The “GBR Swindle” revisited – response to Peter Ridd

It seems that “The Great Barrier Reef Swindle” and my subsequent response generated a fair amount of debate throughout the blog world and the scientific community. Dr Ridd has posted his response to the my comments regarding the science behind the response here, and in keeping with the science and debate, see my response below.

Before I go into detail on this, attached is one of the paired photographs from the inshore reefs in Bowen, Queensland detailing local scale changes on the Great Barrier Reef during the 20th century (photographs speak louder than words):


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High and Dry

Just spent the weekend reading “High and Dry” – a recent release by a newcomer, Dr Guy Pearse. Pearse is an ex-liberal party member, environmental policy author and speech writer for the former Australian environmental minister Robert Hill, who recently finished his Ph.D at the ANU (and co-wrote the Greenhouse Mafia documentary that aired on ABC’s Four Corners last year). The book deals with the relationship between the the network of lobby groups, industry associations and their influence on the Australian Federal Government’s climate change policies. Altogether a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in politics and climate change in Australia – follow Pearse’s comments on the upcoming election and related environmental issues.

Looking forwards to 2008

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology have released their seasonal temperature outlook for August to October 2007 following the Austral winter. Averaged over the next three months, the chances of increased temperatures in Queensland (and the Great Barrier Reef) are between 55 and 80% for above-normal maximum temperatures, and of increased overnight warmth between 50 and 60%.

“The pattern of seasonal temperature odds across northern Australia is a result of continuing higher than average temperatures over much of the tropical Pacific Ocean, and also in parts of the tropical and sub-tropical Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean has been warming strongly in recent months and this is the dominant influence on the outlook.”

After experiencing the warmest autumn month on record followed by one of the coldest months on record (resulting in significant bleaching of reef-flat corals as I posted here earlier this month), it’s set to be an interesting year.

“The Great Global Warming Swindle”: a critique.

My friend and colleague, Dr Janice Lough (AIMS), directed my attention to the careful review of the “The Great Global Warming Swindle” by Dr Jones and colleagues at the National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology (Bull. Aust. Meteor. Ocean. Soc., 20(3) 63-72). It is rigorous and worth reading. I think we can close the case on Martin Durkin’s “swindle”.

Climate shifts news round-up

  • Reporting in Nature, researchers from Canada show that: “… anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on observed changes in average precipitation within latitudinal bands, and that these changes cannot be explained by internal climate variability or natural forcing.” Whilst no-one wants to be quoted on record that the current flooding across Europe and England is related to climate change (although see some media sources), a Reuters article states an inconvenient truth: “floods force many to face climate change reality“.

Oh dear, here comes another expert on the Reef.

peter_ridd.jpgThis time it is Dr. Peter Ridd (an expert in marine physics) who is claiming that there is an even greater swindle going on with respect to the Great Barrier Reef. The title of Dr. Ridd’s opinion piece dated 19th of July 2007, says it all – “The Great Barrier Reef Swindle”.

His thesis? Hundreds of scientists who work on the Great Barrier Reef are all also involved in the same sort of cover-up and conspiracy that we were told about in the Great Climate Change Swindle! Big news indeed.

Yes, same story, scientists make up the doom and gloom tale so that they can get lots of research money from unsuspecting agencies and donors.

Sound familiar? Jennifer Marohasy has written similar things in the past (and she loves his opinion piece!). Oh, and guess who Dr. Peter Ridd reports to in his role as Science Coordinator to the newly created” Australian Environment Foundation“? Continue reading

When journalism fails!

Piers Akerman, the conservative journalist from the Daily telegraph, with his extensive (sic) background in science is now an expert on … climate science! More so, apparently, than the Australian of the year Professor Tim Flannery or Australian Federation Fellow, Professor David Karoly. Just have a look at the latest contribution to his blog — a response to the ABC showing of the BBC production “The Climate Change Swindle“. Not that Ackerman hasn’t been wrong before.

Apparently Akerman knows something that scientists from the best academies in the world don’t know, and that is that climate change is bunk. Do not get me wrong here: true skeptic arguments make important contributions to the debate on global warming and climate change. This is actually the way science works – by continually criticizing its ideas, and by thereby improving its accuracy and veracity. Continue reading

Photographs from the coldwater bleaching event (17/07)


An update with recent photographs from the 2007 cold-water bleaching event at Heron Island (from Dr Selina Ward, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Queensland). At high tide, the bleaching (loss of the symbiotic algae) is clearly evident in the branching coral from the submerged reef flat (left); at low tide the exposure of massive corals (center) and branching corals (right) results in significant levels of mortality. See my post below (“Winter bleaching again on the southern Great Barrier Reef”) for further comment.


Winter bleaching again on the southern Great Barrier Reef.

Unusually cold weather on the southern Great Barrier Reef has triggered localized bleaching on the reef crest at Heron Island. Low tide, strong winds and unusually cold wintry weather in July 2007 has caused the top few centimeters of coral in the intertidal sections of the reef to bleach. Cold bleaching has been reported before at Heron Island by others during 2003, and is very similar to bleaching that occurs when water gets too warm.

So, is this event a sign of global climate change?

I don’t think we have enough evidence to say this right now. Some models, however, suggest that the southern Great Barrier Reef may experience colder winters with a weakening if the south Pacific gyre, which runs down the east coast of Australia and normally pushes warm water southward. Certainly, colder years tend to follow strong El Nino (warm) years. So far we have seen winter bleaching on the southern Great Barrier Reef in 1999, 2003 and now in 2007. In the three cases, the preceding years 1998, 2002 and 2006 were very warm years and saw extensive coral bleaching on the southern Great Barrier Reef.

Perhaps a passing meteorologist could work this one out for us. If there is a connection to climate change, then we might need to consider the effect of corals stressed out in summer that are then stressed again in the following winter.

Cold water Bleaching at Heron Island in July 2003 cold-water-bleaching.jpg

Australian Academy of Sciences rebuts skeptics swindle.

It would seem that no one who has any credibility supports the recent airing of the climate skeptic film, ‘The great global warming swindle’. Here is the press release from Australia’s most exalted science body. It is also worthwhile going to the specifics of the Academy’s rebuttal (

Thursday 12 June 2007 : Verdict remains the same: the CO2 is guilty

The Australian Academy of Science maintains the view that recent global warming is caused by unprecedented CO2 levels in the atmosphere, despite claims made in a recent documentary. Continue reading