Monday, June 27, 2016
Grant-hungry scientists stage a tantrum about the Barrier Reef while on their holiday in Hawaii
Many causes of bleaching alleged but not a word about El Nino, the most probable cause. These guys are just con-men. Document probably written by a small but powerful clique only
As the largest international gathering of coral reef experts comes to a close, scientists have sent a letter to Australian officials calling for action to save the world's reefs, which are being rapidly damaged.
The letter was sent on Saturday to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull imploring the government to do more to conserve the nation's reefs and curb fossil fuel consumption.
The letter, signed by past and present presidents of the International Society for Reef Studies on behalf of the 2000 attendees of the International Coral Reef Symposium that was held in Honolulu this week, urged the Australian government to prioritise its Great Barrier Reef.
"This year has seen the worst mass bleaching in history, threatening many coral reefs around the world including the whole of the northern Great Barrier Reef, the biggest and best-known of all reefs," the letter said.
"The damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating. In addition to damage from greenhouse gases, port dredging and shipping of fossil fuels across the Great Barrier Reef contravene Australia's responsibilities for stewardship of the Reef under the World Heritage Convention."
Scientists are not known for their political activism, said James Cook University professor Terry Hughes, but they felt this crisis warranted such action.
A call to action from three Pacific island nations whose reefs are in the crosshairs of the largest and longest-lasting coral bleaching event in recorded history was presented on Friday at the conclusion of the symposium in Honolulu.
The heads of state from Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands attended the conference and will provide a plan to help save their ailing coral reefs.
The call to action, signed by the three presidents, asked for better collaboration between the scientific community and local governments, saying there needs to be more funding and a strengthened commitment to protecting the reefs.
In response to the letter, the scientific community at the conference said they would work with national leaders of Micronesia, the Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the world "to curb the continued loss of coral reefs."
Bleaching is a process where corals, stressed by hot ocean waters and other environmental changes, lose their colour as the symbiotic algae that lives within them is released. Severe or concurrent years of bleaching can kill coral reefs, as has been documented over the past two years in oceans around the world. Scientists expect a third year of bleaching to last through the end of 2016.
In the northern third of the Great Barrier Reef, close to half of the corals have died in the past three months, said Hughes, who focuses his research there.
But the panel of scientists emphasised the progress they have made over the past 30 years and stressed that good research and management programs for coral reefs are available. The scientists said they just need the proper funding and political will to enact them.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Great Barrier Reef: Qld Government's cattle station purchase 'makes agriculture sector scapegoat'
Let's be clear: This is NOT agricultural runoff being discussed. It is pastoral runoff. A cattle station and an arable farm are not the same. There are virtually no arable farms in the Northern half of Cape York peninsula and yet that is where coral bleaching is greatest -- providing an excellent natural experiment that proves Greenie claims about agricultural runoff to be false.
Pastoral runoff may however be a different thing. The property discussed below does appear to have been badly managed, if managed at all. Producing anything in such a remote area must encounter a lot of high costs so cutting costs on management might be expected. In the circumstances, the steps being taken by the Queensland government are well-advised.
There is however no reason why one property must be taken as proving a generality. For all we know, there may be no other pastoral properties in the far North that are producing massive runoff. No-one has made that case -- Greenie hand-waving aside
The agricultural sector says it is being unfairly targeted by the Queensland Government after it purchased a cattle station to reduce sediment flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles announced on Wednesday the Government had bought Springvale Station in the state's north for $7 million.
Mr Miles said the reason for the purchase was to stem the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sediment pollution flowing from the property into the Great Barrier Reef each year.
Generations of cattle grazing has caused massive gullies, etched deep into Springvale Station's 56,000 hectares.
These gullies carry 500,000 tonnes of sediment per year into the Normanby catchment, explained Australian Rivers Institute's Dr Andrew Brooks.
"The Normanby catchment represents about 50 per cent of the total run off to the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef," Dr Brooks told PM.
Because of this Dr Brooks supported the Queensland Government's purchase, as well as plans to rehabilitate the land and prevent further sediment from damaging the reef.
"The relationship between sediment run off and impact on coral has been well established," he said.
"What we know is that these volumes of sediment coming from this property, just to put it in perspective, that's 50,000 tipper trucks worth of sediment. "These gullies don't just deliver sediment. They also deliver nutrients. So per unit area these gullies are contributing twice the level of nutrients as a cane paddock in the wet tropics."
Mr Miles said smoothing out the gullies and replanting grass will begin as soon as possible but it is too early to tell how long the whole remediation process will take.
In the meantime, former station owners have until late next year to remove the several thousand head of cattle from the land.
While a loud chorus has praised the Queensland Government's purchase as a major step forward in remediation of the Great Barrier Reef, the agricultural sector has some reservations about the $7 million sale.
Reef Alliance chair Ruth Wade said the Queensland Government needed to ensure other industries near the reef also pull their weight. "There are areas like mines, ports, tourism, a number of areas where there are impacts of varying points," Ms Wade said. "The obvious and easy one is the impact agriculture has in terms of sediment run off.
"We're working very hard through a number of schemes funded by Federal and State Governments to improve water quality and minimise impacts of agriculture."
