Friday 29th of May 2020

the great barrier bleach...



Currently, a catastrophe is unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef – the biggest single living structure on Earth and one of the world’s natural wonders. From Cairns to the Torres Strait, vast ribbons of once-colourful reef are now ghostly white.

There has been substantial interest in the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. Particularly, the role of climate change on the current bleaching event.

This Communications Guide outlines the key facts about the current bleaching event, as well as providing some answers to frequently asked questions. We hope this guide supports a fact-based public discussion on the risks to the reef.


Picture at top from an advertisement for Queensland in the SMH, 1963. Smiling with your mouth opened under water is likely to lead you to drowning, but that's advertising for you.


queensland — bleached one day, coal dusted the next...

queensland tourist advert 1963

Protective mechanism that helped them survive past bleaching events, according to a new study.

Key points
  • 372 thermal stress events capable of causing bleaching in 27 years
  • "Practice runs" ahead of each event enabled corals to develop defences
  • Defences could be lost by 20-30 per cent of reefs if temperatures increase by 0.5 degrees C
  • More than 80 per cent of reefs will lose defences if temperatures increase by 2 degrees C


But more than a quarter of reefs could lose this protective mechanism within 40 years if sea level temperatures rise as little as 0.5 degrees Celsius above present levels, Australian and US scientists report in the journal Science.

Co-author Dr Juan Ortiz, from the University of Queensland, said their analysis of data from the past three decades showed corals were exposed to a "practice run" of gradually warming waters ahead of each bleaching event.

"We found historically in the past 27 years about 70 per cent of the thermal stress events have been characterised by a temperature profile that helps the coral to be ready for when the stress happens," Dr Ortiz said.

"The water becomes warm enough to send signals into the coral's metabolic pathways so the coral has a better ability to withstand the bleaching event."

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The Queensland Government has approved mining leases for the $21.7 billion Carmichael coal mine and rail project in the Galilee Basin.

Key points:
  • Mining leases a major step forward for $21b project, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says
  • Adani said it aimed to start work in 2017
  • Queensland Government decision "appalling" in wake of severe coral bleaching, Greenpeace says


State Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham on Sunday approved the three individual mining leases about 160 kilometres north-west of Clermont for Indian company Adani.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was a major step forward for the project after "extensive government and community scrutiny".

"Some approvals are still required before construction can start and ultimately committing to the project will be a decision from Adani," she said.


She said stringent controls would continue to protect the environment and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the interests of landholders and traditional owners.

"We are talking about thousands and thousands of jobs - 5,000 jobs from this project during construction and another 4,500 during the peak of its operations - it means jobs for local people as well," she said.

But opponents, including Greenpeace, claim the mine could harm the reef.


Stringent is never enough against exploitative sociopaths...



sunscreen to humans, poison to coral...

People need to avoid skin damage when they go to the beach, but many sunscreens include oxybenzone, and that's bad news for coral. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki explains what makes this chemical so harmful, and what we can do about it.

From the cradle to the grave, Australians are taught to use sunscreen to avoid sunburn and skin cancers. But the universe is complicated, with unexpected links—and so, everything has a cost. In this case, the cost appears to be that one popular sunscreen chemical seems to attack coral.

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Oxybenzone has been proven to have harmful effects on coral. In fact, it has four separate bad effects on baby coral.


coral bleaching, 2016-2017...


Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef has now been devastated by severe coral bleaching, with damage occurring further south this year, Queensland scientists say.

Two of the world's leading experts on coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef said aerial surveys they conducted this year along the reef's entire length showed an accelerated rate of bleaching in the central section.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies undertook the aerial surveys in both 2016 and 2017.

In 2016, bleaching was most severe in the northern third of the Reef, while one year on the middle third has experienced the most intense coral bleaching.

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Stop the coal mines. See images at top.


Before we call rockfish,

Before we call rockfish, shrimp and crab “dinner,” some of these species call coral reefs “home.” But those reefs, home to a quarter of all marine fish species, are now increasingly threatened as rising ocean temperatures accelerate a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.

