Caneel Bay Being Held for $70 Million Ransom

From the <http://newsofstjohn.com/2019/06/03/caneel-bay-leaseholder-wants-70-million-to-walk-away/>

Go to the website to see the pretty sensible 46 comments. . . .

Great island story. Maybe they can get Jeffrey Eptstein to take over the lease and set up a (wink, wink) summer camp, ya think?

Caneel Bay Leaseholder Wants $70 Million to Walk Away
June 3, 2019 • 46 Comments
Caneel Bay, June 2, 2019 Caneel Bay, June 2, 2019

It’s been a bit since we updated you on the situation over at Caneel Bay. Here is the latest…

As you know, Caneel Bay suffered tremendous damage during the 2017 hurricanes. Virtually no cleanup happened for 18 months, and the property and front entrance remained an eyesore for those passing by. This past March, cleanup efforts began although they haven’t been extensive. Small sales have been happening on property in recent weeks where everything from Kid’s Club items to expensive wine glasses to potentially corked wine is up for grabs.

Gary Engle, of CBI Acquisitions, is the current leaseholder of Caneel Bay. His agreement with the National Park Service expires in 2023. In May 2018, he told a group of residents at a town meeting that he was only interested in operating Caneel Bay if he could get a 60-year extension on the Retained Use Agreement that he is currently operating under. (His current Retained Use Agreement allows Caneel to operate virtually tax-free. They also do not pay rent for the 170 acres it sits on.) In late 2017, USVI Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett introduced a Bill into Congress asking for a 60-year RUE extension, and it failed last year.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The Virgin Islands Daily News reported that Engle and CBI Acquisitions want out. And this little blogger could not be happier, and I’m pretty confident that several other St. John residents feel the same. But Engle’s demands are ridiculous.

According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, Engel is “demanding $70 million to prematurely ditch the resort’s stewardship agreement with the National Park Service, and protection from any environmental liability.” The newspaper cited Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett as the source of that information.

Engle received a substantial insurance payout after the hurricanes, and now he wants an additional $70 million to walk away. And what does St. John get? A destroyed resort? Please tell me where the logic is here.

I say we take that $70 million and require Engle to divvy it up between the hundreds of locals who are no longer working at Caneel because he refuses to rebuild.

Now let’s talk about the “environment liability” Engel referenced in his letter referenced above. This little blogger reported on that very thing back in October 2018 when writing about why lease negotiations have failed. Check it out:
News of St. John, October 7, 2018 News of St. John, October 7, 2018

I ditched my real reporter hat more than a decade ago, but this little blogger only prints facts. 🙂

The Virgin Islands Daily News could not obtain a copy of Engle’s letter. They did, however, print a statement from Engle himself:
Statement from Engel to the VI Daily News, June 2019 Statement from Engle to the VI Daily News, June 2019

Now please go back and reread that statement…

Engel attempted to get a 60-year RUE extension through Congress and failed. Now he is attempting to circumvent Congress and get a 60-year extension using the Department of the Interior. Not cool Engle, not cool.

And now Caneel is an “eco resort” as indicated in his statement? Well that’s the first I’ve ever heard that. Funny, there’s not one mention of it being an eco resort on its website either… A new tactic perhaps?

Regarding the comments about us “suffering” – we’re not. This island has been bustling. Restaurants are full. Vacation rentals are full. Our charter boats are full. Our beaches are full. We’re fine Engle. We don’t need you personally. We’d rather wait to have someone who actually cares about this island to renovate and operate Caneel Bay.

Posted in Fun

Gerry Mander

Ah yes gerrymandering. Only the R’s do this, right? See attached lest we forget the father of all modern gerrymandering. After the election de Lugo won in 1980 Phil Burton gave us room in his office to use during the interim to the swearing in. His big desk was covered – literally – with stacks and stacks of yellow foolscap pads – hundreds of them. Each page represented one city block and contained the names and voting record of every person. He fiddled with them for hours every day, his staff told me, to perfect the drawing of the lines. I believe they still stand in his district which is now Pelosi’s.

On May 14, 2019, at 12:47 PM, Bruce Potter wrote:

From the Washington Post, 14 May 2019, page A17, or — also copied at Pottersweal.com – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Opinions
My district was gerrymandered. The damage is easy to measure.

