The Great Barrier Reef: Have we Really Lost Half of It? [Part 1: Water Quality]

IT was all over the news again this morning, that unless action is taken to improve water quality the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on the World Heritage list of sites in danger and by the way, there has already been a 50 percent decline in coral cover at the Great Barrier Reef.

No wonder the average person is concerned about the environment! Such casual reporting that we have already lost a full half of the Great Barrier Reef!

Photograph by Walter Starck

Photograph by Walter Starck

This publicity is all part of a campaign to stop the development of new port facilities along the Queensland coastline. But rather than just come out and say they don’t want more development– that in fact they despise industry– the activist scientists dress it up as the end of the Great Barrier Reef as we know it.

I have written extensively about the water quality scare campaigns of the late 1990s and early 2000s [1,2,3]. They weren’t about new port developments, but they did prostitute science just like this new campaign.

It is still my contention that while agriculture is having a measurable impact in Great Barrier Reef catchments i.e. in river and streams that flow into the GBR, there is no measurable negative water quality impacts on the Great Barrier Reef proper [1,2,3].

This is a highly contentious claim. But it’s supported by the data [4]. Indeed the Australian Institute of Marine Science has been measuring water quality across the GBR for decades –- cross shelf and seasonal patterns of water column nitrogen (nitrite, nitrate, dissolved organic nitrogen, particulate nitrogen) and chlorophyll a concentrations –- and the data shows no trend of eutrophication. Indeed both nearshore and offshore reefs appear to be developing, for the most part, in a generally low-nutrient environment.

Nevertheless, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent over the last 10 or more years ostensibly to improve reef water quality. Just a week ago I was told by a Central Queensland landholder that she has received a little over A$100,000 in government grants over the last few years to undertake improvements on her farm as part of the Reef Rescue program [5]. She said she doubted that any of the several projects could conceivably have an impact on reef water quality, but they have significantly improved the value of her property. Indeed, there is money to construct water troughs and increase ground cover and the list goes on [6]. That is the power of the agricultural lobby, they couldn’t beat the WWF campaign that painted them as destroying the reef [2], but they were encouraged to put their handout for government money and got A$400 million to be distributed to landholders and hangers-on.

All this money, and still the perception that reef water quality is deteriorating! Then again, I guess there wouldn’t have been the extra $200 million announced recently for rural industry, and extension of the same tax-payer-funded program to 2018, if there were a perception that the perceived water quality problem had been solved.

But what about this claim of a 50 percent decline in coral cover? The claim was recently made in the preamble to a petition by a group of “respected coral reef scientists” and promoted by Scientific America [7]. They reference a peer-reviewed paper entitled ‘The 27-year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier reef and its causes’ published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Dr Glenn De’ath et al 2012. [8]

I’ll start to dissect this claim in Part 2 of a planned series on the Great Barrier Reef.

***

References/Further Reading

1. Great Barrier Reef ‘research’ – A litany of false claims By Jennifer Marohasy, October 2011
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=12719

2. WWF Says ‘Jump’, Governments Ask ‘How High’? By Jennifer Marohasy, March 2002
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/33869/20030430-0000/www.ipa.org.au/pubs/ngounit/wwffs.html

3. Deceit in the name of conservation By Jennifer Marohasy, March 2003 http://jennifermarohasy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Review55-1DeceitinNameConservation.pdf

4. For example… Chlorophyll monitoring on the Great Barrier Reef “Results to date show that compared with coastal regions in other parts of the world, chlorophyll a concentrations in the GBR lagoon are generally low. Chlorophyll a concentrations vary across the shelf seasonally and also with latitude. There are also persistent local gradients in chlorophyll a concentration, usually away from the coast. Consistent long-term trends in chlorophyll a concentrations haven’t yet been discerned.” Download this text from AIMs website on April 4, 2013 http://www.aims.gov.au/docs/data-centre/chlorophyllmonitoring.html

5. Reef Rescue  “In the first phase of the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue program, the Australian Government committed $200 million over five years (2008-09 to 2012-13) to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Over the course of the program more than 3200 individual land managers received water quality grants for on-farm projects. Through the second phase of Caring for our Country, the Australian Government has committed a further $200 million to continue efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef through improvements to the quality of water flowing into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Over a further five year period the Reef Rescue program will enhance the reef’s resilience to the threats posed by climate change and nutrients, pesticides and sediment runoff through a number of complimentary approaches. The next phase of Reef Rescue will support activities that will contribute to both the Sustainable Environment and Sustainable Agriculture streams of Caring for our Country.” Downloaded from government website on April 4, 2013
http://www.nrm.gov.au/funding/reef-rescue/

6. $200m to extend Reef Rescue program Beef Central, April 29, 2013 http://www.beefcentral.com/p/news/article/3062

7. Coal Development Threatens Great Barrier Reef by Stephanie Paige Ogburn, April 30, 2013 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-development-threatens-great-barrier-reef

8. De’ath, G., K. E. Fabricius, H. Sweatman, and M. Puotinen. 2012. The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109(44): 17995-17999.

71 Responses to The Great Barrier Reef: Have we Really Lost Half of It? [Part 1: Water Quality]

  1. Luke May 6, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Jen on your “Central Queensland landholder” – a nuanced foggy view?

