Saving the Great Barrier Reef: is it in our own self interest?

The GBT seen from space (source: NASA)

The GBR seen from space (source: NASA)

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the true wonders of the planet, however thanks to climate change and development it is as risk.

The United Nations has let the Australian Federal and Queensland State government know that they plan to list it as an endangered world heritage site:

The United Nations has put the Queensland and federal governments on notice that the Great Barrier Reef could be added to a list of endangered world heritage sites. 

In a draft decision released Friday night, expected to be adopted when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia next month, it will be recommended the Great Barrier Reef be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014 ‘‘in the absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment’’ from the state and federal governments to take action…

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters said it was worrying that Australia was on the brink of joining the ‘‘list of shame’’ as a country that could not manage its world heritage sites.

‘‘Australia would be the only developed country in the world to have a world heritage site on endangered list. It would be a huge international embarrassment and it would be a big blow to our tourism industry,’’ she said.

‘‘We’ve got 54,000 people who rely on a healthy reef and a thriving tourism industry and those jobs would be at risk if international tourists think, ‘Oh, the reef’s on the endangered list, gee it must be completely trashed, we won’t bother coming to visit’.‘‘It would be a massive blow to the tourism industry, which is about $5 billion a year in revenue and that’s revenue we could have for years to come – it’s not just a one-off mining boom.’’

I’ve only visited the reef once but count it as one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It is a place of extraordinary beauty. It also provides many Australians with a livelihood, supporting a $5 billion a year industry.

But is that only way we should we value the reef? Should we consider its own intrinsic value – and those of the myriad of species that live among it - or do we value it in purely economic terms and the aesthetic value it provides to us?

Do we simply sweep aside any concerns about environmental degradation and species loss and place the interests of humanity – and the economy – first?

Should we save the Great Barrier Reef?

The interests of humanity, other species and ecosystems  are not mutually exclusive: there is a relatedness between all species and environments. This includes not only natural environments, but urban ones as well.

Humanity is not separate to nature: our civilisation has become a geologic force of nature by ushering in the Anthropocene.  No part of the planet has escaped the impact of our footfall.

So, let us think of the planet as a continuum of environments: from the great cities of the world to the frozen wilds of Antarctica. At risk environments such as the GBR demand our attention because they are at risk: they are fragile, and the loss of the reef would impact both species and the people whose livelihood depend upon it.

Thus – put crudely – in protecting the GBR the interests of humanity, the reef and the many species it hosts converge.

In preserving the reef we save a place of extraordinary natural beauty, maintain a $5 billion a year industry and – just as importantly – help sustain an ecosystem that supports countless species.

The continuum of urban, natural and at risk environments: managing the planet

[Warning: speculation ahead!]

Now extend this kind of thinking to the continuum of both urban and natural environments. Every part of the planet is inter-related: from the atmosphere, to the oceans, farmlands, cities, the suburbs and remaining wild spaces.

The Earth is now a system of both anthropogenic and natural systems – each impacting the other. The system we call the economy is embedded within and impacts systems such as the carbon cycle. A warming planet will impact our economic system in the form of increased weather extremes and the destruction of property. Likewise there will be increased economic opportunities driven by a warming planet – investment in alternative energy and the redistribution of agricultural production to more benign parts of the globe.

This kind of systems approach does not distinguish between natural and man-made systems – such distinctions are now meaningless.

What defines humanity: our intelligence as a species or our impact on the planet? 

Planetary boundaries: how we impact the planet

We presently view the Anthropocene as a tragedy: the sixth great extinction and a period of immanent environmental collapse.

At the same time we are continually urged to “save the planet”, however I don’t see it that way: calls to save abstract notions as “the environment” fall in deaf ears. And for good reason.

I take an exception to those environmentalists who believe we can return the world to a pristine state: there is no going back to some romanticized pre-civilisational Eden. There are billions who still live in poverty who need to be lifted from the conditions that prevent their flourishing. We cannot overlook the need to redress such inequality.

And yet, to return to my original point, the interests of humanity and other species converge.

Climate sceptics deny we’re having such an impact on the planet. And yet many environmentalists deny the end of nature. Ironically both sceptics and environmentalists deny the role our species has to play in actively managing the planet.

