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Peter Ridd: Too much coral is not enough – but it’s not good either

December 21, 2021

By Paul Homewood

This article by Peter Ridd appeared in the Australian earlier this month:


The Australian Institute of Marine Science recently released its annual survey of coral on the Great Barrier Reef. It shows spectacularly good results. For all three major regions of the reef, once data uncertainties are considered, there has never been more coral since records began in the mid-1980s.

This despite three supposedly catastrophic and unprecedented hot water bleaching events in the past five years.
This great news about the reef poses only a minor problem for those science and management institutions that have convinced the world that the reef is on its last legs. They use three strategies: first, ignore the data and hope nobody points out the great news; second, discredit the good news with “fact checks”; and finally, contrive a spurious but apparently plausible reason that the good news is actually bad news.
Ignoring the good news was on display last month in the latest reef-doom story when the ABC, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian all quoted an eminent reef scientist who stated that only 2 per cent of the reef had not bleached in the past few decades.
The implication was that bleaching was unprecedented and had destroyed almost the entire reef. The fabulous coral statistics this year were not men­tioned by any of those articles.
Bleaching, cyclones and starfish plagues, which all occasionally kill parts of the reef, are akin to bushfires on land. They are completely natural and reset the ecosystem, which rapidly recovers, and are a necessary and import­ant feature of many Australian ecosystems. I could guess that roughly 2 per cent of western Queensland was not affected by a bushfire in the past half century. That would be a good thing, certainly not worthy of concern. Neither should it be for the reef.
To counter the latest good news about the reef, as reported in The Australian, the fact-check gods of Facebook also swung into action. They deemed that the coral has actually declined in the past decade. So what does the AIMS data, which was cited in the fact check, actually show about the change in coral since 2011?
For the northern region, the amount of coral this year is excellent and about the same today as in 2011; for the central region, it has roughly doubled; and for the southern region it has almost tripled. There is a significant uncertainty in the data because of the difficulty of measuring such a vast system, and the measurements are partly subjective in nature, but there is absolutely no doubt that the fact-checkers are extraordinarily wrong.
They appear to be incapable of reading simple graphs.
The final strategy is to turn good news into bad. AIMS and other reef science institutions such as James Cook University Coral Reef Centre dismiss the obviously fabulous coral statistics by arguing that it is only the fast-growing corals that have regrown.
But they ignore that it is the fast-growing corals, the delicate staghorn and plate corals, that were killed in the first place by cyclones, bleaching and starfish plagues. So of course it is the fast-growing corals that have recover­ed.
In 2012, when the reef hit record lows of coral after a couple of very destructive cyclones, these institutions did not say: “Don’t worry, it is only the fast-growing corals – they will be back.” Instead, AIMS published a paper stating that, without intervention, the reef would likely crash much further by 2022. This is yet another failed prediction of the imminent death of the reef in the past 50 years.
Back in the early ’70s, scientists were claiming that plagues of crown-of-thorns starfish, a native Australian species, not an introduced pest, would totally destroy the reef. The plagues came and went, and we now know from geological evidence that the plagues have occurred across millennia.
The amount of coral on the reef fluctuates dramatically with time. The one thing that remains the same are the dire predictions of the loss of the reef. The other thing that remains the same is the reality that the reef is one of the most pristine, best protected, and brilliant ecosystems on Earth.
Early next year Environment Minister Sussan Ley must prepare an updated report on why UNESCO should not declare the Great Barrier Reef as endangered. She will be up against activist scientists, environmental groups and public servants. And in the background the false gods of big tech turn a huge increase in the amount of coral into a decline. Institutions such as AIMS and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that downplay the excellent condition of the reef will be a further problem.
After 50 years of doomsaying about the reef, and its stubborn refusal to die, how much longer will we have to wait before a government will audit the science institutions that have been scaring our children?

  1. Harry Davidson permalink
    December 21, 2021 7:17 pm

    Facebook are just liars, as the BMJ has pointed out. They have also admitted in Court filings that their ‘factcheck’ is no such thing, it is just opinions. They are even worse than the BBC, and they wouldn’t recognize the truth if bit their posterior.

    • Mad Mike permalink
      December 21, 2021 9:40 pm

      Here’s the link to the BMJ complaint to Facebook.

      They don’t hold back on their criticism of Facebook’s fact checkers.

      It seems anybody can be a fact checker and attack anything you don’t agree with without putting forward any evidence at all.

  2. Broadlands permalink
    December 21, 2021 7:43 pm

    It should have been obvious from the very beginning that our man-made AGW CO2 could not possibly be the reason for any bleaching. It’s supposed to be the cause of “catastrophic” GLOBAL warming, not just “pin-point-accurate” warming where reef corals live, where penguins live, even where UN politicians hang out.

  3. Tim Leeney permalink
    December 21, 2021 8:43 pm

    The Barrier Reef is at the southern limit for coral, further south the temperatures being too cold for coral to flourish. How can people believe that slightly warmer temperatures could harm rather than benefit it?

    • Mad mike permalink
      December 21, 2021 9:43 pm

      Very good point Tim. I’m sure coral has shifted many times over the centuries and eons in line with their preferences of environment.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      December 22, 2021 8:23 am

      Climate change harms anything we consider lovely and increases anything we consider ugly or harmful. All butterflies will die but mosquitos will be everywhere.

      It’s very clever like that.

    • bobn permalink
      December 23, 2021 12:59 am

      Absolutely right Tim. Coral flourishes in warm water. Closer to the equator than the Gt Barrier reef the corals of Papua New Guinea are stunning and thriving in water 3c warmer than north GBR. The corals of the UK are not so good in their cool water as the coral of the warm water Caribean. Warmer water is what corals love! The evidence speaks for itself but the greens refuse to look at evidence.
      If we get global warming (doubtful but hopeful) we will get more and better Corals.

  4. Coeur de Lion permalink
    December 21, 2021 10:35 pm

    Whenever I need a brief encapsulation of the forty year barrage of failed scare stories that we have been subjected to, I say “from polar bears to the Great Barrier Reef”. N to S, geddit

    • dave permalink
      December 22, 2021 11:11 am


      With, as Ridd points out for this case, the refutation of the scare story always being met with:

      1. Ignore refutation for as long as possible;
      2. If the refutation has some ‘legs,’ smear refuters in dirty tricks campaign;
      3. If 1 and 2 have not quite done the job, pretend white is black;
      4. Reprint original lie or another.

  5. M E permalink
    December 22, 2021 6:41 pm A very pleasant page about fossil coral which became limestone. Reefs die and those who live in limestone country benefit from this fact.
    Merry Christmas to all.

  6. Jack Broughton permalink
    December 23, 2021 12:33 pm

    Did I see this good news on the BBC ITV news????

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