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Peter Ridd: It’s the science that’s rotten, not the Great Barrier Reef

December 7, 2020

By Paul Homewood



The International Union for Conservation of Nature has released its latest report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef. It has turned up the volume by one notch, claiming the threat to the reef has gone from “significant concern” to “critical”. It blames climate change, agricultural pollution, coastal development, industry, mining, shipping, overfishing, disease, problematic native species, coal dust — you name it, it is killing the reef.

But the report is just a rehash of old, mostly wrong or misleading information produced by generally untrustworthy scientific institutions with an activist agenda and no commitment to quality assurance.

It is remarkable that the world has been convinced that one of its most pristine ecosystems is on its last legs. Part of the problem is that, being underwater and a long way from the coast, very few people visit the reef. The truth is hidden. Those of us in North Queensland living adjacent to the reef, and tourists from elsewhere, can report the water is iridescent clear blue and totally unpolluted. The fish and coral are fabulous.

An aerial view of the world-famous Heart Reef in the Whitsundays. Picture: Brooke Miles/Riptide CreativeAn aerial view of the world-famous Heart Reef in the Whitsundays. Picture: Brooke Miles/Riptide Creative

The reef occasionally conspires to give the impression it is dying. An area of coral the size of Belgium can be killed by cyclones (hurricanes), native starfish plagues or bleaching. All these events are entirely natural and are part of life on the reef. In fact, each of the 3000 individual reefs, along the entire 2000km length of the Great Barrier Reef, is a 50-100m high plateau of dead coral rubble that has built up over millennia. The live coral lives on the surface of this pile of dead ancestors.

Sixty years ago, when these cycles of death and destruction were first being discovered by scientists, it was legitimate to be concerned about whether they were unnatural. But there is now abundant evidence, almost totally ignored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, that the reef is fine. The coral always recovers vigorously after major mortality events. Coral remains abundant on all 3000 reefs. The amount of coral, while fluctuating dramatically from year to year, is about the same today as when records began in the 1980s. The coral growth rates have not declined — if anything they have increased, as would be expected from the slight increase in temperature over the past century. Corals like it hot and grow faster in warmer water.

Ignoring evidence of the obvious good condition of the reef is not the least of the problems with this IUCN report. It also uses evidence that is patently false. For example, the report claims that coal dust blowing from ship-loading facilities is a risk to the reef, which is 100-1000km from the ports. This ridiculous claim is based on a report that was discredited by unquestioned experts on this subject, Dr Simon Apte and other scientists from the CSIRO, who showed that the results were in error by 3000 per cent. It is also highly doubtful that the original scientists were actually measuring coal dust. They were measuring poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, which are common, naturally occurring molecules not specific to coal.

It is not surprising that the IUCN report made the error of using this discredited coal dust report. Other major Australian reports on the reef also quote it. It is notable that when Apte tried to get the scientific journal and the Australian Institute of Marine science, which was responsible for the coal dust data, to correct the mistake, they refused to do anything. The science institutions have become untrustworthy.

Dr Peter Ridd at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney StevensDr Peter Ridd at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Picture: Rodney Stevens

The IUCN makes other equally scandalous mistakes. It claims that agricultural pollution is a problem despite all the measurements showing concentrations of pesticides so low they are generally undetectable with the most sensitive scientific equipment. The effect of mud washed from farms is equally negligible.

The fundamental problem with the IUCN report is that it is based upon scientific evidence that is poorly quality assured. The scientific foundations are rotten and none of the science organisations want to remedy the problem — partly because the science organisations, and the IUCN, stopped being scientific long ago. They have recognised their political power. We must recognise they have become political.

Until genuine quality assurance measures can be put in place at the reef science institutions, the problem of untrustworthy scientific evidence, reported and repeated ad nauseam, will continue. The only good news is that the next IUCN report on the reef in 2023 will not be worse than “critical” because this seems to be the worst category they have.

