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How Can We Truly Approach Climate Change?

coral reef

Every year scientists discover newer and newer things about our Earth. There are constantly new stories on discovering unknown creatures, plant life, meteorological happenings, and beyond. While we’re learning new things about our home we are also keeping an eye on things we’ve known of for a while, like the global change in climate. The global ecosystem is very connected and since we’re constantly learning new things all the time, how can we truly approach climate change? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.

This is a tale of two species, coral and humans. As one of the many items that have been in science news recently, coral temperature tolerance is a pretty important one. Scientists off the coast of Australia examined several types of coral and noticed something pretty interesting. Just like a group of people, coral also has their differences. Some grow big and flat, some are green, some have defined chimney shapes, others grow long and dense. All of these aspects are genetic variants in the coral. The tolerance to temperature is also a genetic variant. Climate researchers concerned about the long-term vitality of coral have started to take a closer look at temperature tolerant coral specifically.

As the ocean temperatures rise many reefs and patches of coral are in danger. The ones that are able to withstand the warmer temperatures will be the ones that survive and those not able to cope with the rising temperatures will not make the cut. Some scientists have a novel idea though, what if you took the genetic variants of temperature tolerant coral and spread it into other coral? In theory, this would allow for the temperature tolerant aspect of this species to be spread around and make a huge impact on how these reefs withstand the warming of the oceans.

Well, this is a tale of two species, remember? We've talked coral, now let’s talk humans. The camera, the plane, dams, and many other normal parts of our lives are all inspired by nature. We continue to look at nature for inspiration on how we can live more comfortable lives or understand the natural world around us. Perhaps the coral makes for a good analogy in the climate change discussion.

The notion of taking temperature tolerant coral's genetic variants and spreading them around to save the larger coral population in the world's oceans could be a great inspiration on how we humans could truly approach the topic of climate change. In the Netherlands, something big just happened. Citizens of this country just got together and sued their government in order to better address CO2 emission standards. Not only did this make a lot of news headlines, but they won the case. Once the ruling was in it was decided that the government had a "duty of care" and higher standards are needed to address greenhouse gas emissions. The government agreed to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40% between now and 2030. This is a huge victory for environmentally concerned people around the world, but what does this have to do with coral?

The coral that was more tolerant to higher temperatures is what could save other collections and reefs if that genetic variant is transplanted into the greater global population. Well, suing the government is not a genetic variant (for most), but it is an ideological one. What if, similar to the coral, we took an ideological variant and put it into all the populations of humans around the world. If every nation did what the Netherlands just did then perhaps humans as a species could approach the pending changes as a united effort. If we're looking at coral species and identifying the variants that could lead to the long term survival in the face of a changing climate, then perhaps that could be a good inspiration for us to do the same in the way we operate. Nature makes for a great source of inspiration, especially when dealing with such a large scale occurrence like climate change.

Though some may argue that coral and humans are very different and cannot use the same approach especially to deal with something as large as climate change, keep in mind that we're still very much so just one of the many things on this planet and it is all truly connected. The coral serves as a great example of a species that has global representation and could vary drastically be impacted by the long term changes in climate, just like us humans.