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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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:
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….
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”….
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.