Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Swimming in a sea of disinformation over the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkellers swim over a coral outcrop on the Great Barrier Reef.
Snorkellers swim over a coral outcrop on the Great Barrier Reef. Source: News Limited
 
THE ABC was among the first to fall for it, of course. In 2002, it reported the Great Barrier Reef was as good as dead already. 

Host Kerry O’Brien groaned that our “once-spectacular” reef was “threatened by global warming” and “up to 10 per cent of the reef has been lost to bleaching since 1998”, turning it “bone white”.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Blog with Andrew Bolt
 
Up popped Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a Queensland reef researcher with a natty patter, to warn us to “change our lifestyles” or the reef would go — killed by hotter seas.

My god, but journalists are suckers for warming scares.

It’s like they actually want to be fooled — or to fool you.

Hoegh-Guldberg is now arguably the world’s most influential reef scientist in global-warming circles, having got big government grants, chaired a $20 million World Bank study of warming, and worked as an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author.

Last week, he bobbed up again, waving a report he’d just done for the WWF green group to help promote this month’s Earth Hour.

Again journalists lapped it up, not bothering to check how all Hoegh-Guldberg’s other warnings had panned out. (Answer: terrible, as you’ll see.)

Here is how the unquestioning Sydney Morning Herald reported Hoegh-Guldberg’s latest scare: “The Great Barrier Reef will be irreversibly damaged by climate change in just 16 years, according to leading reef researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

Andrew Bolt wrestles with reef researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. Picture: ABC
Andrew Bolt wrestles with reef researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. Picture: ABC
 
“By mid-century, the Great Barrier Reef may have shrunk to 10 per cent or less ...”

The Guardian Australia was no better:

“The Great Barrier Reef will suffer ‘irreversible’ damage by 2030 unless radical action is taken to lower carbon emissions, a stark new report has warned,” it reported.

“Co-author Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, (said) that current climate trends signal ‘game over’ for the Great Barrier Reef.”

Like I said, Hoegh-Guldberg has a gift for the snappy line.

But none of last week’s reports bothered to add that he also has a lousy track record in scaremongering.
What does it say about media reporting of global warming that almost no journalist ever mentions it?
In 1998, Hoegh-Guldberg warned the reef was under pressure from global warming, and much had been bleached white.

In fact, he later admitted the reef made a “surprising” recovery.

In 1999, Hoegh-Guldberg claimed warming would so heat the oceans that mass bleaching of the reef would occur every second year from 2010.

In fact, the reef’s last mass bleaching occurred in 2006.

In 2000, Hoegh-Guldberg claimed “we now have more evidence that corals cannot fully recover from bleaching episodes such as the major event in 1998” and “the overall damage is irreparable”.

In fact, he admitted in 2009 he was “overjoyed” to see how much the reef had recovered and the Australian Institute of Marine Science says “most reefs recovered fully” from the 1998 bleaching.

Indeed, an AIMS study found the previous 110 years of ocean warming were good for coral growth.

In 2006, Hoegh-Guldberg warned high temperatures meant “between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef could die within a month”.

In fact, he later admitted this bleaching had “a minimal impact” and his team was “genuinely surprised/relieved about how quickly some of these coral colonies had recovered”. In 2007, he warned temperature changes were again bleaching the reef.

In fact, the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network the next year reported no net decline in coral cover over the previous four years.

Professor Peter Ridd, a James Cook University reef researcher, insisted the reef was in “bloody brilliant shape” and said unnamed scientists were “crying wolf” — and getting funding.

In 2011, Hoegh-Guldberg predicted a “large-scale mortality” of reef-building corals on West Australian reefs from Shark Bay to Exmouth within three months.

In fact, he later admitted the famous Ningaloo Reef, the largest there, had actually “had a narrow escape”.
Yes, the Great Barrier Reef can be damaged by seas made suddenly warm, giving coral no time to adapt.

But Hoegh-Guldberg seems to have repeatedly underestimated coral’s ability to adapt — which is one reason the reef has already survived 15,000 years in its present form.

Just last December, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority noted a bloom in coral growths since the devastation caused by Cyclone Yasi three years ago, with “quite good recovery” in fast-growing species particularly. (And, no, global warming hasn’t caused more cyclones but, if anything, fewer.)

Yet, here comes Hoegh-Guldberg again, shouting: “Repent! For the end of the reef is nigh!”

And see the journalists trailing behind their messiah, questioning nothing, repeating everything.

How much of the warming scare is built on such “reporting”?

heraldsun.com.au 10 Mar 2014

'Crack-pot' scientists are bought off by governments to push  'scientific facts' that support the politics of the day.

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