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Tilting at Windmills

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February 15, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

DEAD ZONES....Marine researchers appear to have figured out the cause of the massive low-oxygen "dead zones" that have reappeared off the coast of Oregon every summer since 2002:

"We couldn't believe our eyes," [Jane] Lubchenco said, recalling her initial impression of the carnage brought about by oxygen-starved waters. "It was so overwhelming and depressing. It appeared that everything that couldn't swim or scuttle away had died.

Upon further study, Lubchenco and other marine ecologists at Oregon State University concluded that that the undersea plague appears to be a symptom of global warming. In a study released today in the journal Science, the researchers note how these low-oxygen waters have expanded north into Washington and crept south as far as the California state line. And, they appear to be as regular as the tides, a lethal cycle that has repeated itself every summer and fall since 2002.

"We seem to have crossed a tipping point," Lubchenco said. "Low-oxygen zones off the Northwest coast appear to be the new normal."

....If this theory holds up, it means that global warming and the build-up of heat-trapping gases are bringing about oceanic changes beyond those previously documented: a rise in sea level, more acidic ocean water and the bleaching of coral reefs.

Probably nothing to worry about, though. Just more marine biologist fearmongering. After all, there are probably benefits to massive oxygen-starved zones in the ocean, right? And malaria abatement in Africa is more important in any case. What's more, none of this would be a problem in the first place if Al Gore would stop flying around in a private jet. Or something.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

UPDATE: Hey, it turns out there are benefits to massive oxygen-starved zones in the ocean. Well, one benefit, anyway. If you happen to be a giant squid. Details here.

Kevin Drum 11:36 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (85)

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Comments

And 1,160 *square* miles? They sure don't look square to me on that map!

Posted by: K on February 15, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Reality = librul plot.

Posted by: Jim M on February 15, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Here are two more articles to ignore:

NY Times

AlterNet

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 15, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget about the 'kingdom comer's "God's wrath" or "rapture" or some other such nonsense. Don't worry God will fix it all after he vanquishes evil and takes his 144,000 home.

He'll make it all new and shiny, dear.

Me? I think we end up a blob of hot molten shit like venus.

Posted by: chuckchuck on February 15, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Don't they first have to prove this has never happened before?

Posted by: Tripp on February 15, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

It's the little unexpected consequences of global warming that charm me, like the fungus that is thriving in the new warmth and killing frogs all over the world.

I wonder how warm it will have to get to cause a decrease in the number of comb-overs in the Senate.

Posted by: anandine on February 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

We know this is a fake report because fish dont breath air!!!! sheesh.....

Posted by: Shorter, dumber Al on February 15, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm no oil-industry lobbyist, but global temperatures have fluctuated over the centuries. Scientists just haven't had the ability to observe the earth so sensitively. Somehow humanity has made it.

Not every extreme ecological event is a sign of the apocalypse.

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Dead zones and dying oceans are far more terrifying to me than a few bearded, fundamentalist whack-jobs with a medieval world view. On the other side of the continent, fully one-third of the Chesapeak Bay is a seasonal dead zone, and the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico was almost 21,000 square miles - in 2001.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 15, 2008 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Recommended reading:

Improving Our Green Job Prospects
By Kelpie Wilson
Environment Editor
www.truthout.org
Friday 15 February 2008

Excerpt:

On the one hand we have a deepening economic recession, a mortgage and debt crisis, and rising unemployment. On the other hand is the growing energy and climate crisis, shadowed by the specters of peak oil and planetary meltdown. Rising prices for energy, food and health care are hitting the poor and middle class hard. We have ourselves in quite a mess.

No one has all the answers to these problems, but there is one answer that everyone with any sense embraces as a necessary first step toward a permanent solution: we must create green jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 15, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Saying all of the fish will die was not just fanciful extrapolation.

Posted by: Brojo on February 15, 2008 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody read the article???

Their productivity comes from wind-driven upwelling of nutrient-rich waters from the deep. When those waters reach the surface and hit sunlight, tiny ocean plants known as phytoplankton bloom, creating food for small fish and shellfish that in turn feed larger marine animals up the food chain.

What's happening off Oregon, scientists believe, is that as land heats up, winds grow stronger and more persistent. Because the winds don't go slack as they used to do, the upwelling is prolonged, producing a surplus of phytoplankton that isn't consumed and ultimately dies, drifts down to the seafloor and rots.

...His theory is that warm, rising air over the land makes upwelling more frequent and more intense (off of Africa). The phenomenon, he said, is complicated by decades of heavy fishing that has reduced schools of sardines to a tiny fraction of their former abundance.

Not enough fish remain to consume phytoplankton before it dies and settles on the bottom, creating an anoxic dead zone.

