Friday, August 12, 2022

The ridiculous predictions of the reef dementors

Peter Ridd

Harry Potter fans know what a Dementor is. To quote Remus Lupin it is a creature that:

"glories in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you."

I am reminded of Dementors when I hear the usual scaremongers claim the reef is still doomed despite the wonderful news last week that the Great Barrier Reef recorded the highest amount of coral since records began in 1986. The reef has never had more coral despite supposedly having suffered four devastating, unprecedented bleaching events since 2016 – all due to climate change.

Corals take five to ten years to recover so it is clear that reef-science institutions have been misleading the world about the bleaching events. How could there have been up to 93 per cent coral loss in 2016 alone, and much more in 2017, 2020 and 2022 if we now have record high coral cover?

We should look at the predictions of the reef-Dementors in 2012 when it had relatively low coral cover after a couple of huge cyclones passed across the reef. The waves from the cyclones killed corals in an area bigger than Belgium and Holland – not huge by Australian standards, but still a fair bit of coral. Eminent Dementors stated:

"coral cover in the central and southern regions of the GBR is likely to decline to 5–10% by 2022. The future of the GBR therefore depends on decisive action."

This has been proven to be a ridiculous prediction. It’s not just a bit wrong – it’s as wrong as it possibly could be. The reef’s coral cover in 2022 is roughly four times higher than predicted, and now at record levels. The only decisive action taken was by the coral – it grew back, like it always does.

But the reef Dementors can still find ways to scare children even with this great news. Apparently, the species composition of the reef is changing. It is becoming dominated by plate and staghorn corals that are the most susceptible to bleaching and cyclones. So, all this growth has made the reef very susceptible to future damage from climate change. It is doubtless at a ‘tipping point’ – only one major event away from oblivion. I already feel hope draining from my soul. Here was I thinking more coral was a good thing.

Let us ignore the fact that these delicate staghorn and plate/tabular corals are the most spectacular of the reef and provide safe harbour for the iridescent fish that give the reef its colour – and we have more of them than ever. Ignore even that this type of coral is the first to be damaged by cyclones – the biggest cause of temporary coral loss – and the first to recover, by definition changing the species mix on a reef.

Better to remember the Patronus Charm – the spell to counter a Dementor – which is to recall what the Dementors said after the ‘devastating’ 2016 climate bleaching event:

"Fast-growing staghorn and tabular corals suffered a catastrophic die-off, transforming the three dimensionality and ecological functioning… (of the reef and)… changing (the reef) forever, as the intensity of global warming continues to escalate."

So, in 2016 the loss of staghorn coral was a disaster but in 2022 its regrowth is a disaster. And the change that was supposed to last ‘forever’ lasted until 2022. There is only one word for this. Ridiculous.

To deal with Dementors, Harry Potter practiced his magic on another creature called a Boggart. Boggarts have no definite physical form but appear as the thing you most fear – for Harry, this was a Dementor. To destroy a Boggart, you must make it appear laughable. The magic spell, with correct spelling, is Riddikulus. Thanks J.K.!

Reef scaremongers are not fearsome Dementors, they are common-or-garden Boggarts and it is time to laugh at them. They are nothing to fear as their credibility has been destroyed by the wonderful condition of the reef.

They have been crying wolf since the 1960s when they said the reef was doomed from crown-of-thorns starfish plagues. Their desperate attempts to find bad news in the latest fabulous statistics make them look even more pathetic. Boggart sycophants in mainstream media who practise the dark arts of deceiving the public, withholding vital information, and scaring children must also be ridiculed.

Be in no doubt that Boggarts fear derision. In 2018, I was fired from James Cook University after breaking the rules of the Ministry of Magic by casting a Riddikulus spell which demonstrated major quality assurance problems in reef-science.

It showed that a reef that was supposed to have no coral was flourishing, and a warming climate is almost certainly good for reefs because corals grow faster in warmer water. One of the many things the university Boggarts formally charged me with was ‘satire’ for making fun of them.

The biggest hurdle stopping people accepting the latest statistics showing the reef is fine, is the corollary of the proposition. If the reef is fine, the scientific institutions have deceived us for decades. To most people this is worse than the thought that the reef is doomed. We have been told since childhood that scientists must always be believed. The idea that some are untrustworthy is too horrible to contemplate. For most people, their Boggart is that the institutions they trusted are corrupt. I understand that but we must help them laugh.