Large-scale coral bleaching events, in which reefs become extremely fragile, were virtually unheard-of before the 1980s. But in the years since, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science, the frequency of coral bleaching has increased to the point that reefs no longer have sufficient recovery time between severe episodes.

Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at the Boston University Marine Program who was not involved in the study, said the effects of more frequent bleaching events were very difficult to predict because of the complex networks of dependencies within reefs. But he said they could be devastating.

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No matter how you try to fudge it, CAPITALISM is the killer of reefs around the world. Please, do the sums...

global warming is the culprit..

“All projects funded through the ARC are subject to rigorous assessment and only the highest-quality applications are funded,” she said in a statement. 

“The ARC monitors all projects that it funds for the achievement of their goals. All projects funded through the ARC are expected to be undertaken in accordance with the Australian code for the responsible conduct of research, which applies to the quality and integrity of the research.”

Hughes did not respond to McKenzie’s comments directly, but included his most recent peer-reviewed articles in Science and Nature, which deal with the increased incidence of coral bleaching as a result of rising sea temperatures.

His Science paper, published on 5 January, found that coral bleaching events were now happening too regularly to allow the reef to adequately recover.

“We analysed bleaching records at 100 globally distributed reef locations from 1980 to 2016,” the paper reported. “The median return time between pairs of severe bleaching events has diminished steadily since 1980 and is now only six years.”

The CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, said too much was at stake for tourism operators to blame scientists for what was actually happening to the reef and the real problem, climate change, had to be addressed.

“Blaming scientists and attempting to get their funding cut is the worst possible response to this crisis,” she said. “Scientists are not to blame. Big polluters and their political allies are to blame. We need high-quality science more than ever so we can monitor and track what’s happening to the reef.”

Darrell Wade, the executive chair of Intrepid Travel, also disputed the idea that talking about environmental problems kept tourists away.

“The idea that conservation and tourism could be at odds on this issue is crazy,” Wade said. “It’s been implied that talking about the issues will have a negative impact on business – but we’ve actually found that the opposite is true.”

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the usual denialists...

A controversial Australian marine scientist who rejects research showing major human-caused impacts on the Great Barrier Reef has been fired from Queensland’s James Cook University for alleged multiple breaches of its code of conduct.

Peter Ridd was fired on 2 May, according to the termination letter posted on Ridd’s website, after ignoring previous warnings and disciplinary action from the university.

Formerly a professor at the university, Ridd sued his employer in November 2017 after it censured him for allegedly denigrating research carried out at JCU’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Science and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (Aims) in a way that breached the university’s code of conduct.

In a statement released on Sunday, the university’s deputy vice chancellor, Prof Iain Gordon, said Ridd had “in numerous ways seriously and repeatedly breached the code of conduct” and his “employment has been terminated on this basis”.


Conservative media outlets and climate science deniers jumped to Ridd’s defence over the weekend, attempting to frame the issue as an attack on academic freedom and freedom of speech.

British climate science denier James Delingpole wrote on Breitbart that Ridd was “fired for telling the truth” and encouraged readers to help fund his court case.

John Roskam of the Institute for Public Affairs, which is supporting Ridd and, according to a letter from Ridd’s lawyer, paid $8,566 towards his early legal costs, said: “The search for truth has been replaced by unquestioning allegiance to group-think.”

News Corp Australia commentator Andrew Bolt called for JCU vice-chancellor Sandra Harding to be sacked

JCU’s initial actions against Ridd related to comments he made to the Australian and to SkyNews. He said “we can no longer trust” research from Aims and the university’s own Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Science.

In March, researchers at the government-funded Aims responded again to Ridd’s criticisms of their work, laying out in detail why they felt Ridd’s critiques were invalid.

In an interview on Sunday on the Sky News show Outsiders, host Rowan Dean described Ridd as a “friend of the show” and told him: “You are a brave warrior for free speech and more importantly a scientist prepared to buck the all pervasive current zeitgeist about climate change and what we call the climate change hoax.”


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The zeitgeist will soon bite their arse... 




and many more articles on this site including:


cash to their "liberal" rich mates under vague pretences...

Labor has attacked the Federal Government's decision-making process over funding for the Great Barrier Reef.

