Climate clippings 36

Sceptical ‘science’

For many in Australia on climate change Bob Carter is the man. Tamino at Open Mind got access to his slides and took a look at how he does temperature trends. Turns out he doesn’t. What we get is the most outrageous and blatant cherry-picking.

See also Deltoid.

John Abraham took a look at how Monckton cites scientific literature on the Mediaeval Warm Period. Abraham emailed a sample of the cited scientists to find Monckton achieved perfect score for misrepresentation.

More at Quiggin’s here and here and some good journalism at Background Briefing.

Temperature during the last 10 years

The Stern Review showed a 2006 multi-year running average temperature graph from the Hadley Centre showing a clear upward trend. The Pew Centre has the same graph overlaid with one of atmospheric CO2:

CO2 and global temperature

If you focus on the last decade some scientist now refer to an “observed slow-down” of warming, more evident in the Hadley record which doesn’t include the polar regions.

Skeptical Science looks at the reasons from new research. The main answer, not surprisingly, is “a big jump in sunlight-reflecting sulfate aerosol pollution, mainly through coal burning”. This effect is expected to give way to the longer term effect of CO2 in the future, even if the Asians don’t clean up their aerosol pollution. There was also a “small drop in sunlight reaching the Earth as part of the natural solar cycle, coupled with more episodes of La Niña (natural globally cool episodes)”.

Go here for for a 15-year view. The decade by decade record is quite startling:

Decadal global temperatures

Remember, Carter ‘showed’ that there had been no warming since 1979.

Strong action on renewables

Courtesy of BilB on the last CC thread, Robert Rapier updated on the Renewables 2011 Global Status Report. The top five countries for non-hydro renewable power capacity were the United States, China, Germany, Spain, and India. Developing countries are making an increasing effort.

Renewable capacity now comprises about a quarter of total global power-generating capacity and supplies close to 20% of global electricity, with most of this provided by hydropower.

Developing countries (collectively) have more than half of global renewable energy power.

And so on. Quite encouraging, really.

More news on renewables

Wind turbine efficiency:

A new analysis by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) finds that the power output of wind farms can be increased tenfold — and with fewer environmental impacts — through better positioning of vertical-axis turbines.

New way to store sun’s heat:

A novel application of carbon nanotubes, developed by MIT researchers, shows promise as an innovative approach to storing solar energy for use whenever it’s needed.

Geothermal is getting warmer

Petratherm… has just completed fracture stimulation tests that indicate its resource in the north of South Australia is deeper, wider and hotter than it previously thought.

They think they can get three rather than two production wells for every injection well.

Solar thermal projects underpin clean energy investment:

New clean energy investment ticked up strongly last quarter, data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week showed.

For the April-June period, new capital invested into the sector rose 22 per cent over the year earlier period to reach a robust $US41.7 billion.

Spain has opened the world’s largest solar power station

meaning that it overtakes the US as the biggest solar generator in the world. The nation’s total solar power production is now equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station.

Leaking methane

New Scientist has an article on leaking methane in the US. Robert Howarth of Cornell University:

has calculated that 2.2 to 3.8 per cent of shale gas leaks out at the well site and an additional 1.4 to 3.6 per cent leaks during transport, storage and distribution – enough to make shale gas a bigger contributor to global warming than coal. (Emphasis added)

There is still a great deal of uncertainty, which needs to be resolved to establish the total carbon implications of gas-generated power.

Why economists support carbon pricing

John Quiggin tells us why virtually all economists support a carbon price. I can’t summarise his arguments briefly, so go read. He does say this about its impact:

It follows that, although the carbon tax will have a significant impact on our aggregate emissions of CO2, mainly through its impact on electricity generation and energy use by business, the average household will barely notice it. This was true of the GST, which takes about $40 billion a year in revenue, and it will be just as true of the carbon tax at a quarter the size. (Emphasis added)

And it’s probably here to stay. Bernard Keane at Crikey explains the difficulty of unscrambling the egg, with some help from Antony Green as to why a double dissolution is unlikely before 2015.

News on carbon pricing

Climate Progress was more than pleased with Australia’s new package.

Gillard has established Australia, the highest per capita carbon emitting country in the developed world, as a much needed international leader in the effort to address climate change.

Modest in its ambition but exemplary in its efficacy, they say. Also not a bad photo of the PM, I thought.