Our environmental policies, governance arrangements and crucially how we view ourselves need to change: what defines us as a species is not our intelligence, societal structure, economic system or even the constitution of our genes.

What defines humanity is the act of geoengineering. 

So its good-bye homo sapiens and hello homo ingeniare. 

I say this somewhat facetiously – but to make a point. How we see ourselves and the world matters.

For thousands of years we have been accidental geoengineers: at this point in history the future of our species and all others depends on us accepting the role of self conscious planetary engineers.  

After all, it is in our own self-interest.

Sunday morning musings

….hopefully the above makes some sense. Treat this post as my Sunday morning musings over coffee.

My thinking has been shaped by environmental philosopher Bryan Norton and his “convergence hypothesis” outlined in his 1991 book Towards unity among environmentalists. I’m also interested in the writings of Anthony Weston who has written on environmental pragmatism. Also consider Eaarth by Bill McKibbon; The God Species by Mark Lynas; The New Nature by Tim Low; Here on Earth by Tim Flannery; Earth Masters by Clive Hamilton; and Al Gore’s The Future. In addition concepts such as planetary boundaries.

There is a great deal of literature on this subject, and I appreciate I’m not doing it justice – or my own thoughts.

Being somewhat overwhelmed at work I have little time to write – thus the sparsity of posts. So feel free to agree, argue or pass over these musings.

Cheers

Mike @ WtD

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102 thoughts on “Saving the Great Barrier Reef: is it in our own self interest?

  1. HEEEEE HAAWWW

    If only you guys had embraced cheap nuclear power

    Wot. Like Chernobyl. That went well.

  2. Adamn says:

    Great Barrier Reef is really a good place, it needs more protection.
    And i have knew it from http://attractions.bz/Great-Barrier-Reef-46753.html, but yours is better than it, thank you for sharing this

  3. HEEEE HAAWW

    Thankfully there hasn’t been global warming

  4. HEEEE HAAWW

    the corals have clearly not experienced any stress

  5. Scientific American came to the conclusion a few months back. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/a-blog-around-the-clock/2013/01/28/commenting-threads-good-bad-or-not-at-all/

    Note that Watts and 4chan are both, rightly, considered nonsense – and any citation using them are both instantly deleted. I commend the same policy here. There is no balance between the sane and insane.

  6. Stuart Mathieson says:

    You will never convince anyone who uses the reductive fallacy that all motivation is egocentric and selfish. Ayn Randists of the shallowest Libertarian type

    • Stuart Mathieson says:

      “why do they take this line?” I hear you chorus…..
      They find this strategy appealing because it makes them necessarily correct (they think).
      This is a characteristic of the male narcissistic mind and is strongly associated with the contrarianism of some bloggers.
      Their egocentric reductionism does apply, to them.

      • Stuart Mathieson says:

        Further to that…..
        The late David Stove (philosopher Sydney) showed how it is also a logical fallacy.
        Magicing necessary conclusions from conditional premises. (misconditionalisation)

    • Eric Worrall says:

      If global temperatures were still actually rising, you wouldn’t have to look for signs and portents to keep your faith alive.

      • As you’re happy ignoring 90% of the data, you can “prove” anything you like. And yo do.

      • BBD says:

        Eric doing his standard denialist two-step:

        - Deny the physics

        - Deny the OHC data

        AGW is still happening Eric. There is still a problem. Denying reality doesn’t change it; it just makes you look insane.

  7. Mark says:

    I wonder how coral fare in cold waters?

    German meteorologists say that the start of 2013 is the coldest in 208 years – and now German media has quoted Russian scientist Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory, who says it is proof that we are heading for a “Mini Ice Age.”

    Talking to German media, the scientist said that based on his sunspot studies, we are now on an “unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.”

    Building on observations made by English astronomer Walter Maunder, Dr Abdussamatov said he had found that the Earth cools and warms in a 200-year cycles.

  8. Gregory T says:

    I feel that I should repost this disclaimer from Eric’s website, inorder to show those who are unaware, what his mind set is.

    “Referencing this site
    I am not an academic researcher and hence have no need for formal references. However, if you’ve found this site useful, an informal ‘mention in dispatches’ and a Web link wouldn’t go amiss.
    This cuts both ways, however: The algorithms used on this site have not been formally peer reviewed and hence should not be used unverified for academic publication (and certainly not for policy- making!). This site is only intended to help find interesting directions for further research to be carried out more formally.”

