No one is quite sure whats going on, but apparently due to climate change, or at least warmer ocean water from further South that we've had for the last 5 or more years, has caused the kelp to die off at a rapid rate, to the point of denuding whole sections of ocean bottom.
The whole sea urchin industry has been devastated, and those folks received Federal Disaster funds last year to make it through this year, but things are still bleak.
It's as big a catastrophe as the Australian coral die off, yet it's not getting much press here in the USA.
"Compared to red urchins ... [purple urchins are] smaller, less meaty and not worth fishing for. And they're voracious eaters of kelp."
I realize there are plenty of ethical issues surrounding an attempt at genetically modifying an entire species. Perhaps doing so would be irresponsible? It’s not my area of expertise.
Funding especially is an addressable issue; Patagonia, for example, donates to kelp restoration activities in SoCal and would presumably donate to similar efforts in NorCal if asked.
Say we push too far and endanger our species - we're doomed, but the planet will recover just fine. It has plenty times before over billions of years.
I went deep sea fishing in Florida a few months back. It took forever to get to a place where there were actual fish. I asked the captain why, basically, he knows where there are large shipping container wrecks and that is where all the sea life is.
Thing is, building coral and sea life is super simple [same with killing it]. You literally can just lay down wire grids and get things moving .
That is just simply not true. While it might be helpful to lay down structures for sea life, ocean acidification , algal blooms , and climate change are all contributing to mass death of sea life, and fast enough where we will see many species go extinct in our lifetime (bluefin tuna will be there soon ).
Even related to your own fishing story, check out the fish sizes and diversity in the 1950s compared to now. 
Edit: A couple of extra spaces removed
No. First you need an unpolluted area of ocean with the right conditions. And even then, thinking like yours can create more problems than it solves. Just look how the Osborne artificial reef actually led to an environmental disaster and massive cleanup effort.
> The tires, which were dumped before recycling was possible, will be trucked across the state to Florida’s west coast and burned for energy at a Wheelebrator Technologies renewable waste plant near Tampa, owned by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners.
We could recycle the tires, but fuck it, let’s burn them instead so this is an unmitigated disaster.
Also, "recycling " tires isn't necessarily green because it takes enormous amounts of energy to shred them. While burning them releases energy.
Objectively, tires that have been underwater for decades probably are not a great raw ingredient for making bouncy surfaces for playgrounds or quiet asphalt.
But incinerating them even with emissions controls really only recovers a little bit of the embodied energy, and still makes me feel all table-flippy.
I'm still trying to figure out what they mean by that. The plant is generating renewable waste? Or it's fed by a 'renewable' source of waste? I don't think tires are a renewable resource.
It only takes a few degrees of temperature more and it seems that the young spores can't settle anymore. Brown algae have evolved to stand cold waters.
To exploit wild seaweed as a resource to feed millions of cows would create a plethora of new problems. Nobody would agree to abonate their meadow or orchard with a product with a high content of salt for example.
The episode even talked about how the increase acidification is really good for growing kelp.
Not really. Kelp grows at 3+ inches a day. Coral <1 inch per year.
Also, the rest of the trophic web that the kelp forms the basis for is hosed. Since they are one of the most productive ecosystems, it's kind of a big deal.
Kelp die-off is a problem, but it's a temporary and addressable problem.
Look... statements like that, don't help any serious arguments for climate change.
To practical-skeptics, you might as well have written "IDK BUT WE BETTER FAVOR SOME COMPANIES WITH TAXES TO BE SAFE" which is a real annoyance of mine.
Esp considering other commenters pretty much ruled out your assumption.
The failure of climate-control laws to get passed should send a clear signal that debate is actually the only place where "climate change is happening" can win.
The sad truth of climate change is that debate is beside the point, it’s pure power dynamics. Massively rich and powerful entrenched interests simply don’t care about debate or consensus, they just want to keep profiting until the bitter end. They’re not really related to the keyboard warriors online who for ideological or psychological reasons want to endlesssly “debate” the issue.
Is that a skeptics' thing? The answer is, water vapour is yet another positive feedback.
