea had no ethical choice but to have publicly said he was lying. Otherwise they could never be trusted on this new worldwide environemental catastrophe story.
Also from rising sea levels which have already, if Nobel prize winer Al Gore is to be believed, have already forced the evacuation of a number of Pacific islands
Neil, before I address this point, could you please provide me with the quotation/source where Gore claims this. It was not said in An Inconvenient Truth: you can check the transcript here to verify that yourself. If it is in another speech/interview, I’d like to read it – please provide the link.
Do you perhaps mean his Nobel acceptance speech, in which he said:
Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home.
He doesn’t say “already forced” he says “are planning” – quite a different thing – it perfect makes sense to plan for something inevitable like this, unless you have your head in the beach sand.
It seems your transcript differs from the film as seen & judged by the British court which listed many inaccuracies including
“A claim that atolls in the Pacific had already been evacuated was supported by “no evidence”,”
It is possible that your source is dealing with a 2nd cut of the film. There are other possibilities. I suppose 1 would be that the judge & entire court were hallucinating & if you believe that neartime sea level rises to completly cover south sea islands are “inevitable” then I suppose you could believe that.
In fact, as any scientist knows, warming is a theory (you may think it a good theory or not) but it proving true is not, by definition, inevitable. Also you appear to be unaware that even the high priests of alarmism, the IPCC, now say there will only be about a 15 inch rise which would not “inevitably” cover many inhabited islands.
Neil Craig @ 5
“The IPCC advise of a 1m sea level rise by 2100 “given middle of the road future emissions scenarios”
(We are already tracking above that level of emissions.)
“Rises of 5-10m could ultimately occur if significant parts of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melt. Even though this could take several centuries to happen we may be committed to this eventuality by 2100 if emissions meet or exceed the “middle of the road” scenario estimates”
MANN, Michael E and KUMP, Lee R
Dire predictions: understanding global warming: the illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC, pg 148
Tell me – why would we risk it? Is it a case of “I’m alright Jack and stuff the future generations”
Most scientists agree that the last IPCC report (quoted above) is conservative and is already behind the present situation.
Neil Craig @ 5
I followed your link and read the entire article. You forgot to mention that the judge concluded that there were four main scientific hypotheses:
“each of which is well supported by research published in respected peer-reviewed journals,and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC”
“that climate change is mainly attributable to manmade emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide”
“global temperatures are rising and are likely to continue to rise”
“that climate change will cause serious damage if left unchecked”
“it is entirely possible for governments and individuals to reduce its impacts”
The film was allowed to be shown in British schools with an accompanying handbook which pointed out the apparent nine exaggerated claims.
Whatever you may think of the film hype, the basic tenets were deemed to be proven.
Thank you Perps. I note you do not dispute that I was correct & Gore did indeed tell the blatant lie that I said he did. In propriety perhaps Barry may acknowledge his error.
On the other points the IPCC did have an addendum which did not exclude the possibility of more serious rises, which is what you are quoting, but the approx 15 inches is what they predicted. I would be interested to see your evidence for your claim that “most scientists” disagree, in an alarmist direction, with the sainted IPCC. Since 31,000 scientists have signed a petition saying warming is likely to be beneficial for the balance to be so far on the other side you would have to produce a specific statement from at least 100,000 scientists for your claim to be true.
Though it is not directly relevant to the error I pointed out it is true that the judge did take the default position that the warming scenario was broadly correct. The direct relevance of that to the science would depend on whether the judge was a climate scientist in his spare time – perhaps you could enlighten us? The indirect relevance is that it indicates the judge already had a bias towards the government approved warming line, probably irrespective of his scientific knowledge. That means he was biased in favour of the warming swindle & STILL was unable to conclude that Gore had not repeatedly lied.
Would that most of the alarmist “scientists” had the scientific integrity to say the same.
OK Barry – here’s the theme song for my problem http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=OGWfLiEoG98
I’m told the aragonite dissolution is practically chemothermodynamically impossible. Argument here in the first comment by me: http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=798
i.e. ocean acidification threat is bunk
Second position – our Great Barrier Reef is in fabulous condition. Evidence otherwise is?
Luke @9: Not only is it demonstrable from basic geochemical principles, but it has be demonstrated experimentally:
Evidence that the GBR is not in fabulous condition? Try reading this:
It’s all there, if you care to study the evidence.
Neil @ 8
Gosh – what a conspiracy theorist you are! Now the judges are in on it! If he can’t be trusted to be impartial then his opinion on Gore’s film is redundant in every way. Make your mind up!
“The 31,000 scientists say” blah blah blah – is another of your recycled denialist myths. This has also been debunked again and again – just check it out on Google or at RealClimate, DeSmogBlog or Deltoid see left for links. Many were dead, had no qualifications, were made up, TV weathermen,or misquoted from old research recently disproved. In fact apologies had to be issued to some scientists to avoid litigation.
As to those of the scientific fraternity who back the science – 90% – over 600,000 – are in consensus.
As to Gore – I saw the movie and took what he was saying to be a projection of the worse case scenarios if we did not address the problem quickly. I congratulate him on raising the problem with the general public, and bringing it to the attention of politicians. It needed to be a wake up call and it was.
If you want to talk lies and distortions on the subject of AGW look no further than “The Great Global Warming Swindle” which has been totally discredited.
Neil – this is not like politics, religion or football – you can’t blindly back “your team”. On this one if you win the argument and shut down action on the problem you lose as much as the rest of humanity. The environment cares nothing for such human foibles. The Earth will go on in some form whatever we do to it but I can assure you it won’t be pleasant even if you survive.I don’t intend to have any more discourse with you as you are trenchantly determined to be blinkered to the science and so on your own head be it.
Not convincing Barry – doesn’t answer the basic chemistry questions. Steve Short is ex-ANSTO and runs his own environmental chemistry consultancy. So his basic chemistry question remains unaddressed – and he has offered up the standard chemical codes on the issue.
Also pteropods are quite fragile so not a good example.
Calcification rate is not dissolution. Different chemistry. Indeed Short said …”
Unfortunately, due to your total lack of knowledge of geochemistry and a logical and discerning intelligence, you seem incapable of understanding the DISTINCT chemical difference between the saturation state of a mineral and its potential dissolution (decalcification) OR its formation rates (calcification) i.e. the distinction between the THERMODYNAMIC and KINETIC constraints which apply.
Saturation state (as measured by Saturation Index; SI) is a thermodynamic CONSTRAINT i.e. if SI>0.00 decalcification is thermodynamically FOBIDDEN. This is precisely why the AGO were telling a definite lie. However, if SI>0.00 mineral formation (calcification) is thermodynamically allowed. That SI says NOTHING about whether it will then happen a a slow or fast rate.
You are utterly confusing the equilibrium thermodynamic condition that ALLOWS calcification (or not) with the kinetic condition(s) that CONTROLS calcification RATE.
The latter is affected, as I pointed out, by a large number of chemical/environmental variable and indeed by the health of the organism forming the biogenic calcium carbonate – which may be affected by metabolic (and hence subject to environmental stress) factors quite unrelated to the DIC (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) status of the seawater.” ………..
So I’m really looking for an explanation on the chemothermodynamic considerations.
And the case around the undersea vent is extreme and atypical. Floor Anthoni is scathing
And for balance here’s CO2 oozing from a fumarole and coral in great condition.
The gbrmpa overview is standard stuff – all part of the reef research industry – but again doesn’t give any indication of long-term effects on the reef. Indeed Janice Lough who did the 4x pre-European work has a 2007 paper showing long term PDO and ENSO effects going back at least 400 years. So this on/off environment has been dumping sediment out of the Burdekin and Fitzroy for a long time. And previous El Ninos would have also bleached the reef and it’s still there. I suggest there is no bleaching trend. Merely episodic events. ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/coral/west_pacific/great_barrier/queensland-riverflow2007.txt
Where is the evidence that there is any trend in coral damage and that all we’re seeing is episodic outbreaks of bleaching, cyclone damage and COTS.
So I’m really stunned that we don’t have better scientific material on all of this. The case seems very loose.
BTW I’m told that we have corals colonising Moreton Bay ! As the nearby marine environment warms. Lough J. M. (2008), Shifting climate zones for Australia’s tropical marine ecosystems, Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L14708, doi:10.1029/2008GL034634.