  9. Stevo says:

    Seeding the GBR from the Persian Gulf? Worrall is a troll. Don’t feed him. Better still, ban him.

  10. HEEEE HAAWW

    Who gives a stuff? Would most people even notice if half of them died? My point is there would be plenty left – the reef wouldn’t “die”.

    Baby Fish won`t notice that their nursery is gone.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      If only you guys had embraced cheap nuclear power when there was still a chance.

      • Dr No says:

        “Cheap nuclear power” ???

        How naive can you get ?

        EdF, which wants to build new nuclear reactors in the UK, wants a guaranteed price for the electricity generated – rumoured to be at 95-99 pounds per MWh, which is twice the market price and more than the current price of wind power. The people of the UK will be locked into paying this price for decades.

        In Japan General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba designed, built and serviced the reactors involved in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, yet have not paid one cent of the cost for the reactor failures, currently estimated at somewhere around $250 billion US.

        In India, the likes of General Electric have said they don’t want to do nuclear business in the country if they are made liable for any accident their reactors might cause.

        If YOU want nuclear power, put YOUR money on the table and guarantee that you will cover any costs associated with any accident in the future. Lets see how cheap that turns out to be !!

        After such waste and incompetence, and instead of lauding nuclear power, these 12

      • Dr No says:

        (ignore last sentence in previous post)

      • zoot says:

        If only you guys had embraced cheap nuclear power when there was still a chance.

        Why Erric??
        You’ve repeatedly argued there is no problem. Global warming has stopped and we’re heading into a cooling phase that’s likely to bring on another ice age. Coal is cheaper than nuclear and it’s perfectly alright to keep burning coal, because CO2 is a plant food and completely harmless and anyway it’s only a trace gas and can’t possibly affect the planets climate. The only reason anyone is contemplating a low carbon economy is because of the vast conspiracy by climate scientists to manipulate the data and scare everybody because they are on the biggest gravy train evah!
        Given all this, why should we embrace nuclear power?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        “Cheap nuclear power” ???
        How naive can you get ?

        Much of the cost of nuclear power is the elaborate safety precautions and red tape.

        As I’ve said at least half a dozen times on this blog, most of those precautions wouldn’t be necessary, if passive safe designs were adopted – designs which are prevented by the laws of physics from melting down.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_nuclear_safety

        Prototype versions of the leading contenders – Liquid Fluoride Salt and Pebble Bed – have been built and tested. The Pebble Bed test, they tested a complete coolant loss – no meltdown. The Liquid Fluoride reactor is already liquid – if it overheats, the reaction liquid is removed from proximity to its control rods, which are physically required for the continuance of the chain reaction, and drained into a drain tank.

        The fact that many of you guys are not even aware of these options and issues, despite some of you claiming to be scientists, and despite you claiming the world is facing catastrophic consequences if CO2 emissions aren’t curtailed, in my opinion borders on insanity.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Why Erric??
        You’ve repeatedly argued there is no problem. Global warming has stopped and we’re heading into a cooling phase that’s likely to bring on another ice age. Coal is cheaper than nuclear and it’s perfectly alright to keep burning coal, because CO2 is a plant food and completely harmless and anyway it’s only a trace gas and can’t possibly affect the planets climate. The only reason anyone is contemplating a low carbon economy is because of the vast conspiracy by climate scientists to manipulate the data and scare everybody because they are on the biggest gravy train evah!
        Given all this, why should we embrace nuclear power?

        Because I think nuclear can be made cheaper than coal. I’ve got no problem with burning coal – but the prospect of even cheaper power is attractive.

        I was kindof hoping you guys would take an interest in reducing CO2 emissions, because of your beliefs, but antagonising your political opponents seems to be a much higher priority for most of you.

      • zoot says:

        Because I think nuclear can be made cheaper than coal. I’ve got no problem with burning coal – but the prospect of even cheaper power is attractive.

        And I think that renewables can be made cheaper than coal or nuclear. If only you had embraced renewables instead of the dead end of nuclear.
        Fukushima has given us a head start and now yYou will have to find a way to work with us Erric, or we’ll just block all of your attempts. Call it blackmail if you will, but it’s your choice.