Then from the Shell Climate Change Advisor:

The South Korean cabinet has approved a plan to cut carbon emissions 30% below expected levels in 2020. In support of this, the government has submitted a bill to parliament that includes plans for an ETS from 1st January 2015.

The plan is to hold emissions close to steady while the economy grows. It includes transport and CCS.

Then there is China:

China will introduce a pilot scheme for carbon emissions trading and gradually develop a national market as the world’s largest polluter seeks to reduce emissions and save energy, state media said.

China will promote the market’s development through ‘punitive’ electricity tariffs on power-intensive industries and other new policies, Xie Zhenhua, a top climate official, was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

Republicans support fossil fuels

The US Republicans are being extremely vigorous in their full-on support for fossil fuels. Measures they have voted for include prohibiting spending to enforce the incandescent lighting efficiency standards in the 2007 energy law signed by President George W. Bush and nullifying Section 526, which prevents the federal government from buying high-carbon fuels like tar sands oil or coal-to-liquids. Even they were not silly enough to approve am amendment prohibiting federal websites that teach children about energy efficiency but they seem intent in getting stuck into research and other initiatives likely to combat climate change.

More here. Presumably Obama doesn’t sign off on this stuff, but I guess it might indicate what is on the table as he negotiates the US debt extension.

79 thoughts on “Climate clippings 36”

  1. Sorry, a bit longer than usual. There were multiple sub-entries on renewables and ETS.

    Further to the first two items and Carter, he often says that there has been cooling since 1998 at a time when emissions have increased. Thus, he says, there is empirical evidence which disproves the AGW hypothesis.

    Apart from the risible cherry picking and the fact that the time span is too short to demonstrate a trend, I wonder how Carter would cope with the Pew Centre graph in the second entry.

    Possibly by attacking the Pew centre, but the graph comprises information that comes from established sources. Perhaps by attacking the Hadley Centre, but there is little difference between the Hadley Centre and other data sources. Also the Hadley Centre science was exonerated from the Climategate allegations.

  2. Trying to think of a silver lining to the US situation, maybe we could get some quality international standard researchers over here?

    Turnbull’s comments were repeated at length on News Radio this morning. Andrew Robb was also questioned, he sounded very grumpy indeed at having to talk about Turnbull.

  3. Turnbull’s actually wrong about the GB reef. Only because it’s too late, it’s time has passed, it cannot be saved now. 68 000 families, $6bn industry, more employment than coal exports, all gone in less than two decades from now.

  4. Turnbull on India and China:

    The Chinese, whose emissions are about one-fifth of ours and the Indians whose are less than one-tenth of ours [in per capita terms] find our regular references to their emissions and why should we do anything until the Chinese or the Indians do something, incredibly galling.

    And those of us who have represented Australia at international conferences on this issue know how incredibly embarrassing statements like that are when you actually confront the representatives of those countries.

  5. I was filled with glee hearing a chunk of Turnbull’s speech on the ABC this morning. It was a fabulous smackdown of Abbott, Joyce and all the other deliberately ignorant members of the Liberal party. Fantastic stuff. I’m enjoying my mental picture of Abbott jumping up and down with rage and the prospect of the ensuing arguments within the Liberal party.

  6. Thanks again Brian.

    CSIRO on the future of wild fires

    Re the Turnbull talk, I reckon that V. C. would have appreciated it. If more Libs had driven Kombi vans from Britain to Australia and kept bees we might not be in this mess.

  7. This morning I heard an intriguing news item about new research on coral reefs. Per kind favour of sc on another thread we have a link to the UQ media release.

    Yes, it “provides a small ray of hope”, but it still sounds as though significant deterioration in significant parts of the GBR are pretty much inevitable.

    On a global scale, of course, the GBR is probably the best preserved and managed, and in better shape to cope.

  8. Brina, I’m basing my view on listening to Pr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s talk at the four degrees conference last week. He made it pretty clear that sea temperature changes would cause mass bleaching events every year by about 2030. (from memory)

    Also, about 50 million subsistence fisherfolk (Indonesia, Phillipines etc) are critically dependent on reef ecosystems.

    More here:

    I just discovered Ove has a blog:
    And is a twit: @OveHG

    Should encourage him to guest post here, maybe?

  9. My apologies Brian, for the typo. What is the word for constant, consistent mistypes, such as teh, taht, etc? (where’s Fran when you need her?)

  10. The Australian is at it again, with a report: “ONE of Australia’s foremost experts [Phil Watson] on the relationship between climate change and sea levels has written a peer-reviewed paper concluding that rises in sea levels are ‘decelerating’.”

