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#76: Save the Corals, Save the World


Welcome mm too important not important. My name is brian calvert kennedy and my name. Is you wish hey brian yeah yeah. This is the podcast where we dive into a specific topic or question affecting everyone on this planet right now in the next ten years or so if it can kill us sir turn us into the andromeda strain we are in our guests are scientists doctors engineers politicians astronauts even at a reverend and and we work together towards action steps our listeners can take with their voice their vote their dollar and i'm increasingly feeling like in some vigilante way with like a batmans belt all the things he has cool. Maybe that should be the fourth thing voice vote dollar and like bat wing bat bat wing yup. This is your friendly reminder that you can send questions thoughts feedback drawings to us on twitter at important not imp or email mail us at fun talking important not important dot com you can also join thousands of other smart people and subscribe to our free weekly newsletter important dot com. This week's episode is delightful. We're talking about snorkeling and so fun and how what you see when you snorkel or i guess in this okay specifically what you don't see any more <hes> means. We're gonna. We're gonna die right. This is going to get everybody to wanna listen yeah. No it's really great. It's really delightful. Our guest is dr kim cobb and wonderful delightful <hes> so impassioned and and just i mean using all of her immense capabilities to to sway folks like us listeners out there and also <hes> the people that are in charge for better or worse <hes> on on the corporate level on the market level and and elected officials and government to take some fucking action so you shouldn't get gets fixed. I guess is the best way to put it exed yep. That's where we are seventy six episodes and that's why i've got it down to one. You should listen to it right now. So think about how much you the idea of snorkeling makes you happy and then listen to this. Go to your happy place and then those ruin it all right. Let's go to the doctor cobb. Let's go to cop our guest. Today is dr kim cobb and together. We're going to discuss save. The corals save the world dr cobb. Welcome thanks for having me. I sure bears cited and appreciative. Thank you <hes> could we. Let's just get started. If you don't mind doctor by telling everybody <hes> who you are and what you do yup so i am a professor in earth net mus feerick sciences at georgia tech and i specialize in climate change specifically how the extremes of of climate change are changing in the ocean with a anthropogenic greenhouse gases and also how the past variations before we i started emitting greenhouse gases <hes> what their statistics were like and basically how that whole climate change phenomenon changing the structure of these extremes so that's my obsession and i work in deep tropics at sites in the middle of the pacific ocean and then deep in the rainforest of borneo and so that keeps me it keeps me going keeps me crazy. That sounds just like our office in studio city california. Yes same thing very yeah. No brian just because dr cobb is here to talk about her. Obsessions doesn't mean you get to talk about yours. That is a different parkas. Okay start if you could not be fantastic. No problem robin different podcast. Hey let's go <hes> <hes> we said it before i started recording but <hes> what we'll do to get this going is <hes> provide some context just for our topic today <hes> with you dr n dig into some <hes> action oriented questions that ca two of the heart of of why hey we should give a shit about it and what you do and what we can all help to to do about support you. That sounds good sounds awesome. Thank you for that. We're happy to they do it. We'll we'll see we gotta bring it home here dr cobb we do like to start with one important question <hes> to set the tone for our conversation here today instead of saying tell l._s. your entire life story. We like to ask a doctor kim cobb. Why are you vital to the survival of the species y._a._r._d. Gave birth to four people so i was on my part. It's not yeah that's already something so <hes> aside from that i would size ponto bution into our our future is a species yeah. I would like to think that i am somebody who is really looking into the future of of climate change impacts and with increasing urgency in in somewhat degree of desperation trying to sound alarm bells get people prepared eared accelerate community action to protect themselves and ultimately yell and scream about reducing emissions so that we don't have to face face the worst effects of climate change so i'm kinda kinda trying to turn the needle here <hes> to the to the other side of the equation and in really bring down these risks for humanity at large so no. I wake up every day thinking about that. I'm not sure how much progress make but i figure it's a worthy goal. I mean yeah. I mean it c- i feel like if there were worthy goal that would be it <hes> and so we we thank you for what you're doing and <hes> i'm curious because because it is such a grounded but ambitious and powerful mission. I'm curious again without getting too much in an industry. 'cause i wanna get into into which working on is there a specific relationship you can point to that was a catalyst <hes> for your endeavors and actions to get you to where you are today to due to make you do what you do will yeah i mean i basically a a classically trained climate scientists and that's where i thought i'd spend the rest of my life while policymakers digested those facts in acted accordingly to to get the kind of policies. We need in place driven been by those data sets. That's what i thought i would thought it'd be right now and instead i find myself in a place where <hes> science is broadly attacked where the facts six of the body of work that i have contributed to our denied on a regular basis by the most powerful people in the world and <hes> this is that's not what i would prefer to be doing but yet this is increasingly what <hes> those of us who are trained in this field are challenged to do which is stand up and defend our work could defend these facts and ellen screen until they enact the kinds of data driven policies that will keep communities safe so that's that's a a where we find ourselves and it spent us two years that i've been challenging myself to <hes> redeploy my skill sets from classical training and climate science to more applied work digging about how i could really help. Communities have different whole variety different scales else <hes> move their needles to protect themselves and help us accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future <hes>. It's not an easy z. process but i feel it is extremely rewarding and it's one that i find a huge community in in <hes> in service to that goal scientists again kind of a massive redeployment here and it's it's fun to be a part of yeah i mean it feels fun a lot of the time a lot of the times it can feel very sad brian and are definitely not classically trained climate scientists because no but <hes> okay. I like i said we don't need to get into it but i and i've spoken about this before. We got a comment once from <hes> itunes review which are across the board five stars. One gentleman gave us three because he said it felt like we you were doing what was called virtue signal inc. Which bryan explained to me is basically saying things for the sake of being seen as saying them. I guess yes or becoming some sort of <hes> like a trying to become known about it in some way. I don't know i'm not explaining it well but my retort to that is is. I think really like you said <hes>. You said you don't totally want to be doing this. Specific part of the job i would love to not have this podcast and to not have to be doing the same sort of a similar version of that which is bringing all of these voices issues to light because we're we're not paying attention on aim because they're already devastating an in so many different ways <hes> i would just would love to not be involved in it in some way and as much as i am enjoying it and learning thanks so much from and being inspired by so many folks out there that are doing it <hes>. It doesn't exactly lift me up a lot of days but anyways okay a little topic for for what we're going to get into today so dr sometime. This is super technical. Sometimes it's not sometimes it's more perspective what we try to do is many of our listeners are are driving on scooters right now so they can exactly wikipedia this stuff themselves. We try to dial down to lowest common denominator for our audience skit or writers scooter exactly who yeah one hundred percent or not wearing helmets by the way oh and the writing on site will it's a nightmare. They're not allowed to ride on the sidewalks. Anyway written very very clear any skater people as a fellow biker so got a shoutout to the scooter folks. We are at the same family. We need to work together by the way them mm-hmm. We couldn't be bigger. We couldn't be bigger cars. Gotta get outta here. I'm like amsterdam's. Let's go. I want boats and bikes. That's it just protect yourself yeah his literally literally the point is what we try to do. Here's meet our listeners where they are so we can get on the same page because people have a hard time acting without real context right so i want to frame this railway. I think i understand and again. Please please do not take this as an insult to your life's work. Why even our listeners. I don't understand the implications of something like coral reef bleaching or corals dying off entirely where the great barrier reef going by by. It's it's not that they can't imagine it right. They can see it. It's twenty nineteen. We i can see a live cam of the great barrier reef right now if i wanted to we can see pictures cheers and we can see timeline bodo photos just like they show the ones of glaciers have melted away. It's kind of the same thing with all the many many many insect species a._b._c.'s we've taken down in a report right of course it's terrible but it's hard to really conceive of one. I guess because people basically don't go out side anymore and two because people even our listeners generally don't understand why insects are important or which ones eat the other ones and why hi and the ocean has it even worse. We read these massively damning reports about how the oceans been turns out saving our asks for one hundred years now absorbing something like please correct me if i'm wrong like ninety percent of the carbon we've been spitting out retaining this heat it would otherwise be in the air but people aren't in the ocean despite so much of humanity living on the coasts around the world and if they were if they understood and appreciated it we wouldn't be dumping so much shit into it or shaking their heads articles like those and then going back to avocado toast coral reefs are incredible and beautiful and manila times nearly alien looking and they're one of the most magnificent features of planet earth so people see them leashed and think that's awful. Maybe we you won't go to the next year but after everything we've talked about on the show and the people we've talked to in hearing from our listeners. I feel like sometimes the primary reason why they're not moving mountains to save coral reefs or don't understand why they're the tip of the sword is got to at least be in part because in so many ways shit is very very bad up here on land right in their face all the time <hes> top down so coral reefs are right down towards the bottom of their list to fix we can't just for instance switched to paper straws to save them and then feel better about ourselves but that's why we're here today so i wanna help folks understand what it means. The coral sir are bleaching and dyeing off what it means when that occurs what the reefs are leading indicators for <hes> keeping in mind everything i just mentioned primarily that again folks it turns out been willing to in the show notes oceans have been our firewall against truly massive climate effects and that firewalls walls now breaking down so i want to dig into the doctor save the girls save the world to get everyone literally on the same page. Let's take this way back to square one doctor cobb. What is a coral reef so a coral reef is really a big pile of <hes> living being organisms as well as past organisms that provide the foundation for the living organisms and these corals are animals at the at the at the coral reefs that we all talk about the surface coral reefs you know these animals are filter feeders and they build these really hard homes. It's <hes> made of calcium carbonate and they have these really cool microscopic plant algae food factories embedded in their tissues symbionese that <hes> provide a huge amount of their energy and this is an organism that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years to its current state in hispanic thin- perpetual facet in feature of our planet earth over that whole time wildly successful surviving mass extinctions and providing adding refuges for fish providing structural protection for coastal communities all across the tropics and of course jaw-dropping beauty beauty for those of us who have had the fortune of of being <hes> in the water with a to witness these incredible macroscopic features. There's of our earth. It's visible from space so these are just such an amazing structure from the microscopic elements <hes> all all the way up to the macroscopic kind of earth scale elements of our planet and everything in between so it's really part of our earth and and part of of our part of who we are as humans well. Everything is connected. I love it yeah. That seems to be a recurring theme. Here is the world breaks down turns out as whoa whoa so i think i mean that's a pretty good description of y. There are quarries there <hes> i'm. I don't know i'm probably wrong about this but from what i understand. Coral reefs are the most biodiversity ecosystems on the planet is is that right even more so than rainforests yes that's true true and that's because of the wealth of microbes that are on the the refund invertebrates that are on the reef all the way up to the <hes> denizens that that we all can see you big fish and sharks <hes> that call the reform as well so <hes> the coral triangle. Oh is an area in the western pacific that is the most biodiverse region and i guess it's home to some millions and millions of species in in a single you know several thousand kilometers square so it's it's extremely impressive is wild yeah it was going to i got a little tidbit from the internet internet so it's probably wrong but i was curious. <hes> despite this quote despite covering less than point one percent of the ocean floor reefs host more than a quarter of all marine fish species in addition to other other marine animals. Is that sound right. Yeah i mean i think it's maybe closer to seventy five percent percent of fish species at some point in their life cycle <hes> can claim a connection to coral reefs of and and with respect to biodiversity