  1. Francis permalink
    December 7, 2020 7:00 pm

    “…information produced by generally untrustworthy scientific institutions…”

    They are not just “untrustworthy”. Institutions and individuals who behave in this manner disqualify themselves from the designation “scientific” or “scientist”. We should refuse to use any version of the word “science” in describing such organizations and individuals.

  2. Broadlands permalink
    December 7, 2020 7:01 pm

    It is difficult to remedy a problem that doesn’t exist. The same applies to the iconic polar bear and the limited amount of global warming that has taken place. Everything now seems to be at the top category of “critical”. Existential crisis and dire global emergency.

    • Dodgy Geezer permalink
      December 8, 2020 7:47 am

      The advantage of being paid to fix a problem which does not exist is that it is a job for life…

  3. H Davis permalink
    December 7, 2020 7:06 pm

    Peter Ridd is still fighting his legal battle with James Cook University.

    See for some background.

    And if you’re inclined go to to donate.

  4. December 7, 2020 7:08 pm

    It’s not called the Coral Sea for nothing.

    The fact the GBR is a 300 foot cliff you can walk to from Cairns most of the time since the ice age cycles began also escapes humans, who live for a fraction of the shortest 1Ka climate cycles, up and down. Corals are prolific and simply relocate to the best places for them on the currents. Why do people believe this deliberate lies? Because they don’t /can’/t see for themslves, as indeed some of the so called scientists didn’t either, They just repeated hearsay or made their stories up, pretending inshore islands represented the 100km off shore GBR. Liars in fact, Supported by JCU for some easy grant money.

    Forget the science, follow the money, to an easy career in academe making up dodgy political science promoting unsupportable in fact activist beliefs – that give politicians a problem to solve by passing taxpayers money to their cronies in Academe and commerce.

    A Nice little earner at the dumb public’s expense, who you also teach that the fraud is real at school and through the media to stop society debating the reality.

    You can’t make it up. That’s governments job. You just pay to fix the non problems, by law

  5. John snowy Bowyer permalink
    December 7, 2020 9:46 pm

    The latest scam is “Scientists” growing “Special” coral in little tanks to take out and transplant onto the reef to fix everything! They will claim you killed it but we brought it back to life if only we can get another few billion we can continue our outstanding work!
    The MSM are just dumb enough to fall for this nonsense and everyone else in on the gravy train we have to pay for.

  6. December 7, 2020 10:14 pm

    There is a long tradition of myths of death and resurrection, the barrier reef coral myth of repeated death and return to life joins this rich collection of cultural mythology.

    For example, Osiris of ancient Egypt was one of the first to be associated with the mummy wrap. When his brother, Set, cut him up into pieces after killing him, Isis, his wife, found all the pieces and wrapped his body up, enabling him to return to life.

    The Sumerian deity Dumuzid has a sister Inanna who dies. Dumuzid fails to adequately mourn Inanna’s death and, when she returns from the Underworld, she allows the galla demons to drag him down to the Underworld as her replacement. Inanna later regrets this decision and decrees that Dumuzid will spend half the year in the Underworld, but the other half of the year with her, while his sister Geshtinanna stays in the Underworld in his place, thus resulting in the cycle of the seasons.

    In corresponding Greek mythology the goddess Aphrodite found the infant Adonis and gave him to be raised by Persephone, the queen of the Underworld. Adonis grew into an astonishingly handsome young man, causing Aphrodite and Persephone to feud over him, with Zeus eventually decreeing that Adonis would spend one third of the year in the Underworld with Persephone, one third of the year with Aphrodite, and the final third of the year with whomever he chose. Adonis chose to spend his final third of the year with Aphrodite.

    Likewise Dionysus was believed to have been born from the union of Zeus and Persephone, and to have himself represented an underworld aspect of Zeus. Many believed that he had been born twice, having been killed and reborn as the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele.

    In ancient Turkey the daemon god Agdistis initially bore both male and female attributes – a non-binary god! But the trans-phobic Olympian gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ and cast it away. There grew up from it an almond-tree, and when its fruit was ripe, Nana, who was a daughter of the river-god Sangarius, picked an almond and laid it in her bosom. The almond disappeared, and she became pregnant. Nana abandoned the baby (Attis). The infant was tended by a he-goat. As Attis grew, his long-haired beauty was godlike, and his mother, Cybele, then fell in love with him. And so on …

    Now to add to this we have the myth of coral trolls that lie underwater staring at the moon each night. When the world of men pollute the air with their foul engines, the trolls can no longer see the moon at night. So in grief they banish the algal cells from their mineral matrix and turn as pale as the moon, in this way entreating the skies to clear and the moon to return. The moon on due course returns but the coral trolls die. However the moon urinates into the sea fertilising new growth of the coral trolls which return to life. And so the cycle of death and rebirth of the corals continues endlessly.

  7. December 7, 2020 10:23 pm

    This is such nonsense! From 2011 to 2017 my wife and I embarked on a circumnavigation, arriving in Australia in October 2015, and spent some months sailing on the GBR from Lady Musgrave Island to north of the Whitsundays. That part of the reef we dived on was pristine and anything but ‘dead or ‘dying’. The local dive resorts were incandescent about the ridiculous reports from so called reef scientists stating the complete opposite, and seriously affecting their livelihoods. Their representations to government were ignored.
    Some good friends of ours who dived on the northern part of the GBR beyond where we were reported exactly the same. We sold our boat in Brisbane, but they carried on further to Indonesia, and apart from areas affected by pollution they wrote to us on the excellent condition of the coral in all their dive areas over the last 3 years.
    With regard to coal dust pollution this is also nonsense. There are two major coal exporting facilities on the north eastern coast of Australia. One in Newcastle, adjacent to the main town, has spent a huge amount ensuring there is no coal dust from coal loading operations. Having stopped at the marina in Newcastle I can vouch for how successful this investment has been. Newcastle is pristinely clean. The second port is 50 miles south of Mackay, roughly the same distance to the nearest section of the GBR. We spent some months in the marina at Mackay. There is no evidence whatsoever of coal dust pollution. It just doesn’t happen.
    So, on both counts, coral depletion and coal dust pollution the reports are from my experience, nonsense.

  8. December 8, 2020 1:49 am

    Brilliant. Just brilliant. Thank you.
    I have read some of what Ridd has written.
    Great stuff.

  9. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    December 8, 2020 7:44 am

    What is the point of writing this story? All such reports which contradict official doctrine are now sidelined and ignored.

    You would do better to find ways of publicising these embarrassing issues in the mass media rather than preaching to the converted…

  10. yonason permalink
    December 8, 2020 8:24 am

    It’s the science that’s rotten,…

    Just as Epstein didn’t kill himself, neither did science.

  11. StephenP permalink
    December 8, 2020 8:31 am

    What’s the betting that when the grant millions have been spent on researchers salaries, meetings, conferences and scuba diving (holidays) that far from saying “OK, the GBR is in good order, (because we have had a good time spending the money)”, they will say “It’s worse than we thought, we need more millions to do more research”.

    • dave permalink
      December 8, 2020 9:14 am

      OTT a little:

      Both RSS and UAH have announced their metrics for ‘Global Anomalies in Brightness Temperatures’ as being, essentially, unchanged from October.

      Perhaps the effects of the present La Nina will knock the numbers down a little by April.

  12. December 8, 2020 9:12 am

    I have very little faith in government-funded science. The so-called scientists are just in it for an easy career and guaranteed money. They produce the results the politicians want them to produce, regardless of the evidence (so it contributes to policy-based evidence). The peer review process is broken because the peer reviewers are all part of the government funded gravy train.

    Whatever happened to scientific integrity?

  13. December 8, 2020 11:41 am

    This was the takeaway sentence for me.

    All these events are entirely natural and are part of life on the reef. In fact, each of the 3000 individual reefs, along the entire 2000km length of the Great Barrier Reef, is a 50-100m high plateau of dead coral rubble that has built up over millennia. The live coral lives on the surface of this pile of dead ancestors.

  14. December 9, 2020 11:51 pm

    It seems COVID-19 is just about the only thing NOT killing it!

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