Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Coral reef research

This article asssumes that bleaching is caused by temperature rises. There is a better case for believing that drying due to sea-level fluctuations is the primary cause

Coral reefs are important parts of the world’s ecology. They host a third of multi­ cellular marine species, including many commercially important fish. They also provide free coastal defences. Cities such as Cancun, Honolulu and Miami rely on them to keep the waves at bay. According to a study published in 2014 by Robert Costanza, an economist at University College, London, such benefits have a value of up to $10trn a year. Preserving reefs is thus of practical as well as aesthetic importance. So something needs to be done to stop heat­-induced bleaching.

One approach is to identify species that are already heat­-resistant and transfer them to reefs which are at risk. Some of the most spectacular examples of heat-resil­ient coral come from sites in the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea, which is one of the hottest places on the planet. Several coral species found here can weather heat that would lead to mass bleaching elsewhere. A study published in 2021 by Romain Savary of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne showed that a particular Red Sea reef-builder called Stylophora pistillata was able to withstand rises in excess of 5°C above the 27°C at which it normally lives—a greater increase than Earth is expected to face this century.

Similar pockets of heat resistance might be expected to have evolved elsewhere, too. Anne Cohen of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, is responsible for a newly launched project which sets out to identify “super reefs” of this sort around the world. Using a mix of genetic analysis and hydrologic modelling, she aims to find reefs that are heat-­resistant and genetically diverse, and therefore potentially able to restore neighbouring bleached sites to their former glory. She then hopes to expand protections for these reefs, in order to increase their chances of survival as heat­-resistant resources for the future.

The evolution of resilience to heat is not, though, merely a matter of geography. It has also been found around the world in corals living cheek­-by-­jowl with more vulnerable specimens. This suggests its origins are complex. Christian Voolstra of the University of Konstanz, in Germany (who is also a co­author of Dr Savary’s paper), is leading a project intended to identify the responsible parts of a coral’s genome.

Some don’t like it hot

To do this he subjects a range of corals to intense blasts of heat, to see how they fare. While this 18­hour stress test, known as cbass (Coral Bleaching Automated Stress System), cannot capture the full effects of long­term bleaching, his hope is that the most bleach-­resistant corals will nevertheless show their mettle in it.

Having established which corals are resilient, the next step is to search for genes or genetic variants that are shared by such corals but are absent from others. Dr Voolstra’s initial studies lead him to believe just a few genes will indeed turn out to be responsible. And although some will be geographically specific, he expects others will be found all over the world.

Further evidence points in that direction, too. In 2020 Phillip Cleves of Stanford University published work which showed that knocking out one particular gene in a species called Acropora millepora significantly reduces its ability to withstand heat. If resilience genes like these could be catalogued, and their presence identified in the field, that would allow researchers to identify resilient corals much more quickly than cbass can. This might be done using either some easily spotted biochemical consequence of their presence (a so-called biomarker), or one of the new generation of hand­held gene­-sequencing devices now coming onto the market.

Even if the full genetic complexity of heat resistance can be elucidated, though, other mysteries will remain. Certain corals are able to survive heat that kills their closest cousins as well as their unrelated neighbours. This has led to speculation that heat-­resistance can also be conferred on corals by symbiotic organisms—either particular types of their companion algae, or perhaps the bacteria that collectively constitute their “microbiome”.

It would make a lot of sense from both the coral and the algal point of view for corals’ algal symbionts to evolve more robust mechanisms of photosynthesis, which do not misbehave at high temperatures. Presumably, given time and continued global warming, that would happen naturally. But it might be possible to give the process a helping hand. Indeed, in a paper published in 2020, a group led by Madeleine van Oppen of Melbourne University showed it was possible to make a palpable difference to algal production of reactive oxygen-­rich compounds with just four years of selective breeding for heat tolerance.

Even if the algae cannot be pressed into service in this way, though, other microscopic organisms living within a coral might be. Microbiomes—the collectives of bacteria, fungi and viruses that cohabit with most animals, especially in their guts—are now taken seriously as physiological influencers. The human microbiome has been connected, with various degrees of plausibility, to conditions ranging from obesity to Alzheimer’s disease, and gut microbes are essential to the digestive processes of animals as diverse as cattle and termites. There is no reason for corals to be exempt from their influence.