    So what are you implying?

    Grass cover doesn’t effect erosion and sediment loss?
    The sediment doesn’t get to the reef?
    The sediment has no impact on the biota in the reef lagoon?
    That livestock don’t exhibit piosphere effects around watering points?
    That sediment loss isn’t significantly increased over pre-European?
    That soil is a finite resource best kept on the farm – tends to be handy for growing crops and pastures some farmers have found?

    Similarly a very very scant critique on herbicides. Old as the hills anecdotes.

    Nothing on nitrogen.

    Your bibliography on all these issues seems to be a tad sparse.

  2. Raelene May 6, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    You forgot to mention climate change – well that it doesn’t exist & it is also a money grab – can we count you in the 2-3% that claim its garbage – well the fact is 97-98% is highly significant thereofre your opinion is irrelevant
    The sort of rhetoric that you provide is based on poor science & uncertainty in results which there always is

  3. Neville May 6, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    I listened to Tony Burke being interviewed about this latest nonsense of the end of the GBR.

    He didn’t seem much concerned, in fact he claimed the govt would show that things had improved for the reef.

    Here is a recent press release, similar to some of the above.

    http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/burke/2013/mr20130307.html

  4. Debbie May 6, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    Luke,
    I think it’s fairly clear what Jen is implying.
    Your questions are rhetorical and somewhat redundant.

    Here’s a question for you Luke…straight from Jen’s post above:

    But what about this claim of a 50 percent decline in coral cover?

  5. Dennis Webb May 6, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    I am interested in water quality data. We have all been told that water quality on the GBR is impacted by agriculture. I have looked and there is a lot of data for rivers, but what about for the coral reefs? Where is the data for the reefs on water quality?

  6. Ian Thomson May 6, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Hi Jen,
    I started to boil when I saw the headlines, but I calmed down at the thought that you would be onto it.

    Hi Raelene,
    Wonder where you got your 97-98% number. Not in this area, for sure. And I do visit with educated people in the City too, don’t see it there or even in the paper.
    Must be an ABC office watercooler hand count.
    The poor science is AGW grist, financed by VERY big business. ( and taxpayers of course )
    Put up or shut up lol

  7. John Sayers May 6, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Yes- they are using this report to stop the Gladstone port upgrade at Curtis Island. They’ve pulled out the old fish kill BS.

    During the 2010-11 floods, Awoonga Dam spilled over and, depending which statistic you believe, between 20,000 and 30,000 barramundi spilled from the fresh water of Lake Awoonga into the brackish and sea water of the Boyne River and Gladstone Harbour.

    No definitive explanation was ever found for the illness that struck barramundi in the area a few months later, but the preferred theory of Fisheries Queensland was that the barramundi had been healthy when they left the lake, were battered going over the dam wall and then were placed under immense physical pressure by their injuries, intense competition for food and the sudden change to saline water.

    http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/investigation-will-see-whether-dead-fish-spilled-o/1737429/

  8. handjive May 6, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    The reef is looking fine from here:

    “From today you can dive parts of the World Heritage-listed marine park from your desk at work thanks to a team of scientists who have created a specially designed underwater camera capable of capturing 360-degree images of the Reef.”

    Google offers virtual Great Barrier Reef tour

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/google-offers-virtual-great-barrier-reef-tour/story-fndo28a5-1226481772082

  9. Minister for Truth May 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    O/T I know, but it provdes and insght into why there is so much b/s coming out of govt departments and the professional associations.

    Pournelles Iron Law of Bureaucracy
    In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish, have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

    He has restated it as:
    …in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself.

    Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent.

    The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

    I dont think there is any doubt that it is the second type of person in control here in Australia and right across academia and CSIRO etc. How else could clowns like Flannery Lewandowsky Steffen flourish just to name few, or indeed Hansen and his mates in the USA….

  10. cinders May 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Such a major discrepency between the WWF/IUCN claims and the official Australian government report must question how UNESCO manages the World Heritage properties. To rely on ENGOs that in turn rely on alarming claims of the environment in danger for their fund raising, questions the whole independence of the World Heritage reporting process. Australia has two major properties up for review at this year’s meeting in June. The Reef report is now out and available to critique, as Jennifer has done (hopefully the committee reads this blog), yet UNESCO and the IUCN is still silent about the massive and controversial extension to the Tasmanian wilderness WHA. Will there be enough to to correct the factual errors as Jennifer has done?

  11. handjive May 6, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    It seems the reef is fine here:

    “From its fine white beaches and exceptional facilities to the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef Lizard Island is certainly worthy of position #5 in our TopTen List of Luxury Islands.

    The repost is Australia’s northernmost island beach resort and is located 240km north of Cairns and 27km off the coast of North Queensland.”

    http://www.bigpondmoney.com.au/top-ten-luxury-island-resorts-05

  12. Hasbeen May 6, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Less than 30 years ago I used to get pretty upset with the sugar cane growers. Quite a lot of inshore old reef [with in about 18 nautical miles of the mainland] in cane growing areas was covered with weed growth. This had a thick coral base, but was not reef flat, so had been live coral within a century or less.

