Economic cost of Great Barrier Reef bleaching exceeds $35 billion

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ABC News, 10th August 2009 – An international study has found that the economic cost of coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef would be $37.7 billion.

The Oxford Economics report, which values the reef at $51.4 billion, also found up to 50 per cent of tourists who would normally visit the reef would stay away from Queensland if bleaching was permanent.

The study was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to set an economic benchmark for the natural asset.

The foundation’s John Schubert says the figures paint a disturbing picture for tourism and local communities that directly benefit from their proximity to the reef.

Managing director Judy Stewart expects the economic study will set a new standard for valuing the environment.

“I expect that the methodology will be looked at in great detail by other economists looking at other environmental assets elsewhere, as well as how we value coral reefs elsewhere,” she said.

Visit the Great Barrier Reef Foundation page for background information, summary of report outcomes and the entire report (pdf link).

Update: “Life’s a bleach for Barrier Reef as climate changes” – The Australian, 10th August 2009:

THE Great Barrier Reef’s gilt-edged importance to the Australian economy has been highlighted by new research into the potential financial cost of climate change to the world heritage-listed wonder.

British consultant Oxford Economics puts the present value of the reef at $51.4 billion – approaching $2500 for every Australian alive today – but warns that nearly four-fifths of its worth would be destroyed if the coral was totally and permanently bleached.

The study goes beyond placing a dollar figure on tourism, fishing and other commercial activities involving the reef, valuing “indirect” benefits such as its role in protecting coastal communities from storms and cyclones.

The research was commissioned by the not-for-profit Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Its chairman, John Schubert, warned yesterday that the reef was at a “crossroads” because of climate change.

“We are basically at a point where we need to take action to ensure that as much of the reef as possible can be preserved,” Dr Schubert said in releasing the Oxford Economics study.

The $51.4bn figure for the reef’s net worth is calculated over a century, at a preferred discount rate of 2.65 per cent to price in the opportunity cost of tying up that capital.

Oxford Economics valued the net economic benefit and profit generated by tourism on the reef at $20.2bn, with recreational fishing worth $2.8bn. Profit from commercial fishing is $1.4bn, while the so-called indirect-use value of the reef as a coastal defence absorbing up to 90per cent of the destructive force of storm-driven waves was $10bn in present value terms.

Dr Schubert said the British firm’s estimate of the reef’s economic worth was broadly in line with that of Australian forecaster Access Economics, though each used a different form of economic modelling.

Oxford Economics also factored in a “non-use” worth of the reef of $15.2bn, representing the potential value to Australians of, say, a future visit to the reef or of its capacity to yield breakthroughs in biomedicine and other forms of research.

In costing these economic benefits, Oxford Economics said it had been able to value the potentially catastrophic effects of coral bleaching from higher ocean temperature and levels caused by climate change.

The report found that the reef had been affected by heat-related coral bleaching six times over the past 25 years, most severely in 2002, when 60per cent of reefs within the vast marine park were hit, destroying up to a tenth of the coral.

Total and permanent bleaching of the reef would cost $37.7bn, or 73 per cent of its assessed value to the economy, presently accounting for nearly 5 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product. Tourism would be devastated, with up to half of the million or so people who visit the reef annually likely to stay away.

The Cairns region would lose 90per cent of the $17.9bn reef-related activity boosting the local economy.

“This report provides a wake-up call about the threat to one of Australia’s greatest natural assets and the potential cost to Australia,” Dr Schubert said.

“It also establishes for the first time the extent to which the Cairns region would be affected by a major bleaching event.”

Local stressors act to reduce the resilience of corals to bleaching events

Researchers from SCRIPPS Oceanographic Institute have published an important article in the journal PLoS ONE, detailing research that confirms what has suspected for some time – that local stressors reduce the resilience of corals to bleaching events.

Jessica Carilli and colleagues set out to test the hypothesis that chronic local stress reduces coral resistance and resilience to bleaching, by investigating coral growth before and after the 1998 bleaching event in Belize. The authors took over 90 coral core samples from sites with relatively high and low chronic stress, and determined changes in growth rate over the past decade (much like the declining calcification on the GBR Science paper released earlier this year).

The results are striking – after the 1998 bleaching event, the massive star corals (Montastraea faveolata) from ‘healthy’ reefs (low chronic stressors) were able to to recover and grow normally within two to three years, whilst star corals from unhealthy (high chronic stressors) reefs showed no sign of a complete recovery in the 8 years following the bleaching event.