But Mr Miles insisted that while all industries have a role to play in reef protection, the Government was targeting agriculture for the right reasons. "We know that a clear driver of problems for the reef is run off pollution and a great deal is cause by agricultural land," he said.
"If we can substantially reduce the amount of sediment run off from just this one property we can move ourselves forward toward the targets we have set for the entire catchment and that's a huge opportunity."
Agforce Queensland general president Graham Mosley is concerned the Government will not follow through on proper land management of the station. "It's a challenge. There's services associated with servicing that property ... ongoing maintenance," Mr Mosley said.
"What is the long-term plan here for acquisition of land in Queensland? Government needs to be clear of the path its embarking on when spending taxpayer money.
Mr Miles concedes the land management details have not yet been determined, while not ruling out a partnership with graziers. "In terms of the ongoing wider management, beyond the rivers and gullies and streams, that's where we're interested in working with partners to determine the best way to manage it going forward," he said.
"The idea is those areas which are currently grazed could well continue to be so under some kind of partnership arrangement, while those areas that are pristine could be protected as National Park, or nature refuges, while we get about the important work of repairing the riparian zones."
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Going Out With A Bang: Could Algal Sex Save The Reef?
It’s no secret that the domestic situation between corals and the algae that live inside has become a little heated in recent months, but scientists may have found a way to get that steamy relationship get back on track.
First, a bit of background: The mass coral bleaching that has savaged the Great Barrier Reef over recent months occurred because of unusually warm ocean temperatures, driven by climate change and an El Nino weather system.
The bleaching starts when corals expel a type of algae that normally lives inside them, and gives them their colour. When the water becomes too warm, the algae gets all hot under the collar, and starts producing toxins that damage the corals.
That’s why the algae get turfed out. But the algae are the coral’s main source of food, so they starve, get bleached white, and are eventually overrun by a different kind of algae.
Clearly, it’s a marriage in crisis – which is why scientists have mounted an intervention.
New research published in the Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution has revealed that the water of the Coral Sea isn’t the only thing that has been getting hot of late.
The algae appear to have responded to the conditions by starting to reproduce sexually, instead of asexually, and it turns out this promiscuity could help save the corals’ relationship with their special algae friends too.
The difference is that when the algae produce asexually they produce a more-or-less identical copy of themselves. If they produce sexually, different algae’s genetic codes get spliced together, which produces new variants of algae.
The algae that can stand the heat are less likely to get all toxic, and therefore less likely to be sent to the dog-house by the corals, which are in turn less likely to bleach. It’s a raunchy sort of survival of the fittest.
Professor Madeleine van Oppen, from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, was one of the scientists involved in the study. She said the findings are "critical in terms of developing more climate-resilient algae and corals".
The algae’s sexual reproduction was only a small part of the study. The main finding was that some algae use a mechanism to switch on genes which produce special proteins in order to protect themselves from heat exposure and mop up some of the toxic chemicals that poison their symbiotic relationship with the coral.
The sexual reproduction is important, though, because it speeds up evolution and might allow the algae to adapt quickly enough to tolerate the rise in sea temperatures.
It’s a bit of good news in a sea of bad, for those of us rooting for the Great Barrier Reef.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching could cost $1b in lost tourism, research suggests
This is research about what people have been told, not research about the reef or actual tourist numbers. Far from tourism dying off amid the present state of the reef, we read:
It comes as tourism booms in the region with Cairns leading the growth of hotels in Australia with demand strong and no new major hotel opening in the past two years. Hotel data benchmarking group STR Global has reported city hotel occupancies are up 6.6 per cent and revenues per available room have jumped nearly 14 per cent in the year to April 2016. Sales of hotels in the region have been strong on the back of the rise in tourism with five hotels selling for nearly $150m in the past 18 months
Cairns is of course the main jumping off point for reef tourism.
And why is tourism flourishing there? Because the situation is not as Greenies describe it. Tourism operators have no difficulty in taking people to flourishing reefs. There are some parts of the reef that are temporarily out of action but there are plenty of parts that are fine. There is nothing to disrupt the tourist experience
If there are problems with the reef they lie in what Greenies say about it. They do not lie with the reef itself. It is deceitful Greenies that are the problem
Continued coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef could see international and domestic visitors to the region plummet by more than a million people a year, research by the Australia Institute warns.
The institute surveyed more than 3,000 Chinese, US and UK visitors, as well as 1,400 domestic tourists.
The Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were selected by international respondents as being their top Australian tourist attractions.
But the natural wonder is experiencing its most severe bleaching event on record, with an estimated 22 per cent of its coral, mostly in its northern sections, having died.
One of the survey questions in the Australia Institute research asked respondents: "If the Great Barrier Reef continues to experience severe bleaching and some of the reef dies completely, would you be more likely to choose an alternative holiday destination?"
More than one-third of Americans answered yes, as did 27 per cent of UK tourists and 55 per cent of Chinese.
"Across those three countries there are 175,000 tourists who risk not coming to Australia at all if the reef continues to be bleached," the Australia Institute's executive director Ben Oquist said.
The research states that nearly 900,000 Australian tourists would most likely choose somewhere else to visit if the reef continues to experience bleaching.