Twenty years ago, maybe. Today it’s like your racist uncle who always wants a “reasonable discussion about immigration” that would make a National Front member blush. You can’t blame the rest of us for figuring out the game and refusing to play.
But actually, California Fish and Wildlife DO know what’s going on:
“Environmental stressors included impacts from a toxic algae bloom off the Sonoma coast in 2011, a widespread sea star disease in 2013 that was followed by an explosion in the sea urchin population, and the warm water conditions that have persisted offshore since 2014. In 2014 and 2015, coastal water temperatures along the West Coast rocketed upwards due to a combination of oceanographic features: the “Warm Blob” in 2014, combined with a strong El Niño that began in 2015.”
Climate change seems like a religion. “We don’t know why x is happening, so we’ll just say it’s God’s will.” That’s about the most anti-science attitude possible and it’s being embraced by people who purport to care about science. But, in the case of California kelp, we actually do know what is happening and it has nothing to do with long term climatic events — the warm water was due to cyclical ocean activity: La Niña and that combined with a sea star disease and toxic algae caused this problem. And notice, the problem didn’t exist in 2010. So global warming for hundreds of years, but it had little impact on kelp until just magically in 2015 — that was the tipping point for kelp? This is the sort of nonsense that makes me detest the global warming crowd. Clearly global warming isn’t the cause of the California kelp issue, yet, predictably, that issue gets added into the propaganda machine.
Let’s say climate change isn’t the cause of Absolutely Every Natural Phenomenon.. but there are those that would make policy as if it were. A half degree rise in temperature — assuming that is actually true, isn’t going to cause a massive kelp die-off, considering Pacific ocean temperatures fluctuate by far more dramatic amounts routinely due to El Niño/La Niña. The ocean is far more resilient. Pollution is a far more dire danger. Chemical runoff, trash dumping — far more toxic to the ocean than anything else.
But, it easier just to spout “climate change” and the “woke” folks will just nod knowingly, actual causation or proof be damned. And we just continue along the socially acceptable path of blaming capitalism for all the world’s problems without actually doing much to solve anything.
> … due to climate change, or at least warmer ocean water from further South that we've had for the last 5 or more years, has caused the kelp to die off at a rapid rate
Do you know what's normal? Abnormal weather. Exceptional circumstances happen all the time, weather conditions do not follow a bell curve.
I am not at all denying climate change, but you can never point to an event and shout about it. It's a long term statistical trend, not a few coincidental events. It's one variable out of many that cause every weather event.
Warmer water is absolutely not related to climate change when you're talking about small scale short term events.
I think you got your "not" in the wrong place. No, climate change isn't the only thing, however it can be, along with human caused acidification / pollution.
The fact is this systems are so complex and so integrated that we do not know "absolutely", but we have a good idea.
But hey, if it isn't absolute, lets carry on destroying our planet, we have a backup plan after all... oh wait
It’s neither informative nor helpful to dismiss such individual articles as being non-indicators of global warming because they don’t cover all the other evidence at the same time.
Some of them, like a coin landing perfectly sideways will just go on Youtube. Some of them will end up in the news.
I'm not saying "hey this is definitely due to climate change", but ridiculing the suggestion that an event apparently linked to increased ocean temperatures might have something to do with climate change seems a little off.
You say "...it's not climate change, it's [X,Y and Z]."
But you list things that are perfectly consistent w/ dire warnings from consensus scientific community that global warming is _definitely_ real and _probably_ anthropogenic (tho this latter is less important).
"things have been getting warmer for a long time so it's ridiculous that there was a tipping point in 2015".
And you detest people who don't follow this "logic".
Next we have a half-baked strawman arg about blaming capitalism...
You're right that pollution is a massive problem, but while true it's also (nearly) irrelevant to the question of ocean temp.
I strive to avoid feeding trolls, but posts like this that only look substantial on the surface are even more corrosive and imho worth calling out.
But they've already had luck growing red algae off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Molokai. I've been to Molokai and although there's a lot of farmland there it's laying idle. Most of the land was used previously by Dole I believe to raise pineapple's.
I was scheming with some fellow agronomists at the time what we could grow profitably. Most of the former workers commute presently to Maui and work in the hotels. It would be hilarious to me if the entire farming industry ended up taking place off the coast.