    As a yachty, who loved the reef, here & in the islands, & a bloke running a large tourist boat fleet, with outer reef instillation’s, I was a bit worried by this. Thus I made a study of the reefs in the Whitsunday islands area, & the Hardy, Hook, Line reef complex we used daily.

    It became obvious about 15/20 years ago that the weed growth was diminishing. I knew that as fertilizers were getting dearer, the industry was trying to get by with less, & making their expenditure more effective. I assumed I was seeing the result of less run off in the reduction in weeds.

    What a lot of people, so called scientists included, just don’t seem to understand is that fresh water is toxic to coral. I believe both clean fresh water, & heavily silted fresh water do much more damage to coral than most chemical run off.

    When I was cruising in the islands, for some of New Guinea, & quite a bit of the Solomon islands, the charts still showed dotted lines. You certainly could not navigate on them. When trying to get in somewhere you looked for a reasonable large basin, or a larger river. Each of these would produce a large run off of fresh water in the wet, & either suppress an area of coral, or leave clear passages through the fringing reef.

    I have to wonder if Marine biologists understand this, but prefer to blame human enterprise, or actually believe the tripe they pedal to the media.

  13. Ross May 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I remember in the 1970’s that the Crown of Thorns Starfish and Coral bleeching was going to devestate the GBR. It is still there and the lies and distortions continue.

  14. Luke May 7, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Interesting for Hasbeen “I believe”. Barp ! thanks for playing

    John Sayers – nongery 101 – it was the fisherman complaining actually John. Barp ! Thanks for playing.

    Cinders smoulders with “The Reef report is now out and available to critique, as Jennifer has done (hopefully the committee reads this blog)” – the committee reads THIS blog !? – they might start with a comprehensive review of the science not selected sledging points – ROFL and LMAO – Barp ! thanks for playing

    Debs – dear Debs – you could read the papers but why bother when you do some data free opining

    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/25/1208909109.full.pdf+html

    http://www.rla.net.au/science/herbicides%20GBR.pdf I guess Tebuthiuron is natural ?

    Which water is dirtiest Debs – http://www.southwestnrm.org.au/sites/default/files/uploads/ihub/bartley-r-etal-2006runoff-and-erosion-australias-tropi.pdf

  15. hunter May 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

    The 50% study will go show as contrived as the lab display pretending to show what CO2 today is doing to the reef.
    The interesting thing is how the fanatics lap it up.

  16. Luke May 8, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    More drongoism – hunter hasn’t read it – barp ! thanks for playing

  17. John Sayers May 8, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Luke – your link states the following:

    ” a loss of 50.7% of initial coral cover. Tropical cyclones, coral predation by
    crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), and coral bleaching accounted for
    48%, 42%, and 10% of the respective estimated losses, amounting to
    3.38% y−1 mortality rate. Importantly, the relatively pristine northern region showed no overall decline. The estimated rate of increase in coral cover in the absence of cyclones, COTS, and bleaching was 2.85% y−1, demonstrating substantial capacity for recovery of reefs”

  18. Luke May 8, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Yuh – and what causes COTS – get updated ! And you might ponder what’s missing from the northern section – might that be development and people? hmmmmm

  19. John Sayers May 8, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    “There are two plausible but unproven theoriesabout the causes of outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish. One suggests that dredging and runoff of nutrient pollution from land promotes blooms of phytoplankton which speeds up the development of starfish larvae, contributing to outbreaks. The other surmises that the changes we have made to the structure of foodwebs have resulted in fewer juvenile starfish being eaten.”

    http://theconversation.com/crown-of-thorns-is-a-symptom-of-reef-decline-lets-address-the-cause-9932

  20. John Sayers May 8, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    “and you might ponder what’s missing from the northern section – might that be development and people? hmmmmm”

    when was the last time the northern area had a cyclone Luke?

  21. Debbie May 8, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    🙂
    Oh Luke… dear Luke….our endearing hand waving Luke….
    As John has already pointed out…..
    That 50% fig is being misrepresented.
    That is actually the answer to Jen’s question is it not?

  22. Robert May 8, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Hate to harp on this, but one huge barrier to improvement is Publish-or-Perish. Instead of hard, long, frustrating science, we have gang-reviewed “papers”, with a shorter warranty period than most Hyundais, often confected by self-important, politicised teenie-boppers to impress one another and also those aging teenie-boppers who read Fairfax and go tut-tut as they watch the ABC.

    There’ll always be a reef because you can’t stop coral and fish etc congregating in such special formations. There’ll always be some damage done, mostly by fresh water, storms and the like, but also by people. It would be nice to take in the long observations of people like Starck and our Hasbeen, reduce some of that damage where possible. Mind you, it would be nice if people stopped driving cars on my local beaches! It would be nice if Ross “Heavy Metal” Garnaut had some respect for the rivers and seas to our north!

    For all my lifetime, newspapers, Sunday ones especially, have beaten up end-of-reef stories. The vanishing reef has become a permanent vanishing act. When the son of one of my green-tinged neighbours went off to do marine biology the father expressed pride that his son was going to help “save the reef”, rather than pride that his bright son was going to add his tiny fraction of understanding to the field of marine biology. The assumption was there: the reef has to be saved. Go find some bleaching or COTS, the reef is perishing. The “science” must come after that assumption.

