Tag Archives: Coral reefs

Wrong, ABC News, No Evidence Exist Demonstrating Climate Change Is Harming Corals

ByH. Sterling Burnett

A thriving coral reef.

ABC News ran an Associated Press (AP) story titled, “Climate change is hurting coral worldwide. But these reefs are thriving.” The article is misleading in at least three ways: first coral reefs are not in decline all over the globe as the AP writers assert; Second, temperature changes are only one kind of stressor for corals, the story downplays other factors that evidence suggests play as big or even a bigger role when coral reefs have declined; Third, it provides no evidence that climate change is behind recent ocean warming, rather it assumes this, ignoring natural factors like shifts in oceanic oscillations which have historically caused temperature changes. Indeed, recent research shows that large parts of the oceans inhabited by coral, have actually seen a decline in temperatures over the past two decades.

Waters that get too warm cause corals to expel their colorful algae and turn white. They can survive if temperatures fall but they are left more vulnerable to disease and may eventually die.

Derek Manzello, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, said that so far this year, at least 35 countries and territories across five oceans and seas have experienced mass coral bleaching.

Manzello said climate models suggest that all of the world’s coral will be suffering severe bleaching every year beginning around 2040.

Warmer waters are not necessarily bad for coral reefs. Indeed, as detailed in Climate at a Glance: Coral Reefs, coral has existed continuously for the past 60 million years, surviving temperatures and carbon dioxide levels significantly higher and lower than what is occurring today. Indeed, coral thrive in warm water, not cold water and recent warming has allowed coral to expand their range poleward, while still thriving near the equator. So it is simply false to make the universal claim, as Kelly Drinnen, education and outreach specialist for the Flower Garden Banks, did in the AP story that “coral reefs are declining all over the globe.”

Indeed, as discussed across several Climate Realism posts, here and here, for example, despite repeated bleaching events in recent years, the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system, recently experienced its two highest years of coral extent. This is just one instance demonstrating the resilience and adaptability of corals to temperature changes. Coral bleaching is not the same as coral death, and most corals that have bleached have recovered.

Also, in recent years, scientists discovered that Earth was inhabited by far more coral in far more places than previously believed.

Although it is certainly true that waters that warm too much, too fast can cause coral bleaching, ocean warming is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition to cause such bleaching at all coral reefs under every set of conditions. Indeed, temperature changes are not the only cause of bleaching, or even the primary one in many instances. As discussed at Climate Realismhere and here, for example, inappropriate commercial fishing, terrestrial run-off and pollution from farms and urban development along the coasts, sedimentation, chemicals in some sun screens, and periods of rapidly cooling waters have all been linked to bleaching events and declines in local coral populations.

Yes, you read that right, data indicates that ocean cooling has occurred across vast swaths of the eastern and central Pacific ocean over the past two decades, refuting the claim that any coral bleaching there has been caused by warming.

The concerns expressed about future bleaching and the mass decline of corals contained in the story are not borne out by actual trend analyses, in fact, but rather are generated by computer model projections. Yet time and againClimate Realism has shown computer models do a poor job of reflecting reality.

In the end, neither ABC nor the AP provided any evidence that climate change is harming coral reefs—asserting a connection between climate change and coral decline and backing it up with verifiable proof are two different things, and the latter is lacking in the ABC/AP story. Despite some coral reefs declining in recent years, overall coral are doing well, with little evidence coral is declining globally. The one thing contained in the ABC/AP story that I believe is likely true is that Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a natural wonder, filled with a variety of life and beautiful to behold. Unless increased tourism and pollution screws it up, it is likely to remain that way, because there is little evidence the recent modest warming poses a threat.

The post Wrong, ABC News, No Evidence Exist Demonstrating Climate Change Is Harming Corals appeared first on ClimateRealism.

Pacific coral reef shows historic increase in thermal tolerance

From Tallbloke’s Talkshop

August 22, 2023 by oldbrew

Coral reef [image credit: Toby Hudson / Wikipedia]

Corals can adapt to changing conditions, once again confounding the serial climate doom-mongers. The full article tries to link in references to ‘carbon emissions’, ‘climate change’ etc. which have no definable reference to the actual findings. The point is, nature can be adaptable, contrary to some alarmist expectations.
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Coral reefs in one part of the Pacific Ocean have likely adjusted to higher ocean temperatures which could reduce future bleaching impacts of climate change, new research reveals.

A Newcastle University-led study focused on the Pacific Island nation of Palau and has shown that historic increases in the thermal tolerance of coral reefs are possible, says Eurekalert.

The results demonstrate how this capacity could reduce future bleaching impacts if global carbon emissions are cut down. [Talkshop comment – corals are in the sea, not the air].

Drawing on decades of field observations, the scientists modelled many possible future coral bleaching trajectories for Palauan reefs, each with a different simulated rate of thermal tolerance enhancement.

They found that if coral thermal tolerance continues to rise throughout the 21st century at the most-likely historic rate, significant reductions in bleaching impacts are possible.