    I might have given it more credence had it not quoted an “expert”, Dr Howard Brady, former CEO of Mosaic Oil, as saying that CSIRO’s projections were “dead in the water” and “ridiculous”.

    I might have been less suspicious that Watson’s findings were somehow being twisted if I hadn’t found a separate presentation by Watson on sea level rise that showed figures consistent with CSIRO and IPCC,

  11. I don’t know about that Helen. I’m cynical enough to see a bolta moment here as in inject sanity at a rate insufficient to scare the horses for a fall back position when the inevitable backflip occurs.

  12. wilful @ 10, no worries. I sometimes type “brain” and have to correct myself. Not sure what that says!

    MikeM, I was planning an update on sea level changes in the next CC. The shorter story is that some of these claims involve cherry picked information, sea level rise varies quite a lot around the world, and the current ups and downs have stuff all to do with what will happen if we get serious warming in the out-decades, which we expect, and non-linear decay in the ice sheets, which we also expect.

  13. Wilful @9,

    yes, but not the entire reef. There may be a window with overshoot scenarios where if we do peak at lower temperatures there may be enough reef for recovery. Ove and I have discussed doing something on this. I’ve an article coming up on The Conversation where Australia’s emissions are converted (roughly) into hectares of reef damaged. That said, it’s the reefs most close to coasts that are most at risk and the millions of fishers dependent on reef resources are in the firing line.

    Re the Bob Carter stuff – actually he could have been right but stuffed it. Atmospheric warming is strongly non-linear and using trend analysis gives incomplete results. His identification of non-linearity (eyeball, not statistics) and using it to ‘disprove’ AGW is completely arse-about, the non-linearity is AGW (complex systems stuff), so neither Carter nor conventional climatology have it quite right. To Tamino’s credit, he says his trend analysis is a model and there may be more going on than meets the eye. I presented on this at the conference in Melbourne earlier this month and will put up a post soon, but have real work to do first.

    And Carter’s cherry-picking is risible.

    And WTF is Monckton doing at the National Press Club? Is it preferable to let him hang himself out to dry, and tolerate the miners wheeling him around the country to lord it over everyone in the name of free lies?

  14. Mike M @ 13 and 15,

    thanks. I’ll chase the reference up. I wonder on what authority (knowledge-wise) Dr Howard Brady bases his views?

    Sea level rise is non-linear too, with step changes and significant decadal variability. The land-based records (tide gauges) also need to be reconciled with satellite measurements. It takes a bit of work to get the climate change signal out of gauge measurements, so to dismiss the bulk of research (CSIRO, IPCC) out of hand …

  15. Yes I was aware of Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s blog. The posts are consistently pretty negative. For example here, here, here and here. From that last link:

    I stand by the statement that coral bleaching is a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef – to date we have gotten off lightly compared to other areas around the world.

    Hoegh-Guldberg would be aware of the recent research which comes from QU. Chances are they are working for him. He’s done a three-part series somewhere recently. I’ll see whether I can dig it up.

  16. Interestingly not all republicans support fossil fuels. It seems the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has made a $50 million donation to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign:

    He is also vehemently opposed to efforts to shutdown the Indian Point nuclear power plant:

    An unusually rational person.

  17. Turnbull’s actually wrong about the GB reef. Only because it’s too late, it’s time has passed, it cannot be saved now. 68 000 families, $6bn industry, more employment than coal exports, all gone in less than two decades from now.

    And yet you don’t see any tourist operators being given free air time about jobs on the news etc. Sigh.

  18. Wilful asked:

    What is the word for constant, consistent mistypes, such as teh, taht, etc?

    I’m not aware that there is one. Certainly I’ve not come across an official term for it, though it seems that we should have one.

    Perhaps I should offer “misscription” — though I can see even that being misscribed! I also think “logomorphs” has a nice ring to it.

  19. An advantage of logomorph is that it is a lot like lagomorph, which refers to large gnawing animals, and this one is going to gnaw away at me all day.

  20. Carter’s audiences must be willing collaborators in their deception. Those satellite temperature slides clearly show warming – you just need to look at the area between the graph and the zero line. The same for the radiosonde. Anyone that accepts his selected points as representative has to be deliberately deluding themselves.

  21. paul, I attended one of his presentations, late 2009, from memory. He’s an excellent presenter, with a constant stream of visuals. He doesn’t leave any of them up there for long. It’s a tour de force, so I wouldn’t be too hard on them.