very important to recognize the value that they have for drug discovery not something that most people think about but there are hundreds of scientists around the world who prospect exclusively on coral reefs for advanced drugs to treat human cancer cancer and human health rightous and human alzheimer's judging you really trying to look through the chemical inventories of these amazing systems were just begun to scratch the surface of what they could potentially provide to us in instead. We're bleaching good good good so you mentioned that they've been around a long time. How long are we talking here. Are they are are. They like <unk>. Sharks been around since the dyno's before that after that way before that so you know two hundred sixty million years here so talk about dinosaurs going extinct sixty five million years ago right with the big meteorite impact our we're talking way way back in so now you're going wow wow these are systems that survived the extinction that killed the dinosaurs and they did and and these are organisms that survived five the ensuing house world of fifty five million years ago when most of the glaciers melted temperatures were much warmer in syllables much higher her and many of my colleagues looked to that world as an adult for future climate states and yes they survived that too and so they are incredibly resilient elian organisms <hes> over geologic time and this is really an indicator of their success evolutionary in how much they have adapted over geologic time to whether the ins and outs of natural climate variations and of course yet today we are <hes> wiping them off of <hes> some already and increasingly large swaths of global race in the next kendall coming decades and this is already underway. It's it's <hes> ironic and terrible that you know. Dinosaurs were around for you. You know tens of millions if not a hundred plus million years. I can't remember what the exact timeframe is and you know. Homo sapiens is a two hundred thousand years. Something like that and call reefs have survived all that but we're we. We are the things that <hes> are taking them down. Is it's great work. Everybody <hes> our our our our reefs more prevalent in certain parts of the world or the ocean ocean naturally is a warm water cold water deepwater shallow water yeah so generally warm water <hes> but there are some corals that are adapted to deep water environments so they can live down to kilometer into the ocean and there are reports that are adapted to cold water systems that are hanging out you know up in ireland <hes> of the north sea so they're not the state of look the same of course is the corals that <hes> you a dive in hawaii or florida or tahiti but <hes> there many many many different kinds of of corals and so you know that's part of the amazing bajic corals is how many environments you can find them in today really the bulk of the coral reefs lie around the equator and then you need to have land near the surface and we have some very deep oceans covering large person via quarter then so that's not world's bro and so the warmest water and the shallowest seas as as you probably can guess are in the west pacific and that's where we have these true hotspots of coral biodiversity the ad reefs that have evolved over <hes> really tens of thousands of years to be their their current majestic scope and and these are the reese unfortunately unfortunately that rests really closest to the threshold of water temperatures that we're exceeding with large-scale the ocean warming and these unfortunately are going to be the first reefs that are likely to succumb to global warming well colo refunder. One complete done got it. I feel like we should get a badge or something. You shouldn't but court all right okay so doctor. Let's let's talk about a bleaching. I mean you know just what is that. Why is that happening. <unk> with that yeah so coral bleaching is something thing that <hes> corals have adapted to survive very short lived ocean warming events so how short-lived maybe two three four months the kinds of temperature spikes that occurred over geologic time and this is a response aunts that enables them to go into a completely dormant state and <hes> really avoid the damage of having they're all goal photo symbionese that are embedded in their tissues producing too many oxygen free radicals and in damaging the coral tissue instead of providing a net benefit through food production. They are providing a net harm. When ocean temperatures get too warm in so literally the coral expels dell's these colorful algal photo symbionese from tissues and which leaves a completely white. It's colorless organism awesome without its algal symbionese inside of it and it also is missing that energy source in in the form of <hes> sugars from put a synthesis in so it goes into a state of absolute dormancy in when i say absolute i mean absolute it doesn't build a skeleton it ceases as is all metabolic function and it goes into this kind of sleep state and it's waiting for ocean temperatures to get cool enough to <hes> be re colonized colonized by photosynthesis fans resume. It's it's normal operations and unfortunately if this does not occur in a very short amount of time the coral will starve to death in that's how you go from a healthy coral to bleach zero and then if the ocean temperatures remain to warm <hes> the the coal color colony will die and it can't come back soon ship to start from scratch and so that's what we're seeing across these reefs with ocean warming so quick question there you said they'll they'll go dormant <hes> for and remain that way for a short period of time helping the <hes> temperatures will drop <hes> obviously you're are basically wonder woman in work in geological timescales <hes> as opposed to brian. I what does a short amount of time mean. Did you say it was a couple of months is are. Are we talking months years. Oh we oh my goodness. We are talking months. We're not so sure i mean literally the coral may be drying on reserve <hes> food stores or fat in its organism to try to lend through that period of dormancy and remain alive but i thought if water temperatures don't come back down in a matter of months and it will die and so as coral reef scientists we monitor the <hes> magnitude magnitude of the warming event that are given refocus experiencing as well as the duration into it's really a function of magnitude and the duration so the warmer the events <unk> than the shorter the duration at the coral will have a four it goes into a more acute stage starvation and the cooler you're the event and but it can be <unk> longer than the coral had a better chance and so there that is because there are stages of bleaching so a coral will <hes> maybe a partially bleach not fully bleach fully bleached perfectly white coral really just has a matter of a month or two if if that before it's going to tip into <hes> coral death at so when we go out in these reefs that are experiencing acute warming <hes> we see a whole rainbow of different scales of bleaching from corals that look perfectly fine and then right next to it will be a coral that is bleached one hundred percent and then right next to that will be a dead coral and this just reflects the diversity that we have on these reefs in the different species have different resistance levels and it's not until you get to the events that are super extreme that you're gonna start wiping out most of those corals all the way through most species all the way through most of the size classes etc. It takes salat <unk> yet. That is what we're seeing in these