  11. Unfortunately `Watching` the Barrier Reef is already destined to experience a rapid and drastic change beyond mankind`s control. We have bought the ticket, now we have to take the ride.

    • BBD says:

      I have to say I agree with this. The increase in seawater temperature and decrease in alkalinity aren’t going to stop for centuries. We can pretend, like Eric, that the corals will be fine, or we can accept, like those who with a professional understanding of the corals that they will be largely destroyed.

  12. Eric Worrall says:

    I was sitting down eating fish and chips under a tree on the shore of Hervey Bay today, when two ticks dropped on the back of my neck – the second 10 minutes after the first.

    Frankly there are some species I see no need to preserve.

  13. Yet again you demonstrate your ignorance when it comes to ecology by leaping straight into a logical fallacy by comparing communities that have evolved under vastly different environmental regimes. It would be best if you just shut your mouth and let us all think you’re an idiot.

    But let’s get serious for a moment. You say….

    “At worst, CO2 and heat stress shall select for heat and CO2 tolerance which is already present in the natural gene pool – if necessary with a little help from genetic engineering.”

    How many of the 1600 fish species, 3000 mollusc species, 630 echinoderm species, 130 shark and ray species along with the 600 hard and soft coral species are going to need “a little help from genetic engineering”? How do you propose scientists determine which of those species are going to cope and which will need help? How do you propose scientists be funded for all this work? How many years of research, in your considered opinion, will be needed to undertake the research and implement the genetic engineering program to protect the reef?

    This is the part where you ignore my pertinent questions and say something really stupid.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Who gives a stuff? Would most people even notice if half of them died? My point is there would be plenty left – the reef wouldn’t “die”.

      • zoot says:

        Who gives a stuff? Would most people even notice if half of them died?

        Probably. Butterflies and hurricanes etc etc.
        But why should you care; you have no understanding of the ecological services which underpin our existence on this planet. You appear to believe the human race is somehow separate from (for want of a better word) nature.
        Your daughter will curse your memory for what you are doing. I promise you. You won’t notice, it will be after you’re dead. But she will curse your memory.

      • Thankyou for following my directions and saying something really stupid.

        Somewhere in this place you said that you care about the environment and yet you say you don’t give a stuff if half of the thousands of species on t he reef died. I also seem to recall you saying all the crocodiles should be shot and polar bears aren’t important because they attack people. All this says to me and everyone else here is that you are a pathetic troll who lies through his teeth.

        You bring nothing of value to any discussion. Again I will not be responding to any of your crap anymore and I urge my fellow commentators in this place to do the same.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        I don’t like to see wanton destruction of the environment. But as I said in a letter I send to New Scientist, I put people ahead of trees. If helping people means clearing a few forests, or killing a few reefs, then that is the right thing to do.

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427290.500-human-versus-forest.html

        If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, find a way to work with us.

      • People need trees. Or perhaps you prefer the state of the Easter Islands?

      • Eric Worrall says:

        People need trees. Or perhaps you prefer the state of the Easter Islands?

        Chopping down a few rainforests would hardly eliminate all trees. If nothing else, there would still be plenty of trees growing in timber plantations.

      • I think you’ve ignored the rate of deforestation. But then you’re happy with all manner of negative change as long as you can sustain your political views. Hey ho.

  14. Eric Worrall says:

    The coral will be fine.

    Thriving Coral reefs in the Persian Gulf survive sustained sea water temperatures of 36c – far hotter than Australian waters.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130201090401.htm

    Champagne reefs, reefs near natural volcanic CO2 vents, survive CO2 levels equivalent to hundreds of thousands of PPM – far higher than we will ever create, no matter what we burn.

    At worst, CO2 and heat stress shall select for heat and CO2 tolerance which is already present in the natural gene pool – if necessary with a little help from genetic engineering.

    • zoot says:

      From Erric’s link:

      “Gulf corals are living at the limit of their tolerance,” said co-author Professor John Burt from the New York University Abu Dhabi. “We have observed an increased frequency of coral bleaching events in this area, and we need to act now to protect and understand these ecosystems that hold the answers to many important climate change related questions.”

      So not only will global warming endanger the Great Barrier Reef, it will also eliminate the “heat tolerant” Persian Gulf corals.
      No Erric, the corals will not be fine.

      • debunker says:

        As usual, Eric doesn’t fully read & comprehend what he posts. He reads untill he hits something that supports his world view then ignores the rest.

