Peter Ridd: It is science that is lazy, not the Nice Barrier Reef

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Reposted by Paul Homewoods MANY PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW THAT

DECEMBER 7, 2020 Tags: Coral

By Paul Homewood

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

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

It is noteworthy that the world believes that one of its most pristine ecosystems is on its last legs. Part of the problem is that very few people visit the reef underwater and far from shore. The truth is hidden. Those of us in North Queensland who live next to the reef and tourists from elsewhere can report that the water is an iridescent clear blue and completely unpolluted. The fish and coral are fabulous.

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

The reef occasionally conspires to give the impression that it is dying. A coral area the size of Belgium can be killed by cyclones (hurricanes), native starfish plagues or bleaching. All of these events are completely natural and part of life on the reef. In fact, each of the 3,000 individual reefs along the entire 2,000 km length of the Great Barrier Reef is a 50 to 100 m high plateau of dead coral remnants that has built up over thousands of years. The living coral lives on the surface of this pile of dead ancestors.

Sixty years ago, when these cycles of death and destruction were first discovered by scientists, it was legitimate to worry about whether they were unnatural. But there is ample evidence now, almost completely ignored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, that the reef is okay. The coral always recovers vigorously after severe mortality events. Corals are abundant on all 3,000 reefs. While the amount of coral varies dramatically from year to year, it is roughly the same today as it was when records began in the 1980s. Coral growth rates have not decreased – if at all, they have increased as one would expect given the slight increase in temperature over the past century. Corals like it hot and grow faster in warmer water.

Ignoring evidence of the reef’s apparently good condition is not the slightest problem with this IUCN report. Evidence that is obviously false is also used. For example, the report claims that blowing coal dust from ship loading facilities poses a risk to the reef that is 100 to 1000 km from the ports. This ridiculous claim is based on a report prepared by undisputed expert on the subject, Dr. Simon Apte and other scientists at CSIRO, who showed that the results were 3000 percent flawed. It is also highly doubtful that the original scientists actually measured coal dust. They measured polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are common, naturally occurring molecules that are not specific to coal.

Unsurprisingly, the IUCN report made the mistake of using this discredited coal dust report. Other major Australian reports on the reef also cite it. It is noteworthy that Apte refused to do anything when they tried to get the scientific journal and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, which was responsible for the coal dust data, to correct the error. The scientific institutions are no longer trustworthy.

Dr. Peter Ridd at the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Center. Pictured: Rodney Stevens

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

The fundamental problem with the IUCN report is that it is based on scientific knowledge, the quality of which is poorly assured. The scientific foundations are lazy and none of the science organizations want to solve the problem – also because the science organizations and the IUCN have long since stopped being scientific. They recognized their political power. We have to recognize that they have become political.

Until true quality assurance measures can be put in place in reef science facilities, the problem of untrustworthy scientific evidence being reported and replicated ad nauseam will persist. The only good news is that the next IUCN report on the reef in 2023 won’t be any worse than “critical” as that seems like the worst category they have.

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

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