    There are several no-win clauses here, of course. If we point too much at storms, temp changes and coastal flooding, then we’re back to climate forcings and save-the-planet. If we talk about the normalcy of catastrophic storms, those of the seventies, 1890s etc…we’ll be told that’s all anecdotal, cherry-picked, geriatric “belief”. If we try to respond to that we’ll just get an adolescent talk-to-the-hand. No winning there.

  23. Luke May 8, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Debbie – more rubbish from you. Have you read the paper – no ! Try reading. Jen has not been discussed the paper in depth which I would have thought would have been the first step not editorialising. You’re not discussing it either and indeed are the actual hand waver.

    “. Based on the world’s most extensive time series data on
    reef condition (2,258 surveys of 214 reefs over 1985–2012), we show
    a major decline in coral cover from 28.0% to 13.8% (0.53% y−1
    ), a loss
    of 50.7% of initial coral cover. Tropical cyclones, coral predation by
    crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), and coral bleaching accounted for
    48%, 42%, and 10% of the respective estimated losses, amounting to
    3.38% y−1
    mortality rate”

    But hey – blokey anecdotes and a spot of fishing surely trumps data gathering.

    a priori – conspiracy has been declared – let us now accumulate all “evidence” to fit our pre-conceived paradigm. Let’s avoid the comprehensive research record on the subject. Let us be “selective”. All so shoddy.

    John – the areas of heavy cyclone disturbance are well defined.

    Anyway – well one just the other day actually but a fizzer – Zane!

    TC Ingrid – Cat 5 2005, Cat 3 Monica 2006 …. shouldn’t ask questions you don’t know answers to

  24. Luke May 8, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    I guess Robert will be finally happy when our reefs look like other international piles of rubble. He’ll still be defending then.

  25. Robert May 8, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    International piles of rubble? Let me see…

    I’ll send as many billions as I can get hold of to Goldman Sachs and GIM, I’ll buy as many medieval whirlygigs as can be strung across the (expensively leased) landscape, I’ll create commercial wastelands with exorbitant electricity prices and refrigerant gases, I’ll turn grazing and irrigation lands to fire-prone regrowth rubbish, I’ll ignore anybody too small to retaliate, I’ll shut up anybody big with subsidies (aka monetary musical chairs).

    I’ll fund it all by…well…essentially, the funding involves debt and carbon, but if you don’t understand post-modernism and hipster irony you might spy some contradictions there. Best not discussed. These are tech matters for the New Class.

    Anyway, all that should give me an international pile of rubble. Or two. There’ll still be a Great Barrier Reef…there just won’t be funding for its conservation. Oh well, you can’t incinerate omelettes without breaking eggs.

  26. John Sayers May 8, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

    luke – the last cyclone to hit northern queensland was Larry at Innisfail in 2006 – the one prior to
    that was Wanda in 1974!

  27. el gordo May 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Here’s me thinking the megafauna was wiped out by humans …. apparently not.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/climate-change-killed-off-megafauna-study/story-e6frgcjx-1226636215851

  28. Luke May 8, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    Well Robert – give us a report on other reefs around the world and their health – Caribbean ? off Vietnam ?

    Obviously Robert – you don’t need to see the outback – you can sit on the bank at Rockhampton or Home Hill and watch it wash past !

    John – you were talking about the northern section of the reef at 9:27am – defined in the paper which is what we’re discussing – is above Cape Flattery – see Figure 1 here http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/25/1208909109.full.pdf+html obviously haven’t even skimmed the paper …. sigh …..

    But Wanda the one before that ?!? – utter rubbish

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi or http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/about/eastern.shtml#history

    Do you even know your basic Great Barrier Reef geography and tropical cyclones history/tracks – maybe not –

  29. Luke May 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    Of course Robert you could have well managed grazing properties with considered stocking rates, good levels of pasture cover, evenly grazed, appropriately spelled, with sensitive areas fenced off – soil on the property not on the reef producing a premium beef product that might actually be treated humanely – too much to ask for?

    Or sugar cane or broad acre crops with the correct (optimum) not wash-day application of fertiliser applied, with trash blanketing or minimum tillage, contour banks, and perhaps precision shielded application of fertilisers and herbicides (inputs which strangely cost money).

    Perhaps some retention of riparian corridor vegetation and wetlands – too much to ask for?

    Perhaps mandated ship pilots and/or computerised 24 x 7 GPS based tracking systems to ensure ships with coal, gas and minerals safely navigate the reef.

    Or we could just say bugger it ….

  30. Robert May 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Why, Luke, it’s just so obvious that I have advocated bad farming and navigation practises. Every sentence written above by me throbs, subtextually, with a desire to destroy land and reef – and to mistreat cows. Thank you for pointing out my evil ways.

    On the other hand, maybe I really do favour conservation, which is why I abhor obscene green waste of money and resources. It’s not so much the billions I mind, it’s the trillions.

    Modern day farmers will be intensely grateful to you for pointing out that fertiliser and other chemicals cost money. There they were waiting for a bounty cheque from Julia Gillard and Christine Milne! Silly duffers should listen to their wireless sets. I’ll alert them immediately.

    And we know how ships love crashing on reefs. We’ll tell the naughty salts to go back to hornpiping and jigging if they want some fun. No more crashing into the GBR, however tempting. Luke means it! Get some of those computer thingies, quick smart!

  31. hunter May 8, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Luke,
    Why should this report be any different from the star fish and bleaching and temperature and CO2 reports that were phony?
    The real question is:
    If the reef is down 50%, how was this decline overlooked at 10%? or 15%? or 20%? or even 40%?
    One does not have to review a bucket of bullsh*t to know it contains a lot of bullsh*t.
    Some people seem to enjoy it, however.

  32. John Sayers May 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    “John – you were talking about the northern section of the reef – above Cape Flattery”

    Yup – that’s where I was talking about and I was referencing BoM data regarding cyclones:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cyclone/about/eastern.shtml

    you were saying how pristine it was compared to the southern regions. I was saying it hasn’t had any cyclones in recent years which according to the study accounts for 48% of the destruction of the reef. So naturally the northern region looks pristine.

  33. Luke May 8, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Sorry John – it has had major cyclones – Monica and Ingrid – jeez !!! It’s resilience possibly due to only having single not multiple factors to deal with.

    Hunter – I simply find the rank stupidity of your dickwitted comments. I know you’re thick as a plank but your comments take the cake for all time blog stupidity. COTS and bleaching reports that were phony – really? Are you that much a of a denialist dope. Maybe we need to put a few COTS on your head and boil your butt so the barnacles fall off. So you’re denying that bleaching and COTS occur?? WOW ! Somebody help him.

    Why didn’t anyone notice – well gee they’ve been banging on about it for some time. But yo’all are in denial and a very slow decline over 30 years by people who don’t look every day is subtle. Probably like the slow decay of your own neurones which have left you in the state you’re in. So now to you stupid looks normal. You don’t know what you’re missed.

    Why are you on science blogs – obviously not to discuss science or to carry on like some hillbilly cheer squad and retort “oh yuh it’s all bullshit to every bit of data”. For heavens sake try to complete primary school then report back.

  34. Luke May 9, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    So Robert I guess captains don’t enjoy crashing into reefs – probably really unmakes your day. But the Shen Neng 1 did and left a 3km scar. Coral yet to recover. So if shipping is to more than double in next decade accidents are more likely. So perhaps if we detected ships off course very quickly, disasters might be avoided. A version of air traffic control on shipping channels. Now I find it fascinating that the response is “well greenies are full of nonsense” and a an unrelenting committment to inactivism vis a vis a suggestion from yo’all that problems could be mitigated by technology.

    Again its the groaning blog negativity which essentially represents the best in inactivism and lethargy that is so depressing.

  35. Robert May 9, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    Another bad aspect of warmism is political distraction right when and where you don’t need it. Qld Cyclones like those of 1899, 1918, 1974, 2006, 2011 etc will always be repeated, though not on nearly so predictable a track as those which occur in WA. Instead of confronting and mitigating disasters, preparing and building better, we are forced to respond by phony broad measures aimed (ostensibly!) at manipulating climate. The sums that should be spent on coast/reef conservation, better science and infrastructure instead pour into international climate rackets. People with dubious or even scandalous conservation records – I’m thinking Garnaut and Bloomberg – get to point fingers when fingers should be pointing at them.

    The whole thing hangs on climate exceptionalism, the notion that old things are new. Alarmists hate simple historical fact. Nothing provokes them more than simple historical fact. The developers who piled WTC construction rubble into the Hudson to narrow it by 700 feet near its mouth clearly don’t want the world to know that NY is built in a hurricane zone notorious since the 1600s, and that much more forceful hurricanes grazed the city in 1944 and 1938, and still stronger ones occurred in the region before that. The 1775 Newfoundland hurricane killed 4,000 people. How do you find that many to kill in 1775? It’s Hurricane Alley, guys!

    How the Bloombergs of this world find useful idiots like Lewandowsky to promote this exceptionalism is a mystery. Frankenstorm Lew, I suppose, is evidence of deep zombiedom through special education.

  36. Robert May 9, 2013 at 12:37 am #

    Luke, if you can locate the Robert who thinks shipping accidents on the GBR are okay, let me know where he left his comment. Is he the same Robert who thinks farmers should waste chemicals and bugger their paddocks? Let me know when and where he commented. I’ll give this “Robert” a rocket. Otherwise it makes your comments look like an urban intellectual’s prissy posturings over something that wasn’t said or remotely implied. Like you just felt like wagging the finger at some rednecks because it was a quiet night on the ABC. Can’t have that.

  37. John Sayers May 9, 2013 at 2:37 am #

    The storm quickly developed into a Category 1 cyclone the next day, at which time it was given the name Monica.
    Ingrid didn’t do much to the northern Queensland area as well. I suppose that’s why BoM didn’t mention them in Northern Queensland Cyclones.

  38. Neville May 9, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    The implication behind Luke’s nonsense is that some how humans have made things worse.
    He also sort of implies that we should mitigate CAGW ??? but won’t give an answer that shows any worthwhile evidence that we could make the slightest difference.

