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Great Barrier Reef at 'terminal stage' (theguardian.com)
352 points by mjfern on April 10, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 189 comments



I grew up on the coast of the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland and I can say that the current state of the reef is almost unrecognisable to what it was 20-odd years ago.

While a large part of this damage has been caused by rising sea temperatures, another large component is due to the run-off from agriculture, refineries and mining. The latter being a directly contributed by the local population.

The region is currently in a economic recession and many of the mines and refineries have either slowed or ceased operation. Anecdotally, the sentiment of the population affected by (un)employment by these industries are either unaware or ignorant towards the damage that the industries are having on this sensitive ecosystem. Instead they are consumed by how they are going to make ends meet.

In this environment, it is unthinkable to allow Adani expand their Carmichael mine to further exacerbate the situation. Add to this, that a former Adani board member is appointed to evaluate the environmental impacts of the expansion. Adani is the biggest direct threat to Australia, both environmentally and economically and they are in talks with the government to be provided with a $1 billion tax-payer funded railway line. Adani and the Carmichael mine expansion are rifled with corruption.

The issue of the reef and climate-change in general is a fairly untouched issue in Australian politics. I'm not sure that we are going to get anywhere without foreign intervention.

If you are interested, I do urge you to read some material on Adani and the Carmichael coal mine expansion and perhaps donate to a "StopAdani" cause.

Wish us luck.


> The issue of the reef and climate-change in general is a fairly untouched issue in Australian politics. I'm not sure that we are going to get anywhere without foreign intervention.

I'm surprised by you saying this.

I was in australia last year and saw TV news a couple of times. And multiple times climate change was mentioned as one of the election issues. Of course mentioning the issue doesn't mean it's being taken seriously or that politicians will do something about it. But I felt this seems to be at least a topic that is talked about.

Just to give you some contrast: Hillary Clinton completely stopped talking about Climate Change at all once Bernie Sanders was out of her way [1]. In Germany, there was a statistics about the topics of TV talk shows recently, which was picked up by a number of media outlets, because it had an overwhelming bias towards having the refugee crisis as the major topic. Talk shows about climate change? Zero.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/20/hillary-...


You are right that it is an issue that is talked about and it was discussed in the lead up to the the 2016 election. However, since the election there has been very little attention paid to climate change and there is some evidence that Australia is on-track to be in violation of the Paris Agreement[1].

Australia chose to elect a party with policies that target greenhouse gas emissions the least, 26-28% 2005 levels by 2030, where the next most popular party has target of 45% 2005 levels by 2030.

The former Labor government introduced a tax on carbon emissions[2] and a mining resource rent tax[3] in 2012. These taxes were later repealed in 2014 by our current Liberal/National government. Since the repeal, our emissions have been steadily increasing[4].

Talk is cheap and when push comes to shove on climate change, the majority of Australian's give into the scaremongering of conservative politics.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-09/australias-energy-poli...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_pricing_in_Australia

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minerals_Resource_Rent_Tax

[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-22/australia-greenhouse-g...


I grew up in Cairns & think that's a big part of why I'm so fascinated with marine life. I can happily spend a day watching almost any fish tank. My girlfriend has to drag me out of aquariums every time. It completely crushes me to think my (future) kids might not ever know what it was like.

I thoroughly urge anyone in the world with the means to do so, to visit and experience it.


Travelled up to Cairns from Melbourne last year and visited the reefs on a day trip.

Whilst amazing, the bleaching had clearly started although not fully set in. It was as such a bitter sweet experience. I regret not going earlier, having been in Australia for over a decade - yet grateful to have seen it in some semblance of its glory before it's gone. And very sad - and angry - that it is going.

I am angry because we have direct control over the mining that contributes directly to this calamity. However the going rule is that politicians must bend over backwards to accommodate them; or I guess that's just what they pay for? It certainly feels as corrupt as.


I'm not sure to what extent WA has been affected but I grew up on the Houtman Abroholas Islands off Western Australia (500 km north then 50 km west of Perth) which are extremely beautiful and secluded (need to hire a plane to take you over and you are limited to one very beautiful large island.)


That sounds like a great place to grow up! I'll put this on my list of places to visit for whenever I have (a fair amount of) spare cash again. :-) I've yet to be in WA so should definitely do it at one stage.


I went about 20 years ago on a scuba trip to the "Outer Reef" (25 mi offshore). Paid a few hundred dollars for a guided tour of a few reefs.

Blew my mind so much I got off the boat, handed over my credit card and said I'd be back the next day to do it again.


The QLD government is doing some good work on water quality - particularly engaging with farmers, reducing pesticide and fertiliser runoffs, and reducing erosion. But it's all underfunded and therefore not coordinated or widespread enough.

The federal government has ignored these issues for decades while we've been burning coal for power and digging it up and exporting it to the biggest polluters.

It's disgusting, really.


I lived in Australia for 10 years and got a chance to visit great barrier reef multiple times. It's what started my love for water.

Its not the same now. If by the time I have kids and they don't get to have the experience of lush underwater life, I will definitely believe we humans are cancer for the planet.

Australia is a rich and educated country. If they can't fix the mess they created I don't have much hopes for the other parts of the world.


We are a rich and educated country, however our politics is one that promotes extreme toxicity in the major parties towards any 'difficult' issues. Look at how non-committal MPs are about so many issues when interviewed. Never mind how much of a joke parliament is, especially during question time, where it's more important to score petty points against the other side than debate policy. You just have to look at the UK Commons question time footage for a very eye-opening contrast.


Are you saying that e.g. Prime Minister's questions is an example of good and useful debate?

If so, then I am so very sorry for Aussies...


Granted it's mostly from the outside looking in, but your politics does like a bit better than ours. There seems to be a lot less pressure to hold the party line for one thing, which is very rigid here and there seems to be more local engagement. I'd appreciate someone who has experienced both more closely to correct me though.

Much of the current trouble in Australian politics though is because we have the senate which is proportionally elected. I'd argue this is a good thing overall, but our two major parties (particularly the current one) don't seem to have realised that they have to negotiate policy to make it pass.


I am from Brazil, that theoretically has a fully modern democracy...

Parties learned to "negotiate" so well they became meaningless, frequently absurd laws pass that all parties allowed, you see multiparty tickets that include extreme left and right at same time, and when a big corruption scandal shows uo we find out almost all parties were involved...

I personally believe Brazil need to copy UK and put at least our monarch back in power, we had less political problems during monarchy (and much more infrastructure investment) and the royal family all live good noncorrupt lives (many run successful law abiding business, some are seen as example of ethics, for example having business that repair environmental damage instead of causing it)


Well of course the former royal family is not corrupt, they are not in power!

At least in the current system, the politicians hold responsibility and can get exposed, prosecuted, and convicted for corruption (eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Car_Wash ), after which you can try to get somebody else elected; how would it be better if you put an arbitrary family in power?


Yes I am. I'm aware the implications of suggesting that PMQ looks like a quality debate compared with AU's Question Time. It's not even a recent development either: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/the...


It would be good if it were possible to directly crowdfund some of this research, since they are obviously starved for cash.


Honestly, there should be no 'engaging with farmers'. There shouldn't be 'reductions' in pesticide and fertiliser runoffs. Erosion shouldn't be 'managed'.

This shouldn't be a conversation. It's been conversation and compromise for far, far too long. Governments should be being firm with farmers, they're incredibly damaging to the environment and it's not even a lucrative industry.


The often wafer-thin margins in the agriculture sector do not invalidate farmer's demands because food security is a most fundamental national security issue, even more so than energy or border control.

Conversely, and unfortunately, the Great Barrier Reef is managed by Australian governments basically as a tourist attraction, rather than a unique and fragile national treasure.