Raquel Peixoto of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia is investigating the matter in collaboration with Dr Voolstra. In preliminary experiments, she and her team have isolated several microbes shared by resilient corals and then inoculated them into a few dozen unresilient varieties that lack them. The survival rate of the inoculated corals, when exposed to a temperature rise of 4°C, was 40% higher than that of the uninoculated ones.

Whatever cocktail of genetics and germs is needed to produce resilience, each of these factors suggests its own next steps. If genetics is the key, then corals with the relevant genes could be given priority by conservationists, transplanted to new sites, or else induced to breed more productively, perhaps by crossing different heat-­resistant strains. If the microbiome is responsible, then probiotic injections could be developed. This would be exciting. Breeding for heat resilience would take generations. Probiotic injections could transform the prospects of a coral head doomed in the here and now. Some experiments even suggest that individual corals could be “hardened up” to adapt to warmer climates within their own lifetimes—and might then pass that toughness to offspring via a process called epigenetic inheritance, which allows certain acquired characteristics to be handed down for a generation or two via mechanisms that control gene expression.

One last possibility is genetic tinkering using crispr­Cas9 dna editing or a similar technique to insert or modify genes for heat resilience. This is an approach that Dr Cleves is exploring, though he has no intention as yet of taking his experiments outside a laboratory. The prospect of conducting them on a reef remains controversial, since it would mean letting genetically modified organisms loose in the wild. But as the planet continues to heat up, he believes there may come a point where conservationists have no alternative. Besides, it might be quicker than trying to achieve similar results by crossbreeding.

Know your enemy

The immediate priority, however, is to develop a better understanding of what is out there. This means doing several things. These include creating standard heat­-re­sistance tests, so that species from different sites can be compared; investigating resistant corals to see which biomarkers they share; interbreeding resistant corals to find any undesirable characteristics that are inherited along with thermal resilience; and plumbing the transformative potential of probiotics.

Further challenges await those seeking to turn such observations to practical effect. The first is scale. The Great Barrier Reef, admittedly the largest target, is the size of Italy. By contrast, a restoration project a few hectares in size would be regarded as ambitious at the moment, so the first targets are likely to be reefs of high value as tourist attractions or natural sea defences.

In the longer term, automated disseminators of souped-­up coral larvae or resil­ience-­encouraging probiotic bacteria could help. So might identifying reefs that, by virtue of local currents, play an outsize role in propagating larvae to other sites— for these could be the most useful places to start. For Dr Cohen, recruiting these natural nodes will be crucial to engineering change over sufficiently large areas. “We have to let nature do its thing,” she says, “because only nature can do it on the scale that’s necessary.”


The green agenda’s role in global inflation

AS inflation rises and the prospects for our return to normality following the pandemic fade ever more into the distant future, criticism is rightly focusing on financial institutions and regulators. They claim that printing money, which has inevitably caused prices to rise, was necessary to mitigate the economic chaos of lockdowns. But now they appear to be behind a third act of immense self-harm to help to steer the world to inflation and deliberately prevent economic recovery. The rise in energy prices the world has seen were not the result of an unforeseeable supply crisis, but engineered by those charged with managing the economy.

In a recent interview, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey admitted to Sky News his discomfort at the UK rate of inflation heading towards 10 per cent. ‘We are being struck by historically large shocks,’ explained Bailey, removing himself and his organisation from the spotlight. ‘Who of us thought there would be a war in Europe of the sort that we’re seeing?’ he asked rhetorically.

As it happens, many people have been predicting such a conflict. Analysts, be they critics of Nato or Moscow, have long and for different reasons warned that Ukraine risks becoming the point of renewed east-west tension, and many Ukrainians themselves have spoken about the grim inevitability of war, at least since 2014. But this article is about energy and climate policy, not war. I raise the issue here because, like me, you might have expected the Governor of the Bank of England to have kept a watching brief on geopolitics.

We would be wrong, then. It turns out that the chief regulator of the UK economy (the sixth largest in the world) and his predecessor were far more concerned with the putative risks from climate change than with developments in geopolitics. The Bank of England’s webpages could have been written by an XR activist. ‘Climate change creates financial risks and economic consequences,’ it claims. ‘These risks and consequences matter for our mission to maintain monetary and financial stability.’ Endless volumes of reports and links to pages after pages make the case, citing equally endless scientific reports that I have always considered to be suspect.

