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Reef Report for Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Weather Makers: Our Book Club Recommendation for the Month

Recently I flew between California and Cairns, departing during a winter cold snap, and arriving on the Great Barrier Reef during the peak of summer. The amazing contrast between these two climates was a perfect backdrop for the book I had started reading on the plane, "The Weather Makers", by Tim Flannery.

With all the news and talk we hear of global warming, this book is especially timely and appropriate. © Dive The Reef The author has written a current review of the science and politics of global warming, but done so in a style that is at the same time understandable and technical.

The book is filled with a wealth of examples of evidence that global climate change is already occurring, as well as predictions of what might lie ahead for our world. While many of them will cause the reader concern, two of them hit very close to home here alongside the Great Barrier Reef.

The mountains that fringe the tropical coast of Cairns and Port Douglas are host to a whole range of species found nowhere else in the world. Animals living in the upper altitudes of these peaks are well adapted to the cool wet tropical climate that occurs there. Many of them are of ancient lineages, pointing to the stability of climate in this unique pocket of wet tropical forest which goes back over 200 million years. © Dive The Reef Scientists studying this unique ecosystem worry that as the climate warms, the band of suitable habitat for these animals will be pushed higher and higher of the slopes of the mountain, reducing their range and numbers. Mr. Flannery’s description of these unique species vanishing as the lower limit of their suitable climate crowds them higher and higher up the peaks of the mountains is sobering.

Any discussion of Global Climate Change must also include coral reefs, and for us the Great Barrier Reef. The chapter in this book that covers the topic is titled "The Great Stumpy Reef". A vision of the reef 50 years from now under Mr. Flannery’s predictions is not nearly so pristine or beautiful as now. It’s thought that only a fraction of the 400 species of coral that are currently found on the Great Barrier Reef may be able to survive under the stressfully high ocean temperatures that are predicted if current trends continue.

Not all the news is grave, the author points to a world (where global climate change has been stabilized) that in many ways might be better to live in than that of today. Solving the global climate change problem also presents enormous opportunities for new ideas and their applications.

We urge you to buy the book, read it, and give it to a friend. If you are a citizen of the United States or Australia, two countries that are among those that produce more carbon dioxide per capita than any other, and two countries that have yet to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol, (an international agreement that attempts to resolve this problem) you might want to urge our political leaders that there’s work to be done. Examine your own life and think about how you can reduce your contribution to the problem.

Other Books by Tim Flannery we can recommend:

The Future Eaters: An interesting account from an outside of the box thinker on the impact of human societies (both ancient and modern) impact on the environment, with special attention paid to the Australian continent.

Country An easily read account of the evolution of Kangaroos, with Mr. Flannery’s interesting life woven through it.

Early Sydney History: A unique book of early accounts of Australian History, compiled by Mr. Flannery. We found ourselves experiencing early Australia through the eyes of persons actually there very interesting, and appreciated the author’s approach; one that let the original writers words speak for themselves.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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