She Saw 85 Percent of Something She Loves Die in Just Nine Months and Decided to Take Action

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Photo by Bekah Russom on Unsplash

Official climate records don’t go back very far, especially when looking at the history of the climate on a geologic scale, so scientists use a variety of proxies instead. Tree rings and ice cores are just a few examples.

Corals are another popular way to look at the climate past, but their own future is currently endangered by climate change.

“Corals are at once a recorder of past climate variability… and right now they’re the victims of warming ocean temperatures themselves as well,” Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb told Andy Revkin on the latest episode of Warm Regards, which you can hear below.

Cobb talks about the urgency she feels to work on climate solutions after witnessing first-hand the decimation of corals over nine long, hot months that resulted in the loss of 85 percent of the coral at field sites where she works.

“It was pretty earth shattering. It also coincided with the election of an administration… hostile to climate science an climate solutions.”

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A slide from a presentation Cobb gives illustrating the dramatic increase in ocean temperatures in recent years.

Cobb and Revkin also discuss the importance of paleoclimatology and what records of the earth and environment’s previous eons can tell us about where we are, where we’re headed and what can be done.

“The role for paleoclimate has expanded and become a lot more central to the climate science mission,” Cobb says.

Be sure to listen all the way to the end of this episode to catch a great discussion about balancing the urgent need for solutions with diversity and a call for civility.

Once you’re done listening, you’ll want to come back here to check out these related links, including the source material for all Andy’s anecdotes:

Past global changes: http://pastglobalchanges.org

The chapter on Paleoclimate from the most recent IPCC report: https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch6.html

Andy’s Anecdotes:

Andy’s story on Lonnie Thompson and Mt. Kilimanjaro http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/19/world/a-message-in-eroding-glacial-ice-humans-are-turning-up-the-heat.html

Study Finds Storm Cycles Etched in Lake Beds http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/25/us/study-finds-storm-cycles-etched-in-lake-beds.html

Visiting Sea Ice http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/02/science/earth/02arct.html

Response diversity
https://www.slideshare.net/Revkin/response-diversity

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A podcast about life on the warming planet. Hosted by @JacquelynGill and @DrRamBio. Produced by @612to651

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