Put simply, I do not believe that society’s sensitivity to climate is in any way equivalent to climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide. The planet may well be slightly warmer, but there exists very little evidence that this is creating economic risks. On the contrary, people everywhere are becoming much wealthier. (Or were, before the pandemic.) I shall spare the word count here, but I have written about it at length in many other places if you remain unconvinced. Suffice it to say that it is logically impossible for ‘risks’ to be growing as the BoE claim while an economy is growing, which it was, even in the world’s most seemingly climate-ravaged places.

But green ideology is a fetter on public institutions’ grasp of reality. And so we should look to the origins of green ideology to try to understand what is behind the BoE’s climate activism.

It is a common misconception that the climate agenda is driven by science. But it is a matter of historical fact that green ideology sprang from the very top of global society. In the 1960s, it was the Club of Rome, a think tank formed by wealthy industrialists and their pet academics that turned their fears about overpopulation and resource-depletion into a computer simulation that forecast civilisation’s imminent collapse. And so it is today with climate change, every earlier environmental scare story issued by that simulation now having been debunked by reality.

The heart of the contemporary green ‘movement’ is known by its ugly moniker, the ‘green blob’. The entirety of it, including those parts of it that dwell on streets, owes its existence completely to the grants given by about a dozen or so billionaires’ philanthropic foundations to organisations of various kinds. From Extinction Rebellion to academic research departments, none of it would exist but for the vast torrents of cash from the likes of Jeremy Grantham, Sir Christopher Hohn and Michael Bloomberg. And it is from here that the notion that ‘climate change creates financial risks and economic consequences’ springs from, and the belief that ‘financial stability’ is functionally dependent on ‘stable weather’ is forced into the machinery of the state.

Bailey’s predecessor at the Bank of England (2013-2020), Mark Carney, previously Governor of the Bank of Canada (2008-2013), had been so impressed by multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg’s selfless philanthropy (giving away a total of $11 billion of his $82 billion fortune, significantly to green causes), he fashioned a role for the tycoon in policymaking. As Governor of both BoE and BoC, Carney was also chair of the little-known intergovernmental agency, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), where he oversaw its greening, bringing the notion of financial stability being predicated on ‘stable weather’ to financial institutions the world over. Green ideology is an infectious rot. Under the FSB, a Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) was established, and an array of corporate and financial bigwigs appointed to steer it, including Bloomberg as its chair.

Put simply, TCFD aimed to support the ‘E’ in ‘ESG’ with a system of ‘recommendations’ for voluntary disclosures that companies should make to investors, much as companies are required to make statutory disclosures about the state of their operations. ESG, short for Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance, is the fashionable green-woke successor to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), driving shareholders to change boardroom and culture using metrics that score companies’ commitments progressive values. TCFD’s recommendations build on the notion that, since financial stability is predicated on climatic stability, companies risk profiles are alsodependent on weather. The logic here being that if a company does not have a business plan that is compatible with a changing climate, and moreover, compatible with a changing regulatory environment, investors deserve to be made aware of these risks.

This was good business. Ethical business, even. And other green billionaire philanthropists were eager to give their money away to this good cause, too. British hedge fund manager, Sir Christopher Hohn, used much of the $800million pushed through his philanthropic outfit, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), to support organisations that campaign and lobby for these voluntary disclosures. CIFF founded the ‘Say on Climate’ campaign, which aimed to mobilise investors to press the companies in which they had an interest to adopt ‘climate transition action plans’, building on Hohn’s trademark shareholder activism. Between 2014 and 2020, CIFF made grants of over $23million to the Carbon Disclosure Project, and backed other shareholder and financial sector campaigning organisations partnered with the ‘We Mean Business Coalition’.

But as sure as push comes to shove, voluntary becomes compulsory. At the COP26 meeting in Glasgow last year, Mark Carney stood in front of a screen that declared the intention to make TCFD disclosures mandatory, and for policy frameworks to ‘wind down stranded assets’ – the green movement’s term for fossil fuel investments that will become obsolete when climate policy prohibits them. He was followed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who declared that investment funds with assets under management worth $130trillion were aligned to the UK’s new policies.

Sunak was an employee of Hohn’s investment fund, TCI, between 2006 and 2009. And as an alumnus of such a notable activist outfit as TCI, and as Chancellor, it is inconceivable that he was unaware of the effects on the economy that ESG was already having on the economy by last autumn. ESG had driven investors away from stock in companies that make useful stuff, such as coal, oil and gas, towards high-tech, social media and companies that produce mere vapour, such as Netflix. As Bloomberg reported at the time, in the era of ESG investing, capital investment in fossil fuels had halved since the Paris Agreement, and the cost of capital to fossil fuel companies had doubled.