      • Mark says:

        Gulf corals are living at the limit of their tolerance,” said co-author Professor John Burt from the New York University Abu Dhabi.

        According to Marcott et al, ~3000 of the past 11300 yrs of the Holocene were warmer than now. Yet somehow, these corals managed to struggle through!

        So perhaps not quite at the limit of tolerance just yet.

        • Debunker says:

          Mark ignores the fact that climate changes much more slowly when changing due to natural causes, so the coral would have had time to adapt. Nobody is suggesting that the climate hasn’t changed in the past, or been warmer in the past. It is the RATE of change that is the issue.

        • Debunker says:

          Speaking of Marcotte et al Mark,

          How are your remedial English comprehension classes going?
          See if you can read the following and understand what it means. (You too weazle).

          From the Marcotte FAQ (courtesy of BBD):

          “Thus, the 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions”.

          And from M13: (again courtesy of BBD)

          “To compare our Standard5×5 reconstruction with modern climatology, we aligned the stack’s mean for the interval 510 to 1450 yr B.P. (where yr B.P. is years before 1950 CE) with the same interval’s mean of the global Climate Research Unit error-in-variables (CRU-EIV) composite temperature record, which is, in turn, referenced to the 1961–1990 CE instrumental mean.”

          Hint: it does not mean what you think it means.

          What is means is that they do not depend on the 20th century proxy reconstructions for their conclusions, because they admit that they are not robust enough. However, they do not need to, because they can use modern instrument records, which are statistically robust, instead.

          Got that?

          Even though I am Hungarian, I understand your native language better than you appear to.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Climate does not change slowly due to natural causes – it often changes abruptly, suddenly, drastically.

        For example, consider the younger dryas, which occurred 11,000 years ago – a sudden drop in temperature of 5c over a decade or two, possibly in as short a time as a couple of months, and lasted for a thousand years.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas

        In the words of one researcher, its as if you suddenly transported Ireland up to the same latitude as Svalbard.

        The corals survived fine.

      • Debunker says:

        Eric, the corals will survive will they?

        “Prolific growth of deep-sea corals in the Mediterranean ended abruptly at ~ 10,900 years BP, with many of the coral-bearing mounds on the continental slopes being draped in a thin veneer of mud. Their demise is attributed to a number of factors, including the direct loss of habitat due to high sedimentation that accompanied glacial meltwater pulses, together with rising temperatures that would have finally pervaded the deeper water of the Mediterranean following the onset of Holocene warming.”

        above from this link:

        http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228335140_Proliferation_and_demise_of_deep-sea_corals_in_the_Mediterranean_during_the_Younger_Dryas

        So at least some corals didn’t survive did they? They might eventually come back, but there may well be a short term extinction, and by that I mean for a few centuries, which is well outside the lifetime of your daughter to enjoy them, not to mention all the thousands of species that depend upon them.

        Your lack of understanding of the science of the natural world is showing again. You really need that basic science course badly.

      • BBD says:

        Eric Worrall

        This is wrong:

        For example, consider the younger dryas, which occurred 11,000 years ago – a sudden drop in temperature of 5c over a decade or two, possibly in as short a time as a couple of months, and lasted for a thousand years.

        Global average temperatures fell by only about 0.6C during the YD. The YD represents a reorganisation of energy within the climate system (crudely: AMOC shutdown; NH cooling centred around N. Atlantic; SH warming) not a global cooling event.

        See Shakun & Carlson (2010) A global perspective on Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene climate change.

        Once again, you are trying to use paleoclimate as a sandbox for your denialism. Once again, I am obliged to point out that your topic knowledge is abysmal and you should not do this as it makes you look like an ignorant buffoon. Even if you prefer to ignore me, please stop for your own sake.

        • debunker says:

          Eric is the classic example of Don Rumsfelds ‘unknown unknowns’.

          He literally doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know.

          But such sublime arrogance in his ignorance. It’s sort of magnificent in a pathetic sort of way ….i

      • BBD says:

        This always stuck in my mind:

        What can you say? The ignorance and lack of self-awareness is horrifying but in a strange way majestic, like an elephant carcass rotting in the sun.

