Author Archives: richardbrenneman

Ocean acidification is killing Florida coral reefs


Carysfort 2016 – The extensive thickets of staghorn corals are gone today replaced by a structure-less bottom littered with the decaying skeletons of staghorn coral. Credit: Chris Langdon, Ph.D.

Carysfort 2016 – The extensive thickets of staghorn corals are gone today replaced by a structure-less bottom littered with the decaying skeletons of staghorn coral. Credit: Chris Langdon, Ph.D.

Add carbon dioxide to water and you get carbonic acid, the same stuff the gives the tartness to carbonated soft drinks, and when rains pass through air overladen with COs, a dilute form of carbonic acid is created.

Coral reefs and the shellfish are especially susceptible to the corrosive effects of carbonic acid, so when we pour CO2, we’re acidifying the world’s oceans and turning them into a medium inimical to many of the creatures populating them.

Coral reefs are critical to the ocean ecology, and provide shelter for many of the fish on which much of humanity depends for their protein, particularly in Asia,m where rice, the main grain staple, lacks the protein content of wheat.

Anyway, that’s one of the main reasons we’re concerned about ocean acidification, and now its corrosive effects are being felt along the shorelines of the U.S.

From the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science:

In a new study, University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science researchers found that the limestone that forms the foundation of coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract is dissolving during the fall and winter months on many reefs in the Florida Keys. The research showed that the upper Florida Keys were the most impacted by the annual loss of reef.

Each year the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and become more acidic, a process called ocean acidification. Projections, based largely on laboratory studies, led scientists to predict that ocean pH would not fall low enough to cause reefs to start dissolving until 2050-2060.

For two years, the researchers collected water samples along the 200-kilometer (124-mile) stretch of the Florida Reef Tract north of Biscayne National Park to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. The data provide a snapshot on the health of the reefs, and establish a baseline from which future changes can be judged.

The results showed that reef dissolution is a significant problem on reefs in the upper Keys with the loss of limestone exceeding the amount the corals are able to produce on an annual basis. As a result these reefs are expected to begin wasting away leaving less habitat for commercial and recreationally important fish species. Florida Keys’ reefs have an estimated asset value of $2.8 billion.

In the natural scheme of things in the spring and summer months, environmental conditions in the ocean, such as water temperature, light and seagrass growth, are favorable for the growth of coral limestone. While, during the fall and winter, low light and temperature conditions along with the annual decomposition of seagrass, result in a slowing, or small-scale loss of reef growth.

However, as atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by seawater, ocean pH declines. The result is that the natural summer growth cycle of coral is no longer large enough to offset the effects of dissolution from ocean acidification.

“We don’t have as much time as we previously thought,” said Chris Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School professor of marine biology and ecology, and a senior author of the study. “The reefs are beginning to dissolve away.”

“This is one more reason why we need to get serious about reducing carbon dioxide emission sooner rather than later,” said Langdon.

The data for the study were collected in 2009-2010. The researchers suggest that a more recent analysis should be conducted to see how the reefs are faring today.

“The worst bleaching years on record in the Florida Keys were 2014-2015, so there’s a chance the reefs could be worse now,” said Langdon.

The study, titled “Dynamics of carbonate chemistry, production and calcification of the Florida Reef Tract (2009-2010): evidence for seasonal dissolution”  [$38 to read and print — esnl] was published in the May 2 issue of the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles. The co-authors include Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School alumnae Nancy Muehllehner and Alyson Venti, and David Kadko, now at Florida International University. National Science Foundation funded the study.

Creditors drive Puerto Rico deep into the abyss


It’s an all-too-frequent occurrence, a hallmark of the 21st Century.

Reduced support from neoliberal governments drives regions into debt as they strive to keep their services and citizen support systems afloat, and themn, when deadlines pass, creditors and their accompanying flocks of vulture capitalists swoop in, ready to pick the bones clean.

Bu this time it’s not happening in Greece, Spain, or Italy.

This time its in the U.S., in Puerto Rico, a territory whose residents are full citizens of the U.S.

From teleSUR English:

The humanitarian crisis ravaging Puerto Rico is a result of the “behavior from some creditor groups just as we saw in Argentina and Greece,” Jubilee USA’s Eric LeCompte told teleSUR.

