Bleaching: no worries

GJ Gast gjgast at
Wed Mar 12 08:37:27 EST 2003

For your information.

The global warming problem is over....

Or not?

Best wishes, GJ.

------- Forwarded message follows -------

Herald Sun(Melbourne) February 27, 2003, Thursday
Reef's white lies BYLINE: ANDREW BOLT BODY: Four years ago
green doomsayers said the Great Barrier Reef was turning
white and had but a few years to live. They were wrong.

Again IF YOU go out to the reef today, you're in for a big
surprise. It's still there. Yes, the Great Barrier Reef is
out there and looking its blinding best. Curse that global
warming. Yet again, it hasn't struck, just as wasn't
predicted by professional alarmists four years ago. But
also yet again, we'll remember their global warming scare
campaign long after the facts emerge which prove we needn't
fret. So let me remind you how we were told in 1999 that
our reef was dying so fast that it would be a bleached
white corpse by 2030, if not sooner. It started when
Greenpeace commissioned Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg to find
out why bits of the reef had gone white. Given Greenpeace
thrives on environmental horror stories, it was delighted
when the professor concluded global warming was making the
sea so hot that the coral was dying. The future was "quite
bleak", Hoegh-Guldberg told our media, typically credulous
when reporting environmental scares. "Coral reefs could be
eliminated from most areas of the world by 2100," and the
Great Barrier Reef itself "looks to be under pressure
within, say, the next 30 years". Hoegh-Guldberg, who I'm
sure honestly believed what he was saying, made it clear
the reef's fate was all but sealed. His report insisted:
"Corals do not appear to show any sign that they are able
to adapt fast enough to keep pace with changes in ocean

And with Greenpeace moaning "Yes, yes", Hoegh-Guldberg
warned humankind to mend its ways. Give up its sinful cars.
Live more frugal lives. Turn its face against its wastrel
ways. As if that would really help. I T is astonishing that
we're so hungry to hear these old Biblical roars from
born-again environmentalists of: "Repent! For the end of
the world is nigh."

For, sure enough, Hoegh-Guldberg that year won the Eureka
Prize for Scientific Research. Journalists who reported on
his work were shortlisted for top media awards. Tour guides
told visitors to the reef to look while they could -- it
wouldn't be around much longer. And green groups luxuriated
in the despair, the World Wildlife Fund orgasmically
claiming that in 1998 alone, "about 60 per cent of the
world's reefs died". True, some scientists mumbled, "Er,
but . . .". The head of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority, Virginia Chadwick, even declared: "I genuinely
do not believe that in 50 years all of the reef will be

BUT the media were little interested in such reassurance.
Instead, they seemed too eager to accept as proved
Hoegh-Guldberg's claims -- or any "evidence" that whips
along the global warming hysteria. The ABC 7.30 Report's
Kerry O'Brien, for instance, last year suggested the reef
was already on its last polyps, mourning how the
"once-spectacular reef" was becoming "bleached bone white".
Once spectacular? ABC TV's New Dimensions, hosted by
professional New Ager George Negus, moaned: "No matter how
hard these reef scientists work, they warn that coral reefs
are not adapting fast enough to compensate for the rate of
rising sea temperatures."

And last May, ABC television's flagship Four Corners
program sombrely began its report on the reef: "Across the
world, coral reefs are turning into marine deserts. It's
almost unthinkable that Australia's Great Barrier Reef --
the world's biggest coral edifice, 2000km long, home to 400
coral and 1500 fish species -- could be headed the same

Almost unthinkable? Completely unthinkable, in fact, once
you ferret out the good news. In late 2001, scientists
announced that the microscopic algae that was expelled from
coral, causing it to bleach, actually stayed alive, meaning
the coral could recover. And recover it did. The Maldives
found that its own coral, bleached during the 1998 El Nino
effect, quickly repaired itself. As its Government
observed, its reefs were 60 million years old and had
survived "much greater changes in sea temperatures and sea
levels than they are facing now". So calm down. In our
Great Barrier Reef, too, strange things have been
happening. For a start, the marine park authority this
summer could find not one coral bleaching "event", even
though the seas have been warmed by a prolonged El Nino.

"The Great Barrier Reef is one of the healthiest reef
systems in the world today," the authority happily declared.
Moreover, the reef has been recovering from the four
bleachings it suffered since 1991, confirms the CSIRO. Even
Hoegh-Guldberg, now head of Queensland University's Centre
for Marine Studies, has conceded that many sections of the
reef are showing "surprising" signs of recovery, and he's
trying to figure out why. But he says he won't agree that
the coral may be adapting to climate change. Of course not.
Let's keep this greenhouse bogy and scare those silly
Australians into a Green-approved lifestyle of
organically-grown sackcloth and National Park ashes. This
is not the first time that screaming warnings of an
environmental Armageddon on the reef have tailed into an
embarrassed silence when the end of the world gets called
off. Again. A smirking report by the Australian Institute
of Marine Science recalls that in the 1960s we were told
the reef would be eaten alive by Crown of Thorns starfish,
and "it was feared that the structure of the reef would be
totally destroyed, exposing the North Queensland coast to
increased levels of wave action and consequent erosion". As
the AIMS drily notes: "This clearly did not happen."

IN fact, AIMS is now investigating whether these evil
reef-munching starfish actually help the reef by eating
fast-growing species of coral that may otherwise overwhelm
the rest. Then there's the other reef-ending scares about
ozone holes, pollution, farm run-off and whatever eager
minds can imagine. It's all goaded Professor Bob Carter, a
respected marine geologist at James Cook University, into
denouncing the constant fear-mongering on a reef he says is
actually healthy. Asked why our official scientific bodies
were so keen to preach such doom, the exasperated professor
replied: "The overwhelming emphasis of those boards these
days is not science for the sake of understanding. It's
science for the sake of making money."

I hope that's not true -- and am sure it's not for
scientists such as Hoegh- Guldberg. But as our glorious
reef wakes today to another beautiful day in paradise, I
have to ask: Why are we so keen to think it's going to hell?
bolta at
------- End of forwarded message -------
========================================================= Dr Gert Jan Gast Seas and Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Netherlands Keizersgracht 174, 1016DW Amsterdam, The Netherlands Phone +31 20 5236655 Mobile +31 6 5206 2976 Fax +31 20 6221272
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