So it sounds like what we have is an increase in the food supply to fishes (ought to be A Good Thing) generated by global warming, but the fish aren't there to take advantage of it. If we didn't overfish, what would be expected to happen is the predator population would explode to take advantage of the increase in prey.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Fish Huggers!

Posted by: Martin on February 15, 2008 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why do people expect the Earth to be static and unchanging? Isn't part of (gasp) the Theory of Evolution that the environment undergoes radical changes?

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK
....Not every extreme ecological event is a sign of the apocalypse.... mike s at 12:08 PM

Human toll on world's oceans

...Only about 4% of the world's oceans remain undamaged by human activity, according to the first detailed global map of human impacts on the seas.
A study in Science journal says climate change, fishing, pollution and other human factors have exacted a heavy toll on almost half of the marine waters.
Only remote icy areas near the poles are relatively pristine, but they face threats as ice sheets melt, it warns.
The authors say the data is a "wake-up call" to policymakers....

We have been getting wake-up calls for years.

Posted by: Mike on February 15, 2008 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Gaia is pissed.

Overshoot, babee. It ain't gonna be pretty.

And that's something that only a very few brave souls are paying attention to. But the best they can hope to do is catalogue the decline. Neither the left nor (of course) the right understands that the underlying issue is that there are waaay too many people on the planet for sustainability.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Mike said:

Only remote icy areas near the poles are relatively pristine

I thought the Arctic was the area most sensitive to GW!? I'm confused. Really.

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK


Why does it have to be an apocalypse before we do something about it?

Posted by: kis on February 15, 2008 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kis said:

Why does it have to be an apocalypse before we do something about it?

Fair enough. But we can't wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud!!!

How different?

Posted by: Mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I recap, global warming is creating too much fish food for the number of fish off of Oregon. What doesn't get eaten rots. The increase in fish food should not be a bad thing in and of itself. Sounds to me like it is a fisheries issue too.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

I recap, global warming is creating too much fish food for the number of fish off of Oregon. What doesn't get eaten rots. The increase in fish food should not be a bad thing in and of itself.

Yes it is. Too much of any one thing in an ecosystem is a bad thing. Too many browsers and forests die. Too much rain and topsoil runs off.

Much more of this and entire regions of ocean will begin to die.

Further, research suggests that the number one cause of hypoxia is runoff of fertilizers. The earliest discovered and largest dead zones are where river systems empty into the ocean, carrying with them fertilizers that cause eutrophication. Algae blooms appear, phytoplankton populations explode then die, and eventually the oxygen leaches out.

It's not a matter of having enough fish to eat the plankton. There could never be enough to overcome the influx of chemical nutrients and survive in the oxygen depleted water.

Dead zones have been revived by ceasing to flow manmade chemicals into the affected areas. It is very unlikely this is going to happen.

Overfishing is a critical issue and needs to be reversed. But it is only part of the problem.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

How different?

Stop being an obtuse jackass. aWol's splendid mess in Mesopotamia destroyed a secular Arab country and destabilized a geopolitically important part of the world.

On the other hand, if we do something about climate change now, the worst that happens is we leave a better world for our progeny.

As to some of your other assertions, start with googling "Ice Core Sampling" and brushing up on that aspect of climate study methodology.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 15, 2008 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Fair enough. But we can't wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud!!!

These dead zones are mushroom clouds. Explosions of chemicals and heat have destroyed all life there.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Why do people expect the Earth to be static and unchanging? Isn't part of (gasp) the Theory of Evolution that the environment undergoes radical changes?

The theory of evolution has nothing to do with environmental changes, except to look at how animal and insect populations adapt to those changes.

The dinosaurs didn't die out because of "evolution" -- they died out because the climate changed, probably after a massive meteor struck, and they were unable to adapt quickly enough. The tiny mouse-sized pre-mammals were able to continue on because they needed far less to survive and eked out an existence until conditions were favorable again.

You'd almost think there was a lesson in there somewhere about large animals becoming too used to their environment as it is and being unable to change when the environment changes, wouldn't you?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 15, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Yes it is. Too much of any one thing in an ecosystem is a bad thing. Too many browsers and forests die. Too much rain and topsoil runs off.

The ecosystem is also a dynamic one. The fish population to eat the plankton lag the plankton population, same as lions lag zebras, but with a step change in one, a new stable (or limit cycle) would emerge. What should happen over time is that corner of the ocean would become like a tropical rain forest of fish life ala the southern oceans. Nature abhors a food excess.

Further, research suggests that the number one cause of hypoxia is runoff of fertilizers...It's not a matter of having enough fish to eat the plankton. There could never be enough to overcome the influx of chemical nutrients and survive in the oxygen depleted water.

True, but not the topic of this article.

