Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Climate change: Marine heatwaves kill coral instantly (bbc.com)
146 points by pseudolus 70 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

How much of a temperature fluctuation does a marine heatwave involve? I’d assume much smaller swings than in the air. Surprising it’s enough to kill off the coral.

edit: looks like a couple degrees C

You can look at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997%E2%80%9398_El_Ni%C3%B1o... for the extreme answer (spoiler: picked at 11 °C)

Are there any active attempts by any large organizations to reduce the temperature of the planet?

I know there is plenty of funding from government and industry into green technologies to reduce carbon emissions to eventually reduce the total carbon in the atmosphere, but is that enough to cool the earth before greater catastrophic events occur?

Citizens Climate Lobby is a bipartisan organization of regular people trying to get a carbon fee and dividend passed. And we have a bill in Congress right now! The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763). I believe it’s our best shot is the USA to lower CO2.

Check it out: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend/

What’s the support behind this atm? I’ve read about this for some time, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer, but I haven’t seen any politician speak about it yet.

I believe there's something like 59 sponsors of the bill in Congress. A complete list is here: https://energyinnovationact.org/

Encourage your representative to sponsor the bill! You can also encourage people and organizations to endorse the bill: https://energyinnovationact.org/endorse/

Best thing I can think of: mass mobilization to price the costs of externalities into end products. If something blasts tons of carbon into the atmosphere to make/ship it, it should be more expensive than something that doesn't.

Without this, the only way to fight climate change is a large-scale centralization of power in regulatory forces.

Agreed, but I'm not sure those are two separate things. How do you force someone to charge more for something? And, presumably, not keep the difference?

They are conceptually two separate things. You can eliminate externalities by making primary productive markets for-use instead of for-profit. Instead of forcing people to do this, you offer incentives (such as much lower cost of housing, much lower cost of running their business, etc) to use software that automates this for them, with the end result being that anybody can see all the inputs to production back to the raw materials themselves for each given product before purchasing it.

I have some great ideas on how to accomplish this all via voluntary participation. Obivously, it would take some time, though.

Not specifically to reduce the temperature but to reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, therefore reducing warming, therefore net reducing temperature, yes.

All the IPCC reports, in this case SR-1.5, have built in assumptions for Carbon Dioxide Removal ("CDR") tech, of which BECCS is the only one that's more than an entrepreneurs dream or a "science blog" post.

See here: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/02/SPM3...

Depending on the model BECCS is expected to capture 151 to 1191 Gigatons of co2 between ~2050 and 2100. Its the yellow section of the graph.

To put that in perspective, we have put about 550 Gt into the air from everything we've burnt since the steam engine was invented. Currently we put about 39Gt/year up.

Effectively, every time you hear someone say "scientists say we have X years left do cut emissions" they are really saying "after which we'll grow and burn and bury gigatons of biomass for 50 years".

We really have zero years left.

5 operating BECCS currently do 1.5 Mton/year per wiki. Single pilotish DAC in Squamish does 1 Mton/year.

Why do you disregard this tech?

I think its ridiculous on its face that "Plan A" is telling ourselves we'll grow, burn and bury gigatons of biomass in the back half of the century in order to excuse continuing to mine and drill for it now. Its junkie logic. It doesn't really need refuting because if you just look at it square you can't help but realize its absurd. Silly.

for these sort of numbers I generally look to the RealClimate dot org blog.. for example this:


The only way to reduce the temperature of Earth is to have thermal energy leave the Earth + atmosphere system (Q_out) at a faster rate than it enters the Earth + atmosphere system (Q_in). The first law of thermodynamics renders any scheme to reduce Earth's temperature without ejecting heat from the system as futile.

The only viable way to reduce the imbalance between Q_out and Q_in is to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (so photons are reflected back to Earth at a lower rate). This has to be done at national and international scales, and it will require massive, painful changes to powerful interests that invested in fossil fuels plants, meat production facilities, construction projects, etc, which will cause massive economic displacement.

The only CO2 consuming chemical reaction that could be scaled up to the level needed to decrease the atmospheric CO2 concentration is photosynthesis, which sequesters CO2 in the form of wood. We could plant billions of trees, but that requires massive tracts of land where the trees can grow for decades. Unfortunately, the rate of planting trees would have to exceed the rate that trees are being cut down, and under Brazil's new dictator, Captain Planet villains in Brazil alone are cutting down 1 football field of Amazon rainforest every minute.

Unfortunately, we're too late to stop climate change from disastrously harming our futures and life expectancies.

In other words (and I say this with great sadness and not a hint of flippancy), we're super boned.