        I couldn’t ever better that :-)

      • Eric Worrall says:

        So not only will global warming endanger the Great Barrier Reef, it will also eliminate the “heat tolerant” Persian Gulf corals.
        No Erric, the corals will not be fine.

        Sure the Persian Gulf might go – but the former Persian Gulf corals could if necessary be used to reseed the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef won’t die.

        Eric, the Younger Dryas was not a global event. In any case, I’ve no idea why you believe everything would be ‘fine’ if there were a sudden change in average global temperatures of five degrees or more. That would have huge impacts on all forms of life – plant, animal (including human) and other life forms.

        A drop of five degrees would mean serious glaciation in many parts of the world. A rise of five degrees would be serious heating and the consequences of same.

        The Younger Dryas appears to have affected the North far more severely than the south, but even if you accept studies which suggest the impact on the south was of an abrupt warming, caused by the breakdown of the thermocline circulation.

        The corals survived.

    • Steve says:

      Eric,
      Although it is possible that the Great Barrier Reef will survive in some form as the ocean becomes less alkaline, Studies of the Champagne reefs suggest that if it does survive it will quite different from what it is now.
      http://www.theage.com.au/environment/conservation/bubbles-highlight-reef-trouble-20110530-1fb8x.html

      • Eric Worrall says:

        There is no chance that the CO2 content of the ocean will ever remotely approach the saturation level of champagne reefs.

        A champagne reef has a saturation level approaching a fizzy drink – a level which would correspond to hundreds of thousands PPM, if not a 100% CO2 atmosphere.

        Take the most ridiculous over the top worst case you can imagine, such as say 2 doublings – 1600ppm. Such an environment would still correspond far more closely to current conditions than to a champagne reef.

    • Who cares about a few species of coral? What has biodiversity ever done for us? There are many flavours in the deniar fruitcake.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Oh noes, a species or two of coral might take a dive. Lets shut down the Western economy.

      • How unenterprising of you, Eric? It is surely not beyond the wit of man to both grow economically and sustainably. You are being an alarmist to state otherwise.

        A dominant characteristic of the carbon anthropocene is species extinction. Given the interdependencies of life on earth, who really knows which species is next.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        It is surely not beyond the wit of man to both grow economically and sustainably.

        Given the resistance you guys have shown to the possibility zero emission nuclear power could be made cheap enough to undercut coal, and thereby displace coal for economic reasons, I do wonder ;-)

      • BBD says:

        So how did NH corals survive?

        Which corals, exactly?

        Please don’t ask nonsense questions ;-)

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Persian Gulf, Florida, etc. have corals. The most spectacular coral reefs are in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are also substantial coral reefs north of the Equator.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_reef

      • Look at the chart for coral. This is no good news within. http://www.iucnredlist.org/about/summary-statistics

      • Eric Worrall says:

        Yawn. Any empty ecological niches will soon be filled.

      • BBD says:

        Eric, Which corals, exactly? You dodged the question.

        Not for the first time, you are making an empty but also misleading argument. You *don’t know* what, if any, effects the YD had on NH corals. You have *no idea*. Unless and until you have researched this and turned up some references we can look at, you are simply making a noise.

        When called out over this behaviour, we see you dodge the question and continue to make empty and misleading statements.

        This is poor debating etiquette, to put it mildly. And I for one object to your behaviour.

    • Sou says:

      Eric, the Younger Dryas was not a global event. In any case, I’ve no idea why you believe everything would be ‘fine’ if there were a sudden change in average global temperatures of five degrees or more. That would have huge impacts on all forms of life – plant, animal (including human) and other life forms.

      A drop of five degrees would mean serious glaciation in many parts of the world. A rise of five degrees would be serious heating and the consequences of same.

  15. Sou says:

    I very much appreciate you writing this and concur with your train of thought. The ‘mental models’ we have about ourselves, other species and the world, the entire planet and all it contains, affects our behaviour, social mores, laws and importantly the future of earth.

  16. Mike,

    Thanks for this piece. I’m currently teaching my organisational sustainability course to postgrads, and our discussions keep coming back to the embeddedness of economic sustainability within social sustainability, and social sustainability within environmental sustainability. This is a very simple concept – without a ‘viable’ environment we have no society nor economy. Current debates on climate change seem to assume we can somehow avoid this – that we are separate from nature rather than part of it. Back in the 1960s Kenneth Boulding argued persuasively that we need to consider the Earth as a closed system – more ‘spaceship’ Earth than the endless ‘frontier’ thinking which has shaped our focus on infinite economic growth and rampant consumption. Framing climate change as an issue of innate self-interest for this generation and the next (be it health, a functioning society, national security, jobs etc) is critical in gaining public consensus for the urgent decarbonisation of our economic system.