    Now we have the clueless Gillard govt about to cut back on funding to help this phantom mitigation.

    http://www.afr.com/p/national/combet_confirms_carbon_fuelled_tax_foGv95IRrYkTGToixxI6XM

    How will the world cope without OZ spending billions $ every year to cut back our 1.2% of co2 emissions by 5% by 2020? SARC
    ZERO change in climate, temp, cyclones, buhfires, extreme weather, floods, droughts etc, etc, for thousands of years from OZ’s efforts. But who cares?
    Not the clueless Gillard govt apparently.

    Looks like this “greatest moral challenge of our generation” and “we are tackling climate change” was really just more deliberate BS served up to brainwash silly weak -minded fools who can’t think for themselves.

    As I write just heard some EXPERT telling their ABC that OZ should copy Germany etc and invest more money in solar and wind and even manufacture the panels in OZ.
    He said we could export these panels to the world and create thousands of jobs at home. But his main message is— we should stop using coal because of the damage we are doing to the planet etc.

    GEEZZZZ perhaps he should ask Germany why thay are suddenly building many more Coal fired staions after wasting 100+ billions $ on useless solar and wind energy.

    Also taxpayer funded solar panel manufacturers are going bust all over the world and now even falling in China as well. See Jo Nova’s latest post. Will these liars and fools ever wake up?

  39. Ian Thomson May 9, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Isn’t it funny that the Shen Neng 1 is even mentioned still ? Or at least the damage it did.
    A THREE KILOMETRE SCAR in something 344,400 square kilometres in size.
    Lots of shock and awe , meanwhile ships gaily float by, dumping untreated ballast and sewerage at will.

    The enemy of the reef is not mankind as a whole , it is Green Jingoism . Put Canberra in charge of it and they will find a way to bury it in money.

    El Gordo.
    Fascinating that the Megafauna study has an ad at the page bottom , arguing the contrary and another announcing that a new study found aboriginal population falling during the last ice age.
    Fancy that, how could anyone have guessed , that with half of the place being a big dust bowl ,less people could live here ?
    Don’t know where we would be without these deep scientific studies mate, but if you can get the funding for one I’ll volunteer to help. The GBR of course, is number one choice for a good study, but any nice beach, ( with a nice climate ), will do. It just needs to need “saving”.

  40. Robert May 9, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Make and export solar panels! Well, there’s an idea. We could call our solar company a name like Suntech, or maybe Solyndra. Oz Labor costs and IR might be a hindrance, but we have lots of metallurgical coal to manufacture stuff with…as opposed to all that solar junk we’ll be selling to the dopes o/s.

    Don’t you just love our experts? Especially our Public Intellectuals. They’re so far ahead of every game. Remind them to tie their shoelaces, however. They often forget.

  41. John Sayers May 9, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    If there is a problem with ships negotiating a path through the reef then supply Pilots that are experienced in the region. It works in a much more vulnerable area, the narrow passage through the Torres Strait.

    http://www.amsa.gov.au/marine_environment_protection/torres_strait/risk.asp

  42. Neville May 9, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    Here’s a link to that story on the bankruptcy of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer. Even the Washington Post can gives us the facts occasionally.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2013/05/the-worlds-biggest-solar-pv-seller-was-worth-13bn-now-bankrupt/#comments

    Also a good article in the OZ from Ron Boswell explaining how OZ is losing jobs overseas because of this expensive energy cancer promoted by Labor and the Greens.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2013/05/big-government-incantation-creates-the-energy-black-hole-and-drives-off-businesses/#comments

  43. Luke May 9, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    Yes John – Ingrid was only a Cat 5 and Monica a Cat 3 – JEEZ !

    Ian Thomson – the point is that Shen Neng 1 was relatively minor in the big picture. But with shipping going from 3000 movements to 7000 per annum – and more captains talking “short cuts” – and wait till we get some groundings of vessels carrying metal ores or uranium !

    I guess Ian will demand action when the reef is Caribbean rubble. More blog inactivism and can’t do.

    Neville keep on discussion topic – we’re not talking AGW – go post your rat dirt elsewhere.

  44. John Sayers May 9, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    “Ingrid developed in the Coral Sea on 3 March 2005. Although its sustained winds were high enough to be classified as a Category 4 storm, it diminished to Category 3 strength on 9 March as it moved west towards the Australian coast. The eye, with very destructive wind gusts up to 220 km/h within a 20 km radius, reached the far northern coast of the Australian state of Queensland between 6 am and 9 am on 10 March 2005 AEST, and hit the Cape York Peninsula as a Category 2 storm. However, it was downgraded to a Category 1 storm as it crossed the peninsula north of the towns of Coen and Lockhart River.”

    Monica was similar and only developed to a CAT 5 in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

    The point is that these cyclones/storms were back in 2005 – 2006 – there have been none since then so naturally the reef has recovered in the north.

  45. el gordo May 9, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    ‘Alarmists hate simple historical fact. Nothing provokes them more than simple historical fact.’

    tru dat

  46. el gordo May 9, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    ‘Neville keep on discussion topic – we’re not talking AGW – go post your rat dirt elsewhere.’

    A sandpit … we could do with an open thread.