Luke, why such a dismissive response to the experiments? Have you read those papers to see whether the geochemistry is addressed? I give far greater credence on this issue to the mainstream consensus from publishing geochemists and coral reef biologists, compared to the (unpublished?) opinions of one or a handful of environmental chemistry consultants.
And there are certainly experimental work on more than just pteropods – it includes scleractinians.
The latter paper is particularly interesting in that its very recent (Sept 2008) and based on an elegant mesocosm setup, so I’ll cite the abstract (see also references this paper cites):
Ocean acidification and calcifying reef organisms: a mesocosm investigation
How else do you explain the observed decalcification rates under increased pCO2? Do you (or Short) dispute the authors conclusions? Is Short claiming (implicitly) that all of the above authors have a ‘total lack of geochemistry’ [or indeed a lack of discerning intelligence]?
Regarding some other details of your comment, I’m not sure to whom Short’s quoted comments were directed or what the reply was. I also don’t know what you might mean or imply by a “reef research industry”. But anyway, the trajectory of coral reefs worldwide is well documented, e.g.
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/301/5635/955 (this review includes Australia)
If you wish to debate the detail of the geochemistry or bleaching evidence, I suggest you would more productively do so with Ove or Simon, or at a blog specifically dedicated to the issue of ocean acidification, run by the European Project on Ocean Acidification. Here is a sample link, highlighting a 2006 paper on this issue:
Perps says “If [the judge] can’t be trusted to be impartial then his opinion on Gore’s film is redundant in every way”
How idiotic. If he is partial towards the warming swindlers then, by definition, he can be trusted not to be partial against them. Hence for him to decide that Gore is lair he clearly is.
Your claim to be able to prove that 600,000 scientists, out of the world total of 666,666 is, of course, in no way less true than the entire warming scam. I await your evidence for it.
I note that Barry is still maintaining, despite the court proof, that Gore never said it. One of the differences between science & religion is that scientists will change their minds as a result of evidence whereas shamans maintain their authority by claiming a monopoly on the truth. Thus they cannot acknowledge error, even in small & barely relevant things like whether their prophet lied, for fear the whole edifice crumbles.
Barry has shown which following he is involved in.
Ed: Neil, stop trolling. You’re hereby on moderation. All you need to do is post something that is even vaguely sensible. You’re not doing that right now. Simple enough suggestion. I suggest you follow it and you might get something out of this blog.
Perhaps you could tell me if it is “vaguely sensible” to say that Gore DID say South Sea islands had been evacuated, or indeed if it is “vaguely sensible” of you to maintain that he didn’t in the teeth of the evidence.
I take it you’re position is that it is not “vaguely sensible” to ask Perps to produce the evidence he ought to have of the support of 600,000 scientists.
I posted on climateshifts blog and have emailed Ove – no response. I initially thought my question would have been trivial.
Reefs “worldwide” is not our Great Barrier Reef. The reef industry is the millions of dollars being sunk into local reef research with the a prior assumption that the Reef is “in danger” – see the latest Fed initiative “Reef Rescue” under CFOC funding. “Rescue” ?? I’m not saying that episodic damage doesn’t occur – just that “is there any trend”.
I’m aware of the mesocosm experiment you list – but again calcification rates are not dissolution !!!
Also any of these “live” experiments are by definition complex and multi-factor.
But isn’t the chemistry absolute?
Barry you know my broader views on climate change – if I’m being ornery there’s a reason ! – the ocean acidification issue troubles me greatly. Other chemists have also raised it with me.
This blog is where we should ask the hard questions – even if of our own position.
Luke – I know you are asking the questions because you are interested in the answers – I’ve attempting to provide them.
I do see now what you are getting at – but most of the citations I give above effective discuss dissolution as well as reduced accretion (especially Fine and Tchernov 2008: Scleractinian Coral Species Survive and Recover from Decalcification; but also Hall-Spencer et al 2008 and Orr et al 2005).