There is a (locally) famous quote from the Australian writer Donald Horne: "Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck." (1964). A great many idiot politicians, jingoistic fools, and tourist offices are fond of repeating the first clause of this statement whilst omitting the latter, oblivious to the sharp irony of the full statement.


> There is a (locally) famous quote from the Australian writer Donald Horne: "Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck." (1964). A great many idiot politicians, jingoistic fools, and tourist offices are fond of repeating the first clause of this statement whilst omitting the latter, oblivious to the sharp irony of the full statement.

Yup. It's our very own version of "Born in the USA".


'Food security' is quite irrelevant. Cattle and dairy farming is not a food security issue.


Biggest pesticide and nutrient culprits are bananas and sugar cane.


I'm not worried: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/reef-tourism-o...

>> “Scientists had written off that entire northern section as a complete white-out,’’ Mr Eade said. “We expected the worst. But it is tremendous condition, most of it is pristine, the rest is in full recovery."

>> “It wasn’t until we got underwater that we could get a true picture of what percentage of reef was bleached,’’ Mr Stephen said. “The discrepancy is phenomenal. It is so wrong. Everywhere we have been we have found healthy reefs."

Also: "Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching" http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/great-barrier-re...

>> A full survey of the reef ­released yesterday by the author­ity and the Australian Institute of Marine ­Science said 75 per cent of the reef would escape unscathed.

>> Dr Reichelt said the vast bulk of bleaching damage was confined to the far northern section off Cape York, which had the best prospect of recovery due to the lack of ­onshore development and high water quality.


Any non-paywalled sources? The original article does note that "The Queensland tourism industry raised questions about the reliability of the survey, saying scientists had previously made exaggerated claims about mortality rates and bleaching."


Sorry, you said the reef looks "indistinguishable to what it looked like 20-odd years ago." which implies it looks basically the same, but that seems at odds with the rest of what you're saying. Did you mean something besides "indistinguishable" ("unrecognizable", maybe?)


Corrected, thanks. I'll put it down to lack of sleep :P.


The other one is "rifled" when you mean rife. :)


You are correct, sir :).


Many posts here about how sad and disgusted people are. Not much about people taking personal responsibility.

What do people think the carrying capacity of the planet means? Sustaining more humans means sacrificing other life that competes for our resources. It means pollution rising until it doesn't quite kill us but is well above the levels of a pristine, clean environment.

Nobody wants to live near the carrying capacity because approaching it means sacrificing anything that doesn't keep us alive.

Every round trip flight across the country you take contributes almost one year's allotment from the Paris agreement for one person -- https://co2.myclimate.org/en/portfolios?calculation_id=71970.... Flying first class and you're well over it. Eating meat contributes a lot too. Having more kids in western cultures contributes significantly.

Who among us, reading this, hasn't gone over their annual limit in just a few hours of flying, not to mention their regular life otherwise? How many have blown past their Paris limits already this year?

Some would say the damage was done by past generations. Okay, well what beautiful part of nature will our behavior destroy years from now? People keep posting to HN that since we can't change that a lot will happen, it doesn't matter any more, we should just enjoy ourselves, but there are different degrees of destruction.

Alternatively, we can fly less, drive less, eat much less meat, and have fewer kids. We don't need to wait for legislation. In fact, it's the fastest way to get legislation, since politicians follow voters.

In my experience, acting on all those things improved my life tremendously (including not flying for a year+ http://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/365-days-without-flying.htm...), more than almost anything else. I'm more fit, enjoy my neighborhood and neighbors, and spend less money and there's nothing special about me.


My employer pays for its software developers to attend one conference per year. While software conferences can be terrific learning experiences, most of us consider this perk to be something similar to a paid vacation. Many people try to find conferences in exciting, far-flung locations.

It seems like the software conference industry is one that could be a leader in creating "virtual tracks" for conferences. This would have the effect of reducing unnecessary airplane trips while also opening conferences up to larger audiences.

There is a group within academia that is promoting this approach: https://academicflyingblog.wordpress.com/

Their FAQ has a lot of really solid information, and some of the answers really resonated with me in terms of "Do I really need to physically be at this conference?" FAQ: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1URRRh4zMSpvtZY08F9-Rkbx0...


>Having more kids in western cultures contributes significantly.

I wonder how much longer before the idea of limiting people's reproduction is on the table.

Someone who never has kids can probably drive a Hummer and spend every weekend jetting off somewhere, and their lifetime carbon footprint will still be many times lower than someone who has several children.

I understand that developed country carbon footprints are vastly higher than developing countries, but there are countries that are developing rapidly yet still have fertility rates of 4 or 5 children per woman. We can be pretty sure that those people aspire to having a western-style carbon footprint (and to be fair, why shouldn't they) either through migrating to a developed country or their own country developing.

When do we start saying that we need to limit the number of people who can exist? I don't see how it could ever be practically possible (outside of a regime like China, and even then it backfired horribly) but it if it could somehow be enforced it would probably be the best (and fairest) thing we could do.

Side note: for those of us who worry about this stuff, it can be hard to comprehend how little the average person cares about it. We have these TV shows in the UK which show people going through the process of buying a holiday home (British people are obsessed with houses/real estate to the point where watching other people buy a house is a recreational activity). The other day there was a family with 4 kids buying a holiday home in Florida. So they're planning to spend the rest of their lives jetting their whole (large) family across the Atlantic a few times a year. As someone who feels kinda guilty every time I fly, it just left me thinking that I'm wasting my mental energy on caring about this stuff when other people care so little.


Many OECD nations are barely at or even below replacement levels for fertility. Few people are having 4+ kids.

https://data.oecd.org/pop/fertility-rates.htm


Isn't that basically a good thing though? I'm not wishing for humanity to die out, I just think that the best way to minimise net human misery is to have a smaller population. If it's happening naturally then all the better.

As "native" developed country populations decline, I can see increasing tension as developing country populations continue to grow rapidly.

There's also the small problem that our accepted economic models seem to rely on perpetual growth.


Many populations are probably auto limiting themselves because we are walking the threshold of resource availability. Another kid means less food in your other kids' mouths and less chance of survival.


How will politicians follow voters if voters' own actions cause shrinking economies and fewer jobs? That's not rhetorical. I don't know how it is possible within the current system to back down en-masse in the way you suggest. In addition if one culture does shrink and others simply grow more aggressively then the end result will be same.

What you're talking about is a global consensus to shrink the world population and economy. That isn't something I can personally take hold of. Despite the fact that I do live rather minimally - I don't kid myself that it's changing anything. I just like it that way.

I am often quite sceptical of the "science will save us" approach, but actually it seems more credible than the "change one person at a time" approach.


> I don't know how it is possible within the current system to back down en-masse in the way you suggest.

The system will change. It's already changing. The question is whether we design and follow the change or nature does it for us. The demise of the world's largest living structure is just the latest in decades of evidence. How much more do we need?

This community is so enthusiastic about going to Mars, universal basic income, and other challenges to current systems. Why so resistant to this change? So enthusiastic about entrepreneurship solving problems except this fundamental belief that economies must grow. Are we so tied to bacon, big houses, and regular trips to Paris? Humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years with cities of millions of people without planes, cars, and so on. We don't need them for happiness. Nor do we need to get rid of them. We can live a modern life with modern medicine, modern toys, the internet and so on, we just have to curb it a bit. Well, more than a bit.

> I am often quite sceptical of the "science will save us" approach, but actually it seems more credible than the "change one person at a time" approach.

Hence my point that changing my behavior improved my life and that I'm not special. Simplifying and reducing consumption from our culture's wastefulness isn't sacrifice. You don't have to keep believing it is.