The authors clearly distinguished between fertilizer runoff-caused blooms ala Louisiana, and this one, caused by changes in wind patterns *only*. The change in wind pattern has made the ocean overly productive in pumping out phytoplankton near Oregon.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl, Red State said:

On the other hand, if we do something about climate change now, the worst that happens is we leave a better world for our progeny.

Really?

trex said:

Further, research suggests that the number one cause of hypoxia is runoff of fertilizers.

If we blame dead zones on GW (Global Warming) it seems the worst that happens is we distract attention from short-term, local problems that aren't moral issues and can reasonably be addressed.

Mnemosyne said:

The dinosaurs didn't die out because of "evolution" -- they died out because the climate changed, probably after a massive meteor struck, and they were unable to adapt quickly enough.

I.e., they failed to aapt because they were unable to adapt quickly enough!!! Now who's being obtuse?

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

...And, of course, this ties into corn ethanol. Nutrients derived from fertilizer applied to the Great Plains wash into the Mississippi and exacerbate the giant dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Inasmuch as corn ethanol production increases the amount of fertilizer being applied to the Great Plains, ethanol subsidies likely make the Gulf of Mexico dead zone worse.

Posted by: Drew Steen on February 15, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

That line should read, "I.e., they died because they were unable to adapt quickly enough!!! Now who's being obtuse?"

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Fair enough. But we can't wait for the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud!!!

How different?

How different?, how about the fact that this mushroom cloud actually exists, sitting right off the west coast?

Posted by: AnotherBruce on February 15, 2008 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hypoxia can also occur because of overuse of and run-off from certain phosphate-based fertilizers. Regardless, this is one more warning sign from nature that humankind is f*cking up the natural ecological balance. In response to the obvious conservative dipstick upthread who trotted out the tired, old conservative line about "natural cycles, blah, blah, blah,..." I have one question:

Do you think pollution is a good thing???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 15, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

What should happen over time is that corner of the ocean would become like a tropical rain forest of fish life ala the southern oceans

It's clear you're on crack. The food excess is abhorrent; it's killing everything.

Here in the midwest warming temperatures have allowed pest insects to have second and third broods. Trees which were formerly able to endure their affects are now dying en masse. There are no songbirds springing up to eat the insects and save the day. Quite the opposite; songsbirds are undergoing mass extinction as well due to a combination of habitat loss, pollution, disease, and changing temps.

Lions and zebras is a cute analogy but it does encompass the role of oxygen in this example. Lions can't chase and eat zebras if they can't breathe.

There remains the matter of the other more massive dead zones that are chemical caused.

Your point seems to be that global warming is going to save the day by creating all kinds of phytoplankton - even though these are creating the dead zones in the first place and global warming is also killing off all the essential reefs and making the water more acidic.

I think you should go with that. It suits you.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

mike s. quoth:
Now who's being obtuse?

The answer to your question is, I'm sure, obvious to all readers. Except one.

Posted by: joel hanes on February 15, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Really?

Yes.

Where are you posting from? Inhoff's office?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 15, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

AnotherBruce said:

how about the fact that this mushroom cloud actually exists, sitting right off the west coast?

I'm sorry, but this affects our lives how? I refer you to my initial point:

mike s. said:

I'm no oil-industry lobbyist, but global temperatures have fluctuated over the centuries. Scientists just haven't had the ability to observe the earth so sensitively. Somehow humanity has made it.
Not every extreme ecological event is a sign of the apocalypse.

PS: Pure snark unaccompanied by commentary ignored!

[You aren't contributing to discourse, you are trolling, pure and simple. It stops with this comment. If you have nothing substantive to add, future comments will be deleted.]

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but this affects our lives how? I refer you to my initial point

It kills fish and ocean life that we need for food.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

It kills fish and ocean life that we need for food.

Doesn't it sometimes feel like you're trying to argue with people who try to convince you that 2 + 2 doesn't equal 4, or that the sun doesn't rise in the east?

Posted by: AnotherBruce on February 15, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

AnotherBruce:

Yes. Denial is the the last refuge of a wingnut, and ignorance of basic facts is their modus operandi.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, Kevin, that's one of the wildest things I've heard in a while. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Hopefully our country and countries abroad will adopt a conversation public-and-private agenda as part of the new normal soon.

Posted by: Swan on February 15, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Crap! Conservation, not conversation.

Conversation is alright too, though.

Posted by: Swan on February 15, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

[Trolling deleted]

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

This won't be a popular post. But here it is. From a scientist's point of view, there are two problems with this research.
1. They can't rigorously prove that global warming is the cause, because global warming is not something we can switch on and off. That's not the researchers' fault, of course, but the fact remains that due to the nature of this particular beast, rigorous scientific proof is not possible.
2. We have good reason to suspect that the researchers have a bias pointing them in the direction of global warming as the culprit. Because global warming is frequently in the news and the scientific literature, especially in the biological and ecological sciences, it is understandably on the minds of researchers in those fields.