My understanding is that around half of the world's greenhouse gas comes from livestock. Would it mean that this could cut our emissions by half? Would it be therefore much more cost efficient to have the government invest is growing and distributing red algae than whatever we're currently spending money on? Do we have a sense of how much it would cost to produce that much seaweed?
That's not right. The highest number I've been able to find for the whole of agriculture is 24% of world greenhouse gas emissions.
About 25% of that is methane from livestock (http://old.grida.no/graphicslib/detail/greenhouse-gas-emissi...)
So livestock is about 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
So, even if methane takes a big share in current greenhouse emissions, its share in the accumulated greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be lower.
The climate change it causes is temporary. (Disregarding runaway effects.)
Also, it decays into CO2, so to claim that its effects are temporary is misleading. On top of that, as long as the carbon is in a CH4 bond, it traps at least 20× as much radiation. Please don't dismiss the significance of methane emissions.
Honestly dude, rise above the cynicism (if that's how you meant to come across). You're a goddamn adult, and a well-educated engineer at that. Your current standard of living is at risk because of climate change (also millions of lives in poorer countries, but whatever). Spend 10 seconds on a Google search. "Activists" don't owe you any answers.
Never forget, despite what the sensationalists will tell you, climate change is very much fixable. Clean energy and better land management can and will get us there – and eventually, maybe in 200 years, we'll sequester enough carbon to get back to 350ppm. The question is about what happens in the meantime: if we act fast, we'll only get decades of food insecurity, war, and displacement, mostly in poorer countries . If we delay further, we'll simply see much worse, and at home as well. But the "point of no return" rhetoric is nonsense and does nothing but paralyze people.
By the way, one of the easiest and fastest ways to catalyze at-scale solutions would be a revenue-neutral carbon tax at the source, effectively internalizing the social costs of climate change and letting the free market do its thing. (Look up "fee and dividend"; lots of folks are working on this already.)
 unless we hit some really unlucky runaway feedback loop, which is possible.
 plus the disease epidemics and terrorism that come along with it – we don't live on an island.
I'm fully on-board with planetary engineering projects. Those require engineering work and capital more than activism, though.
Do you want to make a prediction on the accuracy of whatever climate model you like (we can use the one you linked if you prefer) for what the temperature increase will be in 2 years, 7 years, and 12 years? We can record it at https://predictionbook.com/
The political 2 degree goal is damage control. Climate models are complex and impacts harder to predict the more you divert from the current situation.
At 2 degrees the costs to society (social costs of carbon) far outweigh the mitigation costs.
To hit the 2 degree target we have to act swiftly "we don't have decades to fix this" we are not (yet) at a "point of no return"
As green house gases are currently an externality, there will be no capital without activism.
I am too young to look back decades, but my understanding was that the "we don't have decades to fix this" guys in the 80s and 90s were more about running out of oil(and that turned out to be no problem as rising prices make more expensive extraction feasible) and that climate change as a concern only really started in the 90s (even though known long before that). And there are already damages that could have been prevented by acting swiftly in the 90s. We could have reached e.g. a 1.5 degree target. So the "we don't have decades to fix this" rethoric is fitting as ever.
If that carbon was already in the biosphere that’s mostly, fine long term. I worry a lot more about the carbon we keep adding to it, that wasn’t in the equation.
When you see the gas flares in hydrocarbon production fields it may look like a waste (it is), but it has to be done because the alternative of releasing methane into the atmosphere is worse.
Wikipedia puts (with some question about the citation) methan at 4-9% of total greenhouse effect contribution, and CO2 at 9-26%. (And then water vapor way above that, at 36-72%.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Greenhouse_gase...
Short of an apocalyptic event, you could spend 100% of your spare time and energy trying to get people to stop eating meat and you'd be lucky to get a dozen lasting conversions. It's simply not an effective use of resources to make that your main/only focus.
How is it possible to product carbon capture, if all the grass is being consumed by cattle who then either exhale it or get eaten by humans who exhale it?