(A) Coral without the 1998 growth suppression, indicating resistance to bleaching in 1998. (B) Coral with the 1998 growth suppression, recognized by the bright high-density band, but with a quick return to pre-1998 extension rates, indicating resilience after bleaching. (C) Coral with the 1998 growth suppression and continuing depressed extension rates after 1998, indicating a lack of both resistance and resilience to bleaching. (D) A coral with relatively high average extension rate. (E) A coral with relatively low average extension rate. (F) A coral with a partial mortality scar on the left (noted by white arrow), coincident with the 1998 growth anomaly.

(A) Coral without the 1998 growth suppression, indicating resistance to bleaching in 1998. (B) Coral with the 1998 growth suppression, recognized by the bright high-density band, but with a quick return to pre-1998 extension rates, indicating resilience after bleaching. (C) Coral with the 1998 growth suppression and continuing depressed extension rates after 1998, indicating a lack of both resistance and resilience to bleaching. (D) A coral with relatively high average extension rate. (E) A coral with relatively low average extension rate. (F) A coral with a partial mortality scar on the left (noted by white arrow), coincident with the 1998 growth anomaly.

“You can imagine that when you are recovering from a sickness, it will take a lot longer if you don’t eat well or get enough rest,” said Jessica Carilli, Scripps graduate student and lead author on the study. “Similarly, a coral organism that must be constantly trying to clean itself from excess sediment particles will have a more difficult time recovering after a stressful condition like bleaching.”

“It is clear that Mesoamerican corals really fell off a cliff in 1998 — nearly everybody suffered mass bleaching,” said Dick Norris, Scripps professor of paleooceanography and co-author of the study. “There are no pristine reefs in the region, but the ones in the best shape clearly are more resilient than those that are long-suffering. It shows that a little improvement in growing conditions goes a long way in recovering coral health.” (Read More)

Almost as striking are the obvious ‘scars’ left by the 1998 bleaching event, as evidenced by the decline in coral growth (annual extension rate) across all four sites:

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Means (solid lines) and 95% confidence intervals (shading) for extension rates after 1955. Extension rates at Sapodilla and Utila remain suppressed after the 1998 bleaching event.

The authors show that the fastest recovering corals were collected from the offshore site at Turneffe Atoll, whilst the more heavily polluted sites at Sapodilla Cayes and Utila in Honduras suffer from significant impacts linked to local factors such as development, sewage and runoff. Considering that the entire Mesoamerican Barrier Reef was bleached during the 1998 bleaching event, it’s great to see that ameliorating local impacts can have a significant effect on reducing the effects of regional-scale bleaching:

“… local conservation efforts that reduce stress, such as reducing runoff by replanting mangroves at the coast or protecting an area from overfishing, could have significant impacts on the ability of corals to withstand the effects of climate change. Future research could investigate whether this interaction between local and global stressors extends to other coral species.”

Citation: Carilli JE, Norris RD, Black BA, Walsh SM, McField M (2009) Local Stressors Reduce Coral Resilience to Bleaching. PLoS ONE 4(7): e6324. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006324

NOAA Coral Bleaching Outlook System Indicates Potential for High Level Coral Bleaching in the Caribbean and Parts of the Equatorial Pacific

Scientists from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch Program are forecasting a significant potential for higher than normal thermal stress in the Caribbean, especially in the Lesser Antilles, through October 2009. Continued high water temperatures can lead to a high probability of significant coral bleaching and infectious coral disease outbreaks.  The forecast is based on the July NOAA Coral Reef Watch outlook.

Scientists are concerned that bleaching may reach the same levels or exceed those recorded in 2005, the worst coral bleaching and disease year in Caribbean history. There is also some potential for high stress in the central Gulf of Mexico and a region stretching from the Lesser Antilles, including the US Virgin Islands, across to Puerto Rico, and across to the southern coast of Hispaniola and the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

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Other areas of concern for coral bleaching this year are the central Pacific region including the equatorial Line Islands and Kiribati.  Some thermal stress may also develop between the Northern Mariana Islands and Japan.

An important caveat is that the model used for this outlook is not yet calling for El Niño development, whereas NOAA’s operational Climate Forecast System is now calling for development of an El Niño during 2009-10. If El Niño continues to strengthen, this could increase the bleaching risk in the central to eastern Pacific and Caribbean.

Just like any climate forecast, local conditions and weather events can influence actual temperatures. However, we are quite concerned that high temperatures may threaten the health of coral reefs in the Caribbean this year.

The Thermal Stress Outlook is based on sea surface temperature (SST) forecasts generated by the Linear Inverse Model (LIM) from the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory. This system is the first to use sea surface temperature forecast models to provide seasonal outlooks of bleaching around the world.

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In the Pacific, the area of concern includes the equatorial Line Islands and Kiribati. This area is especially subject to stress if El Niño development continues.  There is a potential for some thermal stress to develop between the Northern Mariana Islands and Japan. There is also some indication of thermal stress along the Pacific coast of Mexico. However, the model is only generating small areas in the Pacific with a potential for abnormally high temperatures. Care should be taken that areas of warming in open areas of the Pacific are likely to move from the locations seen in the current forecast models. This region is also subject to intensification during El Niño conditions.

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch forecast comes on the heels of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center reporting in June that the world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, the last year of record-setting global coral bleaching incidents. Updates can be found here. Divers who see bleaching can report it at ReefBase.

In its inaugural year the forecast system did well in predicting the general patterns of mild Caribbean stress in 2008 and high thermal stress in the western Pacific in 2008-9, especially earlier in the season. The guidance issued in early December provided valuable guidance on the potential for bleaching 2-4 months in advance. The general pattern of warming in the outlook corresponded well with large-scale patterns of actual thermal stress. However, strong monsoonal activity along northeastern Australia cooled waters on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) reducing thermal stress there. This was a fortunate difference between the forecast and actual conditions that protected these valuable reef resources.

Why the existence of ‘heat tolerant’ corals does not mean that coral reefs will be able to resist climate change.

ofuA recent study published by Tom Oliver and Stephen Palumbi from Stanford University in the journal ‘Marine Ecology Progress Series‘ seems to suggest yet another miraculous and novel mechanism by which corals will ‘escape’ the pressures of global warming. In a nutshell, the researchers found that corals from ‘warm pools’ at Ofu Island (American Samoa) hosted ‘heat tolerant’ types of symbiotic algae, whereas corals from cooler lagoons hosted more ‘heat sensitive’ types of algae. When combined with regional data, Oliver & Palumbi suggest that in regions where annual maximum temperatures reached 29 – 31C, coral ‘avoided bleaching’ by hosting higher proportions of ‘heat tolerant’ algal symbionts.  Whilst these findings are interesting, the study is a long way from the suggestion in the paper and accompanying press release that coral reefs are ‘adapting’ and ‘may survive global warming’, and relies mainly on over interpreting their results. There are several issues at hand:

  1. Whilst these results highlight both the diversity of bleaching responses at a community level and the array of algal symbionts, the finding of heat tolerant corals has been shown throughout the Indo-Pacific and Great Barrier Reef on a number of previous occasions. The suggestion that this pattern results from a correlation in local scale heating based upon a limited sampling regime is far from proving causality
  2. The identification of a few remnant tough (‘heat resistant’) corals does not equate to these corals spreading out and maintaining coral reef ecosystems under rapid climate change.  Such coral types are rare, and are likely to have minimal impacts in sustaining reef populations under future climate change scenarios.  In making this argument, the authors are leaping across a myriad of issues that would need to be proven before we could pin our hopes on a few odd-ball corals for building and maintaining functional reef ecosystems into the future.
  3. Although corals have been shown to be able to ‘shuffle’ symbionts (change the proportion of ‘heat sensitive’ to ‘heat tolerant’ types), to date it has never been shown that corals can uptake ‘novel’ symbiont types from external sources. So, corals that are ‘heat sensitive’ can’t acquire ‘heat tolerant’ types from the environment. In light of rapid increases in sea surface temperatures under future climate scenarios, these ‘heat sensitive’ corals will undergo mass mortality, as they are unable to simply ‘adapt’ or switch to more resistant types.
  4. Any successful proliferation of these heat resistant genotypes will depend on a stabilised climate. Continual increases in temperatures means that these genotypes will have a harder time proliferating and stabilising, given that selection pressures will continue to intensify. This is akin to the bar in a high jump competition being placed ever higher.  As time goes on, fewer and fewer ecotypes from the population will be able to pass beyond the barrier.
  5. The authors seem to imply that functional reef ecosystems (and countless ecosystem services) will be ‘saved’, based upon a specific niche of ‘heat resistant’ corals.  The issue here is not the survival of corals species – many of whom will be resistant to extinction under global climate change (albeit as rare organisms) – but the destruction of functional coral reef ecosystems that millions of people depend on. Unfortunately, a few corals in a warm rock pool in Samoa will not save the day or the planet.
  6. These results do not address ocean acidification – the ‘other CO2’ issue along with temperature that threatens all calcifying organisms. To somehow imply that coral reefs are not facing problems from climate change because Oliver and Palumbi found a few tough coral genotypes in a rock pool, verges on the incredible.