  47. Luke May 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    John errr. Nope have a look at their track map speeds. But anyway cyclones do cause havoc on the track but away from that not as much. And the decline in cover is more continuous than episodic. Might tell you something.

  48. Robert May 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Maybe this belongs on a subsequent thread, but I’d be interested to know Jen’s position on heavy reef fishing, especially of weed eaters. Much as I love the parrotfish on my plate. I know it has a role in keeping a post-storm reef clear of new weed so the coral can go to work again. While we don’t have the weed probs they have in the NH reefs, even vigorous spear-fishing can reduce populations of the needed species. I also hear that once weeds get too thick and mature, the weed-eaters don’t go for it, so you can get a tipping point. It’s like putting horses out into old grass.

    Allowing for the usual enviro-hype, do we need to look harder at what we fish and how much? Or are the right regulations already in place? (For years, even an aboriginal family couldn’t take away pipis from our local beaches. Now they’re letting commercial interests comb mechanically for pipis again! We’re assured it’s all under control, and maybe that’s true. Maybe.)

    Me, I’d be happier eating abundant oily species like tailer, mullet and pilchards. Why the finest fish in our seas are often only used as bait or discarded is beyond me. Meanwhile we chase reef species like they were gold. Hope we’re not chasing too hard.

  49. Luke May 9, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    Expedition leader, Dr Katharina Fabricius said that while Larry’s underwater impact on a few inshore reefs was severe, the cyclone’s effect on offshore reefs was much less than she observed after cyclone Ingrid which decimated reefs in the far north in 2005

    http://www.aims.gov.au/docs/media/news2006/20061110.html

    and more at http://www.aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_53/issue_2/0690.pdf

  50. cohenite May 9, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Like any large geographical feature the GBR must be treated regionally; on such a basis it is doing ok:

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00338-010-0715-1

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3053361/

    Hughes and Hoeugh-Guldberg have been consistently wrong in their predictions and Ridd is sanguine.

  51. John Sayers May 10, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    Luke – the article also points out that the damage from Larry to the reef was only 80km wide, a speck in the 2000km long reef.

  52. Luke May 10, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    Yep happy to take that John. So while locally very destructive and acute but not widespread. However acute chronic pressures like water quality much more important. But it all cumulates doesn’t it – water quality + COTS + cyclones + bleaching events + shipping. And on the first and last there things that can be done without shutting the place down. And it even makes good business sense. Do you want your soil on the farm or reef, fertiliser in your paddock boosting COTS numbers, coal carrier aground or on the high seas? – so why does the blog drift to inactivism.

  53. Debbie May 10, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Rhetorical and somewhat redundant yet again!
    What on earth do you mean by ‘inactivism’?

  54. John Sayers May 10, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I’ll post this as It’s from The Australian in 2009 which is behind a paywall.

    Professor Ridd said scientists who predicted corals would be mostly extinct by mid-century had a credibility problem because the Great Barrier Reef was in “bloody brilliant shape”.

    He said the reef had defied predictions that it would be overwhelmed by crown of thorns starfish, smothered in sediment from river runoff or poisoned by sediment and chemicals washed on to corals from the mainland. He accepted that ocean acidification associated with climate change was a genuine danger because it could impede the process of coral calcification, destroying the reef’s building block. Scientists responsible for “crying wolf” over lesser threats had done the research community a disservice, he said.

    “Ten years ago, I was told that the coral was going to die from sediment, and we have proved that is complete rubbish,” Professor Ridd told The Weekend Australian.

    “They are saying that pesticides are a problem, but when you look at the latest data, that is a load of rubbish. They are saying bleaching is the end of the world, but when you look into it, that is a highly dubious proposition.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/climate/scientists-crying-wolf-over-coral/story-e6frg6xf-1225811910634

    So who do you believe?

  55. John Sayers May 10, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Luke – I showed you the solution to the shipping problem – use Pilots to guide the ships through the reef, – in fact I don’t know why they don’t do it already.

    It works in the Torres Strait which is much riskier than negotiating the reef near the coal loaders.

    http://www.amsa.gov.au/marine_environment_protection/torres_strait/risk.asp

    Much of the navigable route through Torres Strait is confined in both width and depth. Entry to western Torres Strait is via Varzin Channel with a minimum width of 0.3 nm, and depth of 10.5 metres. Passage through central Torres Strait is via Prince of Wales Channel with minimum width of 0.3 nm and depth of 11.0 metres.
    The recommended maximum draft for transiting ships is 12.2 metres with an under-keel clearance of 10% of draught. Deeper draught vessels (greater than about 9 metres) must make use of tidal windows and reduce speed to reduce squat. Accurate calculation and careful use of the available tidal height is essential for a safe transit of the strait. For this reason all vessels over 70 metres in length carry a pilot licensed by AMSA.