"Along with visitor numbers, the potential loss of tourism revenue represents almost one-third of the $3.3 billion spent by holiday visitors to reef regions each year, which supports between 39,000 and 45,000 jobs," the Australia Institute's report states.
"Around 10,000 jobs are at risk from decreased visitation and spending if severe coral bleaching of the reef continues."
"I definitely agree with [the research findings]," said John Rumney, who's been running reef tours off far north Queensland for 40 years.
"As soon as the reef passes that critical point, that tipping point, and we don't have something nice to show people, they'll stop coming."
According to The Guardian, some Cairns operators have reportedly refused to take journalists out on the reef for fear of feeding more negative publicity.
Mr Rumney said it was time his industry openly debated the future of the Great Barrier Reef.
"Everyone in the reef business knows in their hearts that their business is related to a healthy reef. It's just they're afraid to say anything about it because it will be construed as 'oh it's bad now, it's too late'. No, if we don't take any action it will be too late."
The Australia Institute research singles out coal as a leading contributor to climate change, which scientists in turn blame for rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching.
"Four in five people work in service industries, while only 1 per cent work in the coal industry," the report said. "Policies such as a moratorium on new coal mines can be implemented with a minimal effect on the Queensland economy."
Two-thirds of Australian respondents in the survey said there would be a negative impact on the reef if Australia continues to build new coal mines.
"If we're going to save the Barrier Reef and if we're going to address climate change it's clear the world has got to start burning less coal and using less coal and to start that we've got to start approving less mines," Mr Oquist said.
Monday, June 20, 2016
The Reef’s Self-Serving Saviours
By WALTER STARCK
(Walter Starck is one of the pioneers in the scientific investigation of coral reefs. He grew up in the Florida Keys and received a PhD in marine science from the University of Miami in 1964. He has over 40 years worldwide experience in reef studies and his work has encompassed the discovery of much of the basic nature of reef biology. In this process over 100 species of fishes, which were new to science, were found as well as numerous, corals, shells, crustaceans and other new discoveries)
All the many and varied claims of threats are based on speculation and the flat-out fabrications of researchers, bureaucrats and activists seeking grants and donations. Let us hope that a political leader emerges to decry and defund the gold-plated alarmists and the immense harm they are doing
coral not coalVirtually every year for the past half-century news reports have bannered dire proclamations by "reef experts" on imminent "threats" to the Great Barrier Reef. This has sustained an ongoing, ever-growing charade of "research" and "management" aimed at saving the reef from a litany of hypothetical threats conjured up by a salvation industry which now costs taxpayers over $100 million annually. Although none of these "threats" have ever proven to be anything other than hypothetical possibilities or temporary fluctuations of nature, the doomsters never cease to rummage through their litany of concerns to find something they can present as urgent in order to keep the funding flowing.
For a time in the 1970s and ’80s genuine basic research was beginning to reveal a fascinating range of new understanding about the reef. Sadly, this all too brief golden age of discovery faded away when researchers found that the surest path to funding was to go with the flow and float their careers on the rising tide of environmentalism. We now have a whole generation of researchers whose entire involvement has been in the context of investigating various environmental concerns. Understandably, they perceive and/or present every fluctuation of nature as evidence of some threat.
In this process the open, sceptical, inquiring approach of science has been displaced by what has become the environmental facet of political correctness. Like the latter, it is weak on evidence and brooks no questioning of its doctrine, the penalty for any such heresy being personal denigration, the rejection of research funding, and the rejection of papers by peer-reviewed journals. At its most sinister, even dismissal from employment.
However, and despite all the pretence of scientific authority and consensus, there has been an growing divergence between the orthodoxy and the reality. This stress has recently ruptured into a serious fracture of the salvationist monolith. A recent article, "Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching", in The Australian reports the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Russell Reichelt, as stating that the extent of the recent coral bleaching event has been greatly exaggerated. This admission is particularly significant for two reasons: it specifically contradicts claims by researchers, and it comes from the GBRMPA, which until now has itself taken a lead in proclaiming the scientific authority of the many and purported threats to the reef.
Additional support for the accusation of serious exaggeration about threats to the reef has also come from the reef tourism industry, which is gravely concerned about the negative impact of such publicity on their businesses. As the dive-boat captains and tour operators know from their own direct and daily experience, the reef remains healthy and vibrant. It is not dying.
Meanwhile, the doomsters persist in upping the ante to a level of absurdity, now claiming $16 billion is needed from government over the next decade to save the reef.
The reef itself is out there, over the horizon and beneath the sea, where the truth and evidence of its ongoing good health is safely inaccessible. Any alleged and imminent catastrophe can be claimed, with little risk of those claims being revealed as untrue. Indeed, given the media’s inclination to take dictation rather than seek and publish facts, such assertions are seldom even questioned. In the absence of evidence, an easy-to-claim "authority" alone prevails. "Experts" flourish where knowledge struggles and trust is safe from test. Even so, truth has a way of accumulating over time until even the best crafted untruths cannot be maintained.
Recently, there has been a flurry of doomster propaganda capitalising on an extensive coral bleaching event. The thrust of the impression being presented is that most of the corals on the GBR have been killed, that climate change is the cause, and making billions of dollars available to the reef salvation industry is urgently necessary.