Under questioning in Senate Estimates, departmental officials revealed $444 million had been given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without it having to go through a tender process. 

The funding is proposed to be given in one payment, which is the largest donation that any Australian Government has made to a single foundation for environmental projects. 

Labor senator Kristina Keneally questioned why the funding wasn't allocated using a public grant process which was "competitive, open and transparent" so others, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), could apply.

Senator Keneally said the foundation has six full-time members, and five part-time members.

In comparison, GBRMPA told the ABC it had 206 full-time equivalent employees.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation idea was floated by a small group of businessmen at an airport waiting for a flight and set up in 2000.

The board is comprised of representatives of Australian business, science and philanthropy and is supported by companies including BHP, Qantas, Rio Tinto, Google and Orica.

The foundation is headed up by former Commonwealth Bank of Australia chairman Dr John M Schubert.

"The Government still can't explain why the money went to the foundation instead of being managed through the department or the Marine Park Authority, nor can it explain why the decision was taken without the foundation even being aware that it was being considered to carry out work on a scale completely beyond its historic capacity," Senator Keneally said.


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the charitable asbestos reef...


Mr Reid has been described as the last of the family dynasty to run James Hardie, the company behind one of Australia's biggest asbestos producers.

Mr Windsor has been previously named as a founding manager director of the foundation.

"It is our understanding that Sir Sydney Schubert’s idea for forming the foundation was to create a charity to bring science and business together with a common purpose of protecting the Great Barrier Reef," the foundation said. "Eighteen years later, the foundation continues to lead the collaboration of business, science, government and philanthropy for the benefit of the Reef."

Attending the original meeting to form the charity was John Schubert, who currently serves as the foundation's chair. A spokesman for the group said Mr Schubert and Sir Sydney were unrelated.

The foundation's funding arrangements have come under scrutiny for the lack of a tender for the grant, which was delivered in full in the May budget and included in the 2017-18 financial year.

The foundation, which had just six full-time employees at the time of the grant's announcement, is expected to collect at least $22.5 million of the funds in payments for its operations.


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I met Mr Reid a few times in the past... Not a bad fellow, but a corporate guy, nonetheless. I have no clue (I have but cannot say) as to why the Federal government under Trumble is "wasting" time by passing cash moneys through this "Barrier Reef Foundation" rather than go to scientists or to universities where no "syphoning" fees would apply...


totally inappropriate!... possibly corrupt!...

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been accused of making a "captain's call" over a controversial decision to give nearly half-a-billion dollars to a small Great Barrier Reef charity, after it emerged there were no departmental officials at a key meeting the Prime Minister attended.

Key points:
  • The Great Barrier Reef Foundation was given more than $400m by the Federal Government
  • A Senate inquiry heard the offer was made at a meeting attended by the PM and the Environment Minister
  • Political opponents call it a 'captain's call' and say the PM should have sought departmental advice


In April the Federal Government announced it would provide the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with $444 million to fund projects to improve the health of the reef.

The foundation is supported by companies including BHP, Qantas, and Rio Tinto, and had six staff at the time it won the funding.

This week, at a Senate inquiry examining how the funds were awarded, the foundation's managing director Anna Marsden said the first time the charity became aware of the Government's intention was in early April at a meeting.


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plan for the bulldozing of ellison reef ...


The reef was dead, said the farmer. He was going to bulldoze it.

Indeed, the flat surface at the top of the reef, exposed at low tide, did lack the vibrant colours that are normally associated with the Great Barrier Reef. But did that mean it was dead? That it wouldn't matter if it was mined?

Limestone taken directly from the patch of reef would be a cheap fertilizer for the local cane farmer, but at what ecological cost to the region?

The incident that started a war

This local story was to be the seed which started a long campaign to protect the Great Barrier Reef in its totality.

It was 1967, and in Queensland the National Party government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen was in power.

"It was a different sort of mindset back then, everything was there to be exploited," says local tour operator Alistair Pike.

"We had a fairly full-on development-orientated government in the Bjelke-Petersen government of the day, and mate, if they couldn't drill it, mine it, chop it down or whatever, they really didn't want to know about it.

