Corals devastated in Caribbean

Rowan Sage rsage at BOTANY.UTORONTO.CA
Tue Apr 4 13:24:06 CDT 2006

Dear All,

The decline in the Caribbean coral is the latest installment of a
worldwide catastrophe.  What is scary is we are just approaching a CO2
level of 380 ppm, up some 40 to 80 ppm from the CO2 level at the time
when most of us were born.  Before we can realistically hope to rein in
future CO2 growth, the values in the atmosphere must become much higher,
perhaps 100 more ppm at a minimum. With the degree of warming and
dieback we now see, its tough to not see how a much bigger catastrophe
is not far off. This is not even taking into account the feed-forward
controls that will kick in at high latitudes when the ice and tundra are
replaced with trees and open ocean that have much lower albedo an
substantial heat storage capacity.  Current estimates indicate about
half of the post-ice age warming was due to albedo shifts caused by
vegetation replacement of glaciated terrain.  Some have said that when
we can detect global warming, it is already too late.  Is the Caribbean
die-off the headlights of global change shining in our face while we
remain frozen in place?

Rather than being another fiddler in the chorus, I add that the failure
to take corrective action is associated with the political landscape of
our current time, where the leadership of the U.S., Canada (recently),
Australia, China, Russia and elsewhere have taken a hostile line in
practice if not in philosophy to the concept of global change and the
science behind it. If we want to move forward and perhaps jump off the
track, then we have to look at real change in the thinking of the
existing leadership and the realistic alternatives.  For this to happen,
we have to address certain political ironies of our time.

The obvious failure of the conservative political community,
particularly the religious right, to accept the realities of global
change science is probably one of the greatest ironies in this tragic
opera of global change.  Many of us were raised by conservative folk who
taught the value of conserving the land and passing the heritage onto
those who follow.  A central tenant of most religious faiths  is that
the creator gave the earth to the people to protect and conserve.  Why
the the religious right, of all people, are among the most hostile to
global change science is truly mysterious.  There are many suppositions
for why this is; for example, hostility to evolution and abortion may
have driven a wedge between the religious communities and the biological
conservationists.  Others would argue that sophisticated political
pandering by the Republican leadership, who are in league with the
energy producers, is to blame. Some even say the religious right
welcomes global warming, as it will bring on the rapture and the second

Given the size of this political bloc, it seems pretty clear that until
the faith-based segment of the American population demand change from
their political leaders, serious action on global warming is not likely
to happen anytime soon.  If any study is to be of value, a good one
would seem to be a study that examines the sociology and political
science of the union between the faith-based community and the global
change skeptics.

Rowan Sage
University of Toronto

Ken Kinman wrote:
> Dear All,
>      I would think it would be increasingly difficult for some U.S. leaders to keep saying global warming needs additional study BEFORE we act (after all, the Caribbean is in our backyard).  Seems like some are doing the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns, except in this case the damage being done is more insidious and on a worldwide scale.  In tomorrow's New York Times:
> Corals Take Double Punch in Caribbean
> Published: April 4, 2006
> Unusually warm water last summer followed by a wave of disease has killed a sizable fraction of the corals in parts of the Caribbean.

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