Simplifying and reducing consumption can materially improve your life. Even if it didn't, why not take responsibility for how your actions affect others like you wish past generations did instead of killing the Great Barrier Reef? Why not decouple your happiness from burning fossil fuels and owning more stuff? You don't have to keep waiting for everyone else.


What's the point of caring deeply about the Great Barrier Reef if the only offered solution is to accept that I can never visit it? That's selfish, of course, but so is demanding that others curtail their lifestyles so some faraway coral you care about doesn't disappear.

Frankly, the "challenge" of how to convince people to live as if most of the fruits of the industrial and technological revolutions never arrived is deeply unappealing. It's also nonsense on stilts: We don't get iPhones or specialized cancer cures without the consumer economy big enough to support demand for them.


Our current status-quo system requires perpetual growth to maintain debt obligations (money is created by debt, which comes with interest. if economy doesn't grow, there must be defaults)

Perpetual growth and protection of natural resources are inherently at odds with each other. Until the global economy fundamentally changes, things are only going to keep getting worse.


I'm doing my part, no kids, and I won't be having any. Unfortunately human nature isn't going to change, and we're not going to get out of this one with our civilization intact; we're probably cooked.


"I'm doing my part, no kids, and I won't be having any. Unfortunately human nature isn't going to change, and we're not going to get out of this one with our civilization intact; we're probably cooked."

Utter nonsense (other than you not having kids, that's your choice).

Market forces will in fact solve the "problem" (to the extent it is one) of excess CO2 output. If it is finally determined that CO2 based warming is problematic, the solution will be advanced technology, including high-intensity energy sources like nuclear power. In the absolute worst case, orbital sunshades or other mitigations will be used to decrease insolation.

The laughable thing about this article is the idea that any amount of spending by the Australian government to "take decisive action on climate change" would help. If Australia completely stopped producing CO2, it would have no measurable effect on water temperatures around the Great Barrier Reef, especially since the argument is that current CO2 levels are causing the problem. Then there's the fact that Australia is a minor contributor to global CO2 emissions...

What's needed on "climate change" is a lot more rational thought, and a lot less hysteria.


You seem to think that I:

1.) Believe a solution still exists

2.) Believe that Australia of all the small populations on Earth would somehow matter if such a solution existed (no offense Australia, you matter in general)

3.) Believe that "thought" matters at this point. You might as well be telling people marching to the gallows to cheer up, nothing good can come of being all depressed. You might be right, but at least stop pretending that it's going to change the actual outcome.


1) No, -I- believe a solution still exists.

2) My comments about Australia addressed the generally fuzzy thinking on this topic.

3) Again, there is no reason to think that the outcome is definite at this point. Clearly, in the worst case, technology should provide a solution. If the gloomiest projections turn out to be incorrect, for which there is mounting evidence, no mitigation may be needed at all.


You believe that a solution exists, although you also believe that there is no need for one, but if there was "technology" would be that solution. Is that about right?


I believe that a solution exists, if in fact CO2 induced global warming is sufficient to warrant it. The latest IPCC report has a range of possible warming which is innocuous at the low end. It's also not clear what the error bounds are on the published warming estimates.

I gave the concrete example of orbital sunshades, which are absolutely feasible given current engineering techniques. Another possible CO2 mitigation are iron-induced ocean algae blooms. Many other approaches have been suggested including nuclear powered CO2 sequestration in the Antarctic. I'm sure that many other innovative, technology based mitigations will be proposed over time.

I hope that clears things up for you.


You started by stating that market forces are the solution, but conclude that rational thought is the solution. Now I'm very confused.


I did not say that "rational thought is the solution", although it is true that rational thought will provide the means for market forces to do their work. I didn't expound on how markets are changing as much as I probably should have.

I did state that market forces are the solution, and the reason for that is cleaner and ultimately cheaper technologies are displacing combustible fuels - primarily solar, nuclear and wind. Coal is already being displaced by cheaper natural gas, and advances in CO2 free technologies will make them the least expensive of all in the end. Proponents of new modular nuclear reactor designs believe they'll generate electricity for 3 to 5 cents per KWH, for instance.


There are those of us that also think asking people to 'cut back' voluntarily like this is a fucked solution out of the gate.

I continue to fly across the country for work because refusing only hurts my career and gives me a slight sense of smug superiority. Someone else on standby would just take my seat anyway and my refusal would have had no impact (other than a negligible reduction in revenue for the airline).

Instead I actually do something that might have an impact and I donate to organizations researching alternative energy or just straight up planting trees.

I would rather just have the price of carbon emissions priced into the airline tickets than stupidly trying to shame anyone who travels.


I've never flown on a commercial jet, have no kids, limit my consumption of meat and other products of the corrupt agriculture industry, and I don't own a car because I don't support extortion via insurance and I have a hard time convincing myself it isn't selfish to add more greenhouse gases to the air when I know better, even though "it's just me" and I'm one person.

Don't be so quick to judge the members of your community, maybe consider a less accusing tone, I dunno. But you're pointing your finger at everyone and no one.


First of all, that is amazing. But you are obviously the extreme exception (at least from my observations of other humans in America).


Unfortunately, you may be right about my lifestyle being exceptional in America. That doesn't make me feel good.

A lifetime of living on/underneath the poverty line and having guardians that couldn't keep a job or car or house of their own has helped shape my perspective on what constitutes as a "comfortable" life. I would like to travel more later in life but I will try to be as conservative as reasonably possible in my transportation methods.

I knew that a career in software/tech would allow me to live this way, but it's much more difficult to maintain this lifestyle in non-technical career paths. Couple that with forced societal and parental expectations to "get the car, get the job, get the house, get the girl" and incentivising propaganda, and it can be pretty tough to see any other option.

Poverty in America continues to rise and we may find the next generation to be much more environmentally conservative than us, not only because they weren't riding on a financial investment bubble like their grandparents but because they will expect to see the results of our environmental selfishness in their lifetimes.

But as for what we can do to educate Joe Schmoe, who is knee-deep in his mortgage and car and child support payments, who has a daughter in private school because the local school is terrible, who has no time in their work schedule to prepare their own meals, who takes an ocean liner cruise every two years because it's the only thing keeping them from killing themselves... well, I have no fucking clue. And that isn't good, because this is the average middle-class American. And we need the middle-class involved in environmental change because they have resources others do not and have greater capacity to adjust their consumption habits.

Telling Joe Schmoe about how we live conservative lives, and how he should be more like us is only going to make them more resilient to changing their minds.


Quite frankly I think blaming it on flying is incredibly offensive.

It's got nothing, at all, to do with cars or flying. They're tiny pollutors compared to industry, specifically the dairy industry, transportation by truck and manufacturing things in China.

Sure we could fly less and drive less but that would do fuck all, and certainly having fewer kids isn't going to solve any problems. Having fewer kids in the west actually just means white people having fewer kids in the west, we're well below replacement rate and are being rapidly replaced by people coming from high birthrate countries like India.

The only thing that will actually solve the problem is sustained government intervention in trucking, dairy and industry, worldwide.


While I don't disagree with the facts you presented, I do disagree with the sentiment. Your argument is akin to passing the buck, yet the issue of climate change affects us all. Maybe let's ignore the GP's examples of flying and instead discuss industry. How many of us by pre-packaged foods or have Amazon Prime accounts and use it to order stuff we could just as easily get from our local shops? How many of us support wasteful industries because they sell our products cheaper or manufacture more desirable products? How many of us with access to clean water still buy bottled? Or buy fruits out of season and other import produce?

Most of us westerners have a pretty decent standard of living. Yet we blame industry for the environmental costs of our standard of living while simultaneously paying industry for their services. So I think we are just as much to blame. And by "we" I am completely blaming myself too.


