Shallow-water coral reefs are presently under very serious threat from the effects of global warming. This threat has been building since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. However, if bold action is not taken soon, these rich, productive ecosystems will almost certainly be all but erased from the Earth within decades.
A recent paper published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that restricting greenhouse warming to 3.0 W/m² is necessary to halt an immanent and likely catastrophic loss of coral reef habitat. This would require that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations not exceed 50 to 100 ppm, which is roughly half again the increase that has taken place since (and almost certainly because of) the Industrial Revolution.
Researcher Elena Couce and her colleagues used mathematical models to test their theory that global temperatures could be restricted by way of human intervention in the form of geoengineering. The study does not provide a detailed means by which the entire planet’s climate could be controlled by a switch; it however does conclude that it would be possible to conserve reefs in this manner, if this kind of geoengineering itself was to become possible. The study points out some obvious dangers to such an ambitious approach. Firstly, their models predicted that geoengineering could potentially overcool the Earth and its coral reefs. Also, this type of temperature control alone would do nothing to stop ocean acidification.
It might seem like mere science fiction that humans would ever attempt to manipulate global temperatures in this way. Undoubtedly, such desperate measures would only be taken in a very, very desperate situation that one could only hope never arises. All the same, unless the relatively smaller challenge of developing clean energy sources is finally overcome, corals, humans, and perhaps all life on Earth can only look forward to a grimmer and grimmer future.
Learn more about this study at: