You would have to have a heart of stone not to chuckle at the coral contortions endured by many journalists as they wrote through gritted keyboards that the little critters are growing back in record numbers on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The initial reaction seems to have been one of shock. It cannot be true – Sir David Attenborough had assured us that the GBR was in “grave danger” of disappearing within decades because of climate change. Far from disappearing, the coral is now at its highest cover level since reef-wide monitoring began 36 years ago.
The news has yet to feature on the BBC climate page. The Corporation employs numerous environment correspondents, but the only report on its news site had a Sydney, Australia byline and appeared on the general science page. Curiously there was a similar absence of reporting earlier this year, when it was learnt that the South Pole had recently had its coldest six month winter since records began.
For the last three days, the BBC has been leading its climate coverage with a pile of emotional tosh arguing that scientists are not taking seriously enough the possibility of catastrophic climate change outcomes, “including human extinction”. According to the lead author, an international relations specialist, the “closest attempts” to address this have come from popular science books such as The Uninhabitable Earth, “and not from mainstream science research”. This last remark prompted the science writer Jo Nova to comment: “Essentially they are telling us we need to panic because there are no scientific papers telling us to panic.”
I digress, back to actual science and the coral reefs. Much of the mainstream commentary picked up on the steer from the Australian Institute for Marine Science (AIMS) that growth had come from the faster-growing corals. One might well comment, it would, wouldn’t it. In addition, there have been further outbreaks of bleaching. Again, the science writer Jo Nova notes that bleaching has probably occurred for millions of years, “there were just not many scuba divers to record it”. We ought to be shocked if corals did not have a full toolkit to cope with rapid changes, she said. She added that this latest 2021/22 study from AIMS, “was an absolute blockbuster in terms of busting the myth that corals are on the verge of extinction”.