Animal Charity Evaluators found that for every $11 spent in online ads, you could make one person go to a website, sign up with their email, and pledge to go vegetarian for a year. The average vegetarian  produces 1.5 metric tons less CO2eq per year, so this means that the online ads decrease carbon at a cost of $7.40 per ton. That's cheaper than buying typical carbon offset certificates ($10-$15 per ton).
Maybe it's too optimistic to assume that everyone who makes a pledge on the website actually stays vegetarian for a year, or that they were average-level meat consumers before. Still, animal farming is bad enough that reducing it is probably cost-competitive with other current CO2 reduction approaches.
 I'm not sure if their use of "vegetarian" means "completely vegan".
It's the online equivalent to honking your horn for the protesters holding up signs next to the road. Easily done; easily forgotten.
Wouldn't you need to look at the difference in CO2eq between an average non-vegetarian and vegetarian?
Yes. According to the numbers of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this would be about a 6.4% reduction in total green house gas emissions. See below for the numbers
> Total emissions from global livestock: 7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing __14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions__. This figure is in line FAO’s previous assessment, Livestock’s Long Shadow, published in 2006, although it is based on a much more detailed analysis and improved data sets. The two figures cannot be accurately compared, as reference periods and sources differ.
> About __44 percent of livestock emissions are in the form of methane__ (CH4). The remaining part is almost equally shared between Nitrous Dioxide (N2O, 29 percent) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2, 27 percent).
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Normally 2 years wouldn't be much time to go from a research paper to production. But this appears to be a simple solution to an urgent problem so it's hard to be patient.
Wouldn't you agree that markets don't deal effectively with many or most commercial endeavors' unwanted side effects (negative externalities), and so authorities often need to step in when market failure causes damage?
In this case, if the science is real, a global treaty would seem in order to simply mandate the effective use of seaweed in cow feed.
I hope all governments move on things like this, but ultimately, international agencies like the WTO should be, excuse me..., beefed up to deal with these kinds of issues that affect the entire planet and all of its inhabitants.
the incentive is trivially simple. free seaweed. im assuming there is fiber, and at least some nutrients in seaweed, but no farmer is going to turn down free food. to me it seems like it would be very similar to alfalfa/hay.
not sure what that would cost, or if that much can be produced however. also, dairy farmers at least care very much about the ratios of various feedstocks, so the assumption about nutrition is important.
More broadly, how does cap and trade/carbon tax measure the footprint of a business in the first place? I've found no material on the subject but my guess is that they do it based on the power plant/fuel you're using & how much energy your using. Not sure how they measure gases as a byproduct of industrial processes but maybe that's minuscule?
To be honest, I'm not sure how the emissions measuring is done, but I think it's handled on the supply-side for fuel and electricity in existing implementations. Suppliers just pass on the cost of taxes. For direct agricultural emissions from cattle, you could probably use an estimate based on the average emissions per cow, and provide a deduction based on feed. Maybe with an exemption for small farms.
Satellites, sensors on Google street view cars, etc.
You can charge more for it? Many consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally-friendlier options now.
As you say, the effect would be small, but why would that stop anyone from doing it?
Here, I'll give it a try: "Think outside the butt."
But how about if governments provide subsidised feed centrally, instead, with the algae added?
Although, of course, it might be! That's why the only way forward is to test it empirically.
Why would legislators make regulations that just save the planet but don't make them rich? /s
Of course, it would be much simpler to just stop the nonsensical subsidies of environmentally and ethically disastrous ag products like beef...
Where on earth do people get these beliefs?
~$200B/yr in subsidies in USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_farm_bill
$990B/yr food GDP in USA: https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/ag-and-food-statistic...
On top of the EU sibsidies there are direct national subsisidies and a wide spectrum of indirect national and EU level subsidies like export, pension, environmental, protectionist import duties, etc. And yes, beef production gets a similar share of subsidies as other types of farming.
I can't find good europe wide stats. I may have overgeneralized and the average may be under 50%. But the subsidies are still very high.
There is at least one company approaching it from that angle. [http://www.omega3beef.com/]
There is a distinct thermodynamic incentive to reduce methane, because the methanogenic bacteria are "eating" the energy that the cow would otherwise absorb.