"The move was on [to develop the reef], not just about the limestone or the lime recovery off the reef, but also there was some very serious rumblings about drilling for oil on the reef."

The government had secretly zoned up to 80 per cent of the reef for mining and lined up six mining companies to do testing.

A small public notice that appeared about bulldozing at Ellison Reef was the first time the government's plan to develop the reef came to activists' attention.

The man who read that notice was not without power, nor passion.

"He was a ratbag, a self-declared ratbag rogue, he loved calling himself 'the bastard from Bingil Bay'," says Sydney University history professor Iain McCalman.

"He was shrewd, a very shrewd, very clever guy. He knew a bit of law and was an extremely good lobbyist with great connections."

He was Mission Beach artist John Büsst (1909–1971), who worked from his home, Ninney Rise.


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Read from top... Note the date of the advert...

Liberals' (CONservatives) little helper gets promotion...

Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price has appointed one of her former advisers to the position of chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Key points:
  • Josh Thomas is a former adviser to Ms Price and her predecessors Josh Frydenberg and Greg Hunt
  • Ms Price insists Mr Thomas's appointment went through a "merit-based selection process"
  • Key environment groups say there were not consulted on the appointment


The appointment comes following a governance crisis at the Authority in which a director left following revelations she was profiting from funds handed out by the Authority.

It also comes after the political decision to award $444 million to the small charity, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, was subject to widespread criticism.

Josh Thomas was on staff at the Department of Environment until the Coalition came to power in 2013, when he moved to become an adviser to Greg Hunt when he became environment minister.

Mr Thomas continued to work for each subsequent environment minister — Josh Frydenberg and then Ms Price.

"Mr Thomas brings a strong understanding of the Authority with more than 15 years' experience in the public and private sector and has academic qualifications in science and international affairs," Ms Price said in a statement.

The Authority says Mr Thomas has "helped shape and lead environmental policy and programs for the Great Barrier Reef and in terrestrial natural resource management".

It noted he had "worked in a number of senior public sector roles and across the environment, agriculture and finance portfolios."

The Great Barrier Reef Authority also put out a statement announcing the appointment.

"Mr Thomas is committed to enhancing Australia's natural environment and has been a strong advocate for incorporating both contemporary science and Indigenous traditional knowledge into environmental management throughout his career," the Authority's statement said.

Ms Price's office said a panel put forward a shortlist of candidates to the Minister, and the Authority had input into that shortlist.

The Minister's office said Mr Thomas was on the shortlist for the role.

"The merit-based selection process was conducted by a public service panel and was endorsed by the Australian Public Service Commissioner," Ms Price said in her statement.

The statement failed to cite Mr Thomas's employment in her office, but said his "application received widespread support from non-government organisations and environmental groups".

Labor says appointment is nepotism

Key environment groups, WWF, Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian Conservation Council all said they were not consulted.

"Now more than ever the Authority needs strong, bold and independent leadership," said Imogen Zethovan from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

"The Great Barrier Reef isn't just a unique global icon, but it's also the cornerstone of Australia's $31 billion marine tourism industry."

Ms Price's office told the ABC that Mr Thomas's application for the position came with 10 recommendations from a range of groups including environmental non-government organisations.

Labor's environment spokesman Tony Burke said the move was nepotistic.

"The same Government that won't give workers a pay rise will give salaries of more than 300k a year to anyone who has ever been associated with the Liberal Party," he said.

"This is not only about the Marine Park Authority — it's about what this entire Government has become.

"We no longer have a Government, we've got a club."


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fighting the murdoch and IPA disinformation...

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is in some serious trouble, with the latest research in the journal Nature showing the number of new corals has dropped by 89 percent.

In 2016 and 2017, the reef was smashed by back-to-back mass bleaching events and heat stress caused by global warming that killed about half the corals.

“Dead corals don’t make babies,” said James Cook University’s Professor Terry Hughes, the paper’s lead author.

“We used to think that the Great Barrier Reef was too big to fail — until now,” added colleague Professor Morgan Pratchett.

The paper was just the latest in a steady and, many would agree, depressing parade of findings for the World Heritage icon. And if the scientific papers don’t do it for you, then there are always the pictures.