No, you're promoting the same fallacy: if something as a whole is bad then you're bad for doing it personally.

You can't solve these problems by peer pressuring people into not supporting exploitative systems. Your argument is akin to people saying 'so much for being socialist, you own an iphone, capitalism made your iphone!'.

Now I don't use amazon prime to get things that I could just as easily get from local shops, except for things that already come from overseas anyway. I live in NZ, I don't have much choice. What little carbon budget the world does have should be used to ensure that people living in places like NZ can still have access to global commerce.

I don't buy fruits out of season. And I certainly don't buy 'pre-packaged foods'. What does that even mean? Do people actually buy plastic-wrapped boxes of lettuce from the supermarket? Really? Do people really buy bottled water? Why would they do that?

But I shouldn't have to say that. That I do those things is irrelevant. I do them for many reasons, but you are passing the buck when you act like it's my personal responsibility to fix the ills of the world. It isn't. It's society's responsibility as a whole. It should be a global push.

Otherwise we're just taxing conscience.


In Ireland, at least, it's really hard to come by things in the store that aren't wrapped in plastic. It's obscene, and I haven't found a lot of alternatives. Very high end stores sometimes sell items without plastic, but at much greater cost. I mean, who the hell needs individually-plastic-wrapped cucumbers?

I have started growing my own tomatoes, so hopefully that helps, but it's only one item out of many.


Flying is a relatively small contributor. But as spodek pointed out, a flight can take a year's worth of CO2 emissions for one person if we're aiming for a 2-degree change. That just shows how far over that limit we are going. We're going to have to do all the big things you alluded to, but if we don't also tackle smaller things like flying less, we're still going to be over the limit.


Unfortunately, admitting that you are right would require accepting that the entire neo-liberal edifice of free market fundamentalism ("the free market can solve every problem") is wrong.

We are societally unable to do that currently. It's our modern religion. Otherwise incredibly smart people (I include everyone on this website) are unable to see that only government intervention (pushed for by us) can solve this problem.


> I don't buy fruits out of season. And I certainly don't buy 'pre-packaged foods'. What does that even mean? Do people actually buy plastic-wrapped boxes of lettuce from the supermarket? Really? Do people really buy bottled water? Why would they do that?

Sadly that happens a lot in the UK :(

> you are passing the buck when you act like it's my personal responsibility to fix the ills of the world

Where did I say it was your responsibility _alone_ to "fix the ills of the world"? What I said was we are all, collectively, responsible. Myself included. I also said industry exists to serve our consumption. This is me accepting my responsibility not me passing the buck.


> No, you're promoting the same fallacy: if something as a whole is bad then you're bad for doing it personally.

That's not a fallacy. There's a direct and causal relationship between that "something as a whole" and you doing it personally. No one is saying that you alone are responsible for this systemic issue, but at least cop to your role in it.


I don't like it because it's a cop-out. It's no different from 'oh yeah, you think taxes should be higher? why don't you voluntarily pay more taxes then?'


That's not quite the same — there's no relationship between you voluntarily paying more on your taxes and tax rates. If we agree that tax revenue is too low, then yeah, you're doing a bad thing by not paying more.

Here's a better analogy still. Candidate X won a recent election, and you voted for them. If we agree that we knew that candidate was bad before the election, then you, individually, did a bad thing! No one person's vote decides an election, but the fact that millions of other people voted for the same candidate doesn't absolve you of your role in electing them.


> That's not quite the same — there's no relationship between you voluntarily paying more on your taxes and tax rates. If we agree that tax revenue is too low, then yeah, you're doing a bad thing by not paying more.

Wanting to raise taxes and wanting higher tax revenue is the same thing. And that does not mean I should pay more in tax voluntarily. I want tax rates to be higher across the board in a way that is fair to everyone.

Of course it's not reasonable to 'just pay more tax voluntarily'. That's ridiculous. That's just taxing the people that want tax rates on everyone to be higher. By that logic we should all just pay however much we want. That's stupid.

>Here's a better analogy still. Candidate X won a recent election, and you voted for them. If we agree that we knew that candidate was bad before the election, then you, individually, did a bad thing! No one person's vote decides an election, but the fact that millions of other people voted for the same candidate doesn't absolve you of your role in electing them.

No, that's a terrible analogy, that's not at all the same thing. I want fair government policy affecting all carbon producers to fight global warming. I don't want to never eat meat, I want meat to be priced taking into account the negative externalities of meat production. If a steak costs $20 because that's how much all the water costs and repairing the environmental damage costs, then that's fair.

I don't want just the people that care about the environment to volunteer to do tiny, irrelevant amounts to help. I want the people that are actually causing significant environmental damage to be held responsible. I'm sick of hearing about how to fight climate change. Climate change isn't a person, the people we should be fighting are the people CAUSING climate change, and that isn't me or you.


> Climate change isn't a person, the people we should be fighting are the people CAUSING climate change, and that isn't me or you.

Yes, it is.

This isn't really controversial or even an arguable position; the tragedy of the commons is a well known and accepted economic theory. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons


Rubbish.

Big businesses cause almost all environmental damage, worldwide.


Nobody is suggesting that climate change should be tackled by _only_ those who volunteer to help. We are saying climate change is _everyone's_ responsibility. There definitely needs to be legislation in place as an "incentive" for those who can't be bothered or simply don't care (businesses and individuals alike) but that doesn't absolve your own responsibility either.


Offensive!? You're of course free to get offended, but pointing out that flying pollutes a lot relative to the proposed limits is certainly valid.

I think the point is that there is an opportunity to take personal responsibility here. Why wait for government? Using a couple of your examples, buying less stuff made in China would go a long way.


Because collective action is the only way to make a dent in multinational corporations that poison the environment?

While changing the agreement and raising awareness is good, its basically rearranging the deck chairs on the titantic.

Do you know how many "upright citizens" I know who dont shop at wallmart? All my friends, family, and people I work with. And how's wallmart doing economically right now?

Even a decently large group of citizens taking action has minimal impact on the global scale.

Either convince the governments of the world or expect the slide to continue at an ever increasing pace.


Do you accept that even if governments do take action every person will still need to live within a carbon allowance or else global warming will still happen? If so even if you convince governments you'll still have to fly less and live in smaller houses and eat more locally sourced food.


[flagged]


Please stop violating the guidelines. We've already asked you not to comment uncivilly or spark flamewars.


Tackling the problem from the top-down (regulation) and bottom-up (personal responsibility) is the most effective path forward. The first step is education, actually understanding what contributes to our carbon footprint and more importantly radiative forcing. This gets complicated fast (here's an article on aviation: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/sep/09/car...), but reasonable ballpark estimates can be made.

Transportation accounts for about 14% of emissions, compared to 24% for agriculture and 21% for industry. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emiss...


The reality is that nobody acknowledges the impact of agriculture. Remember that a very large amount of those transportation costs are associated with agriculture as well, so really it's more like 30% of agriculture. 30% of emissions, basically all for dairy.

That's disgusting.


Although I've never seen the Great Barrier Reef, I was recently in Belize and snorkeled around its Barrier Reef. It was painfully obvious that the reefs were extensively bleached(though still quite beautiful). It's quite shocking to think that 30 years ago the reefs looked completely different from now and in another 30 years may not even be around. I hope that in the future we won't be reduced to having to point to pictures in a book if people want to witness the beauty of nature but this seems increasingly inevitable. What a shame.


Sadly at the speed this is going they won't last 30 more years. We've already reached their limit point, and when they go the entire eco-system they host are going to die with them.

And then the greet barrier reef will be a memory.


