The Great Barrier Reef conspiracy

Peter Garrett, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and Arts has issued a statement on his website entitled “New research points to collapse of Great Barrier Reef: Labor calls for comprehensive action ” discussing the recent article on the decline of Indo-Pacific reefs (in particular the Great Barrier Reef):

New research showing a severe decline in coral reefs is a wake-up call to the Howard Government. Comprehensive action to save the Great Barrier Reef from collapse is urgently needed.

The Great Barrier Reef is our greatest natural asset but the failure of the Howard Government to introduce a comprehensive climate change plan is compounding its risk of extinction.

The University of Carolina researchers, John Bruno and Elizabeth Selig, have been backed by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Centre for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland.

But the story doesn’t end there. ABC and Channel 7 news are now reporting that Garrett applied to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for scientific reports on the health of the Great Barrier Reef through a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request, which have since been refused on the grounds that the Garrett was seeking the documents to assist with his political campaign. Strange times indeed.

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Climate change is a war that we must fight

An interesting article in The Age by Ian Dunlop (a former international oil, gas and coal industry executive), the deputy convener of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil. Of particular interest is Dunlop’s closing statement:

Australians must demand that all political candidates clearly set out their climate change policy. We need to know the detail now, not take it on trust until after the election; we have been let down too badly already and it cannot happen again.

In the event that real leadership does not emerge, we must place these issues outside the political sphere, to be handled independently on a quasi-war footing. It is that serious.

Full article below:

BEFORE casting their votes next month, Australians should reflect long and hard on the real priorities the nation faces. These are not tax cuts, industrial relations, the economy, interest rates or the stockmarket, but the very survival and sustainability of our society and the planet.

With the global population heading from 6.5 billion today towards 9 billion by 2050, we are already exceeding the ability of the planet to absorb the impact of human activity. The immediate sustainability priorities are water, climate change and the peaking of global oil supply. But our leaders, having supposedly crossed the threshold of accepting that sustainability, in particular climate change, is a serious issue, seem to believe it can be solved by minor tweaking of business as usual. That is demonstrably not the case.

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Key found to moonlight romance

Sexy Corals Keep ‘Eye’ on Moon, Scientists Say

New York Times
October 19, 2007

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even lowly corals do it — but infrequently, forgoing sex for as long as a year.

Then, at night, just after the full moon, under warm tropic breezes, the corals dissolve in an orgy of reproduction, sowing waters with trillions of eggs and sperm that swirl and dance and merge to form new life. The frenzy can leave pink flotsam.

Scientists discovered the mysterious rite of procreation in 1981 and ever since have puzzled over its details. The moon clearly rules the synchronized mass spawning, which happens during different months in different parts of the globe, but usually in the summer. But how do corals monitor the moon’s phases and know when to start mingling?

Today, seven scientists from Australia, Israel and the United States report in the journal Science that corals have primitive photoreceptors, if not true eyes. In experiments, they found that the photosensitive chemicals respond to moonlight as admirably as, well, human lovers.

“This looks to be the smoking gun,” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a team member at the University of Queensland, said in an interview. “It triggers the largest spawning event on the planet.”
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Nobel Peace Prize 2007

“Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.” (Read more)

Australian Coral Reef Society conference

I will be away at the ACRS conference in Fremantle, Western Australia for the next few days, where I will be presenting a talk titled “Coral Reef Futures: The low road is the only road” and will be posting updates to Climate Shifts from the conference where possible.

In the meanwhile, if anyone has any recommendations for stories worth blogging here at Climate Shifts, or would like to voice alternate opinions for discussion, comment below or email me at

Ocean acidification blog

Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a senior research scientist at theLaboratoire d’Océanographie over in France has started a coral & ocean-acidification related blog entitled “Ocean acidification: An information outlet on ocean acidification“. His site is well worth reading (see Corals May Have Defense Against Global Warming, Acidic oceans may threaten fisheries) as an upto date resource on global warming and the impacts upon the worlds oceans.

A world with corals: What will it take?