  22. Brian,

    I always wondered what happened to vertical-axis wind turbines. Looks like they could make a come back.

  23. Other advantages of VAWT are that they are able to continue to work effectively at much higher wind speeds and have a smaller wind shadow, (though they tend to be poor in light breezes).

  24. My favourite Turnbull moment:

    He also rejected the view Australia should wait for China and India to act, saying Australia’s emissions were much higher per capita.

    Mr Abbott said this week that Australia’s emissions reduction target, backed by both sides of politics, was “crazy” because it would be overwhelmed by pollution increases in China.

    But Mr Turnbull said Chinese emissions per capita were one-fifth of Australia’s and India’s were less than one-tenth.

    “Our regular references to their [India and China’s] emissions and ‘Why should we do anything until the Chinese and the Indians do something’ – they find those references incredibly galling,” he said.

    “Those of us who have represented Australia at international conferences on this issue know how incredibly embarrassing statements like that are when you actually confront the representatives of those countries.”

  25. VAWT aint HAWT

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

    I find it surprising that such fundamental architecture decisions are still unresolved.

  26. You sure about that Fran? I thought VAWTs were the ones that worked better at lower wind speeds (wikipedia seems to back that up).

  27. Wizofaus asked:

    You sure about that Fran? I thought VAWTs were the ones that worked better at lower wind speeds (wikipedia seems to back that up).

    Well I thought I was sure of it when I wrote it, but perhaps I misremembered this.

  28. Personally, at an aesthetic level, I always preferred the look of the VAWTs to the HAWTs. If these can be made to work a lot more effectively and from cheaper materials, that would be fabulous news, since it would make a lot more sites viable and with less of a footprint.

  29. VAWTs can be packed closer together than HAWTs, which means that bird and bat mortality is less likely.

  30. I am incensed at the possibility that leaks from within the Gillard Government on support for two steel companies allowed insider trading to occur days before the carbon tax announcement. Share trading in Bluescope and OneSteel roughly matched the $300 million of the assistance package produced by Combet’s department. You get a feel for the ‘outrageous’ from Liz Knight, business journo with the SMH who doubts Canberra will do much about it.
    ‘Politicians don’t understand investment markets and never have. But asking their own regulator (ASIC) to police a market that Canberra abuses is outrageous. Having played with selective leaking of information, Canberra has a nerve asking its regulator to get tough on insider trading’.
    She reckons that more than 100 Canberra people in Combet’s realm would have known details.
    Get all the AFP people off D Hicks’ case and onto this one I say.

  31. pablo,

    It is acting on inside information that is illegal, not providing it (at least as far as ASIC is concerned). Your outrage should be directed at those who have profited from the leaks.

  32. Well aware of the distinction I&U. I would be very disappointed if someone in Combet’s office blabbed, even more disappointed if Combet had not forewarned all of the tremendous importance of confidentiality. The last thing Gillard needs is any suggestion of commercial incompetence. If someone in the know deliberately traded then lets have ASIC throw the book asap.

  33. The press has started to pick up that coral paper now, and have interviewed the researchers. If you recall the paper i posted last week on the Scaring the Children thread about research on resilience of coral in the warm middle east waters , its an example of findings the authors (below) are talking about.

    I hope, Willful, that this research was covered at your conference last week. (Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is in the same faculty as Prof Pandolfi, one of the authors.) If not, i would be proabably asking some hard questions as to why a gal on LP had no trouble finding it last week via Google Scholar, and she is neither a Scientist nor a Lord. 🙂

  34. Greetings, will i regret. 🙂

    I too am neither a scientist nor a Lord. Also, being an old guy, I’m a bit of an neo-Luddite. I haven’t been using Google Scholar, for example.

    I heard the story on Radio National, and started searching. Eventually I think I probably would have gotten the authors name and searched under something like “John Pandolfi damage to reef” and found the link you posted. While I was doing it I noticed your comment, which saved me the time. For which I am grateful.

    Alternatively, I take some feeds and one received at 4.50pm yesterday gave me this article.

    Incidentally the same feed threw up the link given by MikeM on sea level rise.

    Sadly, I don’t always have time to follow all the links I get, but through sharing on LP, with people like your good self, we are less likely to miss important stuff.

  35. will i regret, I think the article in the Oz you link to is fair and balanced. Seems to do a good job, actually.

