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The Great Barrier Reef as Global Warming Proxy

The Financial Times says that “Australia will spend an extra A$500m ($380m) to boost water quality, tackle coral-eating starfish and promote scientific research to try and halt the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

The Australian Government reports that the GBR covers 344,400 km2 of ocean off the Northeast cost of the country, has an average depth of 35 meters, and at its outer margin the continental slope extends down to depths of more than 2000 meters.

Reefs like the GBR harbor many marine specifies and while they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, support an estimated twenty-five percent of all of the marine life on the planet. They are natural breakwaters that minimize wave impacts from tropical storms and are powerful tourist magnets.

According to a United Nations estimate, the total economic value of coral reefs ranges from US$ 100,000 to 600,000 per square kilometers per year so even at the low end of this scale the worth of the GBR should be about $34 billion/year.

At $380 million the Australian government’s response is less than 1% of the potential damage, but at least it is a start.

Their natural attributes and economic benefits notwithstanding, the climate impact on reefs is the same as for the rest of the tropics, and the solution is the same. The only difference is, reefs concentrate warming in their shallow depths. At the margin of the GBR, the heat above the reef can be siphoned off through heat pipes that can convert this heat to productive energy and provide more than enough energy to power the systems need to cool the reefs.

The conversion rate is about 13 MW of energy produced for every 100MWh relocate to deep water and what’s more these systems can sequester CO2 in the electrochemical production of hydrogen.

Australia has recently entered into an agreement to export liquefied hydrogen produced from brown coal to Japan.

If these two countries want to solve their energy and environment problems, they should be producing and consuming hydrogen that solves the problems of the GBR to say nothing of the rest of the planet.

Another item of note, any form of thermal power used to power coolers that might otherwise mitigate the coral problem would instead exacerbate the problem as has been shown in the case with fish kills with Ontario Hydro and with phytoplankton in California.

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