Yeah. We (in the US) can't even start making the changes needed to save the planet until Trump is gone. Unfortunately, climate change is politically beneficial for Trump and the GOP as climate change is displacing millions of people in Central America, which can be used to frighten, polarize, and energize rural voters.

And even if we win the Presidency, the steps needed to fight climate change will be very painful for all of the people whose dirty jobs are eliminated. It will take a policy proposal like the Green New Deal, which accounts for that pain with corresponding social safety net programs and occupational retraining programs. But cleaning up this mess would require long term Democratic control, and that's unlikely given the expected pain.

Think of it this way: the best way to reduce the temperature of the planet, for now (and the near future), is to stop emitting CO2.

Very roughly speaking, we're looking at a pot on a gas stove rapidly heating up. Shutting down the gas valve is the easiest and most efficient way to stop it heating up. While the gas is still flowing, it's kind of pointless to ask "Yes, but is there any better way to cool the pot?"

Actually, from personal experience, it's taking the pot off the burner. But for the Earth, that'd be not so easy.

So yes, cutting CO2 emissions is probably the only workable approach.

And right now, we're still turning up the gas more and more.

It would roughly take 10 years to make why difference.


This organization’s plan to do carbon capture with olivine sounded impressive to me.

Peter J. Irvine's group has been doing substantial research into what they are calling 'solar geoengineering' or releasing sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to reduce global temperatures. His research has caught a lot of attention in the media recently.



I think there are some proposals based on geoengineering. A widely discussed one is the stratospheric aerosol injection [1]. The concern is that no one knows the unintended consequences of this approach.

Generally speaking, it's not possible to control the planet's temperature. All solutions are focused on either greenhouse gas emissions, or solar radiation management. [2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratospheric_aerosol_injectio...

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

I can't see organisations motivated by profit making much difference here. Also existing organisations focused solely on the issue have not made much difference thus far.

I think a better model is where the EPA becomes a branch of the military. They all seem to have unlimited funds for their various projects. They could be operating the direct air capture machines being developed by Bill Gates and friends, or protect the existing natural machinery. Alternatively if this proves to be insufficient they have other means at their disposal.

Lots of research https://arstechnica.com/tag/geoengineering/ but I don't know of any projects that are practically trying to directly cool the earth.

The realistic way?

I think something like this: https://thefreethoughtproject.com/harvard-geoengineering-par...

So, some kind of geoengineering

The biggest hurdle are the millions of people who believe climate change isn't real and therefore doesn't need to be addressed.

The bigger hurdle is the billions of people who believe climate change is real and refuse to do anything about it. Apathy is our collective undoing.

Any proposed approach to large-scale change that essentially says 'billions of people should just do x', regardless of the nature of x, is dead before it starts. That's not how change works. Contra the simpler-minded pop variants of libertarianism, humans just don't spontaneously decide on their patterns of life. Indeed that we don't is almost as good a definition of what it is to be human as any: we are acculturated beings to our core.

There are a bunch of ways large complex cultures have empirically (historically) been shown to change - via external shocks, leadership, social movements, technological innovation etc. Not one of them involve billions of people all spontaneously deciding to be exceptional (a mathematical impossibility!) and behaving counter-culturally as you might wish. If that's your only hope, we're done.

I don't think that's necessarily the hurdle. The people that believe climate change is real are more likely than not billionaires or wealthy individuals. Right now, there's a real divide between what people believe and the actions of their representatives because attempting to fix the climate isn't profitable. And capitalism is real bad at solving problems without a profit incentive. This combined with industries and individuals whose lives depend on climate change not being a threat means that it's just another class warfare battle.

Solving this problem requires new elected officials who believe climate change is an issue and then taking actions that'll likely outright destroy prior industries.

> The people that believe climate change is real are more likely than not billionaires or wealthy individuals.

I'm not understanding this point. It seems people at many different economic levels believe that climate change is real. It's not only the wealthy who believe...

That's easy to fix if we can just put a price on carbon, as proposed in HR 763 (mentioned further up in this thread).

I've never really understood why that's significant other than perhaps degree of motivation. Even for someone who doesn't believe in climate change or the man made aspect of it I'd have thought, say, cleaner air, cars with instant torque and cheaper energy would be broadly desirable.

They would be broadly desirable if there were no downsides to them.

A $2500 used Toyota Corolla beats a Model 3 on purchase price, insurance, 5 year TCO, and on "how far and flexibly can I road trip it?"

Dealing with climate change is going to cost a lot of money and require companies to change their behaviors. If they don't even believe there's a problem, then it will be harder to convince them to change.