    But there are a lot of ill-defined terms being used in terms of time-lines and what “threatened” and “damaged” mean. It does contain this statement:

    Prominent reef scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said in April the reef would die unless carbon emissions were dramatically cut within the next decade.

    Exactly what he would have said then in a more extended and nuanced statement, and what he would say now in the light of the new research is unknown to me.

    I think all would say, however, that there has already been damage, and that damage will continue. Just what it will mean for the tourist industry is uncertain, remembering what Roger J @ 15 said:

    it’s the reefs most close to coasts that are most at risk and the millions of fishers dependent on reef resources are in the firing line.

  36. Brian. I think it comes down to semantics in some way. Pandolfi uses the term ‘dramatically reduced’ (ABC) Ove Hoegh-Guldberg ‘dramatically cut’ on carbon emissions. The former is talking about evolutionary adaptation (to survive), the latter the same IMHO.
    On Carter, I heard his slick presentation courtesy of the Lavoisier sponsorship sometime in 2010. He almost appears bored by the thought that anyone could disbelieve him. Questioners get the Socratic technique with a question thrown back at them. It makes them feel silly in the face of all the, mostly elderly, ‘believers’.

  37. Google scholar is your friend!

    Easiest way to scope out key research findings in any field and time frame. Just go to Google and select Scholar from the Advanced options. Once you’ve worked it out you’re all set to play Duelling Citations with the best !

  38. Or, on the white main google page across the top are some options like this:
    Web Images Videos Maps News Shopping Mail more
    Click the “more” and you’ll get a drop down menu, its in there.

  39. pablo @36,

    The government has been discussing the carbon price package with industry for months. Almost certainly a draft proposal was circulated to key people in the industry consultation forum (otherwise, what sort of consultation would it be?).

    So it is as likely that the “leak” came from the industry side as the government side. Isn’t it?

    Seems like Gillard is damned if she does (consult) and damned if she doesn’t.

  40. will i regret, thanks for that. I’ll give it a go.

    I checked both of them out. On the ARC Centre for Excellence, Coral Reef Studies site, Hoegh-Guldberg is Chief Investigator and Program 4 Leader. Pandolfi is Chief Investigator. Hoegh-Guldberg is also on the Scientific Management Committee, and, separately, is Director of the Global Change Institute. Here’s the equivalent entry for Pandolfi. They must know what each other is up to.

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall when they discussed they paper in question. Meanwhile, yes, pablo, there is much in the semantics.

  41. It all just gets stupider with some folks

    Mockton now threatens to sue the ABC

    Climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton has threatened to sue the ABC and described its chairman Maurice Newman as a “shrimp-like wet little individual”.

    Lord Monckton, who is towards the end of a near month-long tour of Australia, told a Melbourne audience he had met with Newman at a breakfast and requested he intervene in the broadcast of the Radio National documentary Background Briefing.

  42. MikeM @ 13 linked to Stuart Rintoul’s article in the OZ. This has now been dealt with by Tim Lambert at Deltoid and Tamino at Open Mind. It seems there are two stuff-ups.

    The first, from Tamino, is that Watson did a really bad job on analyzing his data. The second, from Lambert, is that when Rintoul couldn’t get Watson to say what he wanted to write he went to another academic who wasn’t a climate scientist. This must count as blatant unethical journalism.

    The bottom line is still that what scientists working in the area expect to happen in the coming century is not much like what happened in the last.

  43. I & U. I hope your inference, that industry leaders may have been more likely to have prompted insider trading in BlueScope and OneSteel shares, if only because it will remove the awful prospect of commercial incompetence from the Gillard Government.
    More widely, the prospect of some people profiting unfairly from GW has considerable consequences for government and social cohesion in general IMV. Why else would you impose million dollar fines on price gouging on carbon taxes as already announced.
    I wish I had confidence that it will work.

  44. About seven years ago there was a fairly major division amongst marine biologists in Australia over how dire the situation was for coral reefs from pollution and global warming. One side were predicting utter devastation for reefs, the other thought major damage would be done, but there were reasonable prospects for survival in more limited and changed forms.

    Hoegh-Guldberg was one of the lead spokespersons for the pessimists. We ran a lot of their views in Australasian Science, while the optimists got most of their popular coverage in other places. Although I thought the pessimists had a stronger case, this wasn’t an example of real scientists versus cranks as we see with “debates” about whether climate change is human induced – both sides were doing real research and publishing in reputable journals. Nevertheless, it did get a bit testy.