There are some excellent scientists and programs attempting to improve water quality (particularly catchments that flow into the reef) and the crown of thorns starfish.

Unfortunately these are badly underfunded, not coordinated at a national level as they should be, and do not address the biggest threat - climate change. The reef is doomed unless something is done about CO2 emissions. It's probably already too late.

The loss of the GBR will see a collapse of tourism industries, and entire ecosystems will die off. There are going to be huge impacts in the next 15-20 years to come out of this.

A lot of low lying countries in the pacific will get the triple whammy of increased cyclone activity, rising sea levels and a loss of reefs and the fish populations that they subsist on. There are huge humanitarian disasters ahead.


I saw a bleaching event in Thailand last year, it really is depressing to see. This year, the same sites have seemingly recovered and I'm really happy about that. But seeing the pictures of completely bleached white corals in the article and knowing that's probably the future for a lot of these reefs breaks my heart. Coral reefs are magical places and we're destroying them for future generations, maybe even the current one.


> Coral reefs are magical places

How so? How are they different from any other natural ecosystem?


They are one of the most biodiverse habitats, if not the most diverse, home to a vast array of often spectacular species. And unlike other highly biodiverse habitats, much of this spectacle is densely represented and constantly on show.

In a tropical rainforest, you can ramble uncomfortably through dense undergrowth for hours, hearing many animals but glimpsing few, usually from a limited range of phyla, and seeing mostly plants. On a healthy reef, drift but a few minutes through the clear, warm seawater, and the sheer abundance and variety of algae, corals, anenomes, molluscs, echinoderms, sponges and many other invertebrate phyla, as well as algae and of course fish, will be immediately apparent.


Sadly I can't remember the last time we had any real action to protect the reef, and our current government is all too willing to put businesses above the environment.


Most of the damage is part of climate change in general, so real action to protect the reef involves the world drastically cutting carbon emissions. Meanwhile, we can't even prevent things like this happening right next to the reef:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-10/abbot-point-coal-termi...


I was trying to subtly hint at how absolutely fucking unacceptable it is that something like the Abbot Point coal terminal was approved. How hard is it?


If I remember correctly, human CO2 emissions has been flat for the past couple of years.

The reason CO2 is going up, at an increasing rate, is largely because the biosphere's ability to absorb CO2 is diminished.

> the world drastically cutting carbon emissions

I believe the grim truth is this: the world's transformation would continue for a long time even if humans stopped producing CO2 tomorrow.

Preparations for the inevitable should be our focus.


I don't think the average Australian cares, at least not enough for it to influence the way they act/vote.

Of course if you ask anyone on the street if they are in favor of protecting the reef they'd say yes, but when they see the price tag they would probably lose interest.


It's not so much about the price tag, but more that there are other issues nearer and dearer to their hearts. A strong majority of Australians want gay marriage laws passed, for example, but the two major parties can dodge the issue because other issues are more important to their voters.


I agree, but replace hearts with wallets ;)


Contrary to environmental preservation, a gay marriage law costs nothing. So if a strong majority supports it, why don't they enact it to get a free popularity boost?


Because most ministers truly stand for what they believe in to a certain limited extent.

Unfortunately, this is what old, rich, often religious men believe, which is a terrible representation of the actual country.

This is said generally, as I have no specific experience of the situation in Australia


Current government is held hostage by its far right faction who wants to avoid an open vote on gay marriage.

The left would now allow an open vote for it but when they were last in government the tide of public opinion probably hadn't turned far enough yet.


I think you're wrong. I think that the Great Barrier Reef is something that average Australian really does care about. I think it's one of the few things that is capable of making people go 'oh my god, no, we have to do something'.

The thought that I've probably managed to miss my only opportunity in my life to see it is heartbreaking to me, and I'm a Kiwi, not an Australian. It's a national treasure. It's like, to me, the total destruction of the Pink And White Terraces in NZ. I will never, ever see them. Nobody will. And my future kids will never see the Great Barrier Reef.


I wonder if there is any possibility of restoring the reef after we've gotten carbon in the atmosphere back down to livable levels for it. I'm sure it's basically impossible, but if we're approaching the point of no return maybe we can invest in preserving as much of the reef as we can in aquariums to make an attempt down the road.

The whole situation is depressing :(


See my comments elsewhere in the thread for an example of people/organisations that are involved in some fairly serious activism around these issues. They do exist.


My cousin Sam[0] runs the environmental side of things at GetUp and is putting a lot of time and effort into raising awareness about the reef. They're currently fundraising[1] for a targeted campaign in 12 Liberal electorates with the aim of encouraging MPs to break their silence and listen to their constituents on the issues surrounding Adani and the GBR.

Full disclosure: GetUp is a politically partisan organisation with strong left leanings. But I think the work they're doing around these issues is rooted more in common sense than politics.

Is anyone else involved in any grassroots-level efforts to save the reef? I'd be interested to hear about them.

[0] https://twitter.com/samregester

[1] https://www.getup.org.au/campaigns/great-barrier-reef--3/the...


Why only Liberal electorates? Queensland government is Labor. Why not target them?


Because the Federal government, not the QLD government, are weighing up a $1bn concessional loan for Adani's Carmichael coal mine. GetUp campaigners clearly feel they can make an impact at the Federal level; it worked during the last election.

That being said, they are equally critical of the QLD government and the corporate entities that are supporting Adani. Have a read of Sam's timeline.

https://twitter.com/samregester/status/849177022085578752


This is what keeps me up at night. If we don't find an efficient way to extract CO2 and methane from the atmosphere, I fear that mankind might go extinct.


Mankind is absurdly resilient. We are like rats or cockroaches but a hundred times more adaptable. Billions of people could die. We might lose 99% of species. But human extinction is out of the question.

We could live in bubbles of air under the ocean huddled around nuclear reactors if we needed to. Roaches couldn't do that (without our help).


I believe the adaptability of humans is greatly exaggerated, mostly thanks to our hubris. We believe we will be able to use our intelligence to figure a way out of pretty much any problem. However, the fact of the matter is that our species has never been through any extinction-level events that would truly test our adaptability. Sure, we can adapt to localized or short-term problems extremely well, but how would we fare in an event the level of, say, the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event?


What about such an event would cause extinction? 5 billion people die, the rest of us live in warehouses eating indoor-grown food until the sun comes out again.


> Mankind is absurdly resilient. We are like rats or cockroaches but a hundred times more adaptable.

Are we? We've been around for a fraction of the time and nearly gone extinct at least once (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toba_catastrophe_theory). We also have a tendency to build absurdly interconnected systems so a single failure has ripple effects, we see this in things like the late bronze age collapse where most civilizations in the Mediterranean disapeared (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Bronze_Age_collapse).


You just listed two incidents which, on the face of it, support the grandparent's argument.


Being on the right side of a knifes edge event (Toba example) doesn't prove we're resilient, it shows how susceptible we are to forces beyond our control, just as retrospectively guessing a coin toss doesn't mean we can predict the future, that's the anthropic principal at work. The second example shows how susceptible Civilization is.

For more examples look at our closest relatives which survived on earth longer than we did but ultimately went extinct.


Can you please provide a credible example for such an event.

Regarding your first example, Toba: we have no record of what may or may not have happened to a small population of Neanderthals 75.000 years ago, and your source itself states "Both the link and global winter theories are highly controversial".

Your second example marks the decline of a civilization, but does not even come close to what could be described as an "extinction".


For Toba, I wouldn't expect it to be definitively settled one way or another for a long time, if ever. Volcanology, geology and genetics are very young fields of study, particularly in developing nations that are home to much of the evidence. The theory is that it caused a population bottleneck in humans though, not Neanderthals (who probably had a pretty hard time as well) and that humans nearly fell below the genetic diversity needed to survive.