The actual situation is far less dramatic. Bleaching events occur when wave-driven mixing ceases during periods of extended calm associated with strong El Niño conditions. This results in the one- to two-metre surface of the ocean becoming several degrees warmer than the water immediately below. This extra-warm layer moves up and down several meters with the tide and may extend deeper in channels or around the edges of reefs where it flows off shallow reef tops on a falling tide. Corals subjected to excessive warmth and rapid temperature fluctuations expel the symbiotic algae which live in their tissues and their white limestone skeletons show through their now-colourless polyps. Such bleaching mainly affects the shallow tops of reefs where it is also very conspicuous. Coral at greater depths remain healthy.
The GBR consists of over 2500 named reefs and many more smaller, unnamed coral patches. The high percentages claimed to be affected by bleaching refer to a sample of reefs where some bleaching was seen, not to the total area of coral which has been affected. The reef is vast and bleaching surveys have naturally concentrated on the regions where it is occurring. How much of the total coral area of the GBR has bleached has not been assessed. A reasonable estimate would likely be closer to 10-20% than to the 90+% being claimed in news reports. Most of the affected corals can be expected to survive and promptly recover, just as they have in other bleaching events.
Some portion of bleached corals will indeed die, and high levels of recovery may require a decade or more. However, mortality from this cause is natural and not dissimilar to the effect of naturally occurring fires in forests. On the GBR, damage to reefs from severe tropical cyclones is in fact much more intense, extensive and frequent than the effects of bleaching. Historical records and proxy studies clearly indicate that both El Niño events and tropical cyclones have been common for many centuries and that neither their frequency nor intensity has increased. In fact, the frequency and intensity of storms in the past century appear to have been well below the preceding one, and there is clear evidence of far more severe impacts in earlier centuries.
It is also important to be aware that extensive coral mortality on shallow reef tops can result from heavy rain during an exceptionally low tide when corals can be exposed to the air for several hours. These so-called "minus tides" can be accurately predicted; typically, they occur several times in most years. It is not at all improbable that this entirely natural factor might also be involved in the mortality being attributed to the recent bleaching.
Whatever the cause, though, any apparent damage is never wasted by those who understand the academic funding process better than than they are prepared to admit grasping the truth about the reef, its corals and eco systems. For otherwise un-notable academics, it is a welcome opportunity to appear important, to bask in the spotlight and attract public attention, to hype the "save the reef" industry and squeeze further funding from politicians under pressure to be seen as doing something, no matter how pointless and expensive. Next year — and you can bet the house on this — the current "threat" will be forgotten in favour of a fresh one.
The repeated claim of a 50% decline in coral cover is based on a recent study which was preceded by an earlier one using the same data from the same research institution only two years before. The first one concluded that no statistically significant change in coral cover had occurred over the previous 25 years. The 50% decline was then declared after including surveys of the damage inflicted by two Category 5 cyclones in the subsequent two years, along with liberal application of some dubious statistical jiggery pokery. Contrary to the claims of this second study, the frequency of such storms is not increasing and reefs do recover surprisingly quickly. A 20% increase in coral cover in the cyclone damaged areas has already been found.
The newer study was published in a high level peer-reviewed journal which requires that any conflicting evidence be addressed. Although the earlier study was briefly cited in passing, no acknowledgment was made of its directly contradictory conclusion. By not mentioning any conflicting evidence in a journal which specifically requires this, the false impression was presented that there is none. It is also worth noting that the lead author of the first study was a co-author of the later one. How then to explain the conflicted findings? At minimum, some might see scientific misconduct at work, perhaps even outright fraud.
Crown-of-Thorns starfish infestations devouring corals are another superannuated "threat" currently being recycled. In the past it was first blamed on shell collecting, then on fishing when the charge against collectors lost all credibility. More recently, the blame shifted to declining water quality due to fertiliser runoff from farming. The reality is that erratic population booms are inherent to the reproductive strategy of starfish and are well known for various species all over the world. Crown-of-Thorns outbreaks commonly occur on isolated oceanic reefs, as well as on coastal reefs in desert regions where agricultural runoff cannot be a factor. Extensive sampling of the frequency of the distinctive spines of the CoT starfish in reef sediments indicate large and erratic fluctuations for at least the past 8000 years. On the GBR no credible correlation has been demonstrated between CoT outbreaks and runoff events. In Western Australia the same kind of CoT outbreaks occur despite there being no runoff from agriculture.
Corals on the GBR are frequently subject to extensive natural mortality from storms, floods and bleaching events. There is no evidence of any recent increase in the frequency or intensity of such events. In the subsequent recovery process the fast growing branching and plate-like coral forms tend to overgrow the slower growing, more massive species. The preference of CoT for these faster growing forms may well be important in the maintenance of coral diversity.
The effect of runoff on GBR water quality has also been grossly exaggerated. Significant runoff in the GBR catchment is limited to occasional brief flood events. These affect only relatively restricted inshore areas well removed from the main body of the reef, which is much further offshore. The nutrient flux on the outer reefs is dominated by naturally occurring internal waves which are much more frequent and orders of magnitude greater in effect than anything coming from the land. Contrary to the highly misleading claims of the reef’s self-proclaimed and self-promoting saviours, there is no evidence of decreasing water quality on the GBR. If anything, the quality of runoff has almost certainly improved over recent decades from advances in land-management practices. In particular this has included a substantial reduction in fertiliser and pesticide usage. There is simply no evidence for any decline in water quality on the reef, and agrichemical usage in the catchment area has declined in recent decades. In short, no evidence exists for anything other than natural perturbations in the condition of the GBR.