    I’m not sure which side Pandolfi fitted in that debate, but it may be that we’re seeing something of a revival – or indeed that it never went away, it just disappeared from the non-specialist media.

  45. Stephen L, thanks for the insights and information.

    In my experience, many climate scientists work within a speciality, of which are diverse and numerous within the broad field of climate science. To make overall assessment, such as the likely damage to the GBR within 50 or 100 years, reef specialists have to draw on knowledge well outside reef ecology.

    I find that specialist climate scientists have different assumptions about how much GHG is going to be emitted, the physical and political possibilities of mitigation, how much warming will be caused with a doubling of CO2, especially in the 100-year time frame when long term feedbacks must be considered, etc, etc.

    Roger Jones @ 15, said he had “an article coming up on The Conversation where Australia’s emissions are converted (roughly) into hectares of reef damaged.” If you google Roger you’ll find that front and centre he is interested in

    an interdisciplinary focus to understanding climate change risk, bridging science, economics and policy, particularly in developing methodologies for assessing adaptation and mitigation strategies for managing climate change risks.

    His speciality requires him to keep up with a wide variety of specialist areas, so I look forward to his article. Could you post a link here, please Roger? 🙂

  46. Thanks Steve L for your insight. I’ve copped flack for suggesting that the view that global reefs will disappear in a generation is still open to debate, prior to the publishing of this latest paper.

    (Btw, a quick search throws up much older papers where both Pandolfi and OH-B (et al ) published together taking the cautiously optimistic adaptive angle. )

    Roger – love to hear from you!

  47. That is a very good article on wind turbines, Brian.

    A shortcut to the details

    Download the pdf’s at the bottom of the page for anyone interested in the details.

    I like Vertical Axis Wind Turbines and have thought out the details of a furlable Darrius style turbine built into a flag pole should I ever get the time to dable in that area.

    Dabiri’s schooling fish studies are extremely interesting on their own. One of the many spectacular effects of Climate Change Action is the enormous stimulous to that has been provided to so many fields of study. What we are seeing is really exciting, and I hope that this broad field of opportunity draws more of our very bright minds into science studies, and then on into the commercial world.

    I saw an advertisement in the Industry Update publication the other day which featured a new type of high efficiency air circulation fan which directly arose from the commercialisation of studies into the knobs on whale fins. I’m fully expecting to see a lot more results from this work applied to aircraft, yacht and shipping designs.

  48. SublimeCowgirl,

    It is a safe bet that most reefs, if not all, will be damaged by global warming. But nature offers so much variability that there will always be areas that survive and adapt not to mention steadily relocate. I am wondering how sea level rise will protect existing reefs in the long term.

    The one thing that is absolutely certain is that change that will substantially and negatively affect the larger body of reefs is underway. And that is the most important take away argument from both sides of that discussion.

  49. Of course, the reefs that are most fundamentally needed for subsistence living are already severely stressed across SE asia. The GBR is surely the candidate least likely to flip, given that we’re already managing it reasonably well, there are many vested interests in using it non-extractively, and there’s a latitudinal (temperature) gradient for migration southwards. If you’re a subsistence fisherman however, I wouldn’t like your chances.

  50. Comment 4. wilful
    July 22, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink
    “Turnbull’s actually wrong about the GB reef. Only because it’s too late, it’s time has passed, it cannot be saved now. 68 000 families, $6bn industry, more employment than coal exports, all gone in less than two decades from now.”


  51. On coral reefs, I’ve read through Hoegh-Guldberg’s three part series.

    BilB, I’ve read that sea level rise is a negative for coral reefs, because they are adapted to a certain level of light. But Hoegh-Guldberg doesn’t mention it, so I’d say he doesn’t see it as a major factor.

    Wilful, on migration, he points out that the sea is 3C warmer at the northern end of the GBR than it is in the south. He says that to migrate its way out of trouble organisms would have to travel 25km pa or more, which he doesn’t see happening.

    SC he specifically mentions the Arabian gulf corals, which he says have adapted over centuries to the warmer water. He can’t see them migrating their way out of trouble either.

    The changes now, he says, are 100-200 times faster than they were coming out of the ice age. Pandolfi says here that we’ve had reefs for 540 million years. There has been massive variation in temperature and CO2 levels, but at no time did things change as fast as they are now.

    Back in Part two, published on 7 July, 2011, Hoegh-Guldberg said:

    Several analyses have been done for coral reefs across the planet (Done et al. 2003; Donner et al. 2005; Hoegh-Guldberg 1999) which have used the known sensitivity of coral reefs and projections of how sea temperature will change over the coming decades. These studies also revealed that coral reefs will bleaching conditions on an annual basis as early as 2030. Given the mortality rates of corals following mass coral bleaching events can be extremely high (over 90% of all corals on a reef dying within a single mass bleaching event) and the fact that it takes at least 15-30 years for a coral reef to recover from a mass mortality event, these trends strongly suggest that coral-dominated ecosystems are very likely to disappear by the middle of the century. (Emphasis mine)

    I think Hoegh-Guldberg writes in a very fair-minded way and acknowledges that there are other views. You’d have to ask him whether he saw the new paper as sufficient to make him change his mind. My impression is that it relies on modelling, where there is always room for different views about inputs, weightings and methodologies. Not understanding the science, I think the appropriate thing is to wait and see how things develop and whether consensus breaks out in earnest.

  52. I’ve just added two sentences to the beginning of the blockquote @ 58. Also of interest, Hoegh-Guldberg sees 450 ppm as something of a tipping point for acidity, and explains why.

  53. Defintiely acidity is a problem. The biggest threat I expect comes with stagantion of currents. I believe in the short term the reefs will survive because seeding colonies will always survive in sheltered locations where perhaps deeper currents flow over part of a reef system or a steep dropoff allows smaller colonies to find a depth level that gives them temperature comfort as well as light comfort. So as long as there are seeding colonies a reef can be repopulated in time should conditions change. Of course that all does nothing much for tourism or for fish breeding grounds in the immediate term once coral die off becomes serious and sustained.

    As I said, I wonder if early sea level rise (1 metre) will allow more mixing and cooling of water to offer some relief and allow some coral recovery, in time. A reef bed is never completely dead until it becomes covered with sediment or another form of life such as algae or weed, both possibilities with sea level rise. Will Abbott really care if reefs die? Only if, and until, it makes him Prime Minister.

  54. Sea level rise is the least of the GBRs troubles.
    The tide here rises and falls between 4 to 7 metres. On a 6m tide, the reef top ( top metre ) can be be dry for 4 hours.
    I doubt being submerged for a little longer will harm it, considering its growth rate.
    A more immediate risk is the species introduced to the ecosystem via ballast water from ships.
    Maybe the “”International Maritime Organisation”” could get that sorted.

  55. @61, I think it’s more accurate to say the GBR tides rise between 0 and 3 metres.

  56. “The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water & Sediments was adopted by consensus at a Diplomatic Conference at IMO in London on Friday 13 February 2004”


    The impacts of exotic species already occurring in reef ecosystems is, of course, a huge issue, but sudden changes in the conditions [temperature, ph, physical disturbance from storms etc etc] in any ecosystem tends to decrease the resilience of the natural system and exacerbates the impact of exotics.

  57. jumpnmcar @ 61, since you have now ruled on the science I guess we can all rest easily. But look at what I found:

    Coral reefs everywhere grow by the same processes, but their geomorphology is shaped by the foundation on which they grow and sea level history. Most coral reefs of today were established less than 10,000 years ago, after sea level rise associated with the melting of glaciers caused widespread flooding of the continental shelves. Once the coral reef communities were established, they began building reefs that grew upward in concert with continued sea level rise. Reefs that grew too slowly became covered by deeper and deeper water until they received too little light to support reef growth altogether. These reefs are sometimes referred to as drowned reefs. (Emphasis mine)

    So obviously it could be a problem for some reefs. Also the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) think it’s worth thinking about.

  58. @62
    Depends how close to the coast.
    Hay point king tides 7m down to 10cm or less.
    At the ” hard line” or outer reef only around 3m difference.
    ( I was a coral trout fisherman in my yoof)
    Creel reef about 3.5m difference on the full moon.

  59. You way off beam jumpncar,

    but that does raise some interesting questions. My recollection of the reefs in New Guinea were for about a 2 and a bit metre variation. The tidal range for the Maldives is just 1.1 metres. I suspect that a low tidal range is an important feature for the positioning of reefs. Reef structures also hold considerable amounts of water, and so are never completely dry from memory, and wave action serves to keep water flowing through the coral at low tide.