    While we should be concerned ethically and morally about the unprecedented extinction of species and degradation of nature, the ‘burning platform’ unfortunately will be the threat to own existence. This is a message that those with a vested interest in delay of course refuse to acknowledge.

    Chris

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks Chris – very much appreciate your comments and that it is of interest to you. The old “spaceship earth” concept is one I also keep musing on as well.

      I was thinking after this piece about systems, and yes you are very correct: the earth is a closed system. In a sense our economic and energy systems need to be seen as part of the biosphere (all component earth systems such as the lithosphere, cyrosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere etc.) Yet we “divide” our mental model into what is natural and “non-natural”. Ecologists talk about different biomes – areas where similar flora and fauna exist. Are not constructed/urban environments biomes? The cities, farmlands and suburbs are rich in life: in constructing our picture of the biosphere perhaps we should include the agricultural/energy systems, patterns of land use etc? Why exclude these?

      Like Sue notes below, *how* we think and imagine the world matters.

    • Eric Worrall says:

      Why would we deliberately destroy the future for our children?

      The message we “refuse to acknowledge” is that:-

      a) The Earth is in trouble. We’re talking about a planet which has survived countless meteor impacts, some which blotted out the sun for years, gigantic volcanic eruptions which poisoned the air across the entire globe, such as the Siberian Traps, and temperatures up to 25c or down to 5c average, as opposed to the 15c or so we currently enjoy. Nothing we could do to the Earth even comes close to what nature has already done.

      b) The solution is to build wind turbines, or solar PV installations. I mean, FFS – is it more important to you to reduce CO2, or is it more important to antagonise right wingers? If you really cared about CO2, you would be looking for ways to work with us, not ways to continue the current political stalemate.

      We don’t think CO2 is an issue, but most of us are techno-optimists – we like nuclear power, we see it as the future.

      But instead of capitalising on this obvious consensus solution, you guys continue your push to inflict unacceptable social changes on people who don’t want them.

      Why?

      • Moth says:

        ” We’re talking about a planet which has survived countless meteor impacts, some which blotted out the sun for years…”

        Yes, but how many of these changes have also coupled with extinction events? We are more vulnerable to extinction events than most animals, regardless of our technological capacities because on no front are we “primary” – we are up in the food chain and caught swinging in the ecological web of life. Without a whole host of other species providing primary services, ours is done. No matter how much Earth has changed, modern homo sapiens have lived but through a small part of that and prospered in an even smaller part – the mild Holocene.

        You’re kidding yourself if you choose to point at previous change without placing that in due context.

        and b)…. Okay. I don’t think anyone who has a clue honest thinks installing a few wind turbines and solar panels will solve our problem. But again over simplifying makes it possible for you to make a false argument against others.

      • Eric Worrall says:

        We are more vulnerable to extinction events than most animals, regardless of our technological capacities because on no front are we “primary”

        I doubt that very much. Our ability to adapt to almost every environment on Earth, from equatorial to arctic, shows how good we are at making the best of what we find. And we are omnivores, so if there is a way of eating something, we’ll find a way to eat it – either directly, or through use of intermediaries such as farm animals.

        I don’t think anyone who has a clue honest thinks installing a few wind turbines and solar panels will solve our problem. But again over simplifying makes it possible for you to make a false argument against others.

        So far trying to force through the building of more wind turbines and PV installations seems to be a significant focus of your efforts. Which is a shame – if you had focussed on finding low carbon energy sources which were cheaper than coal, instead of antagonising right wingers with politically unacceptable government interventionism, then you might be well on the way to the CO2 emissions you claim you want.

      • zoot says:

        I doubt that very much.

        Because you know absolutely nothing about the subject.

      • Stuart Mathieson says:

        As at 2011 the globe was already generating 25% of its power from renewable resources and the US 11.7%, already more than nuclear power in that country. Growth in renewable generation is exceeding nuclear by a healthy margin and the market decided that.

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