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, holds a map displaying the wide disparity of Ohio congressional district office locations, with orange locations representing areas whose offices are found outside their own district’s bounds. A federal court ruled May 3 that Ohio’s congressional map is unconstitutional and ordered a new one be drawn for the 2020 elections. (John Minchillo/AP) By Marcy Kaptur
May 13 at 5:47 PM

[Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, represents Ohio’s 9th Congressional District in the House.]

When I was first elected to Congress in 1982, women weren’t allowed in the House gym, American Motors was still producing cars such as the Gremlin and the Pacer in my hometown of Toledo, and Ohio had just elected 10 Democrats to Congress.

That last number might not sound like a big deal, but the chance of that happening today borders on impossible.

In 1982, Ohio sent 21 representatives — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — to Congress from districts that were drawn to be competitive and compact. Voting patterns haven’t changed much since: In 2018, 2,245,403 Ohioans voted to send a Republican to Congress and 2,019,120 Ohioans voted to send a Democrat. That’s 52 percent to 47 percent. Yet only four Democrats were elected last fall, compared with 12 Republicans.

We all know the culprit: radical, partisan gerrymandering.

From January 1983 to December 2012, my district stayed largely the same — always centered around Toledo. But after the Republican victory in 2010, Republicans redrew the lines in their favor, to appalling effect. When GOP operatives emerged from a closed-door hotel conference room in 2011, they delivered one of the most politically gerrymandered congressional maps the country had ever seen. Democrats were packed into as few districts as possible, suppressing the value of hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cleveland’s Democratic representative, Dennis Kucinich, and I were gerrymandered into the same district — now known as the “Snake on the Lake” — and forced to run against each another. This long, skinny district stretches nearly 100 miles from Toledo to Cleveland, is less than a mile wide in some places and is contiguous only by Lake Erie.

And though Ohio lost two seats to reapportionment in that year, Republican representation increased from eight to 12, while our party’s share fell from 10 to four. It’s stayed there ever since.

The damage done by gerrymandering isn’t difficult to measure. It breeds partisan legislators, who in turn breed a partisan Congress. Gerrymandering has made virtually all House seats safer — including mine — and the members who hold those safe seats are often less responsive to communities and unwilling to compromise in Washington.

The bipartisan camaraderie that once existed in the House is now all but gone. Because members come from safer seats, they have less incentive to build meaningful relationships with those outside their own party, and so they make fewer friends and rarely have constructive debates.

The result is both the decay of our national discourse and the failure of our institutions to fulfill their most basic functions.

More fundamentally, the gerrymander dilutes the popular vote to protect incumbents. Instead of the voters picking their leaders, the leaders pick their voters.

But there is hope.

Two weeks ago, a panel of federal judges for the Southern District of Ohio struck down Ohio’s congressional district map as an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander — echoing similar rulings in four other states.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit wrote in her opinion that Ohio’s map is “so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined, ” and concluded “the map unconstitutionally burdens associational rights by making it more difficult for voters and certain organizations to advance their aims.”

Ohio was ordered to submit new legislative maps to the court by June 14. If it fails to enact a remedial plan, or enacts a plan that the court finds illegal, the court will appoint a special master to redraw the lines.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general has said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This presents the court with an opportunity to consider the will of the voters, to uphold fairness and to restore democracy in Ohio. And it is clear the public wants change: In 2018, Ohio voters approved bipartisan map-drawing by an overwhelming majority — 75 percent to 25 percent.

Given how close our elections have been over the past 30 years, my state should probably have eight Republicans and eight Democrats representing it in Washington.

In the meantime, gerrymandering contorts communities and makes too many lawmakers politically untouchable. Everyone, in Ohio and the nation, suffers when outcomes are preordained and engineered to the extremes. Restoring representative delegations to Congress must be the first step in restoring the public’s confidence in our government. Liberty and justice must be restored.

Posted in Governance

Gerry Mander

From the Washington Post, 14 May 2019, page A17, or <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/my-district-was-gerrymandered-the-damage-is-easy-to-measure/2019/05/13/199c61e8-75b8-11e9-b7ae-390de4259661_story.html?utm_term=.3379840b9614 > — also copied at Pottersweal.com – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Opinions

My district was gerrymandered.
The damage is easy to measure.

