Last Horseman: warming & near-term mass extinction

A 2016 article lays out where we were then compared to past extinctions. We are now closer to point of no return. Warming must be stopped!

Coral bleaching in March 2016. Rapid rises of greenhouse gases in the past have been linked to major extinctions in the oceans. XL Catlin Seaview Survey / via the article.

by Katrin Meissner & Kaitlin Alexander , 24/03/2024 in the Conversation

Mass extinctions and climate change: why the speed of rising greenhouse gases matters

[G]reenhouse gases are rising faster than at any time since the demise of dinosaurs, and possibly even earlier. According to research published in Nature Geoscience this week, carbon dioxide (CO₂) is being added to the atmosphere at least ten times faster than during a major warming event about 50 million years ago.

We have emitted almost 600 billion tonnes of carbon since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and atmospheric CO₂ concentrations are now increasing at a rate of 3 parts per million (ppm) per year.

With increasing CO₂ levels, temperatures and ocean acidification also rise, and it is an open question how ecosystems are going to cope under such rapid change.

Read the complete article….

Featured image: Moschorhinus kitchingi with Lystrosaurus. Basal Triassic of South Africa. Lystrosurus was one of the few large animals that survived the Permian-Triassic global mass extinction event anywhere on the planet. Source: Creator:Dmitry Bogdanov / Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Can the Great Barrier Reef survive global warming?

If the ocean becomes too hot, coral can’t do much to escape the heat. Loss of our natural wonder is likely if warming is not stopped.

Grumpy Turtle Films, Author provided

by Jodie L. Rummer & Scott F. Heron, 21/03/2022 in The Conversation

Adapt, move, or die: repeated coral bleaching leaves wildlife on the Great Barrier Reef with few options: To our horror, another mass coral bleaching event may be striking the Great Barrier Reef, with water temperatures reaching up to 3℃ higher than average in some places. This would be the sixth such event since the late 1990s, and the fourth since 2016.

Featured Image: Great Barrier Reef, Australia. From the article, (undated) by Adele Pedder, “Protecting the Coral Sea-the Cradle to the Great Barrier Reef” in The UN Chronicle. Shows a healthy reef populated by many different animals from corals to fish.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Another step towards Great Barrier Reef collapse

Another summer of coral killing ocean heat waves. Capt. Humbug will spend $1 BN on reef cosmetics but not to stop the climate emergency.

Reef building tropical corals are adapted to live close to the maximum water temperature they can survive in order to grow fast. Raise this temperature another 2-3 °C and their metabolism begins to break down.

The first sign of trouble is when coral polyps expel their photosynthetic algal symbionts that capture carbon and turn it into carbonates for coral skeletons and carbohydrates that are the primary source of energy to drive coral metabolism. They turn white (hence the term bleaching), and this expulsion is lethal for the corals unless they soon cool down and can host new symbionts.

It takes several years for a coral to fully recover from bleaching. If another bleaching event overtakes the coral before it has fully recovered from the last, death is more likely.

Also, the dead corals offer good sites for the attachment growth of bacterial slimes and noxious algae that the reef’s normal inhabitants won’t/can’t eat. As the reef ecosystem collapses, what was once a vibrant community of hundreds of fish species and tens of thousands of invertebrate species becomes a largely uninhabitable wasteland, substantially reducing the overall productivity of the reef ecosystem.

Also, as the dead biomass from the once robustly living reef breaks down, it begins to release copious volumes of greenhouse gases and reduces the oxygen availability in the surrounding waters, resulting in die-offs of many other species in the reef ecosystem besides just the corals.

Bleached coral on John Brewer Reef, offshore from Townsville, photographed in February 2022. Credit:Grumpy Turtle Designs.via The Age

by Mike Foley, 18/03/2022 in The Age

Severe coral bleaching along 500 kilometres of Great Barrier Reef: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has reported severe bleaching to 60 per cent of the corals along a 500-kilometre stretch of the Great Barrier Reef between Innisfail and Mackay. Surveys are ongoing on the southern section of the reef, but with reports of local bleaching, scientists cannot rule out widespread bleaching of similar severity.