It's the only example that I know of because humans have only been around for the blink of an eye, Toba maybe be the worst that nature has thrown at us, which is a fraction of what it's capable of.

There are some other more documented examples the merely bought down civilizations (or helped anyway), like the Justinian Famine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_weather_events_of_535%...) thought to be caused by a volcanic eruption.

> Your second example marks the decline of a civilization, but does not even come close to what could be described as an "extinction".

I didn't mean to imply otherwise, though I would say they are one and the same thing in the long term. For humanity to survive and spread beyond our planet we need civilization and we've used up so many natural resources that I'm not sure we could rebuild one to match what we have today without them.


> I didn't mean to imply otherwise, though I would say they are one and the same thing in the long term. For humanity to survive and spread beyond our planet we need civilization and we've used up so many natural resources that I'm not sure we could rebuild one to match what we have today without them.

There's no point in spreading beyond our planet if we cannot create a fully sustainable planetary civilization first. The energy expenditures of GOING to another STAR and terraforming a planet in its orbit are many magnitudes more than it takes to create a paradise here, on Earth, at least from the perspective of energy requirements of modern countries.


We must repeat


The topic of "Seveneves" by Neal Stephenson - which I did enjoy.

https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Seveneves


Lucifer's hammer falls into the same category.


Without a massive population of worker bees, can we maintain the level of technological sophistication we've reached?

I suppose governments probably have that fairly well doomsday planned.


> can we maintain the level of technological sophistication we've reached?

Probably not but I doubt we'd regress very much. The world's population of less than 2 billion in the early 20th century was able to produce automobiles, airplanes, radios, etc. With the benefit of all the inventions and knowledge left behind I bet just a billion people could pretty easily maintain at least an early to mid 20th century level of technology. It would be a step backwards for sure but in the context of human progress it would be a minor blip.


That's exactly right about maintaining this level of technology. Looking around at most people I know and am surrounded by, there's just no way we could keep the technology level we have now without such a large population: most people are just too inept. Kill off 99% and there won't be enough people to even keep the stuff we have working, let alone come up with anything new.

Don't bet on governments having anything planned. That sounds like fantasy; just look at how governments actually behave in the real world: they're inept too.


You don't need to keep all of it working. Most of it can fall apart. During the decline, important things will retract, move around, be protected. Look at what happened in the Holocaust. European Jewish culture wasn't wiped out. It was dealt a massive blow. Many important things were lost. But the community closed ranks and certain assets were protected too.

This apocalyptic thinking is something you only do if you're so removed from violence that you have to imagine the whole world ending to conceive of it getting to you. People who actually deal with violence know they never get all of us. People are lost. It sucks. But we are resilient too. In a million people, there are always a few who are both smart and lucky and are able to reorganize reality ahead of the wave. That's why there are 6 billion of us. We survive.


"European Jewish culture" is not a technology. It doesn't take a huge population base for a group of people to remember their roots and culture and save a lot of it. But most people are not technologists. Sure, there's a few smart people in a million, but that's not enough to maintain things: medical technology, transportation technology, computer technology, etc.

Want a historical example? Look at the fall of the Roman Empire (and also older empires before them). They knew how to make concrete, huge buildings, aquaducts, plumbing, etc. It was all lost when the society collapsed, and that didn't involve killing off most of them, only having them give up on it and move away, and give up on the idea of specialization of labor. It took 1000 years or more to regain the level of technology they had, and really they never did figure out how to make concrete that good until modern times.


The Middle East, Iraq in particular might be a better example. It Was probably the garden of eden. Farming slowly increased the salt content, gradually destroying agriculture.

People absolutely survive, but survival is far more work, and far less population is supported per acre. Not necessarily bad, but very different. And hard everyday.


Little bit off-topic here, but there's almost 8 billion of us now. 7 billion was past a while ago and exponential growth continues.


Unfortunately your estimates and blind hope seem to me rather naive. At one point humanity was reduced to 40 breeding pairs, that is a bad flu away from extinction.

An extinction event is not the same thing as a man made holocaust, it can be far more thorough. None the less, it seems more prudent to ameliorate the issue rather than just accept it as if it's inevitable.


The problem with the "humanity will survive... somehow" is that without a great deal of work now in order to direct the future, we are abdicating our control of the how part. When the specifics are left up to circumstance, the details are all too likely to be horrific.


We'd be very difficult to wipe out, but our technology falls a long short of being able to construct self-sustaining environments. We rely on having a global supply train at our disposal, not something we'd have access to in the event of a major catastrophe.


But our scientific knowledge could be lost, maybe forever. The survivors may also forget the concepts of free speech, human rights, the separation of faith and state. What are the chances that we rediscover all of this? Such thoughts require a minimum threshold of resources. But climate change might disrupt our sources of food production.


A hundred million people with smartphones will be able to preserve that.

Try to come up with a realistic scenario that kills the last 100m humans. I've never seen one. You'd become at least internet famous if you could do it.


The humans that survive such an event will not be the smartphone engineers, but the subsistence farmers.


You don't need smartphone engineers just repair techs. We already have billions of smartphones, millions of which will last a century with proper care. There are palm pilots that still work today.

But also as the world collapses a thousand motivated people could and would relocate a basic computer fab to a safe location. Guaranteed.


There is a great short story with the unfortunate name "The man who came early". It's about a American GI who is stationed at Keflavik during the cold war and somehow gets thrown back in time to the Icelandic saga age. He wants to give people there so kind of technology that's much simpler than a smart phone and it all fails. Even something simple as gun powder doesn't get off the ground. They don't know how to get Salpeter. Even if the had the powder they would be missing so much technology to make the guns. As the main character says "you haven't the tools to make the tools to make the tools". Also resources.


Also Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", which has a similar theme.


How are you going to charge those devices reliably and consistently? What knowledge-bases will you be able to connect to with no Internet?

Our technology stack is like a house of cards. Smartphones are at the top. There's no way they will be of any use in the event that the foundation and the walls collapse.


> millions of which will last a century with proper care

I strongly doubt that. Electronics are not designed to last that long; components age. Also, planned obsolescence is king these days.


How long would smartphones be able to preserve knowledge? When you can no longer get clean power to charge them, they will cease to function. When they break, there will be no means to repair them. And most critical knowledge isn't even contained on the phone, it's on other machines which are likely inaccessible given the number of failure points in our global networks. If a catastrophe occurs, this high technology will be the first class to break. And no one person or group can recreate them; they depend upon global supply chains and expertise and manufacturing techniques siloed in hundreds of companies. And if a collapse did occur, we might have more pressing needs than recreating such technological marvels, like feeding and clothing ourselves. The value of such technology would vanish overnight if the supporting infrastructure collapsed.

To preserve knowledge you need it to be usable and accessible as the high edifice of our technological society crumbles. That would mean quality paper, vellum or some other durable material. We know it can last for hundreds to thousands of years if properly cared for. And I suspect that with the essentials of our knowledge base preserved and disseminated in such a way, we could quickly re-master the missing advanced stuff in a handful of decades. But if we relied on smartphones to save us, we'd quickly become savage and starving cavemen!

One of the more dangerous tendencies of modern times is that precision manufacturing techniques are often undocumented and are learned skills which require passing on from masters to trainees. There's plenty of technology from WW2 and earlier which we already can't recreate even though we know exactly what they look like. The people who knew retired and died. The drawings and documentation are useless without full training--we'd have to rediscover and refine the processes from scratch. Just last week I was reading about the restoration of a German WW2 fighter plane. They had to replace the entire engine because they couldn't manufacture a replacement part for the (repairable) original, because the machines to make the parts no longer exist and the expertise was lost. We'd have to make the machines to make the machines that make the part. Our technology base is built upon a house of cards. It's not a new phenomenon, but what is new is our utter reliance upon technology we have little control over to feed us and run our lives, making its loss quite disastrous.