Delaware: What a coral reef misconduct claim says about climate science

On Monday, I wrote here about how the Great Barrier Reef is defying predictions of its own demise, bouncing back from a mass bleaching event last year to show the greatest vegetation cover in 37 years of observations. Now comes news that a prominent scientist involved in some of the doom-mongering work over coral reefs has been found guilty by her own university of misconduct in her research.

According to the draft report of an investigative committee convened by the University of Delaware – and seen by Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – Danielle Dixson fabricated and falsified data relating to fish behaviour and the health of coral reefs. The report states: ‘The Committee was repeatedly struck by a serial pattern of sloppiness, poor recordkeeping, copying and pasting within spreadsheets, errors within many papers under investigation, and deviation from established animal ethics protocols.’ Dixson has stated she ‘vigorously denies all and any allegations of wrongdoing’ and will appeal.

The Delaware University committee has asked for three of her papers, published in prominent journals, to be withdrawn. One of them, for example, found that fish attracted to healthy reefs were repelled by the kinds of seaweeds which grow on reefs which have previously been degraded. Other papers have claimed that rising acidification of the oceans, linked to rising global temperatures, can disorientate fish, causing them to swim towards their predators. Whistleblowers say their suspicions were aroused when they calculated that Dixson would not have had enough time to collect the data recorded in some of her papers. Dixson’s lawyer claims that a group of scientists had ‘targeted’ Dixson by sharing the accusations and prevented her from having a fair hearing.

The University of Delaware’s findings are, of course, no reflection on the work of many other scientists who have warned that rising ocean temperatures threaten the future of coral reefs. However, they are a reminder that science does not become settled just because a paper appears in a peer-reviewed journal. With passions running so high in the climate debate, and with so much at stake over climate policy, the need to enforce rigour in scientific research has never been greater.


Green Rare-Earths Push Destroys Myanmar Forest

The birds no longer sing, and the herbs no longer grow. The fish no longer swim in rivers that have turned a murky brown. The animals do not roam, and the cows are sometimes found dead.

The people in this northern Myanmar forest have lost a way of life that goes back generations. But if they complain, they, too, face the threat of death.

This forest is the source of several key metallic elements known as rare earths, often called the vitamins of the modern world. Rare earths now reach into the lives of almost everyone on the planet, turning up in everything from hard drives and cellphones to elevators and trains. They are especially vital to the fast-growing field of green energy, feeding wind turbines and electric car engines. And they end up in the supply chains of some of the most prominent companies in the world, including General Motors, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Tesla and Apple.

But an AP investigation has found that their universal use hides a dirty open secret in the industry: Their cost is environmental destruction, the theft of land from villagers and the funneling of money to brutal militias, including at least one linked to Myanmar’s secretive military government. As demand soars for rare earths along with green energy, the abuses are likely to grow.

“This rapid push to build out mining capacity is being justified in the name of climate change,” said Julie Michelle Klinger, author of the book “Rare Earths Frontiers,” who is leading a federal project to trace illicit energy minerals. “There’s still this push to find the right place to mine them, which is a place that is out of sight and out of mind.”

The AP investigation drew on dozens of interviews, customs data, corporate records and Chinese academic papers, along with satellite imagery and geological analysis gathered by the environmental non-profit Global Witness, to tie rare earths from Myanmar to the supply chains of 78 companies.

About a third of the companies responded. Of those, about two-thirds didn’t or wouldn’t comment on their sourcing, including Volkswagen, which said it was conducting due diligence for rare earths. Nearly all said they took environmental protection and human rights seriously.

Some companies said they audited their rare earth supply chains; others didn’t or required only supplier self-assessments. GM said it understood “the risks of heavy rare earths metals” and would source from an American supplier soon.

Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and Mercedes said they contacted suppliers to learn more in response to this story. Apple said “a majority” of their rare earths were recycled and they found “no evidence” of any from Myanmar, but experts say in general there is usually no way to make sure.

Just as dirty rare earths trickle down the supply chains of companies, they also slip through the cracks of regulation.

In 2010, in response to war in the Congo, Congress required companies to disclose the origin of so-called conflict minerals — tantalum, tin, gold and tungsten — and promise their sourcing does not benefit armed groups. But the law does not cover rare earths. Audits are left up to individual companies, and no single agency is held accountable.

The State Department, which leads work on securing the U.S. rare earths supply, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But experts say the government weighs the regulation of rare earths against other green goals, such as the sales and use of electric vehicles. With ongoing negotiations in Congress, the issue has become increasingly touchy, they say.

