For decades, scientists and their trusted media messengers have hyped up the temporary loss of coral to promote climate Armageddon and the need for a Net Zero political solution. Last year the story suddenly disappeared from the headlines as coral on the Australian Great Barrier Reef (GBR) showed its highest level since records began in 1985. Professor Peter Ridd, who has studied coral on the GBR for 40 years, has published a damning report charging that “serious questions” are raised “about integrity in science institutions and in the media”. The GBR – the reef for which we have the most consistent and longest record – “has never been in better shape”.
Professor Ridd notes that coral usually takes at least five to 10 years to regrow from a major event, so the record high coral levels in 2022 suggest reports of massive mortality events were erroneous. “An uncharitable observer might conclude that periodic mass coral mortality events, which are largely completely natural, are exploited by some organisations with an ideological agenda and a financial interest,” he observed, adding: “this includes many scientific organisations”. He said that the periodic mass loss of coral is visually spectacular, emotionally upsetting and makes gripping media stories. The slow but full recovery is rarely reported, he added.
It is often claimed that coral reef systems are particularly sensitive to human-caused climate change. As the ‘canary in the coalmine’, they have become a major poster scare story in the fight to introduce a command-and-control Net Zero agenda. Ridd recalls that in 2018, the IPCC wrote “with high confidence” that coral would decline worldwide by 70-90% with a 0.4°C increase in temperature, and another 0.5°C would wipe out 99%. These figures have been repeated everywhere, from media reports to school teaching material. But, states Ridd, research has shown that coral bleaching “is part of a remarkable adaptive mechanism that makes coral potentially one of the organisms that is least susceptible to rising temperatures”.
In June 1999, George Monbiot told his Guardian readers that marine biologists had reported 70-90% of the coral reefs they had surveyed in the Indian Ocean had just died. Within a year, much of the remainder was likely to follow. From this, Monbiot concluded that “at least one of the world great ecosystems is now on the point of total collapse”. Monbiot is an acknowledged leader in catastrophic climate prose, but his doom-laden diatribes are repeated endlessly across both science and mainstream media publications.
However, Ridd has much good news to impart. Data are less reliable outside the GBR, but it seems that across the globe there has not been a major drop in coral cover. Data for the East Asia Seas coral bioregion, with 30% of the world’s coral reefs and containing the particularly diverse ‘coral triangle’, shows no statistically significant net coral loss since records began.
The above graph from the Ridd report shows coral on the GBR at its highest level since local records began, despite four much publicised bleaching events. The author notes that of the 3,000 individual reefs, none have been lost. All have excellent coral, although there are large fluctuations in cover from year to year, mostly as a result of cyclones and starfish predation. Bleaching is noted to occur when corals expel symbiotic algae that live inside them, often subsequently replacing them with a different species when they recover. The process is said to make them “highly adaptable” to changing temperatures, and most corals do not die. This latter point is “rarely made by science institutions or the media”.