This translates directly into a financial incentive, because the cows require less feed.
>Methane is a by-product of the microbial fermentation of carbohydrates in the diets of ruminant animals. Because cattle can lose about 6% of their dietary intake energy as CH4, substantial research to estimate this production and to reduce CH4 emissions has been completed (Johnson and Johnson, 1995).
> Kinley and De Nys tested 20 different species of seaweed on bacteria found in the stomachs of cows. They discovered seaweed reduced methane production by up to 50 percent, depending on the amount administered. But methane reduction at notable levels required high doses of seaweed, almost 20 percent by weight of the sample. This large percentage of seaweed would be difficult to implement outside of the lab and would likely have a negative effect on cow’s digestion.
> When the researchers tested a species of red algae called Asparagopsis taxiformis that grows off the coast of Queensland, Australia, they found it reduced methane production by more than 99 percent in the lab. In addition, it only required a dose of less than 2 percent to work effectively.
Much better explanation and a lot more details: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK417/
Yeah, sure, _until you don't_. Bear in mind that it's essentially an invasive weed if you have a backyard garden. Be careful if you attempt to grow it at home, it might take over.
Feeding cattle grass will reduce the methane just as much as seaweed, I bet. The problem is that the majority of cows are fed a diet of corn, which is cheap relative to grass, which does not appeal to their digestive system so therefore we get a lot of methane out of the whole process. What I see here is somebody trying to sell seaweed as an additive. But the reality is that if you fed cows the proper feed, grass, then we wouldn't have the big problem with methane.
Update, seems like grass is a bigger methane producer when digested by cows. The problem is the pollution created to produce and transport the corn. I was going by old info.
Here's a link.
From the article, it only takes a few percent of seaweed in the cow diet to reduce methane. I'd guess the same doesn't hold for grass. Cows that get to go into a pasture probably get a few percent of grass.
I showed this article to her last year when it popped up, and she said "show me a large sample size and replicate it stateside and then I'll start caring."
harsh, but I think that's where we are with this kind of thing.
In the lab? On "bacteria found in the stomach of cows"?
That's a long way off from what the title suggests; this research is definitely still valuable, but I think we do scientific reporting a disservice when we make much bolder claims than the actual science bears out.
Lab studies != actual cows eating stuff
The 2014 study mentioned is from my region the Atlantic Veterinary College. There was a large Irish Moss industry here years ago but most of it has switched to Asian markets with cheaper labour and tropical climate.
Although there may soon be a glut of seaweed and any cattle farmers may be in luck. It seems carrageenan is the flavour of the month toxin everyone is now trying to avoid (of course it's harmless).
says carageenan is harmful.
Unless you're celiac. It is close enough to gluten that many celiacs have the same reaction to carrageenan as gluten. The real flavor of the month is gluten-free and it's getting swept up in that.
The EPA is being systematically dismantled and the official line of the government (or at least, those in charge of the government) is that climate change is not man made. If it is just a natural process, how could our food systems have any impact on it?
I can't imagine how this wouldn't add at least some costs to feed prices, and my guess is farmers are operating on razor thin margins already. Without some government regulations that put a price on greenhouse gasses why would anyone implement this except on boutique scales?
Don't expect anything to work as well as individuals changing their minds about what is important and acting on it.
You can get antibiotic free meat from whole foods etc, but what do you think is consumed at higher quantities?
If its purely up to buyers choice, it will not happen unless there is a cost associated with carbon output.
If you observe that people don't often pay for "antibiotic free" meat it's likely because they don't see it as a worthwhile value proposition.
If you say that buyers won't choose to pay for global-warming-safe beef, while watching them choose to pay for chemical-pesticide-free beef then that is just another way of saying that no one cares about global warming, and I don't think that is the case.
Im curious however if anyone here knows if the gas is switched from methane to something else or it just isn't produced in the first place and exits the animal as solids and liquids?
Like humans (86%!), I suspect most carbon that passes through a cow is exhaled as carbon dioxide.
That would mean that the cow gets higher nutritional value and can needs less food.