Neither of these problems *disproves* global warming as the culprit. However, it should make us cautious about the results. It's not great science.

In the bigger picture, environmentalists need to stop scornfully dismissing all global warming skeptics as cretins and morons, for two reasons.
1. Your scorn may be fun and amusing and cathartic, but it won't change anyone's mind, so it's not helpful in the least. Not clear why liberals think people like to be told they're stupid.
2. In any case, it's not stupid to have reasonable doubts about the evidence for human-caused global warming. The hard proof is not available, as I mentioned above.

The best way to push a carbon tax and other good ideas, IMO, is to be honest and pragmatic. Tell people that even though the proof isn't perfect, there's enough evidence and enough risk that some measures are probably our best bet. Further tell them of the 'side benefits' that will accrue even if we're wrong about global warming, such as reduced dependence on foreign oil.

That's my advice, take it or leave it.

Posted by: Shag on February 15, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK
While scientists have yet to measure the impact of the zone on fishing yields, fishermen say they already feel its effects as they are forced to travel ever farther to escape the zone's barren limits.

"This is a very serious issue," said Jim Giattina, director of the Gulf of Mexico Program office at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Giattina said the gulf boasts an annual catch of 1.7 billion pounds of fish and shellfish, worth $26 billion. "We've seen what can happen in other places in the world," he said. "We don't want to see a collapse of this fishery."

http://www.fishingnj.org/artdedzn.htm

However, such fishing success can mask a pending catastrophe, Diaz warns. In Europe, he recalls, "fishermen were laughing at scientists in the mid-'70s," when the latter cautioned that hypoxia was threatening bottom-dwelling aquatic life in the eastern end of the North Sea separating Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Harvests of Norwegian lobsters, for instance, remained robust through 1978.

The next year, however, these shellfish and the area's many bottom-dwelling fish were gone. The earlier bumper crops had reflected landings of oxygen-stressed animals that had left their burrows and other familiar turf to breathe easier, Diaz explains.

http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040605/bob9.asp

As the Oregon zone grows larger and stays longer - which has been the pattern - fishing stocks will be further affected. If crabs and fish and octopus can't grow HALF the year, yields will suffer over time.

Also: Salmon are critical to the nitrogen cycle in the Pacific Northwest rain forests. They consume nitrogen-rich food out at sea, swim up the rivers to spawn, and are caught by bears who ingest the salmon and carry their carcasses into the woods and deposit them there, giving those forests the critical nitrogen they need.

Growing dead zones affect salmon feeding areas. When the salmon go, the forests will begin to dwindle. When the forests dwindle it will rain less. When it rains less hydropower is impacted.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

One of the so called "fixes" for global warming put out by some rightards was to dump a lot of iron in the oceans to promote the very same algae growth. Of course nobody could have predicted this would also lead to massive oxygen free dead zones (d'oh!).

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 15, 2008 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Are we talking about this article here: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/319/5865/948

The management and conservation of the world's oceans require synthesis of spatial data on the distribution and intensity of human activities and the overlap of their impacts on marine ecosystems. We developed an ecosystem-specific, multiscale spatial model to synthesize 17 global data sets of anthropogenic drivers of ecological change for 20 marine ecosystems. Our analysis indicates that no area is unaffected by human influence and that a large fraction (41%) is strongly affected by multiple drivers. However, large areas of relatively little human impact remain, particularly near the poles. The analytical process and resulting maps provide flexible tools for regional and global efforts to allocate conservation resources; to implement ecosystem-based management; and to inform marine spatial planning, education, and basic research.

Don't sound like global warming, but a combination of factors. Third hand reports on science articles are often far off the mark.

Posted by: Luther on February 15, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

I just sent this in an e-mail to Kevin Drum directly, or at least an old e-mail:


Did you (or a surrogate) really just delete my comment as
"trolling"?!? ...

I haven never been asked to explain my widely unorthodox beliefs regarding Global Warming, and this hardly seems the invitation. But when I majored in anthropology, I noticed throughout all of human history, the need to explain explain extreme weather events has given rise to a priesthood class that can do so. This has continued through the present day, when "Science" has successfully discredited religion--I don't say "Christianity" because it has done so here in China, among other places, where Christianity has never reigned--but failed to replace it with a systematic system. Until now, when "Global Warming" has stepped in as the global narrative to explain any extreme weather or ecological event.
You may or may not agree with this. But if you really did delete my comment, I implore you, at least let me defend my view in comments! My view may be extreme... but I am not trolling.
Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Shag wrote: "... it's not stupid to have reasonable doubts about the evidence for human-caused global warming."