A further repeated and grossly misleading claim by the reef salvation industry involves the value of reef tourism. They often cite a varying figure in the billions of dollars which, if not entirely fabricated, can only be the total value for all tourism in the region. This ignores the fact that only about half of visitors actually visit the reef at all and, for the majority of those who do, it is a one-time day trip. A 2013 report by Deloitte Access Economics entitled Economic Contribution of the Great Barrier Reef estimated the value of reef-related tourism in 2012 was $481.4 million — a mere 7.5% of the total value for tourism. Attributing the entire value for tourism to the reef is no more honest than attributing it to the rainforests, beaches, restaurants, backpacking or any other activity that attracts tourist dollars. To do this repeatedly is pathetically ignorant, grossly dishonest or both.
Still another, repeatedly presented misrepresentation is that of increasing warming of reef waters. While there does seem to be a slight warming trend of about three-quarters of a °C over the past century in the global average temperature, the records on which this is based are highly variable and erratic with a margin of error which is greater than the claimed warming. Where good records are available some places show warming and others cooling. The available sea surface temperature data from the GBR shows no statistically significant trend over the past three decades.
The reef is fine. Reef tourism operators know this from direct daily experience and have belatedly started to object to the doomster propaganda. All of the claims of threats to the GBR are based entirely on hypothetical speculations or outright fabrications by researchers, bureaucrats and activists seeking grants, budgets and donations. To its credit, as noted above, even the GBRMPA has recently found the untruths and exaggerations too much to endorse. Government needs to recognise that where genuine understanding is limited, committed belief in the prevailing misunderstanding does not constitute genuine expertise, nor can truth be conjured by modelling ignorance with a computer.
Coral reefs are highly diverse dynamic environments frequently subject to large natural perturbations. Environmentalism primes us to believe in a "fragile balance of nature", with any significant fluctuation as evidence of some unnatural "impact" caused by humans. Researchers soon discovered that investigation of environmental threats assured generous funding and the result is now a whole generation of researchers whose entire training and experience of the reef has been in the context of investigating such threats. They see every fluctuation as a threat and while they proclaim deep concern for the reef, their true commitment is more to the threats. This becomes apparent if any suggestion is made that a purported threat may not be as great as they claim to fear. The reaction is never hopeful interest. Always, it is angry rejection.
Regardless of whether the reef salvation industry is based on sincere self-delusion or more base motives, it is out of touch with the reality of both the reef and the economic circumstances we face. It has become an extravagant farce. It has never effectively addressed any threat and is something we can no longer afford. It is past time for this to begin to be recognised as such, most particularly
The claim that $16 billion is needed to save the reef is utter nonsense. That vast sum cannot prevent climate change, nor can it stop storms, floods or El Niño events. It cannot prevent starfish outbreaks or bleaching. All it can achieve is to keep the reef saviours on a permanent Barrier Reef holiday and drive more of our struggling primary producers out of production with ever more restrictions, demands and costs.
This is beyond stupid. It is obscene. Australia is indeed the lucky country — but luck, by definition, is never a permanent condition and the current circumstances of the economy are unprecedented and serious, with prospects for the future even more so. Although having one of the world’s highest levels of per capita GDP, Australia also ranks among the highest of developed nations in personal debt, interest rates, and taxation, as well as costs for housing, power, food, education and health care. At the same time most manufacturing has been driven offshore and is now at the lowest portion of GDP in developed economies.
In an economy increasingly dependent on primary production the number of small independent producers has also declined by two-thirds or more over recent decades. This is true across the spectrum from small miners to farmers, graziers, loggers and fishermen. Although various factors have played a role in this change, ever increasing environmental restrictions, demands and costs have been key elements. Unfortunately, these smaller independent operators were the flexible, low-overhead producers who could weather the vicissitudes of nature and markets to thrive in better times. The result has been an ever increasing dominance of foreign owned multinational companies across primary production as well as soaring food prices for domestic consumers.
Australia is now caught up in a perfect storm of weak commodity prices, a high dependence on imports and overseas borrowing, plus an economic base that is increasingly foreign owned. Although the behaviour of complex dynamic systems, such as the national economy or the GBR, is inherently impossible to predict with certainty, the best available evidence indicates that the condition of the economy is far more threatened than is the reef. The "threats" to the reef exist only in the realm of hypothetical possibilities imagined by armchair "experts" claiming authority and unsupported by any firm evidence. The demand for government to spend billions of dollars to "save" the reef is simply obscene when the effective real outcome can only be to load more demands and restrictions on vital productive activity already struggling to remain viable.
A further exposure of the rot in reef science appeared only a few days ago in The Australian (June 11) entitled "Reef whistleblower censured by James Cook University" reports that Professor Peter Ridd, a very experienced and highly regarded senior professor at James Cook University, was threatened with a charge of serious misconduct for questioning the scientific integrity of some blatantly alarmist claims about the GBR. In academic speak "serious misconduct" is code for the sack. If a highly regarded senior professor is so treated take it as a given that the 90+% of academics who are more junior in status will take note to avoid any appearance of dissent. It appears that, as far as the administration at JCU is concerned, maintenance of a comfortable place at the public trough must override any considerations of academic freedom or scientific integrity. It would seem the official definition of "serious misconduct" is more concerned with exposing it than with its commission.
To add a further layer of absurdity to the farce, the upcoming election is seeing politicians of all parties vie with one another to shuffle and re-label sundry budget items and issues in order to inflate public perception of their "commitment" to saving the reef. As if a solar farm in Western Australia or banning a coalmine in outback Queensland represents meaningful efforts to save the reef!
Reader responses to alarmist hype in the mainstream news media clearly indicate a large and growing majority of the electorate is unsympathetic to the ongoing eco farce. When a political leader finally emerges who is willing to confront it, that person is likely to find a tsunami of support. We can only hope that day is coming soon.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Coral corruption: An honest environmentalist in trouble
Honest scientists are an endangered species. Must toe the line. Below are three recent articles referring to Prof. Peter Ridd. You can see why he's got the Warmists steaming
When marine scientist Peter Ridd suspected something was wrong with photographs being used to highlight the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, he did what good scientists are supposed to do: he sent a team to check the facts.
After attempting to blow the whistle on what he found — healthy corals — Professor Ridd was censured by James Cook University and threatened with the sack. After a formal investigation, Professor Ridd — a renowned campaigner for quality assurance over coral research from JCU’s Marine Geophysics Laboratory — was found guilty of "failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution".
His crime was to encourage questioning of two of the nation’s leading reef institutions, the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, on whether they knew that photographs they had published and claimed to show long-term collapse of reef health could be misleading and wrong.
"These photographs are a big deal as they are plastered right across the internet and used very widely to claim damage," Professor Ridd told The Weekend Australian.
The photographs were taken near Stone Island off Bowen. A photograph taken in the late 19th century shows healthy coral. An accompanying picture supposedly of the same reef in 1994 is devoid of coral. When the before-and-after shots were used by GBRMPA in its 2014 report, the authority said: "Historical photographs of inshore coral reefs have been especially powerful in illustrating changes over time, and that the change illustrated is typical of many inshore reefs."
Professor Ridd said it was only possible to guess within a kilometre or two where the original photograph was taken and it would not be unusual to find great coral in one spot and nothing a kilometre away, as his researchers had done. Nor was it possible to say what had killed the coral in the 1994 picture.
"In fact, there are literally hundreds of square kilometres of dead reef-flat on the Great Barrier Reef which was killed due to the slow sea-level fall of about a meter that has occurred over the last 5000 years," he said. "My point is not that they have probably got this completely wrong but rather what are the quality assurance measures they take to try to ensure they are not telling a misleading story?"
A GBRMPA spokesman said last night "the historical photos serve to demonstrate the vulnerability of nearshore coral reefs, rather than a specific cause for their decline.
"Ongoing monitoring shows coral growth in some locations, however this doesn’t detract from the bigger picture, which shows shallow inshore areas of the Great Barrier Reef south of Port Douglas have clearly degraded over a period of decades." Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies chairman Terry Hughes did not respond to questions from The Weekend Australian.
Professor Ridd was disciplined for breaching principle 1 of JCU’s code of conduct by "not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues". He has been told that if he does it again he may be found guilty of serious misconduct.
A JCU spokesman said it was university policy not to comment on individual staff, but that the university’s marine science was subject to "the same quality assurance processes that govern the conduct of, and delivery of, science internationally".
This is the crux of the issue for Professor Ridd: "I feel as though I am the whistleblower."
His potential downfall is the result of a long campaign for better quality assurance standards for ocean and reef research, which has come under fire globally for exaggerating bad news and ignoring the good. Reef politics is a hot topic in the wake of widescale bleaching of corals on the Great Barrier Reef as part of what US agencies have called the world’s third mass-bleaching event.
About a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef has died and could take years to rebuild. The damage is concentrated in the northern section off Cape York. The scientific response to the bleaching has exposed a rift between GBRMPA and the JCU’s Coral Bleaching Taskforce led by Professor Hughes over how bleaching data should be treated and presented to the public. Conservation groups have run hard on the issue, with graphic images of dying corals. All sides of politics have responded with increased funding to reduce sediment flow and to combat crown of thorns starfish.
University of Western Australia marine biologist Carlos Duarte argued in BioScience last year that bias contributed to "perpetuating the perception of ocean calamities in the absence of robust evidence".
A paper published this year claimed scientific journals had exaggerated bad news on ocean acidification and played down the doubts. Former GBRMPA chairman Ian McPhail accused activists of "exaggerating the impact of coral bleaching for political and financial gain". Dr McPhail told The Weekend Australian it "seems that there is a group of researchers who begin with the premise that all is disaster".
Concerns about quality assurance in science are not confined to the reef. Drug-makers generated headlines when they were unable to replicate the results of landmark studies in the basic science of cancer. Professor Ridd poses the question: "Is the situation in marine science likely to be worse than in medicine and pharmaceuticals, psychology, education? Do we have a decent system of replication and checking of results?