last several years she when did we. I noticed that you know that this was happening. The coral reefs were under threat and wended you know the <hes> ocean science community as a whole start going oh we there's a series well corals. Those were always projected to be no the canarian nicole mine for ocean warming because they sit so close to <hes> the bleaching threshold and and you know it's something that they have developed naturally and they have to be adaptive because they sit at these really really warm waters and you know whether happens in the ocean to <hes> but yet it was really in nineteen ninety seven nineteen ninety eight that we had the first global scale coral bleaching mortality event associated with what was at the time the largest el nino event on record so this is a natural ocean event. It lasts for six to nine months. It's born in the tropical pacific that it can spread very quickly to adjoining basins in the indian ocean atlantic it brings water temperatures that can be in excess of you know oh ten degrees fahrenheit warmer than average for months on end and so that really wiped out a very large number of reefs across the indian meaning pacific oceans in particular and it was the first event that was surveyed even at some of the more remote sites in real time by korea scientists because it's an event that we saw coming through our climate prediction capabilities and people were able to mobilize and so we had the first comprehensive surveys and it was very very alarming to see that but at that point we still didn't know what the pace of ocean warming would be over the next several decades so now of course we have the twenty fifteen twenty sixteen media event as the new record breaking el nino event occurring on even warmer ocean baseline much more destruction in that event and of course we're just waiting for the next year to drop with the next el nino event and it's <hes> it's a it's taken you know hundreds and hundreds of people many many many months of their lives to go out and collect these kinds of date that help us see the sheer magnitude of the threat to modern day race and what we've already lost well so all i just thinking about this the way headlines rephrased sometimes in the way that moves into mainstream conversation and they can see how people say things like boy. The oceans are warming and owed. Did you see that the coral reefs are getting bleached to went when probably the more correct understanding being in translation is <hes> korea sir <hes> going through all these different stages of of bleaching and some of them are are starting to die which means i you know severe ocean. Warming is right around the corner. Does that make more sense as as you mentioned there as the canary in the coal mines of yeah. I mean the the the real the real story yeah i mean i think the real story is that oceans are already warming. Dramatically in corals are already dying period and it's gonna get worse so that that's really the bottom line from our perspective as <unk> scientists and coral scientists this this train is already well under way to end it so it's a serious wakeup call about how vulnerable ecosystems arbit- also how how vulnerable we are starting to lose a major piece of function of our earth system and we don't even know really what that's going to do to be honest with you but it's not going to be pretty yeah. I've never been my therapist. Can you can tell you never been a huge fan of of the things. I don't know of being scared of the things things. I don't know the that is <hes>. That's the dark place for me so all of that considered dr do and i know you've testified testified to congress and things like that. Do you ever still find it difficult to make your case in the grand scheme of shit. We need effects like right now. That does that make sense <hes> <hes> it just seems like every day. Folks are inundated by contribute to this do this. This is on fire. This is not on fire. This is underwater this and this where where'd you find the most success and i guess also where do you find the largest. Frustrations can consistently well. I mean i find the most success and hope in reminding myself that not everybody has to care about the same thing and not everybody's going to care about the fact that coral reefs are dying today. Some people will care passionately enough that it's going to get them out of their chair and get them off of their computer into the street and make them pick up that phone in in call their elected official but it's not gonna work for everybody in so i just remember that in realized that it takes a communicating being in a very diverse <hes> way with very diverse people and it's gonna take very diverse voices with different stories to tell. I'm only one of hundreds of stories that we tell about climate change. I happen to care a lot about the ocean. I happen to share that love with many of my. I fellow humans on this planet and so it for me. It's a big motivating factor but i think when we get down to talking to folks who would prioritize as a human lives or economy <hes> <unk> over something as remote as tropical pacific coral reef. I get that and i i need to be ready with those talking points <hes> just as forcefully and passionately as i can speak that a coral reef in the middle of the pacific ocean so it's not a one-size-fits-all equation in can't get upset by the fact that everybody has moved to the highest level of action by dying race. I get shot. I didn't work. That's why we need multiple voices and mobile perspectives. I think that's so nuanced and helpful which is not waking up and going like why can't i get the entire world to give a. I should've coral reefs. It's almost like yeah picking your spots and understanding that there's there is this avalanche of things happening but if you can if you can find the right people <hes> those those people can can hopefully make a big difference so hopefully that some of the folks out there listening because it is it is a tremendous thing to see these things in real life and that it is truly a jarring and damning to to then see a dorm enter dying <hes> and thank this. Something must not be good here. There's this cannot be right. Hey brian. How are you enjoying our experience with anchor are a new publishing platform and it has been such a nice improvement. It's <hes> it's the future like the first time i could order pizza from my phone. Remember life should just be this. Way feels like this is the future we were promised. Exactly anchor has been at the light. It's free. It's easy as hell <hes>. It's everything you need to make a podcast new or an existing one like ours moved right over so easy and it's all in one place you can record and edit. They'll distribute distribute your podcast everywhere spotify apple podcast google. I mean all the all the places right yeah and great news. You can make money from your podcasts yeah. That's a revelation to revelation. That's really nice so get out their kids download the anchor app on whatever device he got and or go to anchor dot f._m. To get get started so we talked a little about you hinted at this earlier. Let's talk about all the sectors doctors that disappearing coral reefs are impacting because it's not just you know the the biodiversity of of the local ecosystem itself. It's i believe you mentioned tourism. There's substance issues and i believe in and please educate me on this <hes> corres- provide some flood protection as well in some in some ways. I guess tourism i. I mean you mentioned so many of these. Corals are in tropical areas places where economies are heavily driven by tourism autism and diving in and things like that. Are we already seeing repercussions in those areas well. I think that you know you hear so many competing being narratives coming out of australia right now that has such a major portion their economy tied to tourism on the great barrier reef and you have have a elected government that <hes> would like to trumpet a story of resilience and recovery <hes> from the latest rounds bleaching mortality and pitting directly again evidence from the scientific community that this is a train wreck. That's already underway and a couple sun shades and a couple million dollars is not gonna cut it. You have to reduce emissions yesterday last decade and so you really do see this planning out and <hes> the death rows of <hes> those people with deep vested interests tied to the maintenance eight months of the fossil fuel industry and <hes> those moneyed interests really telling story that is completely false from a scientific typic- perspective but on the other hand you have communities like those in florida that are deeply tied culturally and economically comically as well to the coral reefs much closer to home of course here and they spend engaged in in decades of trying to do whatever whatever they can to apply scientific methods and conservation efforts to <hes> help their coral reefs <hes> get through some of this and some some of their repeated hits that those recip- taken so <hes> i do believe we're already seeing dan wide-scale damages from <hes> ocean warming and associated disease and degradation and i think that that's pretty clear it sites like hawaii i think that's pretty clear florida <hes> insights at the great barrier reef and it's just a matter of really how we can disentangle the economic data of what it might have been like if these briefs said than as resplendent as they were ten or twenty years ago in what's going on right now given all the other <hes> economic <hes> hits that that communities are taking thing for one reason or another but this is clearly going in a bad direction for this communities in in many of them are waking up to this reality and trying to do something about in the lobby their electric officials sure i think back to <hes> without getting political here when when obama did <hes> you know follow through on a lot of the bailouts of the economy back in two thousand nine and one of the numbers <hes> they always talked about was jobs saved and how it was a huge number. We're but jobs saved isn't as impactful as you know. Jobs lost a number of people who lost their healthcare or things like that and like i think about utah <music> disentangling the economic front which is like we. I wish it were easier to say it to to paint a more specific nuanced picture of like look if the research dying. This is what your tourism numbers look like but that's. I imagine that that's a difficult task. I don't be that yeah i mean i think you know we have these large scale. Economic models does that help us understand the economic damages from climate change and there are so many deep vulnerabilities vulnerabilities across our economy with respect to climate change of course most notably seat will rise in the trillions of dollars of infrastructure. We have along the coast here here. In the united states let alone the global economy <hes> things like a critical infrastructure for food production and vulnerabilities to crops <hes> these are all things that we see playing out right now as well and so i think for those portions the economy that are tied to coral reefs in the united states very small number the australian. It's a very very large numbers. Some of these conversations we can look to australia and the vulnerability that they face that are so acutely tied tied to climate change. We're talking about massive wildfires really damaging floods and the loss of their reefs. They're really on the leading edge and so we can see these pitted narratives taking place in a way that they will continue to evolve in this country three but they're really facing very very near term. Profound economic threats from climate change down under so talk to me about substance. I guess for lack of a better word of the edible marine species the ones the ones that are consumed farmed fish around the world which species are being most affected by this by the ecosystem <hes> the the bulk of their ecosystem dying where is being affected the most i guess where are they going and and then i guess how is that affecting those local economies that depend on that for their own food but also for <hes> the local economies and let me know of none of that makes yeah that makes sense but there's a lot going on there as your question implies darker there yeah there there are there are you know hundreds of millions of people who depend on coral reefs and the fish that that are living on those rates for their primary source of routine and so this is really a food security issue that we're facing we talk about degrading reefs at the same time many of these reefs in associated we we fish are under heavy overfishing pressures and other kinds of environmental threats related to a coastal development ed's and unsustainable practices in these <hes> subsistence communities that it's kind of you know just every man and woman for themselves and and <hes> very little regulation d corruption <hes> berry little protection for the <unk> providing so much bounty and so this is just. Is there a compound climate. Change is one of many threats that these communities face that are so dependent on the race. Which is you know such a <hes> kind of devastating devastating prospect that we'll have these <hes> very large and in very poor communities that are going to be <hes> under coming their immediate food security threat from from the loss of of coral reefs the whole question of whether <hes> in how fish species respond bond to <hes> significantly degraded reefs as one is an area very very active research and so you know it my research site in it'll the tropical go pacific island christmas island we witness the destruction of eighty five percents of the coral reef in two thousand sixteen related due to the macedonian you event that really sucked the world and in threatened so many reefs across the world so we lost eighty five percent of the coral reef over six months and so the fish the reaction of the fish communities to that disturbed is a very important study in its significantly lagged act from when we lost the reef because you know they're fish that rely on the coral tissue for food. There are fish that rely on the corals for their nurseries. There are fish that rely rely on the tiny microbes that live in the coral. I mean it's a it's a whole cascade of facts that takes years to fully see in witness us as fish are very large they lived for many years and so those will be some of the ones that we may see impacted with wyatt highest lag but <unk> unfortunately we have seen <hes> big hits to the fishing populations at christmas island after this event we continue to study those in a partnership with <hes> coral ecologists in marine conservation biologists that is not my work by the way he's amazing scientists at a university victoria <hes> julia bomb leading those efforts if folks are interested in looking her up. I think she's down the island right now as she sends me videos baby corals and my day should have around the cast i turn we'll do one of those underwater mazing. So is that a thing where you gotta go the <hes> the <hes> the california science center in los angeles. They've got this great little feature