6LJRMEDVYEI6TM7VKZZ634WRE4.jpg

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, holds a map displaying the wide disparity of Ohio congressional district office locations, with orange locations representing areas whose offices are found outside their own district’s bounds. A federal court ruled May 3 that Ohio’s congressional map is unconstitutional and ordered a new one be drawn for the 2020 elections. (John Minchillo/AP)

By Marcy Kaptur
May 13 at 5:47 PM

[Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat, represents Ohio’s 9th Congressional District in the House.]

When I was first elected to Congress in 1982, women weren’t allowed in the House gym, American Motors was still producing cars such as the Gremlin and the Pacer in my hometown of Toledo, and Ohio had just elected 10 Democrats to Congress.

That last number might not sound like a big deal, but the chance of that happening today borders on impossible.

In 1982, Ohio sent 21 representatives — 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans — to Congress from districts that were drawn to be competitive and compact. Voting patterns haven’t changed much since: In 2018, 2,245,403 Ohioans voted to send a Republican to Congress and 2,019,120 Ohioans voted to send a Democrat. That’s 52 percent to 47 percent. Yet only four Democrats were elected last fall, compared with 12 Republicans.

We all know the culprit: radical, partisan gerrymandering.

From January 1983 to December 2012, my district stayed largely the same — always centered around Toledo. But after the Republican victory in 2010, Republicans redrew the lines in their favor, to appalling effect. When GOP operatives emerged from a closed-door hotel conference room in 2011, they delivered one of the most politically gerrymandered congressional maps the country had ever seen. Democrats were packed into as few districts as possible, suppressing the value of hundreds of thousands of votes.

Cleveland’s Democratic representative, Dennis Kucinich, and I were gerrymandered into the same district — now known as the “Snake on the Lake” — and forced to run against each another. This long, skinny district stretches nearly 100 miles from Toledo to Cleveland, is less than a mile wide in some places and is contiguous only by Lake Erie.

And though Ohio lost two seats to reapportionment in that year, Republican representation increased from eight to 12, while our party’s share fell from 10 to four. It’s stayed there ever since.

The damage done by gerrymandering isn’t difficult to measure. It breeds partisan legislators, who in turn breed a partisan Congress. Gerrymandering has made virtually all House seats safer — including mine — and the members who hold those safe seats are often less responsive to communities and unwilling to compromise in Washington.

The bipartisan camaraderie that once existed in the House is now all but gone. Because members come from safer seats, they have less incentive to build meaningful relationships with those outside their own party, and so they make fewer friends and rarely have constructive debates.

The result is both the decay of our national discourse and the failure of our institutions to fulfill their most basic functions.

More fundamentally, the gerrymander dilutes the popular vote to protect incumbents. Instead of the voters picking their leaders, the leaders pick their voters.

But there is hope.

Two weeks ago, a panel of federal judges for the Southern District of Ohio struck down Ohio’s congressional district map as an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander — echoing similar rulings in four other states.

Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit wrote in her opinion that Ohio’s map is “so skewed toward one party that the electoral outcome is predetermined, ” and concluded “the map unconstitutionally burdens associational rights by making it more difficult for voters and certain organizations to advance their aims.”

Ohio was ordered to submit new legislative maps to the court by June 14. If it fails to enact a remedial plan, or enacts a plan that the court finds illegal, the court will appoint a special master to redraw the lines.

Ohio’s Republican attorney general has said he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. This presents the court with an opportunity to consider the will of the voters, to uphold fairness and to restore democracy in Ohio. And it is clear the public wants change: In 2018, Ohio voters approved bipartisan map-drawing by an overwhelming majority — 75 percent to 25 percent.

Given how close our elections have been over the past 30 years, my state should probably have eight Republicans and eight Democrats representing it in Washington.

In the meantime, gerrymandering contorts communities and makes too many lawmakers politically untouchable. Everyone, in Ohio and the nation, suffers when outcomes are preordained and engineered to the extremes. Restoring representative delegations to Congress must be the first step in restoring the public’s confidence in our government. Liberty and justice must be restored.

Posted in Fun

Happy Mother’s Day

Bruce Potter443-454-9044

Posted in Fun

When Recovery Starts to Feel Like Failure

From the STT Source <https://stthomassource.com/content/2019/05/08/volunteers-help-rebuild-st-croix-roofs/>, as reprinted on the PottersWeal.com blog.