"Is there a chance that many marine scientists are partially driven by ideology? Is there a chance that peer review among this group is self-selecting of the dominant idea? Is there a robust debate without intimidation?"
Professor Ridd wants an independent agency to check the science before governments commit to spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
There is no doubt the current bleaching is a serious event but there are also many questions still to be answered. The consensus position of reef experts is that bleaching events will get worse as ocean temperatures continue to rise because of climate change.
Great Barrier Reef death in five years is "laughable"
CLAIMS by a James Cook University professor that the Great Barrier Reef will be "terminal" in five years have been rubbished by one of his own colleagues.
In a scientific paper released this week, JCU’s Dr Jon Brodie and Professor Richard Pearson warned the natural wonder would be in a terminal condition within five years without a $10 billion commitment during the federal election campaign to improve water quality.
They said many parts of the Reef were in bad shape from pollution, climate change, and overfishing, and they were continuing to decline.
The researchers predicted a wave of crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks in 2025 triggered by poor water quality.
But JCU marine geophysicist Professor Peter Ridd said his colleagues’ claims were "laughable". "I think the threats to the Barrier Reef are greatly exaggerated and mostly based upon science that is very poorly quality assured," he said.
Latest findings by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority show 93 per cent of the natural wonder has varying levels of coral bleaching which was worse in remote parts off Cape York.
Prof Ridd said bleaching was an entirely natural event. "It has always occurred over the millennia, and this is nothing special," he said. "It’s no different to say that on the land, when in extremely dry conditions for example, eucalypt trees lose their leaves.
"There are all sorts of response mechanisms to extreme conditions. "High temperature is one of those, and bleaching is the response corals have."
Mr Brodie said if climate change continued at its current pace the combination of its effects and a starfish outbreak or similar event could lead to permanent loss of the coral.
He said the current federal election campaign was probably the last chance for politicians to put forward their plans of action on water quality and climate change if the GBR was to avoid permanent damage.
"It takes time for change to happen and we need to start fast. If something is not done in this election cycle then we may not see good coral again in our children’s lifetime," he said.
Prof Ridd agreed that coral bleaching needed to be studied, but questioned spending too many resources to do it. "Australia faces far worse environmental problems than threats to the Reef," he said.
"Invasive species and noxious weeds on our rangelands are a much greater threat than the small amount of loss that we may or may not have had on the Barrier Reef."
Great Barrier Reef science needs 'quality assurance' to guarantee accuracy and better policy decisions: academic
A James Cook University academic claims a lack of 'quality assurance' of science about the Great Barrier Reef is failing policy makers
Audiences in far north Queensland have been told scientific claims made about the health of the Great Barrier Reef are not subjected to the same level of "antagonistic rigour" as those made in the private sector.
Physical oceanographer Peter Ridd, from James Cook University, says quality assurance is a well-understood concept in just about every industry, but not in the scientific world, where arguably claims and predictions are frequently used to influence decision and policymakers.
Professor Ridd reviewed the data and found "major problems and statistical errors" in several scientific papers in which claims were made, for example, about calcification rates and a reduction in coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef.
The widely-accepted system of scientific peer review was failing to deliver the antagonistic scrutiny or rigour required, he claimed.
"They may be your mates, they could hate you and really give you a hard time, but the crucial thing is peer review is only a read of the actual paper," he said.
"It won't delve into the data and some of the data sets are enormous and it can take you months and months of work to really check if there's not another interpretation and that's the problem.
"The peer review is a great start in terms of quality assurance and we need it for all science, but for the really important science where you're going to make big policy decisions...
"When you're going to spend a billion dollars to save the reef or you're going to close down the fishing or the coal industry, you need to have a better system of quality assurance than this peer review process and that is what we don't do.
"It does happen in the private industry, but it doesn't happen for the public good science that we're talking about."
Professor Ridd said in the absence of a guaranteed method of "proper antagonistic review", enormous resources and attention was being directed at some environmental threats at the expense of others.
"A lot of the science is proposing hypothesises that there is perhaps a threat, but the data, in many cases, doesn't actually support that there's a huge risk, that there's a risk there but maybe not as large as we thought.
"For example, we have diabolical problems with feral animals and noxious weeds, but almost no money is spent on those problems while we spend a lot of money on the reef.
"I am not totally sure the Great Barrier Reef isn't majorly threatened or majorly damaged, but what I'm totally sure about is the scientific system is not working, that we're not guaranteeing debate."
Monday, June 6, 2016
Great Barrier Reef: scientists ‘exaggerated’ coral bleaching
Activist scientists and lobby groups have distorted surveys, maps and data to misrepresent the extent and impact of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, according to the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt.
A full survey of the reef released yesterday by the authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science said 75 per cent of the reef would escape unscathed.