Heidi Schuttenberg (co-author of A Reef manager’s Guide to Coral Bleaching) and I recently published a letter in Science entitled “A world with corals: What will it take?” (link to .pdf). We wrote this article in response to a “doomsday” newsfocus by Richard Stone (A world without corals – link to pdf), captioned “Besieged by pathogens, predators, and people, the ‘rainforests of the sea’ may soon face their ultimate foe: rising ocean acidity driven by CO2emissions”

Too often people opt for the “game over” or doomsday strategy when referring to climate change and coral reefs. My sentiments echo those of Heidi: “The future of reefs depends very much on what we do now: what we do to limit climate change & what we do to minimize local stressors to reefs. The resolutions passed at ITMEMS and ICRI build on innovative work in the science and management communities to articulate a meaningful agenda for building reef resilience to climate change. Courageous action to implement these recommendations is needed and justified.”

What are your thoughts on the topic? Please feel free to discuss this article or comment here.

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Corals are more than just “coral”

I’ve updated the Science Review section of the blog with a new article entitled “Nitrogen fixation by symbiotic cyanobacteria provides a source of nitrogen for the scleractinian coral Montastraea cavernosa. In short, the article shows that symbiotic cyanobacteria living within the tissues of the Caribbean coral Montastraea cavernosa are able to fix nitrogen, providing a previously unknown supplementary source of nutrition for the symbiotic zooxanthellae within the coral tissues. The more we delve into the physiology of the coral ‘holobiont’ (a term used to describe the coral host and the consortium of other organisms associating with it – zooxanthellae, bacteria, fungi, algae), the more pathways and surprises we find – corals are fascinating creatures. Read more here.

Global warming and the Acroporid decline in the Caribbean

The Center for Science & Public Policy have released a document entitled Are U.S. Coral Reefs Endangered by Global Warming? , which is picking up a fair amount of controversy amongst all parties involved. I think this is a fairly important issue that needs to be resolved (debunking the pseudo-science): more from me on this shortly, along with analysis from coral researchers who have been examining this phenomenon for over three decades.


Let’s start with the basics of the Center for Science-Based Public Policy (in the efforts of transparency). It’s all to easy to allege that the Centre is a mere puppet-front for petroleum industry propaganda, considering has received a grand total of $793,575 in funding from ExxonMobil since 1998 (not too dissimilar to our very own Australian right-wing “think tanks”, also funded by ExxonMobil subsidiaries).
Amongst other people of notoriety associated with the Center for Science-Based Public Policy is Senator James Inhofe who was awarded the “Center Honoree” in 2004. For those of you who don’t know Sen Inhofe’s legendary reputation, he is not only as a renowned climate change skeptic, but also the author of such famous quotes as:

“I don’t have to tell you about reading the Scriptures, but one of mine that I’ve always enjoyed is Romans 1, 22 and 23. You quit worshipping God and start worshipping the creation — the creeping things, the four-legged beasts, the birds and all that. That’s their (the environmentalists’) god. That’s what they worship. If you read Romans 1:25, it says, ‘and they gave up their God and started worshipping the creation.’ That’s what we are looking at now, that’s what’s going on. And we can’t let it happen.”

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Endangered coral becomes climate warning system – News from Ningaloo Reef

Reuters Summit-Endangered coral becomes climate warning system

By James Grubel

CANBERRA, Oct 1 (Reuters) – The future is looking grim for coral reefs, home to bright tropical fish and a lure for tourists worldwide but also an early warning system for climate shift, leading coral scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says.

Warming seas and increased ocean acidity will devastate more than 90 percent of the world’s corals over the coming century unless urgent action is taken, Hoegh-Guldberg told Reuters.

“You’ll get tougher corals surviving, but most of them are not tough enough to survive the sorts of temperatures we’re going to throw at them over the next 100 years,” Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The dire outlook points to a severe impact on tourism and the destruction of habitat for tropical fish, which are crucial to food supplies for millions of people around the world.

Hoegh-Guldberg, professor of marine science at Australia’s University of Queensland, has made a career studying tropical corals and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But he is worried there may be little coral left for future generations.

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