Rare earths are also omitted from the European Union’s 2021 regulation on conflict minerals. A European Commission statement noted gaps in oversight of the supply chain stretching to Europe, and said “it is yet unclear how” a Chinese push to regulate rare earths will work.

With no regulation or alternatives, companies have quietly continued shipping rare earths without environmental, social and governance audits, known as ESG.

“What would be the result if now the world would say, ‘We want to do ESG audits on all rare earths production’?” said Thomas Kruemmer, director of Ginger International Trade & Investment, which does mineral and metal supply chain management. “The result would be that 70% of production would need to be closed down.”


Australia: The Greens are the biggest threat to black/white reconciliation

What do senators Pauline Hanson and Lidia Thorpe have in common? Not a lot it would seem although both routinely engage in haughty displays, dog-and-pony shows in the Senate chamber. But there is one issue that unites them. They are both opposed to the constitutional recognition of First Australians.

In May 2017, 250 delegates from the 100-plus indigenous nations gathered at Uluru for the National Constitution Convention. It was the largest assembly of First Nations leaders in recorded Australian history and at the end of it came the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement is a 440-word invitation from First Australians for us all to join them on a journey of reconciliation. It was presented to the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then Opposition leader, Bill Shorten in traditional artistic form.

The statement, in part, reads:

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

The Makarrata Commission is sometimes loosely associated with a treaty, but it is more than that. Makarrata is a word from the Yolngu language in northeast Arnhem Land that has many layered meanings, but in the context of the Uluru Statement, it is a meeting or meetings where a negotiated settlement is reached through truth telling.

Voice. Treaty. Truth.

As the delegates met at Uluru to prepare a united message, seven of them walked out in a huff. They appeared before the media later that day. They were all from New South Wales and Victoria. One of them, Lidia Thorpe, then a Greens candidate for the Victorian Legislative Assembly in the seat of Northcote said, “We as sovereign First Nations people reject constitutional recognition. We do not recognise occupying power or their sovereignty, because it serves to disempower, and takes away our voice.

“We need to protect and preserve our sovereignty. “We demand a sovereign treaty with an independent sovereign treaty commission, and appropriate funds allocated.”

The Referendum Council in Uluru acknowledged the process was a difficult one but continued on. Anangu delegate and Uluru resident, Alison Hunt reminded the assembly that the conference was being held on sacred land, “where you are talking and standing on, and visitors need to understand that.

“We have to be united,” she said.

The Australian Greens were the first political party to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart. But in 2020 when Lidia Thorpe filled the casual vacancy left by former party leader, Richard di Natale, that changed.

In election mode at the National Press Club in April, Greens leader Adam Bandt, a white Australian lawyer turned politician, determined the sequence must be altered. Not voice, treaty and truth but truth, treaty and voice.

“If we really want success to happen,” Bandt said at the NPC. “It’s a mistake to do it in any other order. We need to do it in that order where we tell the truth, then strike a treaty, and that will put us in the best position for reforms like the Voice to succeed.”

That remark is the very definition of paternalism, up-ending an agreement made by the overwhelming majority of Australia’s indigenous leaders, seeking to impose the narrow view of an absolute minority.

With Thorpe as the deputy leader of the party in the Senate, there has been another element to the party’s factional colour chart of red greens and blue greens. Now there is the group led by Thorpe known colloquially as “Blak Greens.”

The Greens’ shift came amid allegations of bullying and harassment of a number of its indigenous members who wanted to stay true to the Uluru Statement. In an op-ed for Nine Media published in the wake of Bandt’s NPC address, James Blackwell, a Wiradjuri man and researcher at Australian National University, wrote that followers of the Uluru Statement were no longer welcome in the Greens.

Blackwell claimed he had suffered bullying and harassment from senior party members including preselected federal candidates and this led him to resign his membership of the party.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Jill Gallagher, AO, a Gunditjmara woman also resigned from the party believing, “the Greens had no right to reorder the sequence of the Uluru Statement.”

As Indigenous Minister Linda Burney has said repeatedly, a great deal of community consultation is required before a referendum question goes before the parliament but the greatest threat to a successful referendum leading to an Indigenous voice comes from the Left.

The question is, when the parliament considers and votes on the wording of the referendum question, will Lidia Thorpe and Pauline Hanson be voting as one in an attempt to reject it in the Senate? Adam Bandt has said he won’t block the legislation but the party’s position on the Uluru Statement has swung wildly in the space of five years.




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