How many things did Andrew Bolt get wrong about the sacking of climate contrarian Peter Ridd? Ready, set… go.

James Cook University has fired marine scientist and climate science contrarian Professor Peter Ridd and as predictably as night follows day, Andrew Bolt is all upset.

As a very brief summary, Ridd has long been associated with groups that have misrepresented the state of climate science, he has been speaking openly for more than a decade about his views which, to give you an even shorter summary, is that the Great Barrier Reef is doing just fine and is not threatened by global warming or industrial activity.

But back to Bolt, who devoted his editorial on his Sky News show to Ridd’s case. In his trademark righteous tone, Bolt began: “A scandal in one of our universities,” before weaving the case into the politics of energy prices and free speech.


But how many of Bolt’s points did he muck up? On your marks, get set… go. Continue reading “How many things did Andrew Bolt get wrong about the sacking of climate contrarian Peter Ridd? Ready, set… go.”

Peter Ridd and the climate science deniers – group think, anyone?

In some ways, the way the climate science denial community and the conservative echo chamber has rallied around Professor Peter Ridd is impressive.

In other ways, it is entirely predictable given the James Cook University academic is serving up two of their favourite dishes in one serving- a supposed fight for “freedom of speech” against the establishment, and a rejection of the science linking human activity to climate change and, in this case in particular, the Great Barrier Reef.

The story starts in mid-2016 when, through the pages of The Australian,  Ridd was making what I considered to dubious claims about alleged misuse of pictures of the Great Barrier Reef. JCU issued a censure against Ridd.

Since then, Ridd has continued to claim that fellow JCU scientists should not be trusted, leading to allegations of serious misconduct from JCU that Ridd had repeatedly breached their code of conduct . Ridd hit back and filed a case against them. It’s ongoing.

All the usual suspects have had a run at Ridd’s story.  The Daily Caller, FoxNews, Andrew Bolt (lots of times), The Australian’s Graham Lloyd (lots of times) James Delingpole in Breitbart, Alan Jones (loads), Rowan Dean, and so on. Continue reading “Peter Ridd and the climate science deniers – group think, anyone?”

How a 1969 snorkelling trip was “cooler” than the moon landing


It’s 1969 and NASA had put two men on the moon. About 500 million people huddled in front of TV sets around the world.

But for a ten-year-old Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the thing that really got him excited that year wasn’t Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man”.

Instead, it was a snorkelling trip with his grandfather to what “probably wasn’t much of a reef” in the Whitsunday Islands.

Butterfly fish

“I just remember seeing this butterfly fish.. this gorgeous creature… orange and white with a long nose, swimming among the coral,” says Ove. Continue reading “How a 1969 snorkelling trip was “cooler” than the moon landing”

Great Barrier Beer – when three planets align

James Grugeon and me, with a Great Barrier Beer. You should have one.
James Grugeon and me, with a Great Barrier Beer. You should have one.

Sometimes you feel like all your planets have suddenly aligned — like the cogs of chaos have finally locked themselves into place to give you a bit of purchase on life’s unsealed road.

This seems like an overly loquacious and ornate start to this post, but screw it. I’m having an attack of enthusiasm.

Anyway, a few weeks back I was invited to a Mexican place called Zambreros for a mini-launch of a beverage called Great Barrier Beer.

This is where the aligning of the planets took place. And when I say planets, I actually mean three planets, one of which is beer.

To understand my enthusiasm here, I should explain a few things. Continue reading “Great Barrier Beer – when three planets align”

More sophistry from The Australian on coral reef science in wake of Great Barrier Reef bleaching

Lizard071 - May 2016
Bleached and algae covered coral at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, May 2016: Credit: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

If you’ve been reading The Australian recently, you might think that coral reef science is in some kind of crisis.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper has been attempting to spin the worst coral bleaching event in the reef’s recorded history as a beat-up by environmentalists and high-profile scientists.

It isn’t.

The latest instalment came earlier today from the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd, under the print headline “The bleaching of parts of the reef is dividing the scientific world” and online under the headline “Great barrier battleground over coral bleaching.”