Dr Reichelt said the vast bulk of bleaching damage was confined to the far northern section off Cape York, which had the best prospect of recovery due to the lack of onshore development and high water quality. [i.e. There are virtually NO farms along that part of the coast -- which gives the lie to the constant Greenie claim that farm runoff is what is damaging the reef]
Activist groups last week seized on reports that a UN assessment of the impacts of climate change on iconic Australian World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Tasmanian Wilderness was censored by Australia. It later emerged that the report the government was accused of censoring was complimentary of the Turnbull government’s actions to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
The political debate and the release of the authority’s survey results highlights a growing conflict between the lead Barrier Reef agency and the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce headed by Terry Hughes.
Dr Reichelt said the authority had withdrawn from a joint announcement on coral bleaching with Professor Hughes this week "because we didn’t think it told the whole story". The taskforce said mass bleaching had killed 35 per cent of corals on the northern and central Great Barrier Reef.
Dr Reichelt said maps accompanying the research had been misleading, exaggerating the impact. "I don’t know whether it was a deliberate sleight of hand or lack of geographic knowledge but it certainly suits the purpose of the people who sent it out," he said.
"This is a frightening enough story with the facts, you don’t need to dress them up. We don’t want to be seen as saying there is no problem out there but we do want people to understand there is a lot of the reef that is unscathed."
Dr Reichelt said there had been widespread misinterpretation of how much of the reef had died. "We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 per cent of the reef is practically dead," he said. "We’ve also seen reports that 35 per cent, or even 50 per cent, of the entire reef is now gone.
"However, based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality rate is 22 per cent — and about 85 per cent of that die-off has occurred in the far north between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250km north of Cairns. Seventy-five per cent of the reef will come out in a few months time as recovered."
Former climate change commissioner Tim Flannery described diving on the Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas recently as "one of the saddest days of my life".
"This great organism, the size of Germany and arguably the most diverse place on earth, is dying before our eyes,’’ Dr Flannery wrote for Fairfax Media. "Having watched my father dying two years ago, I know what the signs of slipping away are. This is death, which ever-rising temperatures will allow no recovery from. Unless we act now."
Dr Reichelt said Dr Flannery’s language had been "dramatic" and "theatrical" and his prognosis, although of concern, was "speculative". Dr Reichelt also rejected reports, based on leaked draft documents, that improving water quality would cost $16 billion.
He said the interim report had been rejected by a board of which he was member and "taken totally out of context" in media reports.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the leaked information demonstrated the legacy of years of poor farming practices and government inaction, and highlighted the scale of ambition needed for political leaders to protect the reef.
The society’s reef campaign director, Imogen Zethoven, said Australia’s plans to protect the reef’s water quality were "shockingly underfunded".
Meanwhile, tourism operators have stepped up a campaign to fight back against the onslaught of negative publicity. "It seems some marine scientists have decided to use the bleaching event to highlight their personal political beliefs and lobby for increased funding in an election year," said Association of Marine Park Tour Operators executive director Col McKenzie.
Some Corroboration from the Cairns Post: (Cairns is the port through which the reef is most often accessed)
The Cairns-based Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) has also released findings from 133 underwater survey dives carried out between Port Douglas and Cairns by a combined taskforce last week.
It showed key reef tourism sites escaped mass bleaching with only 13.7 per cent showing signs of coral mortality.
The findings seemingly contradict an estimate by the Townsville-based ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies earlier this week that mass bleaching killed 35 per cent of corals on the northern and central part of the Reef.
AMPTO [tour operators -- who see the reef daily] executive director Col McKenzie said this claim was "utter rubbish."
"It seems that some marine scientists have decided to use the bleaching event for their personal political beliefs and lobby for increased funding in an election year,’’ he said.
Friday, June 3, 2016
Australia scrubbed from UN climate change report after government intervention
Some Green/Left horror below. There's nothing "threatened" in Australia any more! What they are carefully not mentioning is that corals periodically undergo bleaching events and rapidly recover. So a portrayal of the GBR as bleached would be an unfair depiction of the reef as it usually is. Most "threatened" natural features stay that way for a long time so it is reasonable to depict them in their threatened state. But that is not so with the GBR.
And the claim that the bleaching is the result of "climate change" is false, so putting it into a climate change report would be wrong. The warming events of late 2015 and early 2016 were contemporaneous with a CO2 STASIS. Below are the CO2 levels at Cape Grim for the relevant period. The first two columns give month and year and the 5th column gives CO2 levels. So NO PART of the warming events at that time were due to a rise in CO2. They were all due to El Nino
All mentions of Australia were removed from the final version of a Unesco report on climate change and world heritage sites after the Australian government objected on the grounds it could impact on tourism
Every reference to Australia was scrubbed from the final version of a major UN report on climate change after the Australian government intervened, objecting that the information could harm tourism.
Guardian Australia can reveal the report "World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate", which Unesco jointly published with the United Nations environment program and the Union of Concerned Scientists on Friday, initially had a key chapter on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as small sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian forests.
But when the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, said Australia’s move was reminiscent of "the old Soviet Union".
No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions.
Explaining the decision to object to the report, a spokesperson for the environment department told Guardian Australia: "Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism."
As a result of climate change combined with weather phenomena, the Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of the worst crisis in recorded history. Unusually warm water has caused 93% of the reefs along the 2,300km site to experience bleaching. In the northern most pristine part, scientists think half the coral might have died.
The omission was "frankly astounding," Steffen said. [What would be astounding would be if Steffen told the full truth about global warming]