A Bolt out of the blue.

As I was quoted in The Australian this weekend in a piece entitled “Coral bleaching as record cold snap hits” (and have blogged here earlier on several occasions), cold weather across southern Queensland has resulted in coral bleaching in the exposed reef flats in the Capricorn Bunker group and the Keppell Islands (as confirmed by a CSIRO oceanographer, David Griffin).

No sooner than this was published, Andrew Bolt, an Op-Ed writer for the Herald Sun took dislike to the published comment: “Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said the extreme variation in temperature might be more common as climate change caused hotter summers and colder winters”.

Welcome back from vacation, Andrew. I must say, I have missed you.

As I blogged previously:

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.

However, Andrew doesn’t seem too interested in the science (or he seems to have trouble understanding it), instead preferring to sell his blog by misguided sensationalism.


In a piece previously Op-Ed(indeed, he seems to enjoy trying to make a target out of my work), entitled “Warmed up reef a world-beater“, Bolt’s slightly skewed logic managed to generate the following:

April 2006:
And (Professor Ove) Hoegh-Guldberg, head of Queensland University’s Centre for Marine Studies, has threatened us more often than most.

Just three months ago he was at it again, issuing a press release with a grim warning: High temperatures meant ”between 30 and 40 per cent of coral on Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef could die within a month”.

Yet May, 2007:
The reef – the world’s largest living organism – was voted the best destination by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) as part of its Tourism for Tomorrow awards, at a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal, overnight.

I am still mystified as to how these two statements link together, and have never once issued a “threat”. I have offered ‘considered advice’ based on my expertise – perhaps appropriate given the years I have spent studying coral reefs and climate change. Anyhow, keep watching Climate Shifts mid-week for an update regarding the state of coral on the Great Barrier Reef that will go a long way to contradicting Bolt’s baseless rhetoric.

Finally, Bolt and his avid colleagues (Akerman et al) may want to take note of an article in the same edition of The Australian entitled “Blog’s Breakfast” (‘Bloggers and mainstream media coexist uneasily’):

In his book The Cult of the Amateur, Andrew Keen laments a proliferation of “citizen journalists” with no formal training or expertise who offer up opinion as fact, rumour and reportage and innuendo as information.

Seems to fit with you quite nicely, Andrew.

The most disturbing aspect for Keen is that a “pyjama party” of mostly anonymous, amateur, self-referential writers, in spreading gossip and sensationalising political scandal, has become an influential force that is not accountable for its work”

Indeed. That does sound familiar doesn’t it!

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  1. Pingback: Climate Shifts » Blog Archive » Bridging the gap between science and journalism

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