  60. “”””Reef structures also hold considerable amounts of water, and so are never completely dry from memory, and wave action serves to keep water flowing through the coral at low tide.””””
    Rubbish, I, with my own eyes have looked at acres of coral at least 1.5m out of the water,and i drove over it in the morning.
    But you win, whatever the books say.

    “””drowned reefs”?? How deep before they drown? 20m? 50m?
    There are some very deep reefs.

  61. [Redacted]

    BTW on 4 corners this week is a story on wind farms and the detrimental effects on humans. I doubt it will receive the same outrage that the live cattle story got. But thats where we are now.

  62. jumpnmcar @ 69, that doesn’t change anything. Coral is made up of a huge number of species adapted to their particular environment. Because there are deep water corals it doesn’t mean that coral species adapted to shallow water can’t drown.

    I think Joanie Kleypas who wrote the entry I linked to knows a bit more about the subject than you do!

  63. “”””Joanie went to work on a computer model of coral reef growth. She used the model to examine the effects of growing reefs on climate. Coral reef growth releases carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Joanie found that reef growth since the last glacial period (18,000 years ago) could have contributed significantly to the atmospheric carbon dioxide content and thus the natural warming of the planet.””””

    Yea, she’s a keeper.

    “””””Amidst the distress signals of climate change, Joanie still retains some optimism. “You have to fight sometimes,” she says, whether it’s to achieve career goals or to help save a vital but fragile ecosystem. And she considers herself lucky to lead the life of a scientist. “It’s the excitement.””””

    Gosh ,even i feel like giving her some money.

  64. Yeah, pfffft – if all you need to understand reef ecosystems is to go fishing and driving on reefs, why would anyone be silly enough to want ‘achieve career goals’ in research into marine ecology? I bet she had to read a lot of books too! Pah, who needs books!

  65. This may interest some.

    Its a comprehensive Podcast / Interview online via ‘Science’ Journal with John Pandolfi about his latest research on Reef Response to Climate Change in the context of the ‘worst case data’ that has been widely reported.

    Highly recommended listening.

    Cross linked to the Scaring the Children thread , for the record

  66. Sublimecowgirl @74
    Thank you.
    My original comment@61 was meant to convey( clumsily i admit) the immediate threats that we know cause harm to the coral reefs that we can address now, but don’t get the political attention.

    What i’m trying to say is that there is no point attempting to save something in 100 years time, that might be rooted in the next 40 years by stresses that is has never had to deal with.

    I mean no disrespect @71.
    I have trouble trusting people i have not met.
    And refuse to believe “scientists” don’t have the same weaknesses as humans. I hope you understand.

  67. BilB, thankyou for all your links.

    sublimecowgirl @ 74, thankyou for the Pandolfi interview. Excellent! The bottom line seems to be that there will be degradation but we don’t know enough to say how much in what time-frame. I’d still like to hear Hoegh-Guldberg’s response.

    Scientists can be reluctant to change a long-held view. That may be the case with Hoegh-Guldberg.

    Now jumpnmcar @ 75, in a sense I did kinda know Joanie Kleypas. I read about her and her work in Alanna Mitchell’s Seasick: The hidden ecological crisis of the global ocean. I wrote in this post:

    Mitchell relates how Joan Kleypas at a meeting in Boston in 1998 was sharing information with colleagues about the effect on CO2 on the chemical composition of oceans, doing some back of the envelope calculations on a subject that hadn’t rated a mention in university courses, when they “realised they were looking at a marine Armageddon”.

    Kleypas ran into the bathroom outside the committee room and threw up.

    She realised that some calcifiers would go extinct, and as a consequence some other life forms would vanish. Furthermore, as the calcifiers die they take carbon down to the sea floor with them. This service would cease. Finally, plankton produce about half the oxygen in the atmosphere.

    Kleypas and others turned the back of the envelope calculations into a scientific paper published in 1999, cited at the end of the RealClimate post, but found other scientists reluctant to accept the true vulnerability of the oceans. Back in 1999 the article

    received a lot of press coverage and drew a chorus of outrage from fellow scientists who questioned everything about the premise, from the chemistry to the calculations to the assumptions.

    They called for more investigations and more analysis, including examination of other eras of earth’s history when ocean chemistry changed rapidly. All subsequent research has backed up Kleypas, Langdon and the others.

  68. I revise my thoughts @ 60 to reflect that with ocean acidification adaptability of reefs becomes extremely problematic. The problem here is that reefs live in the surface CO2 absorption zone and will be affected early and rapidly as CO2 level climbs.

Comments are closed.