It’s 19 months and counting since Hurricanes Ivan and Maria visited the Virgin Islands, and it doesn’t seem that recovery has moved very far . . .

A list of cruiseship stops scheduled in St. Thomas for the entire month of May shows 23 visits — a lot less than one-ship-per-day average — and this isn’t even slow season.

And the following story gives a picture of the extent of recovery needed for the homes of a very large portion of the residents of St. Croix:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Volunteers Help Rebuild St. Croix Roofs
By Susan Ellis – May 8, 2019

Lutheran Disaster Response volunteers work on Grimilda Quinones house in Frederiksted.[Caption]

Virgin Islanders are getting used to the heavy traffic of equipment each morning as bucket trucks, pickups loaded with lumber and construction crews head to work. Despite the hundreds of man-hours, many blue tarp roofs and collapsed buildings still litter the island.

Already, FEMA has spent millions of dollars and other organizations have donated money, supplies and volunteer time in hopes of getting ahead of the game. But it is slow and tedious.

According to FEMA public affairs specialist Eric Adams, more than $32.9 million has been distributed on St. Croix, more than $38.6 million on St. Thomas and more than $12.3 million on St. John to more than 20,000 families.

Various programs supported survivors with rental and replacement assistance, temporary home repairs, leasing housing leasing and permanent repairs. Funding is continuing through June he said.

Additionally, more than $280 million has been provided through the V.I. Housing Finance Authority for the Emergency Homes Repairs V.I. program to more than 7,100 homes. The EHRVI program ended April 15 and will soon be replaced by the $90 million EnVision Tomorrow project, through a community development block grant administered also by VIHFA. So help is still available for weather-beaten homeowners.

“A lot of work still needs to be done,” Adams said, citing the the territory’s hospitals, schools and roads.

Currently there are about 500 roofers working in the territory and they have repaired around 7,100 homes, according to the VIHFA website.

While the paid roofers work at a feverish pace, there is another contingent of roofers who are not talked about – volunteers from the mainland. They leave their homes and come to the Virgin Islands with their own tools and maybe a few friends to spend two weeks toiling on roofs in the heat of the day for people they have never met. Most are members of stateside church groups and either travel together or one-by-one, joining a group when they arrive.
Terry Cline, Grimilda Quinones, Darion Barnhart and Danny Barnhart take a break from working on Quinones roof.
Terry Cline, Grimilda Quinones, Darion Barnhart and Danny Barnhart take a break from working on Quinones roof.

In the past, they have paid their own airfare, but during this recovery FEMA has paid the airfare for hundreds of volunteers to travel to the islands and help with rebuilding. To date, almost $370,000 has been spent by FEMA on travel for over 400 volunteers from religious groups such as United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and Catholic Charities. The groups specialize in repairing and rebuilding homes, providing emotional and spiritual care and managing disaster cases.

“FEMA has been very integral to us in what we do,” said Chris Finch, director of Lutheran Disaster Response.

Lutheran Disaster Response worked on Virgin Islands rooftops after Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn. The revival of the temporary agency is headquartered with Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands in Frederiksted.

Lutheran Disaster Response alone has managed 455 volunteers in 35 groups who worked on one property at a time during their two-week stays on St. Croix. Most are from United Methodist Volunteers and there have been some Catholic Youth Group volunteers as well. So far, they have donated 27,000 hours of work time, Finch said.

Most of their time is spent replacing roofs. A few walls and wheelchair ramps have been built as well, along with a handful of windows and doors. Finch said 38 properties have been remediated so far and another 60 property owners are awaiting help from Lutheran Disaster Response.

“Some needs are so extreme – there is nothing but a slab. It’s beyond our capacity to build a whole house,” Finch said. “We’re part of the bottom of the safety net, so people don’t fall through the cracks.”

Finch and five staff members organize, schedule and transport the volunteer teams. The volunteers usually arrive on a Saturday and have an orientation meeting to learn about the projects and the island.

Some team members are highly skilled, working with drywall and lumber. Others paint and do what they can. Accommodations are not luxurious – most sleep at Sunny Isle Baptist Church. They cook breakfast and dinner together and sleep on cots with the wind and noise of giant turbine fans.

“The heart and soul of everything is the volunteers,” Finch said.

The Lutheran Disaster Response clients who spoke to the Source applied for and received some government aid, but did not get enough to do the necessary repairs.