Lloyd seems to be trying to construct a narrative that the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and the subsequent death of about a quarter of all the corals has opened some sort of schism among scientists.

The bleaching, writes Lloyd, has “unleashed long-simmering tensions over the quality of reef research.”

This is, in my view, bollocks [sorry kids].

Lloyd includes three individuals to back up his claims. They have two things in common. Continue reading “More sophistry from The Australian on coral reef science in wake of Great Barrier Reef bleaching”

How the 2016 coral bleaching unfolded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

dhd14dayleg-n-20160330 (1)There’s some genuine anxiety and anger among coral scientists in Australia right now, as the Great Barrier Reef suffers probably its worst coral bleaching event in recorded history.

I’ve written about that on my Planet Oz Guardian blog, where I tried to explain the clear link between fossil fuel burning, global warming and bleaching.

The bleaching event coincides with record warm sea surface temperatures (SST) for the summer just gone.

When SST go above a long term average for too long, this causes a stress reaction in the corals.  There’s a separation between the coral skeleton and the algae that gives the animal all that amazing colour (and also gives it the nutrient it needs to survive).

Just like in many other parts of the world, SST have been on the rise.

The Burea of Meteorology’s ReefTemp site sorts the SST data to give an indication of the risk of coral bleaching – a measure known as Degree Heating Days (one DHD is one degree above the long-term average temperature for one day).

I’ve made a GIF of the recent readings off the Coral Sea. The picture tells its own story, as you see the thermal stress on the corals build from the end of February to the end of March.

2016 great barrier reef bleaching

For a technical explanation of the data, go here.

Murdering a scientific paper on sea-level rise – the Graham Lloyd way

UNRAVELLING the causes of rising sea-levels across the globe is a little like one of those Agatha Christie TV murder whodunnits that you might have sat through while your Sunday lunch disappated through your system.

There are all sorts of co-conspirators that come together in the plot that’s causing sea levels to rise.

There’s thermal expansion of the oceans – which basically means as the oceans warm up the body of water gets larger and pushes higher. Then there’s water from melting glaciers and water melting from ice-sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

There are also events that have a mild cooling effect on the climate, such as volcanic eruptions and the amount of energy coming from the sun as it moves through its cycles.

But according to The Australian newspaper, a new piece of research on sea levels “has found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years”.  Now that seems to be pretty categorical doesn’t it?  Just in case you weren’t sure, the headline states even more clearly “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, says report

The Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd reports on a paper published in the Journal of Climate and points out that one of the globe’s leading expert on sea level rise, Dr John Church, is a co-author. This lends some degree of credibility to the paper.

Strangely, The Australian doesn’t quote Church, which is perhaps just as well given that he told reporters this morning that Lloyd’s story was misleading. “Sea level clearly is linked to climate change, it clearly is linked to greenhouse gases and that was in the paper quoted by The Australian. The quote is, I am sorry, inaccurate,” The Conversation reports.

Now we could simply leave it there, with Lloyd hoisted on his own petard. But let’s have a look at how The Australian has misinterpreted – or perhaps even misrepresented – what the paper, published in November last year, actually says about the role of humans in rising sea levels and how it in no way concludes what Lloyd says it concludes.

Continue reading “Murdering a scientific paper on sea-level rise – the Graham Lloyd way”

Plenty more sustainable fish in the sea?

CAN I buy some fish please?

BUYING fish is an extremely easy thing to do. All you have to do is ask.

You can get it in a can, it comes battered or breaded in fish shops, filleted, whole or frozen on market stalls and every-which-way in supermarkets.

Granted, there are questions that most consumers will ask themselves. Is it cheap, is it fresh and will it taste good, among the most popular.

But all in all, there is no hunting or gathering involved for the consumer. Buying fish is not rocket science because the commercial fishing industry and retailers have made it so.

But insert one word into your question and you have a whole new kettle of fish.

Can I buy some sustainable fish please?

Now that’s a question that is a gateway to a complex global issue because it prompts lots of other questions. Here are a few of them.

What kind of fish are you buying? This may be obvious, but in fact – in the case of tuna for example – even this can’t be answered with confidence.