Let me explain. To cite Fine & Tchernov:
So they talk about dissolution. But the key point is this. Let’s say ‘acidification’ of the oceans (actually reduced alkalinity, as you would know) does not dissolve the coral skeletons (as would be the case if you dropped a lump of calcium carbonate into a bucket of acid – even vinegar), as Short proposes. Let’s say it simply inhibits accretion of aragonite and calcite by these animals, as the experiments most clearly demonstrate. Then you have a situation where the corals (and other non-phosphatic shelly organisms) are unable to replace lost skeletal tissue, which can be worn down by mechanical weathering, breakage, and other forms of chemical weathering. Living reefs are then worn down over time, until they are little more than rubble. New reefs are unable to form because they cannot (sufficiently) accrete material to grow. Short-lived organisms such as pteropods die off for similar reasons of net replacement – only much quicker than the long-lived corals.
As the quote above says, the effect of simply reducing the calcification rate “might shift the balance from net accumulation at present to net loss under high-CO2 conditions”. This is what the experiments show.
Neil @15: looking back over the transcript at your insistence, I see Gore did say: “That’s why the citizens of these pacific nations had all had to evacuate to New Zealand.” [not sure why you didn’t point this out directly to me?]
So he was mostly wrong on this point – a few people might have given up the effort and moved to NZ already, but you are right that they’ve not all left yet by any stretch. Yet your rationale, by reducto ad adsurdum, is that this misstatement not only invalidates every other point in AIT, but also tears down the entire edifice of climate science to boot! Excuse me if I think you are clutching at a few very long straws.
For those people on this site who are genuinely interested in scientific consensus
Perps you made a specific statement that 600,000 scientsts (being 90% of the world total) had specificly supported global warming. You have produced no evidence for that & I firmly suspect you cannot. Relying on Wikipedia as your primary source of the definition of “consensus” does not inspire confidence.
Barry it would be perfectly reasonable to dismiss everything Gore said on the basis that part of it is entirely dishonest. The legal rule is that when a witness has been shown to have lied once the rest of his testimony cannot be trusted. In any case Gore had lied in almost every piece of “evidence” in his film.
The big point is that the entire global warming community, very many of whom must have known he was lying, have declined to say so. That may be good scary propaganda but it is no science.
There are more than 600,000 scientists worldwide, but not all of them are qualified in disciplines related to this topic.
Try adding up the members of the links given in the Wikipedia article.
Perps I take it by that you mean “No”?
If you have actually read your article (sect 5) you will see that the total responses on the question were 1894, half of which from the Oreskes calculation which Professor Singer duplicated & found to be wholly fraudulent. The rest average fairly balanced between alarmists & sceptics.
Since you refuse to withdraw it I must accept your claim to know that 600,000 of the 666,666 scientists in the world are alarmists represents the very highest standard of honesty of which you are capable. Even by the very limited evidence you have produced for it it is wholly untrue.
Here is an interesting new piece on ocean acidification, on Nature Reports Climate Change
Again for those who are interested in the truth and not the denialist myths
As to the wikipedia article – further research (not Neil’s forte) is needed to track down and calculate the numbers of scientisits worldwide,represented by the named establishments.
Sorry – link should be
Skeptical science is another good site (like this one, realclimate, deltoid, desmogblog etc – see links in the column to the left) which debunks all the recycled denialist myths like the ones which our resident troll, Neil, loves to spout ad nauseam. Go to any of these sites and enter the myths into the search engine.
Another link which may help people on this site to properly evaluate claims by Neil regarding Al Gore and his film “An incovenient truth”
“2 trillion tonnes of ice gone in 5 years: NASA”
Got that Neil?
The ABC links don’t seem to work – [Ed: Fixed]
The main page is http://www.abc.net.au/news
Hope that works:)
Click on the main “environment” tag and then on the “climate change” tag for all the latest stories includinding the one I mentioned above.
And another one today “PNG tidal waves displace 75,000:UN”
Neil- perhaps these islanders (and those of Tuvalu) may disagree with your opinions on the necessity of relocating to escape the effects of global warming.
Perps, you put a / instead of a . before the htm (I’ve fixed that link for you and the other broken ones)
A tip – don’t try to re-type the web addresses. Open the site in a new tab in your browser, select the web address, and do a copy and paste. You’ll then avoid these problems in the future. Also for links you can you the href format to embed links in text – Google “HTML basics” for tips on how.
Thanks Barry – I’ll give it a go.
If I can’t get it right I will get my son to help me, when he is here for Christmas.:)