> Billions of people could die. We might lose 99% of species.

You make it sound like this wasn't a huge deal.


It's the collapse of modern civilization that I worry about.


The sad fact is that even these devastating developments do not make us change systemically to the extent required to counterfeit them.


counteract?


Haha, that is what I meant. Sorry for the error.


This really saddens me.

I spent a week or so on Lady Elliot Island more than a decade ago, snorkelling every day. Because it is a protected area, the fauna are unafraid of people. I would dive down into these cavernous bowls of coral and be surrounded by schools of fish, rays, turtles. It was amazing.

I live in Europe now, but I always hoped to take my children there to see it one day. Seems there won't be much to see.


The real culprit for coral bleaching? A swift fall in mean sea level during a major El Nino event. See: http://www.biogeosciences.net/14/817/2017/


The Guardian article is about a 2017 event, not the 2016 event that the BG article references.


> Coral bleaches when the water it’s in is too warm for too long. The coral polyps gets stressed and spit out the algae that live in inside them. Without the colourful algae, the coral flesh becomes transparent, revealing the stark white skeleton beneath.


This is merely the inevitable outcome of what we've known has been coming for a while, even if many haven't wanted to acknowledge that the corals were effectively already dead. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/14/opinion/a-world-without-co...


Is improving water quality the decided-upon method for preventing (or even reversing) bleaching of coral reefs?

It seems like that ship has sailed, and now more technological advances are required.

Speaking from zero expertise or experience in marine biology, is it not possible to manufacture massive quantities of synthetic coral that somehow corrects for the changing water quality to enable coral life to flourish?


The problem seems to be the water temperature. It's not easy to fix.


Again speaking from zero expertise, would it be possible to genetically engineer coral lifeforms to adapt to higher temperatures?


Maybe, but it's part of an ecoSYSTEM, so do other reef dwellers all need to be modified? How does that affect migration and comptetion? Etc


What can we do? Serious question.


Preserve what we can in aquariums around the world so that we'll have reef seed species available as areas become more habitable again.

Identify areas that are become more hospitable, and work on establishing reefs there.

Expand artificial reef building, to help make up for lost area.

Cut carbon emissions, and work on finding ways to sequester what has already been released.

No one thing will be the fix, but they all have a role to play.


> Preserve what we can in aquariums around the world so that we'll have reef seed species available as areas become more habitable again.

Can the worlds aquariums store a fraction of the biodiversity of the reef?

> Expand artificial reef building, to help make up for lost area.

It would take a massive engineering effort to make a dent in the area the Reef covers.


1. Yes. Collection of reef material for transplantation into a controlled habitat involves moving living corals and substrate. Much of what lives in a reef comes along for the ride. Not everything. But (thankfully) more than you might think.

2. You don't need to replicate the entire area. You only need to make refugia. There is a lot of ocean shelf that is relatively barren, but could support a thriving reef, if only there was structure to build on. It's a subject that is being actively worked on. http://www.reefdesignlab.com/about/ for one example.

It doesn't have to be money spent just for reef creation, either. Changing how we construct jetties, piers, and other near-shore structures to be more welcoming to reef life would make a genuine impact.

You've got to keep in mind that we're not 'fixing' the problem, here. We're punting, and trying to keep the ball in play as long as possible while we work out the truly long-term solutions our carbon problem presents.


Immediately halt all carbon emissions in the world, that might be enough to save it. Reality is the time to act was 20 years (or more) ago.


Even if we magically stopped all emissions today it would not be enough. The time to act was probably 50 years ago.

1) Climatic feedback systems such as arctic ice melting, or permafrost methane have already been triggered. This means their effect will continue for centuries if not millenia.

2) Climate lag. There are a few decades between emissions and consequences in the climate. 40 years on averge from what I've read. This means we are now only seeing the effects from the 70s emissions, and we have emitted more CO2 in the past decades than in the previous 150 years before that.

3) Cooling from sulfate aerosols produced by industrial activity. It's unclear how much these are cooling the atmosphere but even a small number such 0.2ºC would be considerable.

Our only chance are very strong negative emissions.


As long as at least some coral survive it's not time to give up. If we can halt carbon emissions and turn our industrial complex towards proper sustainability the earth will probably heal. Perhaps it will take a thousand years for it to recover but as long as we reach sustainability that doesn't really matter.


It could probably heal, it might even do so if we burned every fossil fuel on earth, but the incredibly amount of biodiversity in the reefs would be gone and that will never come back.


I think you mean "won't come back in 100s (1000s? 10000s?)" of years. We don't have the technology to actually eliminate life on earth.


Never is a long time. I see what you mean but there isn't much point in being defeatist?


There's a guy in Florida who is growing the florida coral reef at a much higher rate than usual.



Yep!


If I remember correctly, human CO2 emissions has been flat for the past couple of years.

The reason CO2 is going up, at an increasing rate, is largely because the biosphere's ability to absorb CO2 is diminished.

I believe the grim truth is this: the world's transformation would continue for a long time even if humans stopped producing CO2 tomorrow.

Preparations for the inevitable should be our focus.


I suspect not much, as far as climate change goes.

We can do a LOT better in terms of pollution.


A better question would be: why should we care? I really don't see much value in spending a lot of effort and money into protecting a coral reef.


Are you asking for evidence of environmental utility provided by reef systems? There are plenty and my sister post already mentioned some of them.

But the metric of "does putting in all this money and effort to fix the problem we created give us something back in return?" is absolutely poisonous. It's that selfish "is preserving this environmental habitat that has been around for millions of years worth my time or money?" that allowed us to dig this grave in the first place.


> that allowed us to dig this grave in the first place.

What grave? Things are better than ever!


I'm speaking of environmental impact. Sure, things may be looking good if you look at base crime statistics, hunger statistics, and war statistics. But certainly not if you look at the bigger picture. Way too many unknowns at this point in terms of consequences for unchecked industrialism for us to simply say, "Yep, things are good here."

But I'll bite. What metric are you using to say things are better than ever?


We are healthier than ever, living longer than ever. More of our babies are surviving for longer, even in the poorest places on Earth.

We are using more renewable energy, less coal. Every year we add more solar/wind capacity than the past decade (just a guess). Soon, driverless electric cars will transport people autonomously, without creating any pollution, and road accidents will dwindle down to ~0.

More people have access to clean water, modern medicine, and we have treatments/preventions for the deadliest of diseases.

I mean, what's not to love?


You're focusing on positive aspects of the modern areas of the modern world. Not all of the world is so peachy keen.

Yes, we live with countless blessings. But this is in spite of continued industrial negligence and increasing international economic pressure.

In spite of the fact that our wages increasingly do not match our economic contributions, while the costs of living continues to rise just about everywhere in modern countries. In spite of increasingly militarized police states engaging in targeted socioeconomic suppression across the globe.

In spite of many, many things.

I want to have optimism for the future, too. But I'm not going to ignore the multitudes of problems we face today, and will face tomorrow.


Coral reefs are like the rainforests of the sea: they hold an immense amount of biodiversity and life. They are also a carbon sink:

>Coral reefs play a critical role in the carbon cycle of our planet, by taking calcium ions and dissolved carbon dioxide from the water and turning it into calcium carbonate forming their hard skeleton. http://www.reefrecovery.org/coral-reefs/


Because we, humans, are destroying planet we live on. You not seeing why we should even care makes me sad.