These points aside, the study is an interesting one in terms of exploring heat stress in corals. My main issue is that Oliver & Palumbi have massively overextended their conclusions, which is particularly apparent in the associated press release.  Needless to say, these sorts of overblown claims are less than useful in the lead-up to the critically important COP15 negotiations in Copenhagen at the end of year.

Update, 25th May

And here is a classic example of why such media releases are less than useful, courtesy of the detractor Andrew Bolt:

Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery


Our lab has just published a new paper in PLoS ONE, detailing the interactions of coral and algae on the Great Barrier Reef, and uncovered just how resilient some reefs can be following coral bleaching events. The southern end of the Great Barrier Reef was exposed to extended periods of high sea surface temperatures in the end of 2006, resulting in extensive coral bleaching across the Keppel Islands throughout January 2006. Following the bleaching event, a single species of fleshy macro-algae (Lobophora) overgrew the coral skeletons, causing high rates of mortality throughout the second half of 2006. But, by February 2007, corals were rapidly recovering due to an unusual seasonal dieback of the macro-algae, and astonishing regenerative capabilities of the dominant branching Acroporid corals – almost twice the rate of offshore corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef.

What is unusual about the Keppel Islands story is threefold: first, that corals recovered within months to years (reversal of macro-algae dominated reefs often takes decades), second, recovery of the corals occurred in the absence of herbivory (traditionally assumed to be the ‘driving factor’ in macro-algal phase shifts), and third, that corals recovered through asexual (regenerative) capacities rather than reseeding of reefs by larval recruitment. Understanding the processes that drive recovery following disturbances is critical for management of coral reefs, and the Keppel Islands example shows that managing local stressors (overfishing and water quality) helps reefs bounce back from global stressors such as coral bleaching events. PLoS One is an open-access journal, so the article is free to read – click on the link below, and feel free to rate and comments on the paper. Congratulations Guillermo et al!

Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, Laurence J. McCook, Sophie Dove, Ray Berkelmans, George Roff, David I. Kline, Scarla Weeks, Richard D. Evans, David H. Williamson, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (2009 Doom and Boom on a Resilient Reef: Climate Change, Algal Overgrowth and Coral Recovery. PLoS ONE 4(4): e5239. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005239

The worlds most overpopulated coral reef?


I remember seeing a fascinating presentation by Mahmood Riyaz on the reef slope failure of this coral reef at the ICRS conference in Florida last year – how the atoll rim was cracking due to the sheer amount of construction and concrete. Welcome to Male, the capital of the Maldives, where >100,000 people are crammed ontop of a coral reef atoll only 1.7km in length.  The Maldives have been hit hard in recent years, collectively lost over 2/3 of it’s coral following the 1998 bleaching event. In addition, being such a low lying country is likely to be problematic given the projected sea level rises, so the Maldivian government is proposes a carbon neutral approach by 2020, and is even considering diverting some of the billion dollar tourism profits to purchase a new homeland. The photo above doesn’t do justice to the population density on such a tiny atoll – check the satellite images on google earth.

Widespread coral mortality associated with river flood discharge in the Great Barrier Reef

Satellite image from 15 January 2009. Image courtesy of Lachlan McKinna, JCU.

Image 1: Satellite image from 15 January 2009. Image courtesy of Lachlan McKinna, JCU.

Heavy rainfall has been occurring in northern Queensland since December causing widespread flooding of coastal rivers (Burdekin, Haughton, Bohle, Herbert, Tully, O’Connell and others) as well as inland catchments. In some places all-time records were broken, especially around Townsville, and the flows in the Herbert and Burdekin were both far above average (more rain may occur as well).

The river discharge events are being tracked by satellite imagery in collaboration with Arnold Dekker’s group, CSIRO, Canberra and Lachlan McKinna in Michelle Devlin’s flood plume project at JCU. The plumes are noticeable as sediment rich in the early stages (January – image1) and extending out to near Dunk Island but colour rich (chlorophyll and coloured dissolved organic matter) in the latter stages (February – image 2) extending completely across the main reef and into the Coral Sea.

The plumes are being sampled via the GBRMPA – Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Marine Monitoring Program run by the Catchment to Reef Group, ACTFR, JCU (Michelle Devlin coordinator) and AIMS (Britta Schaffelke). Sampling from both fixed installations and vessel surveys have been going since December.

Satellite image from 18 February 2009. Image courtesy of Arnold Dekker, CSIRO.

Image 2: from 18 February 2009. Image courtesy of Arnold Dekker, CSIRO.

Incidentally to the plume monitoring, reports from many scientists working on the reef in the area between Mackay and Cooktown have been coming in of coral ‘bleaching’ and mortality, ‘fresh’ water layers, turbid water layers, green water and stratified water. Corals in poor condition have been reported by Katharina Fabricius (Dunk Island and surrounds), Sheriden Morris (Frankland group), Angus Thompson (Pandora, Palms, Whitsundays), Michelle Devlin, Jane Waterhouse and David Haynes (Dunk and surrounds), Britta Schaffelke (Franklands, High, Fitzroy, Pandora and others), Ray Berkelmans (Magnetic Island), Stephen Lewis and Brett Baker (Burdekin plume).


Image 3: Coral mortality at Russell Island (Franklands group) 24 February 2009. Photo: Britta Schaffelke, AIMS.

Images of white/dead coral from Franklands can be seen in image 3 and white bommies from surface near Dunk Island and the Family Group in image 4. Ongoing monitoring is being coordinated by David Wachenfeld and his team at GBRMPA.

Coral mortality and ‘bleaching’ is widespread on inner-shelf reefs in the above region. I put ‘bleaching’ in commas as this event is probably not mostly normal bleaching i.e. expulsion of zooxanthellae, but rather actual death of the coral organism. This is obviously somewhat speculative but consistent with observations of coral mortality in low salinity water by van Woesik and others after similar events in 1991 in the Keppel Islands.


Image 4: White coral bommies at Coombe Island (Family Group) 5 March 2009. Photo: Jane Waterhouse, ACTFR.

The coral mortality is no doubt associated with the long period (more than 8 weeks) of low salinity flood water but other factors such as elevated suspended sediment, nutrients and pesticides may also be important. Water temperatures were also above average in the period before the floods and an element of combined stress may also be important. Disentangling the separate and combined effects of the multiple stresses and their role in the coral mortality will be a major challenge.

Early news reports of widespread coral bleaching from the 1980’s

Whilst the 1986 El Niño event began to dissipate across the eastern Pacific regions in mid 1987, the elevated sea surface temperatures remained in the central and western pacific until the early months of 1988. Associated with the 1986 El Niño was the widespread bleaching of reef corals throughout the Caribbean region, which at the time (over two decades ago) was a relatively poorly understood phenomenon.


Above is the Niño index for 1980 - 1998, showing the average of the sea surface temperature in the tropical Pacific Ocean (5°N to 5°S, and 150°W to 90°W) compared to a long-term average temperature (Source: NASA JPL)

Although Google News is notoriously patchy before the advent of online news sources (pre 2000), there is some interesting reading in the archive files from the late 1980’s, chronicling the 1987 Caribbean bleaching event. At the onset, the New York Times note that “Experts Are Puzzled by Widespread Coral ‘Bleaching’ in Caribbean”:

“Scientists gathered here from around the Caribbean last week to discuss a mysterious ‘bleaching’ of coral throughout the region, a change that some fear portends severe damage to rich reef ecosystems” (December 15th, 1987)

At the same time, the Chicago Tribune claimed that scientists were “… at sea about coral ‘bleach’ “:

“In the past, bleaching has occurred sporadically in the Caribbean in response to environmental stresses such as pollution and changes in water temperature or salinity. But worried scientists said they had never seen such widespread bleaching. The chief suspect is warmer waters. It is too soon to know how widespread coral mortality will be, scientists said” (January 1st 1988)

As the El Nino conditions passed, the Washington Post ran with the headline “Mysterious Coral Bleaching Abates”:

“The mysterious coral bleaching phenomenon that swept through most of the Caribbean last summer seems to be over, and there are signs that the corals may be recovering without dying off.

Scientists do not know what to make of the phenomenon, but some fear it could be an early result of a global warming trend. Water temperatures in the region were higher than normal last summer, and if the phenomenon recurs in coming summers, the corals could eventually be wiped out” (December 28th, 1987)

Several years after the El Nino event, the Washington Post followed up the story with the title “Warm Seas Killing Coral Reefs; Finding May Presage More Ecological Harm”

“Until the worldwide bleaching episode of 1987, the periodic phenomenon was “virtually ignored,” Ernest Williams said. He and his colleagues found that there was also widespread bleaching in 1979-80 and 1982-83. There have been isolated reports of bleaching since 1911, though only in recent years have the episodes been so widespread” (October 12th, 1990).

However, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps the most telling excerpt of all comes from an article published in the New Scientist from 1989:

Corals are sensitive to changes in temperature as well as to the depth of water. If the water suddenly warms by 1 to 2 Degree C, coral polyps can expel their algal partners, so that the coral looks bleached. This sometimes leads to the death of coral. In the early stages of global warming, the increase in temperature may be slow enough for both coral and algae to adapt. If this is the case, bleaching may not be a serious problem for another 40 years or so. (11th November, 1989)

According to “The Science and Public Policy Insitute”, the future of reefs couldn’t look any better

From the organization that brought you:

  • “35 Inconvenient Truths: The errors in Al Gore’s movie”
  • “Proved -There is no climate crisis”
  • “Greenhouse Warming? What Greenhouse Warming?”

comes another ‘bona fide’ report ( “CO2, Global Warming and Coral Reefs: Prospects for the Future“)  aimed at debunking the widely respected view among the scientific community that increases in temperature and atmospheric CO2 are detrimental to the future of coral reefs. In fact this report by the Science and Public Policy Institute of Washington, argues that these ‘twin evils’ actually have positive effects on coral reefs worldwide promoting growth and calcification (link). While this non peer-reviewed report claims to be based on sound science, with close to 200 references (many of which are from leading experts in the coral reefs), it is the misinterpretation of these research articles that makes this report a sure standout among climate skeptic pieces to date.

Reading through this report may make you want to pull out a red pen and scribble all over what seems reads like a misinformed undergraduate essay. The key point claiming that there is no simple linkage between high temperatures and coral bleaching may be a far reach from the evidence that shows a hot prolonged summer with temperatures above the monthly maxima will guarantee coral bleaching.

Throughout the report, the authors use ‘snippets’ from papers to attempt to justify their hypotheses. For example, discussing  the effects of thermal acclimation in reducing bleaching severity and mechanisms for adaptation (such as Middlebrook et al [2008]) is out of context, and somewhat akin to saying you can milk a cake from a cow, without consideration of the steps in between.

The report states that ‘real-world’ observations paired with the sound science reviewed in the report ‘refute the claims of climate alarmists’ through the following findings:

“A particularly ingenious way by which almost any adaptive response to any type of environmental stress may be enhanced in the face of the occurrence of that stress would be to replace the zooxanthellae expelled by the coral host during a stress-induced bleaching episode by one or more varieties of zooxanthellae that are more tolerant of the stress that caused the bleaching”

“Rising sea levels may actually have a positive effect on reefs, permitting increased coral growth in areas that have already reached the upward limit imposed by current sea level”.

“Theoretical predictions indicate that coral calcification rates should decline as a result of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations by as much as 40% by 2100. However, real-world observations indicate that elevated CO2 and elevated temperatures are having just the opposite effect.”

While there is hope that corals will adapt to a changing environment, the predicted rate of temperature and atmospheric CO2 change is unprecedented, higher than anything seen in the last 720,000 years during which coral reef ecosystems evolved.

These predictions, paired with the knowledge of the sensitiveness of coral reef ecosystems to change, encourage scientists to be prudent when advocating the resilience of coral reefs. Given the funding history of the institute, and their pseudoscientific interpretations of previous publications, a report like this isn’t exactly surprising. Whilst a report like this may be fodder for the likes of climate skeptics around the world, it takes on a far more serious note when it is aimed at ‘educating’ policy makers in government, whom without proper consultations with established scientists, just might take this report seriously. The irony is, this is a frightening possibility.