>> cars with instant torque and cheaper energy <<

Certainly not cheaper or cleaner.

It's not, a lot of people are driven by spite and actively reject those things:



The biggest hurdle is the two largest nations on earth not caring about it

Which country are you referring to for #2? Canada? Or China?

Also think about this, it would be nice to hear “trillions of trees are being planted by UN countries” or something as such at the very least. To know at least something is being been done.

My hope big oil or coal has some answers on how to clean up the mess they made, it’s wishful thinking I know. It would be profitable though.

There's no profit in it. That's why it's not happening.

Do you actually think if resources companies possessed real technology for removing Co2 from the atmosphere it wouldn't be profitable right now?

They do and it isn't, because nobody will pay for it because there is no individual benefit. Or even an individual way to verify that it is happening.

The US Navy have some rather nice CO2-to-jetfuel technology. It just costs more than getting it from oil.

Of course. It's always going to be much more costly than not emitting it in the first place, and that isn't profitable.

Have there been any attempts to engineer coral that isn't as sensitive to increased temperatures?

It's not all doom and gloom. They are migrating to higher latitudes.

Yes, listen to the recent Ologies podcast episode on corals.

The first coral reef ecosystems formed more than 200 million years ago (CO2 level was 5-10x higher than today). Each particular coral reef can last up to 5,000 years, possibly longer. Since these biological ecosystems have persisted and evolved through enormous planet-wide changes, from snowball Earth to much hotter climates and even through mass-extinction events -- I'm not worried about their long-term survival, nor should you be.

250 million years ago, the Permian-Triassic extinction killed off 96% of marine species. The planet bounced back (eventually). Took between a couple million and a few tens of millions of years to recover.

The North Korea/South Korea demilitarized zone is a wildlife refuge. Native species have thrived in the area around the Chernobyl disaster after people peaced out. The Earth will soldier on.

We still have to deal with sea level rise, anthropogenic climate change, coral destruction, deforestation, because we have to deal with the effects. First-order effect of coral destruction is loss of habitat for fish, leading to collapse of marine species that use that habitat, leading to collapse of certain kinds of commercial fishing, leading to loss of livelihood and a food source for coastal communities.

And the first people to be hit hardest by the destruction of marine ecosystems will be the poorest people on earth who depend on fishing for survival. The HN community will be largely unaffected till many millions have died so it is easy for people to have views like the GP comment if they lack empathy for the less fortunate.

Now is not a time for flippant comments about the robustness of life and nature "in general". Now is a time for very radical and drastic action to prevent even worse outcomes than the terrors which humans who are alive now are already guaranteed to face.

And the best way to arm the poorest so they can deal with the consequences is to give them access to cheap reliable energy.

Since these ... ecosystems have persisted and evolved through enormous planet-wide changes ... I'm not worried

If the time scale of climate change matched the time scale of coral evolution, then your comforting thought might hold water. Unfortunately, our climate is changing faster than many evolutionary processes can keep up with.

Rates of change can matter. Just because you can safely walk down 30 flights of steps, doesn't mean you can safely jump off the roof of a 30-story building.

It isn't true that current rates of change are greater than natural fluctuations. During the Younger Dryas average global temperatures changed 2-6 C over a few decades and 1000 years later, changed back.

That's just the most recent and reliable example - we don't have the ability to measure such changes far into the past.

Unfortunately the incredible diversity of animals that live in that reef will not be so lucky.

In my opinion, there are only two things humans need to do:

1. get rid of the nuclear power fear 2. eat way less meat

Here you go, I solved it, now gimme a Nobel peace prize.

Ok I’ll bite:

1. Where do you store the waste? How do you calculate the risk of a nuclear accident and weight this against the negative impacts of climate change?

2. How do you achieve this on a global scale?

1. Look into thorium-based nuclear power. Also, I think each country should have its own nuclear waste facilities, not a single barrel of nuclear waste should leave the border. Nuclear power kills fewer people than solar per unit of electricity.

2. Tricky. Educate kids. But of course, I am not delusional about human nature.

Checkout this talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak

looked into thorium. that's at least 50 years in the future. there are so many engineering challenges involved to ensure failsafe operation (primary, secondary systems)

Way insufficient.

What's the recovery rate of corals that have experienced heat waves? I'd imagine that species which can withstand the heat are going to fill the empty spots?


As the climate and the Earth's ecosystems move into unprecedented states (including treating it like a tensor and including the rate of change) there is little reason for that degree of optimism.

ocean acidification is likely going to wipe them out regardless of temperature

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact