Doomed Planet

Warmism’s Media Watch Auxiliary

Chances are that Paul Barry couldn’t tell a dipole from a dipstick, but when it comes to serving as carnival spruiker outside the catastropharians’ never-ending circus of ridiculous and improbable claims, the ABC presenter knows it’s his duty to sound alarms on the taxpayer dollar

barryOnce again the Great Barrier Reef is being recruited, with the help of the ABC, in the name of global warming scaremongering.

In June, the International Coral Reef Symposium and others sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia regarding the fate of the Great Barrier Reef. This week, Paul Barry on Media Watch vented over the failure of The Australian to cover this letter, as if it were some major scientific breakthrough.

Below is the text of the letter:

June 25, 2016

To: Honorable Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister, Commonwealth Government of Australia

From: The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), June 19-24, 2016, Honolulu, Hawaii The International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS) And their combined voices of over 2,500 coral reef scientists, managers, policy makers and stakeholders.

The International Society for Reef Studies is the leading scientific organization that produces,  publishes and disseminates scientific knowledge and understanding of coral reefs worldwide. As is well known, coral reefs are among the most biological diverse ecosystems on the planet and provide ecosystems services to over 500 million people worldwide. Coral reefs, however, are threatened with complete collapse under rapid climate change. Fifty  percent of coral reefs have already been destroyed by a combination of local and global factors. Additional serious degradation will occur over the next two decades as temperatures continue to rise. As a result of reef destruction, a quarter of all marine species are at risk and the associated economic losses will expose hundreds of millions of people to decreasing food security and increased poverty. 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 damage to this Australian icon has already been devastating. In addition to damage from greenhouse gasses, 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. We call upon the Australian Commonwealth Government to stop endorsing the export of coal, and specifically to stop or revoke the approval of new mines, including those in Queensland, which have the potential to become the world’s biggest and most harmful single sources of atmospheric pollution. Australia is a currently perceived as a laggard compared to other developed countries in pursuing the urgent pathway to a low carbon economy, and committing to deep action on climate change. We urge you to improve the protection of the Great Barrier Reef on climate change, and lead-not-follow on this critically important global issue.

— Robert H. Richmond, Ph.D. Ruth Gates, Ph.D. Convener, ICRS President, ISRS Past President, ISRS

One of the signatories, Dr Ruth Gates, is a coral expert currently working at the University of Hawaii. In a March, 2016, BBC article by one Alex Riley  the following claim is made (emphasis added):

Corals are dying worldwide. Since 1950, for example, an estimated 19% of corals have been lost – poof, gone. Today, nearly a third of all reef-building species are threatened with extinction.

The reason? Dynamite fishing and trawling certainly play their part, devastating through destruction and converting once rich ecosystems into underwater deserts. But the principle culprit is our rapidly changing world.

Burning fossil fuels on land has infused the air with atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide. By some estimates, the oceans not only soak up 90% of that heat but also 26% of the carbon dioxide – which reacts with water to form a weak acid. It is a two-pronged attack on aquatic life, and the defences of many corals simply are not strong enough.

Presumably Gates endorses this claim, since the article is included in her own blog. One wonders how she reconciles her claim in the letter sent to the Prime Minister that “50% of coral reefs have already been destroyed”  with the rather less alarming figure of only 19% since 1950, most, if not all, of which would have been occasioned by industrial pollution and environmentally unsounded fishing practices, not climate change.

Walter Starck: The Reef’s Self-Serving Saviours

Note also the specious claim that dissolved CO2 in the ocean is forming a weak acid. This is one of those myths that keeps on giving, despite the fact that the pH of the ocean is still very healthily alkaline. (see Walter Starck’s “Global Warming’s Grand Inquisitors” for more on “acidic oceans”.)

Gates is involved in genetic research in an attempt to engineer climate resilient corals. Her own research has shown that corals can and do adapt to changing environmental conditions (bleaching is one such example).

A 2016 article in The New Yorker contains this passage (emphasis added):

In 1998, a so-called “bleaching event,” caused by very warm water, killed more than fifteen per cent of corals worldwide. Compounding the problem of rising temperatures were changes in ocean chemistry. Corals thrive in alkaline waters, but fossil-fuel emissions are making the seas more acidic. One team of researchers calculated that just a few more decades of emissions would lead coral reefs to “stop growing and begin dissolving.” Another group predicted that, by midcentury, visitors to places like the Great Barrier Reef will find nothing more than “rapidly eroding rubble banks.” Gates couldn’t even bring herself to go back to Jamaica; so much of what she loved about the place had been lost.

But Gates, by her own description, is a “glass half full” sort of person. She noticed that some reefs that had been given up for dead were bouncing back. These included reefs she knew intimately, in Hawaii. Even if only a fraction of the coral colonies survived, there seemed to be a chance for recovery.

The same article tells us that:

Last summer, the foundation awarded her and a collaborator in Australia, Madeleine van Oppen, four million dollars to pursue the idea.

It would be a huge shame if this natural ability of corals to survive in a changing world were to stand in the way of a stream of funding that should see her well into comfortable retirement. Since corals seem to be able to adapt to conditions so far encountered, how then to ensure that things go smoothly? Why, jump onto the meme that the forthcoming rapid pace of climate change will outstrip the ability of corals to adapt, of course.

The only problem with that is that the world is not warming rapidly and, unless some as yet undetected amplification mechanism kicks in, the pace of any warming attributable to CO2 is likely to decline as the CO2 absorbing bandwidth becomes saturated.

The letter is nothing more than a political manifesto designed to help keep the myth of CAGW alive and well. And true to form, the ABC has once again done its bit to keep the alarmists in business.

  • Peter OBrien

    On re-reading through this article, I noticed a possible misunderstanding on my part when I contrasted the claim of 19% of corals gone, with the claim of 50% of coral reefs destroyed. It may be that the 19% refers to species, rather than reefs. That claim is probably worthy of further examination. Nonetheless the figure of 50% reefs destroyed seems highly improbable. It is not borne out by the GBR itself or other Pacific reef environs.

    • Peter OBrien

      Nope, can’t find any reference to a loss of 19% of coral species, but I did find a pretty dodgy article from Columbia University ( quoting a 2011 World Resource Institute report that states that ‘10% of coral reefs have been damaged beyond repair’. Must have been some massive carnage in just 5 years to get to 50% destroyed now!

  • [email protected]

    I remember reading articles during 1986 [at the very start of the catastrophic AGW hoax] about how the Barrier Reef was going to be ‘irreparably damaged’ and likely to start ‘disappearing’ within five years. I remember them because CO2 was now supposed to be the real ‘bogyman’. They were the first of many such dire warnings of the reef’s demise that wasn’t directly connected to the crown of thorns starfish. There have been five sets of five years since [with ever rising CO2 levels], and to the best of my knowledge the Barrier Reef is still there and still reasonably healthy.
    The left seem to love ‘victims’ and the Barrier Reef seems to be the latest possible ‘victim’ which is going to suffer unless we ‘repent’ and give succour to leftist rent seekers. It reminds of an old cartoon where a gangster threatened that ‘Bambi was going to get it’ unless his wishes were complied with. The reef is the current Bambi.

  • Clive Bond

    Global warming does not warm the oceans. The air in contact with the ocean warms only the top few millimetres which is largely lost to evaporattion. The ocean is warmed, down to 100 metres, by direct sunlight. Carbon dioxide has nothing to do with it.

    • Rob Ellison

      While it is true that IR warms only millimetres deep – you need to think in terms of energy flows. From the Sun to the ocean, to the atmosphere and back out to space. A warmer ocean nominally slows the loss of energy from oceans. And the geat from the surface is largely lost as radiant energy.

      • Rob Ellison

        … heat lost from the surface…

  • Rob Ellison

    The recent bleaching occurred overwhelmingly in the northern section of the reef with an expansion of the tropical warm zone. Physics tend to suggest that flow faster to colder areas rather than cause a local heating.

    Most of it will recover in a matter of months. Species are adapted to different conditions along the reef. The tropical species to the north are quite OK – as are the sub-tropical species to the south. In the intermediate zone the species mix may change but the reef itself is quite safe.

    Calcium is supersaturated is seawater and the suggestion is that it may become under-saturated in the Southern Ocean late in the century. Calcium is from memory the 4th most abundant element on Earth and is certainly abundant in shallow, tropical seas. There you get a slight increase in recycling of calcium into the water to maintain supersaturation.

    We are unlikely to see fossil fuels use continue past a few decades at most as cheaper technologies emerge – and if removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is an issue there are ways of doing that while building food security and economic growth.

  • Rob Ellison

    Not so much unidentified amplification – but it does work both ways and is utterly unpredictable. The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) defined abrupt climate change as a new climate paradigm as long ago as 2002. A paradigm in the scientific sense is a theory that explains observations. A new science paradigm is one that better explains data – in this case climate data – than the old theory. The new theory says that climate change occurs as discrete jumps in the system. Climate is more like a kaleidoscope – shake it up and a new pattern emerges – than a control knob with a linear gain.

    Abrupt climate change is technically a chaotic bifurcation in a complex, dynamic system – equivalently a phase transition, a catastrophe (in the sense of René Thom), or a tipping point. These are all terms that are used in relation to the theory of deterministic chaos that originated with the work of Edward Lorenz in the 1960’s. Lorenz started his convection model calculation in the middle of a run by inputting values truncated to three decimal places in place of the original six. By all that was known – it should not have made much of a difference. The rest is history in the discovery of chaos theory as the third great idea – along with relativity and quantum mechanics – of 20th century physics. It has applications in ecology, physiology, economics, electronics, weather, climate, planetary orbits and much else. In climate it is driving a new math of networked systems.

    ‘Technically, an abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a transition to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause. Chaotic processes in the climate system may allow the cause of such an abrupt climate change to be undetectably small…

    Large, abrupt climate changes have affected hemispheric to global regions repeatedly, as shown by numerous paleoclimate records (Broecker, 1995, 1997). Changes of up to 16°C and a factor of 2 in precipitation have occurred in some places in periods as short as decades to years (Alley and Clark, 1999; Lang et al., 1999)…

    Modern climate records include abrupt changes that are smaller and briefer than in paleoclimate records but show that abrupt climate change is not restricted to the distant past.’ (NAS, 2002)

    Small changes can initiate extreme climate shifts as tremendous energies cascade through powerful systems. But you knew it was chaotic – didn’t you?

    • ianl

      Much more interesting than your political rhetoric. Although you’ve said all this quite a few times before, just not in this forum.


      > “We are unlikely to see fossil fuels use continue past a few decades at most as cheaper technologies emerge ”

      That’s pretty much Pollyanna rhetoric.

      • Rob Ellison

        Fossil fuels will continue to increase in cost for a number of reasons. Cheap oil is a thing of the past. Shale will peak within decades and decline sharply. Coal has reserves for some 60 years. Demand double every 30 years. Sources are progressively more difficult to access.

        The alternatives will become cost effective in the very near future – at which stage the creative destruction of capitalism will kick in.

        But you seem to have again failed to grasp the point. Tipping points as amplifiers are the fundamental way that climate works and greenhouse gases are most certainly small changes in a chaotic system.

        • Rob Ellison

          Shale gas…

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