Puerto Rico’s Government skipped a US$422 million debt payment on Monday, with billions more still owed to hedge funds, credit unions and other bondholders.

LeCompte praised this decision in an interview Monday as important for the ordinary people of Puerto Rico as the government made the “significant choice” that “keeping schools and hospitals open” is more important than paying a debt. LeCompte argues this will help the government continue providing essential public services to its citizens, with around 45 percent of the U.S. territory’s population living in poverty.

However, LeCompte fears that “a greater crisis” could hit the island in coming months. On July 1 Puerto Rico faces repayments with the “most challenging creditor groups,” including Goldman Sachs, Oppenheimer and UBS Asset Management, who between them have “about US$10 billion stake in the debt” and believe that they say should be paid off first. “Paid before anyone else is paid, paid before other creditors, before pensions are paid and before teachers are paid,” said LeCompte, who noted that such groups “have the lobyists on Capitol Hill” that regular people do not.

Headline of the day: Conspiratorial Trumping


From the New York Times, it’s not bad enough that Larry Wilmore declared him the Zodiac Killer in front of Barack Obama. Now The Donald declares his dad has even shadier associations:

Donald Trump Accuses Ted Cruz’s Father of Associating With Kennedy Assassin

Mr. Trump’s comments, in a Fox News interview, came in the wake of an article in The National Enquirer claiming to have definitive photographic evidence that Rafael Cruz was with Oswald distributing leaflets supporting the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in Louisiana in 1963.

Chart of the day: European CO2 emissions rise


From Eurostat [PDF]:

BLOG EU CO2

The details, from Eurostat:

Eurostat estimates that in 2015 carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion increased by 0.7% in the European Union (EU), compared with the previous year. CO2 emissions are a major contributor to global warming and account for around 80% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions. They are influenced by factors such as climate conditions, economic growth, size of the population, transport and industrial activities. Various EU energy efficiency initiatives aim to reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

It should also be noted that imports and exports of energy products have an impact on CO2 emissions in the country where fossil fuels are burned: for example if coal is imported this leads to an increase in emissions, while if electricity is imported, it has no direct effect on emissions in the importing country, as these would be reported in the exporting country where it is produced.

According to Eurostat estimates, CO2 emissions rose in 2015 in a majority of EU Member States, with the highest increases being recorded in Slovakia (+9.5%), Portugal (+8.6%) and Hungary (+6.7%), followed by Belgium (+4.7%) and Bulgaria (+4.6%). Decreases were registered in eight Member States, notably in Malta (-26.9%), Estonia (-16.0%), Denmark (-9.9%), Finland (-7.4%) and Greece (-5.0%).

Mr. Fish: Derision 2016


An esnl first: Two Mr. Fish offerings in the same post, via Clowncrack, his blog of baculine bipartisanship.

But since the main players in November seem to have been duly anointed, it’s fitting to pair them for this entry.

First up:

Mr. Fish: Tricky Dickette

BLOG Fish Hillary

And next:

Mr Fish: SLOW 2016

BLOG Fish Trump

Headline of the day III: Silicon Valley technobully


From the Guardian:

The comments mark the latest example of a male tech CEO making aggressive, insensitive and tone-deaf remarks about people less fortunate than them

More leaks suspected, these for private profit


In today’s world, most leaks are kept quiet, and are often highly profitable.

If state espionage, as Phillip Knightley famously wrote, is the second oldest profession. we suspect corporate espionage, the pursuit of secret information for private profit, may well be the third.

And judging by this story from Reuters, it’s as profitable as ever these day:

Investors earned millions of dollars in profits from correctly betting on market moves ahead of sensitive U.S. economic data, suggesting leaks of key indicators, a European Central Bank research paper said on Monday.

Studying moves in the case of 21 market-moving indicators between 2008 and 2014, 11 showed some pre-announcement price drift consistent with the announcement surprise, with seven of them indicating substantial moves, the authors said in the paper, which does not necessarily represent the ECB’s opinion.

“Based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we estimate that since 2008 in the S&P E-mini futures market alone the profits associated with trading prior to the official announcement release time have amounted to about $20 million per year,” the authors said.

“Prices start to move about 30 minutes before the official release time, and this pre-announcement price move accounts on average for about a half of the total price adjustment.”