  56. cohenite May 10, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Hurricanes and cyclones are good for the reef:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011GL049722/abstract;jsessionid=673297F0FF3F697F50ED9E337DE6A504.d03t02

    From the paper:

    “[10] TC activity at reefs in all regions varies considerably over time (Figure 2), most notably over the second half of the study period where activity increased in the North Atlantic (Figure 2b) and declined in the Northwest and Southwest Pacific (Figures 2d and 2h, respectively). The recent active period in the North Atlantic corresponds to a transition to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) beginning in 1995 [Bell and Chelliah, 2006]. In the Northwest Pacific, observed decreases in TC activity have been associated with fluctuations in the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) that are not yet fully understood [Maue, 2011]. Despite a recent decrease (2007–present), overall global TC activity shows no significant trends with observed interannual and decadal fluctuations in the spatial distribution of TCs between basins attributed to large-scale climatic patterns [Maue, 2011].”

    What a pity AGW isn’t causing hurricanes/cyclones to increase.

    You’re such a sook luke; even the coral is tougher than you:

    http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/coral-reef-madness/

    Sure, big boats and drunken masters will do damage and the real nasty chemicals need to be accounted for but AGW, puleeze.

  57. Luke May 10, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Cohenite – you really are totally off topic mate. I haven’t mentioned AGW – pullease !

    “What a pity AGW isn’t causing hurricanes/cyclones to increase.” YES IT SAY THEY WILL DECREASE – more blog drongosim

    Ridd is part of the maverick reef inactivist lobby – they only accept a basket-case pile of rubble covered in algae as evidence. Let’s get it really bad and over the limit before acting. Even rural industry doesn’t support these views.

  58. Luke May 10, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Cohenite’s vision of a desirable reef http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/ceec/deadcoral2.jpg

  59. cohenite May 10, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Great, now luke is putting up photos of his colonoscopy.

  60. John Sayers May 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    “Ridd is part of the maverick reef inactivist lobby”

    pardon – please explain.

    “Professor Ridd, a physicist with Townsville’s James Cook University who has spent 25 years investigating the impact of coastal runoff and other problems for the reef, challenged the widely accepted notion that coral bleaching would wipe it out if climate change continued to increase sea surface temperatures. ”

    seems as well qualified as anyone else to speak about the condition of the reef.

  61. Luke May 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    John yes let’s ignore those doing the actual research. That makes sense. nothing wrong with the climate, reef, MDB, whales, forests, land clearing, animal welfare …. in fact it’s all tickedy boo

    apologism and inactivism

  62. Debbie May 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    And Luke. . . please define your repeated usage of ‘inactivism’ and various permutations of same.
    Also. . . even the rural industry?????

  63. John Sayers May 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    What do you mean “those doing the actual research”

    http://www.jcu.edu.au/eps/staff/arstaff/JCUDEV_017772.html

    http://www.jcu.edu.au/eps/staff/arstaff/jcudev_017867.html

    What the f**k is he doing?

  64. cohenite May 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Poor luke; I know this is OT but maybe luke needs some spiritual nourishment; suck away luke:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/this_is_canberra/

    I mean, is that the perfect symbol of this government and the left generally or what?

  65. Luke May 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Hardly relevant JS – but good to see you having a go. At least better than handwaving.

  66. Johnathan Wilkes May 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    cohenite I saw that and my initial reaction was WTF?

    Since then I’ve read some explanations and the kindest thing I can say is that, the production process went wrong or did not follow the design, or that the artist has no visualization capabilities.

    Prerequisite for a design artist one would have thought?

    One good thing came out of it, it will give endless opportunities for ridicule.

  67. Bill Burrows May 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Dropped by & found the site active again & Luke resurrected as well. Must be hope for all sinners! If you are still here Luke could you please clarify your comment (9/5 @12.02 am) stating that the coral hasn’t recovered from the Shen Neng 1 scar? There was recently much kerfuffling in CQ “celebrating” the third anniversary of Shen Neng 1’s shortcut. At the time of the grounding GRMPA, AIMS and every escapee from Armageddon descended on the site as fast as their funding could propel them, dragging their scuba gear and underwater cameras behind them. Copious reports were written. Great parties were had and even the “glass half empty” crowd got inebriated with excitement. So you would think that after 3 years a follow-up recording and report would be warranted. But all I get from GRMPA & AIMS is deadly silence to my request for information. So if you know the current state of Shen Neng 1’s scar please advise or source. Thanks.

  68. John B May 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    My God Luke!
    Please stop and think. I have read the thread on animal slaughter and the ABC’s reluctance to accurately report the source of their footage. Throw in the towel and leave the ring, you have fought for years and not landed a blow.
    Peter Ridd is a true scientist and shows interest in learning. The guy is a least interested in increasing his knowledge and not caught in your kind of goundhog day vortex defending religious beliefs.
    Numerous attempts have been made to poison the reef with nutrients, ENCORE at One Tree Island being one. The only threat to the reef is management by zealots employed as bureaucrats. A zealot will sell their own mother for advantage and be able to rationalise the action. Any nut that supports such a stupid headline ’50 percent!’ as promoted by your ABC in this instance rules themselves out of this debate as surely as defending a reporter reluctant to attribute the footage used to promote the campaign against the eating of meat.

  69. hunter May 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Luke is still shrieking and jumping around to distract from the plain fact that 50% of the GBR is not in fact damaged and that the assertion it is 50% damaged is a whopper.
    Keeping away from that issue takes a lot of trollish aping and screeching, obviously.
    OK, nothing changed at the Luke exhibit.

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