"Reasonable doubt" about the reality of human-caused global warming is an oxymoron. The evidence of global warming caused by human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, is overwhelming. It is not "reasonable" to doubt its reality.

Shag wrote: "The hard proof is not available, as I mentioned above."

That is incorrect. The hard proof is available, and it is overwhelming, from the basic and rock-solid physics of the CO2 "greenhouse effect", to the indisputable empirical evidence of rapid and extreme anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2, to the indisputable empirical evidence of rapid and extreme global warming directly attributable to the anthropogenic increase in CO2.

It is, in fact, either stupid, or ignorant, or dishonest, or some combination thereof, to deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming, or the severity of the problems it is already causing, or the even more severe problems that unmitigated continued warming will cause in the future.

Shag wrote: "Further tell them of the 'side benefits' that will accrue even if we're wrong about global warming, such as reduced dependence on foreign oil."

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel corporations like Exxon-Mobil -- who have spent tens of millions of dollars funding fake, phony climate change denialist pseudoscience from right-wing propaganda mills to keep the public confused about the reality of anthropogenic global warming -- don't see a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels as a "benefit".

They see it as a cost -- as having a negative impact on the trillions of dollars in profits they intend to reap from extracting and selling every last drop of oil and every last crumb of coal on Earth.

That's why they want to keep the public ignorant and yes, "stupid", about the reality of global warming, so that there won't be strong public pressure to reduce the use of fossil fuels, and the inevitable transition to clean, renewable energy can be postponed as long as possible.


Shag wrote: "Not clear why liberals think people like to be told they're stupid."

I don't consider myself a "liberal", but I don't think that people like to be told they're stupid. That doesn't mean that they are not stupid. In my own experience, when I am being stupid, it's to my benefit for someone to point it out to me.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 15, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

My view may be extreme... but I am not trolling.

That is in the eye of the beholder. And you are taking positions long-since abandoned by all except those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

By the way, I have studied Anthropology as well. You conveniently overlook the lack of scientific equipment and scientific method in those ancient societies.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 15, 2008 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Trex, you keep discussing the Gulf of Mexico, which is a pollution issue not a global warming issue, and has a completely different solution set.

You also keep neglecting the fact that the problem of too much phytoplankton is also the problem of not enough fish, which means you ignore possible solutions.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I commented on some of the things that link low oxygen zones (giant squid, carrion feeders) on my site. Get out your cephalopod recipe book.

Posted by: Kate on February 15, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...looked like that link worked in the preview, but let's try again.

Posted by: Kate on February 15, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"My view may be extreme... but I am not trolling."
Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 2:28 PM

Every other comment you posted most certainly has been trolling: gainsaying; deliberate conflation of tangentially related concepts; peremptory, backhanded dismissiveness; and not least a complete lack of any sort of substantive contribution to the dialogue whatsoever, in fact, a clearly discernible single focus of merely derailing the dialogue. Even your allowed "I'm not a troll" comment is disingenuous: "I'm not trolling [i.e., "at this exact moment, I'll shift gears just enough to maintain a thread of credibility"]...", and a direct conflation of two disciplines (religion and science) which, while overlapping in some very real aspects, also differ substantively, one might say absolutely, in their ontology and epistemology. My dogs turds have more to contribute to this thread than you do.

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on February 15, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Conrad's Ghost said:

in fact, a clearly discernible single focus of merely derailing the dialogue.

My goal is to derail the dialogue! The premise is that:

Global warming exists, as evidenced by these dead zones, which scientists concluded are caused by global warming.

Wait, what?

The surge is working, as evidenced by the reductions in violence, which leading expects concluded are caused by the surge working.

Logic, anyone?

[Let's put it to a vote. Do the readers want to engage this person, or would you rather his comments be deleted?]

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

shag - it sounds like you're being too critical here. The study is published in a good peer reviewed journal. It passed a significant bar. I'm not sure what you mean by "rigorous proof", but it might be a standard that's not appropriate for the physical sciences. For example, I would certainly say that a rigorous proof of Big Bang is not available, but it's still the boadly accepted view.

I'd like to see the actual paper here, and I'd like see a full conference version - Science is good and all, but it's a weekly. Still it seems pretty safe to say that we're looking at a solid piece of research that presents strong evidence for the case. That's based on the venue and people involved.

Posted by: doug on February 15, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

You also keep neglecting the fact that the problem of too much phytoplankton is also the problem of not enough fish, which means you ignore possible solutions.

We clearly need to begin cutting way back on commercial fishing so that stocks can repopulate. Like many other unpopular solutions it won't happen, but there you go.

I see what you mean now about a dead zone cycling. Your contention is that if there were just enough fish around at the beginning of the cycle they could eat all the phytoplankton. I can see why you would think this but it doesn't work that way.