Is the species of fish you’re buying plentiful or are stocks dwindling or even endangered? Is the fishery which it came from being sustainably managed or overfished? How was the fish caught?

Again your fish retailer, waiter, or manufacturer is unlikely to be able to answer any or all of these questions clearly yet the impacts of commercial fishing and fishing methods are huge.

Sometimes, for example, only the people on the fishing vessel will know how many turtles, sharks, sea lions, seabirds, dolphins, or any other non-target species – including other fish – were impacted when the fish was pulled from the ocean. The knock-on effects go unnoticed. In other circumstances, if you take the example of organizations that offer grouper Fishing Charter services to tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, they tend to mention the type of fish available during each season. Based on the needs of the tourists, customizations, and rates are set up. This ensures that the more endangered fish species don’t get targeted during the fishing escapade.

As the threat of endangerment is very real, the population density of several species is being monitored so as to regulate and maintain their numbers. However, if you keep a track of appropriate times for such activities, you could go fishing without causing harm to the ecosystem by overfishing. Certain places could be considered hotspots for fishing trips due to the abundance of fish to catch seasonally. These would include countries in the Latin Americas. In places such as Costa Rica, you should not have any problems trying out sport fishing if you’re taking the right help; Los Suenos Costa Rica fishing charters is a good place to start. In addition to fishing adventures, various places within the country where you can enjoy their local cuisine. And if you have got the time, then maybe you could even experience the local sustainable fishing methods.

Similarly, people who are going fishing for fun or as a weekend gateway on their own can plan things in advance. They can try Fishing Calendar by or similar websites to learn about the best time for fishing, types of fish available in nearby lakes, what is easy to catch, etc. In order to catch more fish, it seems equally important to invest in the most appropriate equipment after getting the necessary information about the fish. The most reliable solution to this would be to purchase such equipment from a trusted and reputed online fishing store. Having the right information and appropriate equipment would make it easier for people to catch more fish.

However, if you take the situation of buying fish, even if you choose to buy farmed fish, there are questions to be asked. Is the fish farm out in the open ocean or connected to waterways? What impact is that farming operation has on the water and species living around it?

The reason I’m asking all of these questions is that I’ve tried to address these, and a few more, in a special report in G Magazine. The report appeared in print last November but is now available free online. It’s long but hopefully enlightening.

For a free guide to these issues, you can go to the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s online Sustainable Seafood Guide where you can buy a print version too.

Do sharks hear the Jaws theme music too?

MAYBE the reason I’m scared of them is that they’ve got pointy teeth and, potentially, they can kill you or at least rip off a limb or two.

Yes.. that’s definitely the reason I’m scared of sharks…. oh, and there’s that foreboding theme tune from Jaws.

Even though I know full well I’m way more likely to die from being struck by lightning, crossing the street or even at my own hands, I can’t get those scary pointy teeth out of my head.

But that doesn’t mean I’d like to go out and kill sharks. I’d be more likely, to be honest, to wish ill-will of John Williams, the guy that put together the alternating E and F notes to make that horrible theme tune.

I can’t really say if I’d feel any differently if I actually were unfortunate enough to be partially eaten by one, but I’d like to think that I would react in the same way as Australian navy diver Paul de Gelder, who “lost” his right hand and lower right leg in Sydney harbour last year.

At the time, the local News Ltd tabloid newspaper went on it’s own feeding frenzy and even sent out a journalist to try and catch a shark.  “Gotcha – How we caught a man eater” the newspaper screamed on its front page, before going on to reveal that the shark they “caught” actually got away.

Anyway, it appears that de Gelder has a rather different reaction to his situation than the local tabloid press. He has joined with other shark attack victims from around the world for a new campaign to help save the animals that bit them, as reported here in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Huffington Post.

Pew Environment Group, a Washington-based organisation that brought the survivors to the UN, says 30 per cent of shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, while the status of 47 per cent is not properly known.

Understanding the impact which humans have had on these majestic (but still pointy-toothed) creatures makes you wonder whether it would be more appropriate if the sharks were the ones hearing the foreboding theme song whenever they come across a human, rather than the other way around.