Does feeding the seaweed reduce the need for using antibiotics required when feeding corn to cattle? That would be a real win.
In a feed lot, cattle are fed a diet that practically requires antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to slaughter.
Previously on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12998395
Which is an animal carcinogen according to Wikipedia:
Bromoform is the main trihalomethane produced in beachfront salt water swimming pools with concentrations as high as 1.2 ppm (parts per million). Concentrations in freshwater pools are 1000 times lower. Occupational skin exposure limits are set at 0.5 ppm.
i wonder if any of the bromine winds up in the cow's milk or meat
edit, from Wikipedia: "The substance may be hazardous to the environment, and special attention should be given to aquatic organisms. Its volatility and environmental persistence makes bromoform's release, either as liquid or vapor, strongly inadvisable. ... Bromoform is a confirmed animal carcinogen"
Although I presume the bromoform binds to the enzymes and/or otherwise reacts in the stomach, as usual there are pros and cons associated with this sort of thing
Why is it that, as a rule of thumb, people that make money make it in real estate?
Why is it that all the pictures of the sun are orange but the sun is not orange?
Why exactly, is it that people prefer gas ranges to electric ranges?
Why is it that horoscopes are demonstrably false but thermodynamics is demonstrably true?
Why is it that heat rises but it's cold in the mountains?
I have the answers but you have only the questions.
Another question to ponder: would seaweed farming at such scale have negative consequences?
there are several different microbiobial paths from cellulose to methane with stages including acetic acid, acetone and hydrogen. depending on the conditions in the cow some of these paths are prefered or not.
I do not know whether not producing methane is bad for the cow in the long run. I guess it is not, given that the farmer mentioned in the aeticel has been feeding them the algae for a longer period of time.
Granted, a gas port should be smaller than one large enough to stick your hand through, and pull stomach contents out of, but even so, an entire herd of ported cows would not be able to pay for the additional ranch hand work necessary to keep them alive. You need a port-cleaning and health-monitoring robot, at minimum.
You could always start your own backyard seaweed production business:
"Meet the new US entrepreneurs farming seaweed for food and fuel"
Some stereotypes are based on loud minorities, but others manifest due to the it being true on a statistically meaningful scale. I think it is safe to say on average Japanese have more seaweed in their diet. So if I met a random Japanese person and assume they eat seaweed, then I am stereotyping, but it is rational and informed stereotyping, nothing rude about it.
Yes, methane, especially from cows and livestock, is a contributor to global warming. Other sources of methane worthy of concern include oil and gas wells (apparently they leak a lot) and other quasi-natural sources like the breakdown of plant matter in forests (often because the forest is cleared).
Methane is far more potent than CO2 but also far shorter-lived. I would argue in many ways it's far less of a concern because it doesn't interact with plant and animal life to anywhere near the extent elevated CO2 levels do.
The cow methane problem is one that literally keeps me up at night. I kept thinking about my inevitable switch to chicken and missing out on a tenderloin.. and how my kids won't be able to eat like me.
> The findings, while expected, are quite sobering. Pork, chicken, dairy and eggs are equivalent within a factor of two when it came to their environmental burdens, the authors determined. But beef requires far, far more resources than any of those other protein categories. The team calculated that beef requires 28 times more land, six times more fertilizer and 11 times more water compared to those other food sources. That adds up to about five times more greenhouse gas emissions.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultured_meat for a lot of interesting ideas and references.
Today they are using fetal bovine serum as a growth medium, which is both expensive and it is a by-product from the dairy industry.
When a cow coming for slaughter is identified to be pregnant, the cow is slaughtered and bled, and the fetus is removed from the mother and brought into a blood collection facility. The fetus, which is kept alive alive during the following process to ensure blood quality, has a needle inserted into its beating heart. The blood is then drained until the fetus dies. The whole process takes about 5 minutes. The blood is then refined and filtered, and the resulting extract is fetal bovine serum.
Until we no longer extract fetuses, I can't see many animal advocacy groups being that positive about it.
Until we have a plant-based growth medium I won't eat any fake meat myself though.
Good luck with that!
Vegans then will "move the goalposts" and attack you for ethhical/morality reasons.