US carbon-reduction goals won’t save coral

The Daily Green is reporting that US carbon goals won’t protect corals, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Chemical oceanographers Long Cao and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s Dept. of Global Ecology have created a computer model which estimates levels of CO2 in the atmosphere threatening to the ocean environment. According to the Daily Green:

"Even at the level now seen in the atmosphere, half of the world’s corals are endangered. If the world is successful in reaching the U.N. targets, 90% of corals would still be endangered, based on expected water chemistry conditions, according to Cao. The North Pacific would be so acidic that it would violate U.S. water quality standards."

In effect, we’re changing ocean chemistry to what it was like tens of millions of years ago, before coral evolved, and they won’t be able to adapt quickly enough to the change.

And of course, when we’re talking about coral reefs, we’re really talking about the ecosystems of which they’re the cornerstones (new species were reported only last week!) and the islands and coasts protected by them. So apart from the impact on ocean biodiversity, we’re looking at consequences for humans.

Just for starters: I wonder how many tourism dollars the Great Barrier Reef brings to Australia.

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