Don’t look up! Here is Capt. Humbug riding to the rescue in a tour boat to announce a $ Billion in cosmetics to help keep his patrons in the fossil fuel industry safe from serious action on climate change

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announce the new funding of $1 billion to protect the Great Barrier Reef. Credit: Adam Taylor / Adam Taylor via the Kalgoorlie Miner in Great Barrier Reef: Questions over timing of PM’s $1 billion funding promise, 28/01/2202 by Georgie Moore | AAP

by Georgie Moore | AAP, 28/01/2022 in The Kalgoorlie MinerGreat Barrier Reef: Questions over timing of PM’s $1 billion funding promise: Climate scientists have questioned the timing of a $1 billion Great Barrier Reef spending splash days out from Australia’s deadline to update UNESCO on how it is protecting the World Heritage site. … UNESCO had asked Australia to provide more information by next Tuesday about what’s being done to protect the reef.

http://The scientific consensus is that the Great Barrier Reef faces existential challenges (image by Dan Jensen)

by Nicholas Bugeja, 5 March 2022, in Independent Australia

The Coalition’s ‘dreadful’ legacy on the Great Barrier Reef: Ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, the Coalition Government has made another significant pledge to protect the Great Barrier Reef from further environmental harm and degradation.

On 28 January 2022, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, … announced a $1 billion package for the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s seven natural wonders.  

The Prime Minister claimed that the funding would bring the Government’s financial contribution to the Reef to an amount of over $3 billion since coming to power in 2013.

This announcement was made against a backdrop of years of catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef, including mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, which impacted 90 per cent of the Reef and killed almost a quarter of its coral reefs.

Read the complete article…

In the face of a rising frequency and intensity of ocean heatwaves that are bound to kill most of the corals forming our Great Barrier Reef, the LNP COALition government has rushed to the rescue with what is estimated to be around $3 billion in grant funding. As nearly as I can determine, not one doller of these grants addresses global warming that is heating the ocean.

In fact, from its start under Tony Abbott and then Malcolm Turnbull, the LNP COALition government has worked assiduously to protect the interests of its patrons in the fossil fuel industry well ahead of doing anything significant to stop the carbon emissions driving global warming:

Quoting from Independent Australia’s article, #ReefGate: The latest dubious Turnbull ‘foundation’, 17/08/2018 by Michelle Pini, there are the following environmental “achievements” during his Prime Ministership:

  • combining the environment and energy ministries, thereby weakening the power of the environment portfolio; 
  • cutting funding to the CSIRO — a qualified, scientific research organisation which should have been charged with saving the Reef;
  • slashing government jobs focused on species extinction;
  • persisting with plans to invest in new coal;
  • blaming the SA Government for storm events causing blackouts;
  • refusing to invest in renewable energies;
  • allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise but declaring his Government’s climate policies a success, anyway; and
  • not implementing an emissions trading scheme, despite his own rhetoric about the need for one.

And then Scotty from Marketing took over the show to further support his immensely wealthy fossil fuel patrons with humbug, disinformation and distraction to ensure nothing was done in Australia to impair their rights to continue emitting greenhouse gases from their mines and industries.

Today’s post here demonstrates just how he can earmark $3 BN of our money on cosmetics to repair and cover up damage caused by global warming to making his puppet government look like it is doing something about the emergency. Certainly, some of the money will support projects that would help the reef if it can survive being boiled in ocean heatwaves. But, I think more importantly for Capt. Humbugs patrons happy, he can cry poor when it comes to doing anything serious to stop carbon emissions causing the problem in the first place (because the money was allocated to cosmetics). This demonstrates the actions of a marketing guru at work using the “Don’t look up” ploy.

If we are to have any chance getting on top of the climate emergency, these kinds of governments have to be removed from office and be replaced by parliamentarians who have publicly committed themselves to putting action on climate change at the tops of their agendas in office.

Even a 16 year old school girl can see the imperative logic in this.

Listen to Greta’s speech live at the World Economic forum in Davos 2019. Except for her reliance on the IPCC’s overoptimistic emissions budget, everything she says is spot on that even she, as a child, can understand the alternatives and what has to happen.

In other words, wake up! smell the smoke! see the grimly frightful reality, and fight the fire that is burning up our only planet so we can give our offspring a hopeful future. This is the only issue that matters. Even the IPCC’s hyperconservative Sixth Assessment WG2 Report that looks at climate change’s global and regional impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities makes it clear we are headed for climate catastrophe if we don’t stop the warming process.

Scott Morrison and his troop of wooden-headed puppets are doing essentially nothing to organize effective action against the warming. In fact all they doing is rearranging the furniture in the burning house that will be incinerated along with anything and everyone we may care about.

In Greta’s words, “even a small child can understand [this]”. People hope for their children’s futures. She doesn’t want your hopium. She wants you to rationally panic enough to wake up, pay attention to reality, and fight the fire…. so our offspring can have some hope for their future. Vote Climate One’s Traffic Light Voting System will help you use your preferential votes wisely on behalf of our offsprings’ future.

Help give them the bright future they hope for off the road to Hell!

Featured Image: Thetford Reef near Cairns in 2017 after bleaching. In Climate Change, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (undated). “Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide. Climate change is caused by global emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), agriculture and land clearing.”

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Dying coral reefs and collapsing reef ecosystems: evidence of more progress towards the point of no return on the way to Hothouse extinction

Part 5 of David Spratt’s guidebook to events along the road to Hothouse Hell: Increasingly frequent and stronger marine heatwaves are bleaching and killing corals, architects of reef ecosystems. Rotting organic matter emits GHGs

Coral polyps are the primary architects of the remarkably diverse coral reef ecosystems that border lands and islands in tropical oceans around the world. As such coral reefs provide shelter and sustenance for a significant fraction of our ocean’s biomass for at least part of their lives. Coral polyps are colonial animals related to jellyfish and sea anemones. However, thanks to symbiotic algae that live in their bodies, they are sinks for capturing and sequestering CO₂ in forming the limestone reefs. Over the last 10,000 years or so, they have thrived in waters close to the maximum temperatures their photosynthetic algae can tolerate. However, as the world begins to warm beyond temperatures observed for many 10s of thousands of years corals have had to expel their algae and become bleached. As Spratt describes, bleaching is becoming common event for the Great Barrier Reef, and is leading to dying coral reefs and collapsing reef ecosystems around the world.

As masses of polyps die and rot they become net greenhouse gas emitters (CO₂, methane, hydrogen sulfide – H₂S – where the H₂S is also highly toxic) and end up covered by slimes of bacteria and algae. The dead reef becomes quite toxic, and loses many of the species that originally thrived there through starvation, poisoning, or loss of habitat. Thus, the rising greenhouse gas emissions from dying and decomposing reef ecosystems adds yet another source of positive feedback to drive global temperatures (including ocean temperatures) higher yet.

Great Barrier Reef bleaching 2016

28 January 2022

Have tipping points already been passed for critical climate systems? (5) Coral Reefs: A death spiral

by David Spratt in Climate Code Red
Fifth in a series.
Read 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7

Ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves and kelp forests in Australia, are degrading fast as the world’s sixth mass extinction gathers pace. 


Corals survive within a narrow water temperature band, and suffer heat stress and expel zooxanthellae if the ocean temperature gets too high. Bleaching events vary in intensity; in the extreme case, all zooxanthellae are expelled and the living colony will appear totally white (hence “bleaching”).  As elevated sea temperatures persist, coral mortality rates increase: corals may recover, if there are any zooxanthellae left in their tissues, but if not, death appears to be inevitable. 

The bottom line: If severe bleaching events occur regularly at shorter than 10–15 year intervals, then reefs face a death spiral of coral mortality followed by inadequate recovery periods. And that is what is happening now. Along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the frequency of mass bleaching is increasing, with events occurring in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.  The 2016-17 events severely bleached half the reef, whose extent has been reduced by three-quarters over the last 40 years. Coral reproduction on the Great Barrier Reef has fallen 89% after repeated recent bleachings.  [My emphasis]

Read the complete article….

Analyses published yesterday shows that it is probably already too late to save dying coral reefs and reef ecosystems (including the Great Barrier Reef) from terminal collapse in the next decade or two

One of these articles is referenced in today’s The Age newspapers.

James Cook University marine biologist Jodie Rummer at work on the Great Barrier Reef. She has witnessed previous bleaching and described it as “scary and disturbing”.Credit:Grumpy Turtle

No climate change refuge for coral reefs: study

by Miki Perkins, 02/02/2022 in The Age

Global warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will be catastrophic for almost all coral reefs, including those that scientists once hoped would act as refuges during climate change.

Only 0.2 per cent of coral reefs globally are likely to avoid frequent heat stress if temperatures warm, according to new research from an international team of universities, including James Cook University in Townsville.

Even thermal refuges, which experts assumed would be more able to endure warming oceans owing to factors such as the consistent upwelling of cool deep waters, would provide almost no protection to reef animals, the study found. It is published today in PLOS Climate.

Read the complete article….

Actually, there were two articles on rapidly rising sea surface temperatures (SST) published yesterday in the science journal, PLOS Climate. Together they seem to seal the fate of most of our planet’s coral reef ecosystems:

Future loss of local-scale thermal refugia in coral reef ecosystems

by Adele M Dixon, et al., 01/02/2022 in
PLOS Climate –

Global distribution of exposure category in the 1986–2019 climate and at 1.5 and 2.0°C of future global warming. [DHW is the sum of SST anomalies 1°C higher than the long-term maximum monthly mean (MMM) over a 12-week period] Exposure categories are thermal refugia (probability of DHW events > 4°C-weeks less than 0.1 yr‒1), intermediate (probability of DHW events > 4°C-weeks from 0.1–0.2 yr‒1) and exposed (probability of DHW events > 4°C-weeks greater than 0.2 yr‒1). Percentages indicate the regional (on map) and global (right of map) proportion of thermal refugia (blue) and exposed reefs (red). The 12 coral reef regions are outlined in light blue. The base map is made with Natural Earth.

ABSTRACT: Thermal refugia underpin climate-smart management of coral reefs, but whether current thermal refugia will remain so under future warming is uncertain…. We confirm that warming of 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels will be catastrophic for coral reefs….

Read the complete article…..

The recent normalization of historical marine heat extremes

by K. Tanaka & Kyle S. Van Houtan 01/02/2202 in
PLOS Climate –

Decadal evolution of frequency of extreme marine heat from 1980–2019. Extreme heat defined as exceeding the localized (1° × 1°), monthly, 98th percentile of sea surface temperatures (SST) observed during 1870–1919, averaged from HadISSTv1.1 and COBESSTv2 products. Extreme heat, resolved for boreal winter (Jan-Mar) and summer (Jul-Sep), accumulates steadily over time beginning in the Southern, South Atlantic, and Indian basins. Regions of the mid North Atlantic and eastern South Pacific indicate a low occurrence. The base map layer was drawn using the “rworldmap” R package (

ABSTRACT: Climate change exposes marine ecosystems to extreme conditions with increasing frequency…. For the year 2019, our index reports that 57% of the global ocean surface recorded extreme heat, which was comparatively rare (approximately 2%) during the period of the second industrial revolution. Significant increases in the extent of extreme marine events over the past century resulted in many local climates to have shifted out of their historical SST bounds across many economically and ecologically important marine regions. For the global ocean, 2014 was the first year to exceed the 50% threshold of extreme heat thereby becoming “normal”….

Read the complete article….

The bottom line: It is almost certainly too late to save the Great Barrier Reef we know from ecological collapse, but we might be able to save keystone species able to rebuild it if we can stop and reverse global warming

Given that we have probably already crossed several tipping points such as permafrost thawing on the road to runaway global warming where natural positive feedbacks will continue working to drive global temperatures ever higher, the Great Barrier Reef as we know it seems to be unavoidably doomed. However, as long as a majority of the keystone architect coral species survive somewhere, they may be able to recolonize their previous ranges and begin building new reefs over subsequent centuries.

Unfortunately, when we should be working all-out to stop anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, our present Australian Government lead by Capt. Humbug (AKA Scotty from Marketing) and his deputy Blarny Barney (the Man with the Hat) is working hard to grow and maintain the healthy capacity of the fossil fuel industry to produce and burn carbon for energy. Also, not only are they doing nothing practical to stop and reverse global warming, but they just promised to spend a billion dollars on the Reef (over 9 years) to cloak the fact that they are doing nothing that counts to save the Reef (or for that matter our own human species).

The rapidly approaching Federal Election gives us the opportunity to remove Capt. Humbug and his wooden headed puppets from office and replace them with trustworthy, thinking people who have committed themselves to put work to solve the climate crisis as their first order of business if elected to Parliament. Vote Climate One’s Traffic Light Voting System is designed to help you do this.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Another $billion diverted from the most needed protection of the Reef – stopping GHG emissions

Rob Harris 27/01/2022 in The Age
Morrison promises extra $1 billion to save the Great Barrier Reef

Added comment: Another $billion distraction by the COALition puppets in Parliament to divert attention from the fact that they are protecting their special interest patrons by doing nothing to solve the existentially dangerous climate emergency. Vote them out of office!

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.