in their aquarium in there. It's not the world's biggest crime. It's beautiful but eleven o'clock every day. The diver who feed the fish will go down the aquarium has is this big two story window and the diver will go down and all the kids in the museum are rallied and they can the diver has a microphone underwater <hes> in answer the answer the kids questions from underwater and kids are just like holy shit like how it's a cool thing in the world so we'll have to do podcast brian. We'll strap you in there with the sharks. It'll be great right yeah. I was gonna say. Can i go in sure <hes> xtracab so moving chords action <hes> what our governments and ngos <unk> an such doing to support the coral reefs directly. We know uh the u._s. Federal government isn't doing much with our places like australia and and and i guess more the tropical locations doing again knowing that we can't just the terrible examples switch to paper straws <hes> what's going on. If anything right well i do think that there are there many trend longstanding trends afoot that are really important to set aside large swath of coral reefs in protect protect them from the other kinds of threats that so many tropical reefs face and hope that they can provide refuge for quarrels goals that may be able to make it through these next decades of acute temperature stress and ocean acidification which is something we didn't talk about but which is also ah <unk> berry major threat to <hes> continued prosperity briefs under more acidic conditions corals have a hard time growing their skeletons and and so we really have that approach of of sequestering some reefs and hoping that this will enhance the resilience of this precious precious ecosystem in in provide seeds for future reefs. I think that's a great approach and that's important you see that happening. Across the tropics regulation force the is critical. If there's regulation forcement you might as well not have that marine protected area in place but what is becoming increasingly apparent is reefs no reef protected or not can escape the large scale train wreck that is ocean warming right now and addition addition of ocean certification in coming decades so it doesn't matter how protected you are if you lose ninety percent of your our of your corals in that system over a year of acute ocean warming and so what has become the rallying cry of the coral community those of us who have witnessed this who understand the problem who understand the projections is that we must absolutely move to reduce emissions now very very aggressively to give corals the best best chance of making it through the coming decades and there will be no bandit and there will be no magic wand to wave to reverse this this trend and protect reefs that are economically critical ecologically critical and just you know an intrinsic part of what we call earth earth <hes> if we don't reduce emissions urgently now and so that's that's really become the <hes> rallying cry of a coral scientific community and something that you won't hear out of the politicians out who say that they're developed a new ten million dollar fund for great barrier reef protection <hes> without mentioning emissions reductions. We're going to try to hold them to the signs in the facts that that really motivate <hes> this <hes> dramatic urgent reduction greenhouse gases when we say things like hold them to hold them to these numbers and science in fact sometimes i really do just wanna go like pure vigilante batman and actually like hold them to it like p like just chain them to something for example. It's just because the current something yeah staple at nail gun. Whatever we gotta do bryan's down for really and i just wanted to double check. There definitely is no magic wand no. There's not now right now. Some of the work that i'm really kind of yeah i mean some of the work i'm really excited about which is still kind of scifi is the idea that we might be able to genetically engineer heat resistant quarrels that can help reseed devastated reefs with these resistant organisms and provide the reefs of the next century from resistant breeding stocks like you know you breathe breathe up price poodle. You could read price corliss. All i guess and this work is actively underway and critically important very very expensive tough stuff. It's not easy to grow corals much easier to grow a poodle. Trust me and so what you wanna do is is support research efforts that are really forward-looking. They may not be able to deliver that promise today but if we don't invest in those approaches science driven approaches research and approaches today we won't have them in fifty fifty years right <unk> exams. Also there's no yeah there's yeah we have to rub our head and chew gum at the same time we we are just going to have to who aggressively reduce emissions to give them the best chance and then because we know we have a a train wreck in front of us anyway <hes> it really we is important to continue invest in the best science to inform dissolutions that <hes> we hope we don't have to turn to as aggressively <music> <hes> as as they say in the worst case scenarios we really want to be able to help corals lived through this century as best we can and we need all those tools deployed not just the ones that are undergoing research in these tank experiments in the breeding of price corals but also those folks who are out there diving on devastated reese today trying to understand how fish populations are responding to the train wrecks that have already occurred. We have these natural laboratories crystal ball aw to help us understand what we're facing in an ocean that is so prostate on the altered like these ecosystems are command intimately we can use these kind of degrade environments as laboratories for studying magic ones tomorrow right we understand what works what it doesn't work and so these are these are very precious opportunities but we need to really deploy the full arsenal of science and engineering <hes> to try to to really help coral skip through the senate communities that depend on frankly the full function of our ocean and our earth sounds sounds pretty fucking good to me that makes us <hes> towards action like you were saying we need to invest in these things which is brian's favorite part of the show it is <hes> i've i mentioned it briefly at the very start <hes> that look you know our goal here is to provide you know severi specific action steps that our listeners can <hes> take to support for you <hes> and your mission and we like to break it down into three categories <hes> voice vote and and dollar so let's get into that <hes> and i'll start with their voice what what are actionable specific questions that we can all be asking of <hes> our representatives to to support you so the most. It's important thing we need to do right now is to reduce emissions dramatically askale across the entire economy and most efficient way to do that is to enact a price on carbon and there's it's very clear that's the that's when you know we're actually getting serious about reducing greenhouse in house gas emissions and there's a bill on the floor of the house right now called the energy innovation act which does just that it puts a price on carbon and it's not in the form of tax it is something that comes back to every american in the form of a check and it's therefore called a revenue neutral carbon tax it is the main goal of a group called the citizens climate lobby so if you really want to get engaged you can fix many many many problems at change with a price on carbon and there's