There needs to be the right level and right kinds of phytoplankton in the water for the fish to thrive. Unfortunately these kinds of blooms overwhelm grazing fish. If oxygen levels drop too rapidly the fish have to swim away or risk becoming lethargic. If they stay their gills become clogged and diseased. The fish don't eat, waste away, and die.

If your theory were correct that this is all a Good Thing then phytoplankton blooms would be the antidote to depleted fish stocks, and we would be seeing comebacks. We are not. Also, of the many different kinds of phytoplankton not all are fish friendly when blooming. Many are toxic, and some formerly benign species are becoming toxic because they are appearing in larger concentrations than the fish can't handle.

As for the Gulf of Mexico vs. Oregon cases, the bottom line is that hypoxia is hypoxia, whether it's a result of nutrient-rich estuary runoff or changing wind and current patterns.

The solutions are to combat global warming, cut back on commercial fishing, eat more vegetables, and in general find sustainable ways to survive on the planet. That would include ending wars of hegemony and partisan political gain.

The ultimate solution is to respect all life and not treat living things as if they were commodities.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Mike S. - That's reasoning by analogy, not logic.

Posted by: doug on February 15, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Shag, as others have pointed out, you're taking a popscience article in the LATimes as the actual research paper. IME, most popular media reports of scientific research get the research wrong, some even reporting the opposite of the actual results, is their zeal to write a juicy article.

Another tenet of science is to use primary sources. I suggest you try it.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

If you want me to leave, I'll leave. Christ, it's too late in the time zone I'm in anyway.

But the moderators seem to think I'm coming at this from an angle I'm not. I am very energetic about arguing this point because I think it's an important point to be argued on the merits. If you think those points are out-of-bounds for discussion, fine--that basically makes that argument for me (Bourdieu, anyone?).

But if you think I'm just doing this to get attention, I'm sorry, but there is real dissent on Global Warming--even from the center-left.

Posted by: mike s. on February 15, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Vote mike s off the island, if only to keep otherwise sane people from engaging him in monologue....

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The premise is that: Global warming exists, as evidenced by these dead zones, which scientists concluded are caused by global warming.

No, you've stated it backwards. In this case the fact that global warming exists is an a priori assumption based on a host of evidence gathered from many scientific disciplines and a legion of studies.

In this case the premise is simply that due to global warming, warmer winds are causing upwelling of toxic gases from the deep ocean creating an anoxic zone.

It's like saying; due to the thunderstorm, winds felled a tree and blocked a road prohibiting traffic. No one denies the thunderstorm was the ultimate cause.

You're a ridiculous boob. Seriously. Go away.

Posted by: trex on February 15, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

but there is real dissent on Global Warming--even from the center-left.

And mike s reveals his cards -- that GW is merely a political dispute, irrespective of the Science. Dump the troll.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

mike s. - Global warming is a scientific issue, not political, as you suggest. Do you have evidence to contradict the prevailing scientific view? for credit, the evidence must be published in a peer reviewed journal.

Do that and you'll have contributed something.

(and if you come back with talk abotu scientific hegemony you're going to embarrass yourself.)

Posted by: doug on February 15, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

[Let's put it to a vote. Do the readers want to engage this person, or would you rather his comments be deleted?]

False dichotomy.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mother Nature is a liberal feminazi.

Look, if all the fish die off, we can just drain the oceans, fill them in and then we'll have plenty of room to build golf courses, tract homes, shopping malls and parking lots. Get that real estate boom going again!

There's always a solution if you believe in American know-how. But you can't-do liberals are always talking down the economy.

Posted by: Conservatroll on February 15, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

'It's the little unexpected consequences of global warming that charm me, like the fungus that is thriving in the new warmth and killing frogs all over the world. '

When I first moved to right off the Mississippi marshes in the upper midwest, for several years, in the summer, early and late in the day, in some places there would be so many frogs on the road(1000s) that you couldn't possibly avoid them all. Traffic has not increased drastically since then, but for years now, I never see frogs on the road.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on February 15, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

I.e., they died because they were unable to adapt quickly enough!!! Now who's being obtuse?

The person who doesn't see the relationship between large animals being unable to adapt to climate changes and global warming.

Even if -- and this is a huge if -- all of these climate changes are completely natural and have nothing to do with humans, that doesn't mean they won't be disastrous. It just means that you'll be able to stand on the rubble and say, "Well, it wasn't our fault!"

Posted by: Mnemosyne on February 15, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

fully one-third of the Chesapeak Bay is a seasonal dead zone, . . . Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State

There really is no relationship. Chesapeake Bay, along with the southern end of Hood Canal on Puget Sound, suffer from agricultural and effluvial run-off from livestock operations, "industrial" fertilizers, and failing septic systems.