The findings reveal that the thermal tolerance of corals in Palau has likely increased at a rate of 0.1 °C per decade since the late 1980s. This increase suggests that natural mechanisms, such as genetic adaptation or acclimatization of corals or their symbiotic microalgae, could have contributed to the enhancement of coral thermal tolerance.

Study co-author Prof. Peter Mumby of the University of Queensland and Palau International Coral Reef Center reflects that “some of the upcoming challenges will be to disentangle which mechanisms have driven these potential shifts in tolerance, and to understand the possibility of continued future increases in thermal tolerance.”

Full article here.

Don’t panic over reefs


The Pristine and Colorful Coral Reefs of Komodo, Indonesia


“More than half the world’s reefs have perished in the past 30 years,” Newsweek announced in an article claiming that ocean warming is driving bleaching events that have devastated reefs around the globe. Bleaching, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, occurs when coral tissue expels algae, causing the coral to turn white.

“There is at least a reasonable expectation that if current carbon dioxide emission trends continue, corals will not survive this century,” Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist with the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, told USA Oceana.

Climate change advocates like Caldeira say that CO2-induced warming has driven an increase in the frequency and magnitude of bleaching events since the 1800s. This claimed rapid change suggests coral reefs are reaching a tipping point, “after which runaway climate change intensifies beyond humanity’s ability to arrest it,” according to Seaver Wang of the Breakthrough Institute.

Are these dire pronouncements accurate? Could a two-degree change in water temperature knock out a species that has survived for more than 40 million years?

Research evaluated by CO2-science.org, an organization that publishes weekly reviews of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, shows “little evidence for climate change affecting reefs in a linear fashion.” The climate has warmed before, but reports linking reef expansion and decline to climate change fail to explain why previous temperature changes have not caused reef transformations similar to those happening now.

“Previous analyses failed to find any significant cross-correlation between changes in [the partial pressures of] CO2 and changes in reef attributes,” said Wolfgang Kiessling, a German researcher, and professor at Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. Kiessling’s research shows that increases in atmospheric CO2 and water temperature fail to explain reef changes throughout history.

Corals have survived warming and also recovered from widespread bleaching events over the past 400 years. A 2015 study conducted by UCLA researcher Ruth D. Gates and California State University researcher Peter J. Edmunds called bleaching an adaptive mechanism. The diversity of corals provides them the opportunity to shuffle symbiont genotypes or to replace one species of cooperative algae with another species that resists either cold or heat, as needed. A 2001 study found that “coral bleaching can promote rapid response to environmental change” by making development in coral communities work better. The study concluded that coral bleaching may “help reef corals to survive” the potential stress of temperature changes.

In 1996, 1998, and 2002, the Arabian Gulf suffered from high-frequency temperature-related bleaching events. Acropora, a small polyp genus of stony coral, experienced the fastest bleaching and the highest mortality of all coral varieties reviewed in 1996 and 1998. But in 2002, Acropora bleached less than all other corals. This improved survivability suggests that the coral found a way to adapt to warmer conditions.

model made in 2018 by a team of American and Australian researchers corroborates this research. They combined genomics with biophysical and evolutionary modeling and found that coral populations are able to “successfully adapt to changing temperatures” along the Great Barrier Reef. This, researchers say, should allow coral reefs to survive comfortably for at least another century.

Corals have also demonstrated an ability to shift and expand their range, helping them remain in ideal water temperatures. Reachers who used 80 years of national records from the temperate areas of Japan concluded that four out of nine studied coral species showed poleward expansion at up to 14 kilometers, or about nine miles per year, since the 1930s; this is significantly faster than is the case with other species. The other five species researchers looked at remained stable without shrinkage or extinction. Mature coral colonies in the expanded areas also exhibited spawning, which indicates their potential to widen their range even further. If corals in tropical areas suffer declines due to rising water temperature, they may simply shift to more temperate areas.

Though corals have several tactics to tolerate a warmer climate, temperature change is not their only threat. One significant challenge is eutrophication, or nutrient pollution, caused by fertilizers from agricultural runoff. But as previous Mackinac Center research concluded, “Addressing agricultural runoff is complicated, and there is no simple fix.”

Coral health is a legitimate concern. Coral reefs are home to over 25% of all marine life, containing one million aquatic species, which include over 4,000 species of fish alone. Reefs are reported to contribute $29.8 billion to the global economy each year, and an estimated one billion people depend on coral reefs for food, income, and flood protection.

When considering solutions to eutrophication, it is important to remember the benefits synthetic fertilizers have on crop growth and food security. Stopping fertilizer use entirely to promote healthy coral reefs would increase food prices drastically, leaving consumers paying roughly $2.9 billion more each year. It is possible to reduce fertilizer runoff while still increasing food production, thus helping the environment without harming humanity.

Though Caldeira and other researchers say coral reefs are in grave danger from fossil fuel-induced warming, research shows that reefs are durable. Their ability to adapt to changing conditions gives us confidence in their continued future health.

Valerie Check is an energy and environmental policy intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

This article originally appeared at Mackinac