Scholastica Calixte lives in Estate Carlton and lost her roof in Hurricane Maria. After the storm, she received a blue tarp from FEMA and $4,000. She said she didn’t know how to apply for more financial aid and she didn’t expect much because the V.I. government “has no money in the treasury.” The check wasn’t nearly enough to build a roof, so she used the money to remove mold and fix the side of her house. Then she contacted Finch, who sent a Lutheran Disaster Response crew with materials to rebuild her roof.

Grimilda Quinones said her roof in Estate Whim was peeled off in the hurricane along with a wall. Only one bedroom was left with part of the roof, which she shares now with her grown son. After the storm moved away, she was left with saturated walls, standing water and soggy, ruined furniture. At one point, a piece of the sodden roof fell on the 81-year-old retiree’s head that required stitches.

Quinones received a $500 FEMA check that was enough to fix some of the cracks in concrete and put up a blue tarp and some galvanized aluminum on the roof. Then she applied for and was approved for a $25,0000 SBA loan.

After living without protection from the weather for more than a year, Quinones had a new roof and wheelchair ramp finished by Lutheran Disaster Response, allowing her to use her loan for other repairs and to replace furniture.

Quinones said she is “very happy with the work” by the volunteers, who were from Colorado, Nevada, Tennessee and Virginia. She has lived in her house for 50 years and did not want to leave.

Finch said he climbs on every repaired roof after the work is completed. He surveys the neighborhood.

“When I look 360 degrees I still see a lot of destruction. When that changes, I’ll believe we’re in recovery,” he said.

Posted in Fun

‘Nuff Said, He harrumphed . . .

from the Washington Post

Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds

April 5 at 6:00 AM

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

A 2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 study linked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

Other research makes the case that some of the pet-happiness relationship is causal, at least when it comes to canines. A 2013 study found, for instance, that dog owners are more likely to engage in outdoor physical activity than people who don’t own dogs, with obvious benefits for health and happiness.

Research also has shown that dog owners are more likely than other folks to form friendships with people in their neighborhoods on the basis of the random encounters that happen when they’re out walking their pets. Those social connections likely contribute to greater well-being among dog owners.

The General Social Survey also asked a number of questions about how people interact with their pets, and the answers may also explain some of the happiness gap. Dog owners, for instance, are more likely to seek comfort from their pet in times of stress, more likely to play with their pet, and more likely to consider their pet a member of their family. Those differences suggest a stronger social bond with their pets, which could create a greater sense of well-being.

Stepping away from the data, cat owners might protest that ownership isn’t about “happiness” at all: There’s something about felines that is grander and more mysterious — something that can’t be captured in a public opinion poll.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty,” as Ernest Hemingway put it. “Human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

Posted in Fun

More Bad News About Reefs . . .

From the Washington Post <https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/04/03/great-barrier-reef-is-being-battered-by-climate-change-it-might-only-get-worse/?utm_term=.4467b32e9ee5>

Climate and Environment

The Great Barrier Reef is being battered by climate change, and it might only get worse

“It’s not something that might happen in the future. It’s unfolding right now,” the study’s lead author says.

ODJQKQSVTAI6TKUDKBHQQ27V2Y.jpg
The Great Barrier Reef off the northeastern coast of Australia in December 2017. (Kyodo)
By Brady Dennis

April 3

The damage caused in recent years to the Great Barrier Reef by ocean heat waves has compromised the massive reef’s ability to recover, and climate change could make the problem more severe in the future, according to research published Wednesday.

The world’s largest coral reef, which stretches for more than 1,400 miles off the coast of Australia, has suffered four mass “bleaching” events driven by above-average sea temperatures over the past two decades, including back-to-back episodes in 2016 and 2017.

Scientists studying the reef’s capacity to bounce back from those episodes detailed a disheartening set of findings in the journal Nature on Wednesday. Climate change, which has caused extreme heat stress on some reefs, has severely hindered the reef’s ability to heal, they found.

“The replenishment ability of the reef has been diminished,” Terry Hughes, the study’s lead author and director of the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, said in an interview. “Our study shows that [corals] are pretty much struggling to cope with rapid-fire bleaching events.”

Hughes said the researchers’ findings center on a key reality: Dead corals don’t make babies.