Amid other factors, this capital strangulation of the energy sector was the direct effect of ESG investing, green campaigning organisations, and governments and central banks actively working together to destroy the fossil fuel sector without making the policy explicit. This is indubitably the main factor behind the energy supply crisis that seemed to come out of nowhere last year to add to inflation woes by pushing energy prices up.

A few days ago, Bailey told MPs that ‘there isn’t a lot we can do’ to stop inflation rising. But there was a lot that the BoE could have done to stop it happening, but failed to do, and instead helped in no small way to engineer this global crisis. In late 2020, the BoE published an Interim Report and Roadmap for implementing the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which boasted of the BoE’s and UK government’s leading roles in creating ESG policy, and which ‘advocates a move towards mandatory TCFD-aligned disclosures across non-financial and financial sectors of the UK economy’.

Here’s a clue, Andrew, if you’re reading, about how you might start to address the problem of rising prices. Remove from the Bank of England all traces of environmental ideology and sever all links with the green billionaires who have pushed the notion that climate change is a ‘risk’ to the economy. It isn’t. The much greater risk than weather to the economic wellbeing of millions of British people – and billions of people throughout the world in poorer economies – is green ideology. While the likes of Hohn and Bloomberg have made billions of dollars through creating an ESG bubble via their undemocratic and undue influence in public institutions, billions of people are suffering from the effects of starving the energy sector of investment, pushing up the price of energy, transport, and food.


Biden invokes Defense Production Act to implement the Green New Deal

Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement blasting President Joe Biden for invoking the Defense Production Act to implement the Green New Deal’s plan to retrofit every building in America with solar panels, heat pumps, transformers and new building insulation:

“President Biden’s executive orders invoking the National Defense Production Act to produce solar panels, insulation and heat pumps are little more than an attempt to implement the Green New Deal’s plan to retrofit every building in America without any Congressional authorization. Fortunately, Congressional Republicans this spring blocked Biden’s attempt to get a blank check from Congress in the Ukraine war supplemental to reprogram Defense Department dollars to the Defense Production Act Fund and another bill that would have explicitly granted $100 billion for purpose, both of which would have created ready slush funds for Biden to implement the Green New Deal.

“One thing is abundantly clear, there is no national emergency related to any shortage of heat pumps, insulation or solar panels, and thus this is an inappropriate exercise of the Defense Production Act’s powers. Congress must remain vigilant to ensure that this broad grant of authority to the President over our nation’s economic system is not abused to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to implement the Green New Deal.”


Australia: Greens fury as Labor Party won’t rule out more coal to deal with energy crisis

THE energy and gas crisis has put the days-old Albanese Government under pressure after it did not rule out increasing coal-fired power output to deal with shortages, sparking a fiery response from the Greens fresh off record-breaking election wins.

There was large swing to the Greens in Brisbane which saw the party pick up three seats, with climate change a big issue in the areas.

New Energy Minister Chris Bowen said he was not ruling any options “in or out” as the government seeks to deal with a “very serious” gas shortfall driving up wholesale power prices.

A “perfect storm” of coal-fired power outages, flooded coal mines and the war in Ukraine impacting gas supply has caused prices to soar, leaving the east coast states at risk of a supply shortage in the coming days.

Last month more than 30 per cent of the coal power capacity in the National Electricity Market was estimated to be offline.

Origin Energy boss Frank Calabria has called for government and industry to work together to increase coal power in the short term.

Asked about the comments, Mr Bowen said the Federal Government’s ability to up output might be “limited” compared to the private sector or states. “If there is advice to me about sensible and measure actions that can be taken, I will take them,” he said.

Mr Bowen confirmed he had spoken with Mr Calabria, and would convene an emergency meeting with all state and territory energy ministers early next week to discuss the crisis. He is also in talks with heavy industry and regulators to work on options to ease the extreme pressure on the Australian market.

Incoming Greens Griffith MP Max Chandler-Mather said Labor should not be considering ramping up coal or opening up more gas to deal with the issues.

“Fire chiefs and climate scientists are begging Labor to take urgent climate action – but instead, they’re doing the complete opposite by backing massive new gas projects,” Mr Chandler-Mather said.


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM )

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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