Corals devastated in Caribbean

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Tue Apr 4 13:16:33 CDT 2006

I can't help but comment on this from a lay perspective.  We seem to find it hard to understand why so many people are not responding to the warnings that are accompanying the global warming phenomenon.  George Will's syndicated column (published today; ) is an excellent example of why the problem exists.  As he notes, and as I
well remember, 30 years ago climatologists were doomsaying because of global cooling and the scientific community was demanding immediate action to deal with this impending crisis.   Of course, it didn't happen, just as Paul Erhlich's predictions (in The Population Bomb) didn't come to pass.

I know that Ehrlich's message was right, and I believe that we need to address global warming before it's too late, but it was exaggerated to the point that when we made it past the year 2000 without global famine, etc., the public tended to agree with those who argue (a la Julian Simon, RIP) that population growth is not a problem.  The fact that Ehrlich lost his bet with Simon
didn't help matters.

Many would rather hear what George Will is saying because it gives them the option of believing that things aren't nearly as bad as they are being told by others.  Certainly, Will's rhetoric is exactly what the current US administration likes to hear.


Dick J

Rowan Sage wrote:

> 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
> coming.
> 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.
> >

Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

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