The dead zones off Washington and Oregon aren't result of this. I wonder, however, if there is any tectonic angle? For example, near the Oregon dead zone there are a number of deep sea vents, though those seem to be favorable to certain forms of sea life.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 15, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

in some places there would be so many frogs on the road(1000s) that you couldn't possibly avoid them all. Traffic has not increased drastically since then, but for years now, I never see frogs on the road. Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08!

Frogs are an interesting marker. I can't remember the last time I saw a tree frog around here, and we used to find them all the time when I was a child.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 15, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Go ahead and delete or block mike s.

He is clearly a "troll" -- he's blatantly ignorant of the subject matter, and is doing nothing but posting deliberately annoying and inflammatory comments to get attention.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 15, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I remain hopeful that his next post is going to be insightful... just wait.. he's going to surprise us with a thorough literature review.

Posted by: doug on February 15, 2008 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

I am opposed to deleting comments. There are many Americans like mike s. and red state mike. Their denials about global warming's causation and the coming ecological calamity are not obscene. All of the fish and birds will be extinct soon enough, and they will be too. Let their comments stand like Sumerian stelae for a few millenia as lamentations of an intelligence lost.

Posted by: Brojo on February 15, 2008 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the Edwards" humongous house.

Posted by: Where's Sally? on February 15, 2008 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

...and red state mike. Their denials about global warming's causation and the coming ecological calamity are not obscene.

I have never argued that the globe is not warming. I just try not to be retarded about it's impact or the proper response.

We've come close to destroying our fisheries, which has nothing to do with global warming but takes away the top of the food chain for phytoplankton. Only a moron would suppose that that wouldn't have an effect on the population of whatever it eats. Compound that will an increase in a naturally occurring upwelling and you have Oregon.

Let their comments stand like Sumerian stelae for a few millenia as lamentations of an intelligence lost.
Posted by: Brojo

While you are whining I will be adapting.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II wrote: "There really is no relationship. Chesapeake Bay, along with the southern end of Hood Canal on Puget Sound, suffer from agricultural and effluvial run-off from livestock operations, 'industrial' fertilizers, and failing septic systems."

All of those are important factors in the deteriorating condition of the Chesapeake Bay, but actually the Chesapeake is already affected by global warming. According to an October 2007 report from the National Wildlife Foundation:

* Warmer air and water will alter the composition of species that can live in the bay, contribute to worsening dead zones and harmful algal blooms, enhance marine diseases, and encourage expansion of harmful invasive species such as nutria.

* Rapidly rising sea levels will inundate coastal marshes and other important habitats that are important for fish and waterfowl and make coastal property more vulnerable.

* More-extreme weather events, including floods, storms, droughts, and heat waves will lead to more polluted runoff into the Chesapeake Bay, hurt water quality, and make the outdoor experience increasingly unacceptable for people.

* Changing climate across North America will affect breeding grounds and migration patterns for waterfowl, such that fewer birds make their way to Chesapeake Bay each year.

Unfortunately, the combined effects of global warming and other human impacts (e.g. water pollution, overfishing, etc) are synergistic and the overall damage will be greater than the sum of the parts.

There will be many more nasty and unexpected surprises like the "dead zones" described in this article.

sjrsm wrote: "While you are whining I will be adapting."

If you think of starving as adaptation, sure you will.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 15, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

If you think of starving as adaptation, sure you will.
Posted by: SecularAnimist

That's the spirit! That's the kind of liberal leadership I want in Washington! "We're all doomed...there's nothing to be done. Enjoy eating your shoes."

Jeesh...

Posted by: sjrsm on February 15, 2008 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

sjrsm> That's the spirit! That's the kind of liberal leadership I want in Washington! "We're all doomed...there's nothing to be done. Enjoy eating your shoes."

He has a point. The western world's green movement tends to obsess over its and society's failures, rather than successes. It only takes a glance at Russia or China to see just how (relatively) successful the west has actually been at changing its ways, while still staying ahead economically.

GG emissions, fossil fuel depletion, and the importance of the middle east are all problems that can be eliminated in one generation, and we'll be richer & safer at the end of it. That has to be the story sold.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on February 15, 2008 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. Let's start with you and your family.

It's about birth control, you effing halfwit.

Posted by: Disputo on February 15, 2008 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think there's an article in this month's New Scientist magazine that discusses the evidence for the great die-offs at certain points in Earth's history and ascribes it to changes in the Ocean's acidity arising from global warming.

Posted by: FS on February 15, 2008 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, wasn't this the plot of a He-Man episode?

Posted by: Michael A. on February 16, 2008 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Bakun considers the Benguela, the world's most powerful current, to be a harbinger of changes in other currents. His theory is that warm, rising air over the land makes upwelling more frequent and more intense. The phenomenon, he said, is complicated by decades of heavy fishing that has reduced schools of sardines to a tiny fraction of their former abundance.

