Paradise Lost

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As California once again reels from the fires, many are warning this is climate change in action

As the deadliest wild-fires ever to hit California continue to rage, an estimated 31 people are known to have died, with over 200 still missing. Some 250,000 have been forced to flee their homes. Over 100,000 acres of land has been burnt, including luxury homes in Malibu.

Image: JOSH EDELSON/GETTY IMAGES

As California once again reels from the fires, many are warning this is climate change in action.

The town of Paradise in Northern California, home to 23,000 people, has effectively been destroyed by what is known as the “Camp Fire”, and is now described as a ghost town. The grim headline in the Guardian said: “Only bones and fragments”.

At one stage the fire that engulfed Paradise traveled 11 miles in 11 hours or 80 acres a minute. One fire-fighter who had been involved in trying to put out the blaze, observed: “It’s devastation, total devastation, it’s pretty incredible something like this occurred,” “We’ve gone through lots of wildfire over the years, this is the worst I’ve seen personally.”

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Hopes Rise for Some Coral Survival

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I would have never cared about this issue until I listened to the latest Arian Foster podcast with Dalton Hesley who is a marine scientist that researches coral reefs. This topic is truly fascinating and necessary. 

Researchers have raised hopes that limited coral survival may be possible, allowing one of the world’s best-known reefs to survive a little longer.

Although corals are highly sensitive to ocean warming, and notoriously bleach when temperatures exceed a certain limit, a new study has shown that at least one coral can evolve tolerance to excessive temperatures.

The implication is that even though other teams have repeatedly warned that the world’s reefs are in peril as the world warms because of ever-greater ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a consequence of human combustion of fossil fuels at a profligate rate, the world’s great reefs may survive for perhaps another century, rather than perish within the next 50 years.

“It means these corals will still go extinct if we do nothing,” said Misha Matz, of the University of Texas at Austin, who led the study. “But it also means we have a chance to save them. It buys us time to actually do something about global warming, which is the main problem.”

The argument is based on Darwinian logic: coral colonies produce colossal numbers of larvae each year, set adrift on ocean currents to colonise new reefs. As conditions change, those corals that by an accident of genetic inheritance have the traits needed to cope with environmental challenge will get a foothold, and flourish. Those that don’t will fade out. Natural selection will respond.

And this is hopeful news, if only because the world’s reefs are under threat as never before. Bleaching – the response to heat in which coral rejects the algae with which it normally lives in symbiosis – has always happened: research earlier this year suggests it could become five times more frequent, and reefs such as Australia’s Great Barrier would have no time to recover.

Some reefs have already been pronounced too damaged ever to be restored. This is bad news not just for the coral animals: the tropical reefs are just about the richest habitats on the planet, and of profound economic importance to humans too.

A partnership of US and Australian scientists reports in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Genetics that computer simulation models and genetic evidence of variation from one species of staghorn coral, called Acropora millepora, together show that the coral could in theory adapt over a stretch of 20 to 50 generations.

“This genetic variation is like fuel for natural selection,” Dr Matz said. “If there is enough of it, evolution can be remarkably fast, because all it needs to do is reshuffle the existing variants between the populations.

“It doesn’t have to wait for a new mutation to appear; it’s already there. The problem is, when the genetic variation is exhausted, it is over and the future is unclear.”

Tentative conclusions

There are problems with such studies. This one is based on genetic evidence from one species of coral. But the 2,300 km Great Barrier Reef of Australia is home to at least 411 species of hard coral. It is based on a mathematical model, not on observed change in the reefs.

And global warming is not the only challenge to coral reefs, which are also threatened by human exploitation, pollution and increasing acidification  of the surrounding seas, again as a consequence of ever higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Corals live in a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, which are plant-like cells hosted in surface tissues that provide up to 90% of the energy to the colony,” said Stephen Simpson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter in the UK, commenting on the study.

“Whether there is also sufficient genotypic variation in the zooxanthellae to tolerate further warming remains to be seen. While the fact that one species may do well is good news, there are many other reef organisms that may fare far worse, so it is easy to envisage a future with a few winners but many losers, threatening the functional integrity of reef ecosystems.”

By Tim Radford / Climate News Network

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Rush “Bimbo” Is Now Running From Irma, Days After Mocking Storm as Liberal Conspiracy

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Conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh seems to have abandoned his plans to ride out Hurricane Irma at his Palm Beach home, where he records his radio show, after originally downplaying the risk of the storm as the product of a giant conspiracy.

Irma is currently grazing by Cuba, possibly on its way to make landfall on Limbaugh’s doorstep, though forecasts still provide for a wide variety of possibilities. The National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. ET advisory Friday placed all of coastal South Florida in hurricane and storm surge warnings.

More than 100,000 Palm Beach residents were ordered to evacuate as of Friday at 10 a.m., the Miami Herald reported, including President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. The uber-wealthy area hosts a gaggle of conservative celebrities’ homes.

On Tuesday, Limbaugh said that he wasn’t a meteorologist, but rather the “go-to-guy” in his circles for hurricane advice. He painted the storm’s early forecasts as a grand conspiracy between local retailers and media, meteorologists and public officials hungry to sell the public on the reality of climate change.

More from Mother Jones

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Santorum: Climate change, flat-Earth believers are alike

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Misinformer Of The Year: George Will

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Image: Media Matters

 

“[W]hen they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.”

This single phrase has followed George Will for the last six months. The syndicated conservative columnist, considered by many a thoughtful intellectual rather than a bomb-thrower, severely damaged his brand when he wrote a June 2014 column dismissing efforts on college campuses to combat the epidemic of sexual assault and suggesting that women who say they were raped receive “privileges.” The column has sparked hundreds to protest his public appearances, challenges from U.S. Senators and women’s rights groups, and the dropping of his column from a major newspaper.

More from Media Matters via TPM

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5 of the Most Dangerous Delusions of the Far Right

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That the conservative movement is built on a bunch of misinformation, strange fantasies and outright lies has been the subject of thorough documentation, particularly in the past few decades. Conservative leaders deny inconvenient facts, make up lurid tales to justify their beliefs, and outright lie, if it suits their agenda. But these lies and myths rarely just sit in amber. They tend to evolve and get stranger and more baroque over time. Just when you think conservative misinformation can’t get any weirder, it does. Here’s four topics where conservatives are taking the lies and denialism to the next level.

1) Climate change. The White House recently released a report on climate change outlining how climate change is no longer a “future” issue since it’s having an impact on the environment right now. Conservatives responded by abandoning all restraint. No longer content with the line that they are simply “skeptical” of the science, George Will and Charles Krauthammer (neither of whom are scientists) went on Fox News to “explain” how all this science stuff is hokum. Will basically accused scientists of making it all up for mercenary reasons, saying, “If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy.” Why the federal government would make up climate change and then bribe scientists to lie about it was left unexplained.

More from Alternet

Posted by The Non-Conformist

Rubio: Human activity isn’t causing climate change

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