The massive bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 devastated nearly half of the Great Barrier Reef, which is a sprawling collection of nearly 3,000 individual reefs. The heat wave affected some parts of the reef more than others, and some species died off at a greater rate than others — an outcome that scientists said would forever alter its character.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals lose their color after the symbiotic algae that live in coral cells and provide them with nutrients are expelled because of heat stress. The longer this state of stress lasts, the less likely corals will recover. So scientists tend to distinguish between moderate bleaching, which can be managed, and severe bleaching, which can kill corals and leave surviving corals more vulnerable to disease and other threats.

Historically, after the damage from events such as bleaching or a hurricane, the remaining adult corals in the reef spawn trillions of larvae each year, which spread and slowly begin to revitalize the reef by replacing dead corals with new ones. But that’s not happening as it once did.

According to Wednesday’s study, the number of new corals settling on the Great Barrier Reef declined by 89 percent after the recent bleaching events. In addition, because it can take a decade or longer for even the fastest-growing corals to recover, a reef needs a long respite to return to its former state.

But climate change makes it less likely that the Great Barrier Reef will catch such a break. Already, it has suffered four mass bleaching events since 1998, and climate models project that the reef will bleach twice each decade by 2035 and annually after 2044 if the world does not sharply cut its greenhouse gas emissions, the study says.

“It’s highly unlikely that we could escape a fifth or sixth event in the coming decade,” Morgan Pratchett, a study co-author and professor at James Cook University, said in a statement. “We used to think that the Great Barrier Reef was too big to fail — until now.”

Kim Cobb, a coral reefs expert and climate scientist at Georgia Tech University who was not involved in Wednesday’s study, called the work of gathering the data behind it “painstaking” and its findings “devastating.”

“This is part of the ongoing train wreck that just never seems to stop,” Cobb said, adding, “We know that these reefs are going to be taking some very near-term hits with repeated heat waves.”

Even so, she said questions remain about whether the lack of coral replenishment in the Great Barrier Reef will prove to be a short-lived problem as reefs become more adaptable to the changing climate — or something that will become the new normal.

“The big question right now is, do they have enough time to recover the basic functions that will make them more resilient in the next heat wave?” Cobb said. “How much can they come back? How much time do they have?”

Unfortunately, they might not have long.

A study in the journal Science last year found that coral reefs around the globe are bleaching four to five times as frequently as they did around 1980.

We’re “looking at 90 percent of reefs seeing the heat stress that causes severe bleaching on an annual basis by mid-century,” Mark Eakin, one of the study’s authors and coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, said at the time.

The study surveyed 100 major coral reefs, from 1980 through 2016, and found that only a handful had not suffered severe bleachings during that period. It also found that the rate of severe bleaching is increasing over time. The average reef in the group bleached severely once every 25 or 30 years at the beginning of the 1980s, but by 2016, the recurrence time for severe bleaching was 5.9 years.

“As global temperatures continue to rise,” the authors of Wednesday’s study wrote, “the probability of avoiding further bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef in the next decade or two is vanishingly small.”

Hughes said the damage to the Great Barrier Reef is about more than the corals. “It’s about the whole ecosystem that depends on them,” he said, noting that reefs help to protect coastlines from tropical storms and provide shelter and habitat for an array of marine organisms.

The world has warmed about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels, but scientists project that warming to continue to increase unless nations drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions. Each bit of additional warming further threatens sensitive coral reefs, and a report backed by the United Nations found last fall that the vast majority of the world’s reefs could disappear if warming exceeds two degrees Celsius.

Still, Hughes said scientists shouldn’t assume that future bleaching events will affect the reef in quite the same way as past ones have. Recent research has found that corals that survived the 2016 bleaching were more resistant to a recurrence of the hot ocean conditions a year later. So there is hope that corals will adapt, even as world leaders try to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius below preindustrial levels.

“I don’t think we’re going to lose coral reefs at 1.5 or even two degrees [Celsius], but we are certainly already changing the nature of reefs. That change is already underway,” Hughes said.

And there’s little doubt what is fueling the shift.

“We’ve always anticipated that climate change could affect reefs,” he said. But “it’s not something that might happen in the future. It’s unfolding right now.”

[As of noon 5 April 2019, there were 180 comments on this article, in its on-line version at the URL above.]

Posted in Fun