Not enough fish remain to consume phytoplankton before it dies and settles on the bottom, creating an anoxic dead zone."

Looks like a combination of effects, actually. Due to overfishing, these systems are less able to deal with changes in climate.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on February 16, 2008 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce the Canuck

Japan is actually the poster child for environmental change. From about the worst polluted country in the world in the late 1960s, to one of the less polluted ones now.

No favourite of Greens because of the whales thing. But still, an impressive achievement. And Japan makes a fetish of energy conservation: the average Japanese emits about 1/3rd as much carbon as the average American, but has a standard of living of roughly 70%.

Other than France (with its diesel cars, and its nuclear power) and Sweden/Scandinavia, no other western country has done remotely as well.

Over to the Soviet Union. No one thinks communism was anything other than an environmental catastrophe. Indeed environmental groups were amongst the first to reach out to their counterparts in the USSR in the 70s and 80s, and growing environmental disquiet was a major factor in the fall of the USSR (especially Chernobyl, but also things like the pollution of Lake Baikal and Balkash, draining of the Aral Sea, soil depletion, etc.).

The 'environmental movement tends to obsess about society's failures, rather than its' [relative] successes'?

Not really. Rather what the environmental movement sees is how hard won the battles have been: particularly on DDT (still under attack), global warming (no sign of any tangible policy action as yet), CFCs and the ozone layer (a very near miss), fish stock depletion (the Grand Banks Cod are gone, and have not returned), deforestation etc. Even the fight against Acid Rain was nearly derailed on 'economic' grounds: SO2 scrubbers were too expensive, the US economy would be ruined, etc.

We've lost a lot: of time, of precious species, of pristine nature. We could lose a lot, lot more if we don't slow down what we are doing to the planet. You don't have to be James Lovelock to think we are at high noon for the human race-- the decisions we make in the next 50 years or so will have a huge impact on the future of the planet, and of the human race.

Posted by: Valuethinker on February 16, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Abnormal is the new normal.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on February 16, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

I will be adapting

It takes many, if not thousands, of generations to evolve sickle-cell anemia to protect against malaria. However, some scientists think the oceans will only be able to sustain slime.

Posted by: Brojo on February 16, 2008 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

sjrsm wrote: "While you are whining I will be adapting."

I replied: "If you think of starving as adaptation, sure you will."

sjrsm wrote: "That's the spirit! That's the kind of liberal leadership I want in Washington! 'We're all doomed...there's nothing to be done. Enjoy eating your shoes.'"

I didn't say that there is "nothing to be done."

There is plenty to be done to halt and reverse anthropogenic global warming. There are in fact no technical or economic obstacles to reducing CO2 emissions as quickly as science tells us we must in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, and there are no technical or economic obstacles to achieving a complete phaseout of both fossil fuels and nuclear power by the middle of the 21st century, through a transition to optimally efficient use of clean, renewable energy sources.

And this transition will constitute a New Industrial Revolution, the basis for a thriving and sustainable economy that provides ample energy for people throughout the world to enjoy a materially comfortable lifestyle, without degrading the capacity of the Earth to support life as do our current, crude, destructive, wasteful and inefficient technologies.

How can you honestly say that I am saying there is "nothing to be done" when my very first comment on this thread was a link to an article about combating global warming while simultaneously boosting the economy through creating "green collar jobs" in the renewable energy and efficiency industries?

My point to you was that those who resist doing anything to mitigate anthropogenic global warming, or who delay doing anything to mitigate global warming by denying that the problem even exists, and instead blather vacuously about "adapting", are helping to create the inevitability of a future where we'll be "eating our shoes" when anthropogenic climate change leads to the worldwide collapse of agriculture.

The barriers to solving our global warming and other energy problems are not technical or economic, but institutional and political. The fossil fuel industries, automobile industry, nuclear industry and other ultra-rich and ultra-powerful corporations, and their bought-and-paid for operatives in government are the barrier. They have a vast financial incentive to perpetuate the status quo for as long as possible. Thus their lackeys like Cheney & Bush block action on global warming and decimate Federal support for efficiency and renewable energy, while showering the fossil fuel and nuclear industries with massive subsidies and tax breaks. Thus they fund multimillion dollar propaganda campaigns to keep the public ignorant and confused about global warming.

Thus they will condemn us all to "adapt" to a planetary catastrophe, if that's what it takes to keep the trillions of dollars in profits flowing until the last drop of oil and the last crumb of coal on Earth have been extracted, sold and burned.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 16, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Another good (in the sense of interesting yet depressing) article that came out this week on human impact on the oceans:

Total Human Impact on Oceans Mapped for the First Time

Posted by: nepeta on February 16, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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