a local chapter near you i guarantee it citizens climate lobby and that's their they have a laser focus on this and they've had it for quite a few years and they finally have a bill actually has words in it to put a price on carbon. Now we need more republicans to support the idea of <unk> on carbon sean. They talk about the free market as a solution to almost everything well. Let's let the free market decide how to quickly cle- reduce emissions and win economically at the same time in there are many ways to do that and the market can really find those ways if we have a price on carbon and so that's what we need we need folks to really step up and call their elected officials and ask them to support in sponsor this this bill that's floating around and if they don't like that one challenge then to say okay well. How do you want to put a price on carbon is that's what needs to happen here. We we need a federal price on carbon <hes> you can also point to successful policy labs in the northeastern u. S. in california where carbon markets have ben in place in the world didn't end so i'd point people to look at those <hes> those states and how they fared and they've fared very well and so we want want to win the low-carbon race of the twenty first century as a country. We don't want to be left behind economically and <hes> really <hes> left left outside of the the biggest trend of the century so that's what i would ask people to do. That is the most important thing it a thing i would ask them to do is to think about how they're going to get the energy to sustain their engagement for this decades long battle that we will be waging king and i. I actually mean that quite seriously because it's very overwhelming this is a intergenerational relay race as i call all it i just wanted to run as far as fast as i can to hand off the baton to the next generation and they're going to have to run as far as fast as they can etc etc etc and so it's it's overwhelming and in the face of overt climate denial of facts and science in the face ace of a cascade of impacts that are raining down upon us <hes> in incredible crescendo. It's it's becomes the question russian. That's really important. How do you derive energy to stay engaged and with that. I would say sometimes it feels like giving minded to democratic candidates in the bottomless pit of fundraising is not energizing. I would say sometimes making phone calls to your policymaker policymaker. That doesn't really care to doesn't seem like it's getting anywhere. How do you personally sustain in engagement and this is a personal final answer. I will tell you for me. It involves deep engagement in my local city governance structures where i can see a connection directly requiem between my actions and results on the ground and how that chain that value chain goes from me to my city to my state to to the federal government. I see that more clearly. When i mean gauged local community i'm also become completely carbon obsessed which is not saving the eh right. I'm not really saving the planet with my solar panels biking to work and turning diet and composting cetera but it allows me to i feel more aligned with my life's goals in the values i care about and it gives me great energy to keep making those phone call to elected officials to keep showing up for hearings about the utilities send it in it makes me writing more checks to those democratic candidates. I see how it all adds up. I feel i feel rewarded every single day. When <hes> when i look at my solar panels and i i love biking to work and i love my new bike family of crazy crazy advocates <hes> who are an n._f. Writing for bike lanes across the entire city. This is where we find community. This is where we see connections between between each other. This is where we build resilience. This is where we build in derive energy for this fight so that's the second thing i would say. Ask yourself. How are you you're going to get the energy to continue in this battle in the face of all this devastation and second of all keep your eyes on the big prize. Let's fight for a price on carbon at any scale that we can but let's not leave the federal government out because we cannot afford it. I love every a bit of that and and and couldn't agree more. There's this big discussion among climbing clean energy nerds about you know. Does it matter if you're taking personal steps should be fighting the utilities ladies and for carbon price and all this and it's like will you can fucking do both and also i mean at least me personally what i've noticed on the grassroots level and among communities both hyper local and local or down my street or or bigger in i live in brandon. I live in a county. That's comprised of eighty-eight cities. It's bigger than forty states <hes> but when when when people personally invested they're probably going to be more likely to hold the people in power to task because they feel like they're. They are doing their part. Even though it's not gonna move the needle like you said you're not saving the world with your solar panels right but you feel like you're making a fucking difference and it makes you more likely to stand up to these people and say hey man member when you got elected by the people all of whom now are fighting for bike lanes and solar panels like do your part do your one job one yeah and i just think people are looking for a way to to make a difference and even if that difference is just in in your family or just in your workplace. It really adds up and the other thing i would say. Is that the deeper. I engage in obsessions about carbon which i've gone really ali down the more i see that there's so much low hanging fruit that that sits between my family my house you know in be personally and you know my workplace. Georgia tech is a small city right and i am a i'm a faculty member there. I have a unique voice and you know we could start moving that city down the road to a low-carbon future in every employee of a major organization could start to think about about that as well and so this this completely false battle between individual and collective action. <hes> i think is just so damaging. It doesn't allow us to see that. It's it's not just me or or my utility. It's it's every institution that sits between that. We need to come with us <music>. We all have access levers on that spectrum myself to to the monopoly utility georgia onto the state house to to d._c. We need to reach for those and we need to drive energy and we need to pump it up the value chain in point point down the value chain kane and say hey i. This is what i'm happy about today and this is what i'm getting for tomorrow at this is my process in it's my road and it doesn't need to look like yours. It look very eight. That's fine. That's fine bedroom in judging each other. There's no one-size-fits-all <hes> do what you can stay in the fight. Build community lift each other up. Celebrate diverse approaches invoices. Is it really so hard sounds so hard today and yet and yet got twitter and yet discussion double bottle as a bird before we get into that one exactly awesome <hes> <hes> <hes> doctor. It's been so awesome. It's that we've had for an hour here and we'll <hes> we'll let you go because we know that you've got many other things to do but seriously thank thank you so so much for your time today should we have we have just one more a little segment that we like to call not a lightning round. <hes> and we just have <hes> just some questions for you just a quick little questions <hes> doctor. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the the power to do something meaningful. Oh my goodness. I think it was in college. When i realized that i would make a terrible doctor and the planet was dying and and that you know i might have a role and the earliest generation of scientists who are waking up this reality in what a life that would be that would certainly consume my brain in my heart for the rest of my life and that was why i changed environmental science from premed. Oh wow the decision. That was deductor route did you were you interested in being. I don't know i think that was part of the <unk> a mechanism ah i don't know i really like people that much <hes> rate coral right out rainforest yeah it could be worse. <hes> we just gotta make sure they don't go away then. You got to be a doctor again. <hes> a doctor cobb who who was someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months or six months wants bidders so many people i will say yeah so i will say somebody like greta phone berg we would be one of the most obvious obvious answers but she's just representative of a whole cohort of folks that have brought new meaning to my were and moved the conversation in the important dialogues and discussions outside of the walls of science where there is protected these are these are the voices we and listen over there and i know there's a whole group of powerful stakeholders who are just as passionate as if not more on out there fighting for the same outcomes in using very different language coming from very different voices so that's just one of many voices just in the last six months that have brought just incredibly new lines of thought for me stimulating lines of thought and in bernudo purpose and passion so i am so grateful for other people who have joined. This battle dedicated their lives to this battle. We need a lot more so sped there really any number of ways to to stand to love love it jim. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed. What's your self care. What's your kim the welsh lately lately i have been absolutely assessed with the output on my solar panels. I had an app ooh out for that turns out for that and i go on my app and i checked my production for the day and i check my carbon neutrality. How close i am i think about how i could further tightened my belt to achieve carbon positive living instead of dry drying out vendor reducing carbon actively rather than just not consuming it but i probably check that app <hes> probably about twenty times a day <hes> days and not by i'm probably like on five times a day and away from home element and so you know kind of i'd like to see my tonsils insight. I see them on my butt on my good days. I go through the whole day. Oh my god. I didn't even check my panel today. What a great day. That's what i do lately just because i got turned onto the last month but before that in everyday biking to work has been the the single most important component of my mental health routine and so when i get on my bike every day like now when i'm away i in my bones i feel it in my brain and it just throws me off back to a place that was one of passivity of acute acute overwhelm and sense of isolation and and so when i get on my bike i see people in the park. I pass bikers. There's i remind myself what i'm fighting for with the city government. Remind myself that it all adds up. I remind myself that i'm it every single day and not has become just so important for me. So that's why i say. It doesn't really matter what the carbon is there. It's just about what energy you derive from your choices and how they add up for you and keep you in the game and so that's my answer to that question two days days. I don't run are the ones where i feel like jack nicholson in the shining. I'm just like bye-bye crazy gonna last one last one. If you could amazon prime one book to donald trump what would it be. Oh my god he will allow range of books <music>. I would say nyamira russkies merchants of doubt because the that was when i really was forced just open my eyes to the debts and persistence and just sheer inertia of e climate denial machinery and how it hasn't filled traded our government how it is tied genetically to the <hes> tobacco law is and best interests in battles at the nineteen sixties and seventies. Sometimes the same people involved so those kinds of the facts are so impactful. I think it's helpful to see the full extent of what we're up against and how you think that you are amazing your personal opinions to not believe in climate change or that we have a problem but in reality you are victim of a well orchestrated campaign to keep this out of the public dialogue and to bury facts evidence and smear scientists hugh are victim to that so that's the book i would amazon prime to him and i would i would love to read it to him and then follow up discussion with him because i believe in having new conversations once facts and in truth on the table incredible even him that's so good of you also beyond absolutely louis any day. I baked her. I'm famous for inviting any conversation with donald trump any day. He wants to call me. He knows where to find me. I i would really enjoy that conversation so you could be great. Thank you for the bad. I'll let you guys know you exclusive. I'll give exclusive. You're swell dr cobb man. We can't thank you enough for obviously taking the time i come here for locking your children and your dog out of the house and <hes> and obviously all that you're doing for the corals for the oceans for for everyone affected <hes> that includes all of us. This is one of those things it's again. I i don't not necessarily it's easy to understand it but i i get why sometimes people were like oh girls do bad but <hes> it's it's not great and <hes> <hes> and it's a good indicator that we need to be doubling tripling rippling taxing hundred xing our efforts here so thank you so much too. It's not too great but it's not too late so let's leave on that little little rining a couple there and i also want to thank you for all the work that you do in bringing these issues to the fore four and have been these conversations <hes> it's just so important that people find any number of different avenues information that they might care about so thank you due for allowing folks to to see things in a new way from a different perspective on the quite literally the least we do <hes> thank you so much <hes> enjoy wojciech sunny massachusetts and we will follow up to you soon. Thanks so much dr thanks to our incredible guest today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dishwashing or fucking tall all walking late at night that much more pleasant as a reminder. Please subscribe to our free email newsletter at important not important dot com. It is all the news most vital to our survival as a species and you can follow us all over the internet you can find us on twitter at important not imp just so weird also on facebook and instagram at important not important pinterest and tumbler the same thing so check us out follow us share us like us. You know the deal and please subscribe to our show. Wherever are you listen to things like this and if you're really fucking awesome rate us on apple podcasts keep the lights on thanks please and you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player player and at our website important not important dot com thanks to the very awesome. Tim blamed for our gym and music to all of you for listening and finally most importantly accordingly to our moms for making us have a great day. Thank i've <music>.

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