We're not destroying, just changing. According to our needs, which are paramount, IMO.


So ... when do we shoot some rockets high up and spray something reflecting sunlight, changing earths albedo? Plan B?


Pauline Hanson & Malcolm Roberts will pose in front of the coral display at the Townsville Aquarium and tell us it's all a beat-up.



x


I really wonder if the 'job creation' that goes with the mining and dredging they want to do to the dying reef will counterbalance the estimated 100,000 jobs in the tourism industry that are predicted to disappear once the reef is completely dead and no one wants to visit any more.

Then again, I guess it is not really about the jobs per se, but rather the $$$ kickback in royalties and 'spotters fees' that are paid into political campaign funds for passing the wrong bills through parliament.


A good example of Poe's Law?


Yeah, good riddance!


x


>I really hate the environment. It doesn't really exist

If only they could tow the reef outside of the environment... (Hat tip to John Clarke - RIP)


For those who haven't seen it, cyberferret is referring to this interview with an Australian government official about an environmental disaster:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcU4t6zRAKg

Edit: Spoiler alert below... ;-)


John Clarke is a satirist, who played the role of whichever government official was topical at the time for decades. Not an actual government official.


John Clarke was a satirist :-(


Would you please not post inflammatory political rhetoric to HN? We're trying for thoughtful discussion here. Obviously it's hard to have thoughtful discussion about urgent issues, but comments like what you're posting only make things worse.


Hahaha thank you for this satire. Haven't laughed this hard

Somebody apparently enjoyed the posting. The rest of us shall never know why, for it is gone now.


X


Your comments were obviously sarcastic, but that doesn't make them ok. It's the venting indignation part that doesn't help. HN is something of an ecosystem in its own right; there's no need to damage one in defence of another. Nothing good comes of it.


Sometimes satire and sarcasm are the best way to draw attention to the absurdity of a given position.


The point isn't that sarcasm is always bad, but that it doesn't make an otherwise bad comment good.

And there is a glut of sarcasm on the internet already, so one can afford to be a bit fussy about quality.


Hahaha thank you for this satire. Haven't laughed this hard


I've been hearing the reef is at death's door for 30 years. When I go, it looks amazing. Still. Maybe this scare campaign is different to all the other ones. Maybe this time as they cry wolf there really is a wolf. Maybe... If so it's a perfect example of the environmental movement destroying their own credibility so that not many in Australia, among those who love the reef, care what they're saying this week. People need to call bullshit on bullshit whether that bullshit is in the service of great justice or not. It's still bullshit and it still trashes credibility. Outrage fatigue is far worse when you know you've been had.


Wow nice anecdotal evidence. You sure just changed my mind! I knew those environmental scientists were full of shit with their rigid studies and methodological collection of samples. There's no way they could have studied the coral reef as thoroughly as you have. Any other rapidly accelerating environmental destruction I should pretend doesn't exist while I'm at it?


I think you missed the point there. This may well be true, and I noted that. I sure believed when I was a teenager that the reef would be gone by 2000, which was what I was reading in the guardian weekely on airmail paper back when that was the thing.

Why don't people care that something as amazing, beautiful, and awesome as the reef is under serious threat? Because we're all aresholes who love Trump/Tony/Maggie, obviously or just sheeple. There is no problem at all with alarmist catastrophism in the conservation movement and obviously no problem with alienating anyone who isn't wildly socialist. Pretend it's not an issue by all means but it won't be terribly helpful to achieve, you know, actual conservation.


Parents will often tell their kids they need to leave at a certain time because they expect their kids will not accurately gauge their limited time and will not meet the ultimatum.

I'm not saying this is the sole reason we get non-conservative estimates of environmental impact over a period of time, but it definitely applies. Most of us, due to various factors both in and out of our control, are too self-centered to understand that just because something will not disappear in our lifetime doesn't mean it isn't their immediate responsibility. It's best to assume the earth will shake and sky will split tomorrow and act accordingly. Sure, this alarmist approach can lead to burnout with a large, ignorant portion of the population but we can supplement this with proper education instead of trying to find a single golden bullet.

On top of that, we can only be so accurate when speaking about time-spans of climate-related events we have never had a chance to study as thoroughly as today. But the overwhelming majority of scientists who have found themselves studying the climate feel a great sense of urgency about making changes while we can. They know more than anyone how out of our control this will soon be and how it affects our interconnected ecosystems. So there is a tendency to lean on conclusions that make waves and turn heads.

And it's not just reefs. For example, the alarmist prophecies of our fuel supplies drying up within a matter of decades has probably contributed very positively to extreme efforts by international parties to greenify our energy production and transportation systems. I doubt people would be trying as hard to make the switch right now if we still had half a millennium of reserves left. It's kind of like how many of us tend to procrastinate on our own work and increasingly put in more effort as the deadline approaches.


Sure. You acknowledge the credibility problem that exists and justify it as great lies in service of great justice.

I don't make that justification. I believe that misinformation, propaganda and lies undermine the efficient allocation of resources to most effectively deal with the problems at hand (of which on this planet there are many, starting with 700m people without adequate access to clean drinking water). Whether such lies are told by oil companies, communists, facists, environmentalists, people calling themselves scientists bug engaging in politics or by some drunk, whether well-meaning or nefarious. Lies lead muddying of the decision making waters and to sub-optimal outcomes in the short term about specific decisions and then in the longer term, they destroy the process of the attempt at honest allocation leading to ridiculous populism of obvious lies and liars. Such people are provided with more ammunition than they need and can rightly claim themselves to be liars of the same kind. We've seen it before, we're seeing some more of it again and it may get worse before it gets better. It sure won't help the reef. "We're facing disaster but we can lie our way out of it?" Not much of a rallying cry. "Our lies are better than theirs!" Again...

This one continues to resonate with me, if you haven't read it I highly recommend you do and work out what you disagree with and why. http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm


It's been a long time since I've read that. Thank you.

I do not think these are lies. Most of these scientific articles we read are highly sensationalized. The problem lies within the state of journalism. That isn't to say there aren't scientists who skew results to get more grant money, but that isn't really the case here. If you want a more accurate depiction of how the scientific community feels, stick to reading papers and not popular science news articles.

That being said... 2/3 of the country's reefs being bleached is not something you would consider a disaster?

You're conflating budgetary issues here. We can try to save the coral reef AND allot more money towards humanitarian efforts. That's the point of this article. They are forsaking their politicians for not making the right choices with their tax money. They are seeking international help. They aren't asking Doctors Without Borders to make a donation or bugging local food banks for money. They would probably rather the money come back from whatever scandalous Australian political/financial scams are going on. I don't know much about the state of affairs of the Australian government but don't you think this pretty much captures the issue?


There is /always/ an opportunity cost of any resource allocation. Assessing these and making the necessary tradeoffs so that they can be efficiently allocated is the whole ballgame. Muddying that up to influence it is one approach. It's the one I disagree with totally.

2/3 of the reef bleached is a disaster? I don't know. I don't even know what that means anymore? It sounds like it? Is it supposed to sound like it? Is it manipulative because I (and most australians) really do like the reef. Is it accurate science this time when in the past it has been propaganda?

I have no idea. If it's the latter wolf has been cried too often and I'm reacting to it as if it's yet another piece of manipulation. This is not a good state of affairs for those in the environmental movement pointing at it and the response "Should I believe this more than I believe what Trump says?" The credibility should so wildly different as to be incomparable, but it isn't.


Sometimes in our attempts to remain uninfluenced by others, we delude ourselves instead. Losing the coral reef is absolutely an ecological disaster because we have humans took it upon ourselves to pollute this planet at unsustainable levels and it is our responsibility to mitigate the damage we have caused.




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