But the release of the study served as a remarkable contrast to the way the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky News, furnished with material from climate science denial think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, has been “reporting” on reef science in the past week.

On at least five occasions the channel has interviewed the IPA’s policy director Gideon Rozner, who has been updating the channel on the case of Dr. Peter Ridd, a marine scientist specializing in sediments who was fired in March 2018 from James Cook University.

According to the various interviews, the reef is in great shape, the science is probably wrong, and Ridd is a “world renowned” reef expert in a historic fight for freedom. None of this is true, yet the claims have been allowed to stand unchecked.


The Saga of Peter Ridd

Ridd’s saga is a long one, but here’s the short version (and while we're here, in the interests of full disclosure, in the time since I first started writing about Ridd's case, I've taken a part-time job at an Australian marine conservation charity as a media adviser).

Ridd does not think that human-caused climate change is a problem, and he thinks the reef is in fabulous health. This has been his public position for at least a decade.

But in 2017, Ridd started to publicly accuse his scientific colleagues, some of which were based at his own university in Townsville, Australia, of being untrustworthy. This went against the university’s code of conduct. The university censured him. Ridd refused to back down and made more statements. He published “private” university correspondence on his website. He was further disciplined, so he sued his employer. Then they fired him.

Last week, Ridd’s case was finally heard in court, with three days of hearings. A judgment is expected in the coming months.

Now, the IPA has gone all out to create a narrative around Ridd’s case. Before the court case, Rozner traveled from Melbourne to Townsville (that’s a three-hour flight, folks) to make an 11-minute movie with Ridd.

Rozner delivered daily video “reports” from outside the Brisbane courthouse and gave multiple interviews to Sky News shows where presenters including Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Andrew Bolt, Chris Kenny, and Rowan Dean, gushed in their admiration for Ridd.

Collectively, they have painted an alternate reality, where Ridd is a whistleblowing hero who refuses to be beaten down by a tyrannical and powerful employer. 

His case is not about whether or not he broke the university’s code of conduct and leveled a serious accusation at his colleagues, but has instead been blown up into what Rozner describes as “the most significant case about academic freedom and free speech in Australian legal history.”

Whether or not the judge decides if James Cook University was right to discipline and then fire Ridd, or whether he breached his employment agreement, has become lost in a manufactured scandal.

Sky News pundits have made some remarkable, and wrong, claims about the case, and about Ridd.

Check Ridd

Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016
A researcher accesses the damage at Day Reef on the Great Barrier Reef following the March 2016 mass coral bleaching event. Credit: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Gergely Torda, CC BY-ND 2.0

Let’s take a few of these claims in turn, starting with the most egregious example of cherry-picking and selective skepticism.

Over and over again, presenters have accepted a claim that Ridd has shown the mainstream science to be shoddy. Yet none of his supporters have mentioned what happened when Ridd did outline his concerns in detail in a November 2017 “viewpoint” article in a journal.

Ridd and a former colleague Piers Larcombe claimed they had found flaws in nine scientific papers published between 2003 and 2013, mostly by scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

But in a response, the AIMS scientists wrote that Ridd’s criticism was based on “misinterpretation, selective use of data, and over simplification.”

What’s more important though, is that the paper added: “Given their sincere call to improve quality control processes in science, it is interesting that nowhere in their Viewpoint article do Larcombe and Ridd make it clear to readers that many of their criticisms of the nine [Great Barrier Reef] papers have been raised previously and have been thoroughly addressed by the original authors.”

Neither Ridd, nor Rozner, nor any of the Sky News presenters, have mentioned this, because to do so would undermine Ridd’s hero status.

Movie Magic

Excerpts from Rozner’s film have been used at least twice by Sky News. Among footage of Ridd tending to his garden pond and standing on a beach gazing wistfully out at the ocean, Ridd says: “The reef is in fantastic shape.”

Clearly, it is not.

Ridd said what had sparked the whole episode was an email to a journalist in 2016 claiming that pictures of reef at Stone Island were being misused by authorities to show how corals were degrading over time. His claims were eventually published uncritically by Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper.

But if The Australian had checked Ridd’s story to see if the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were guilty of a lack of skepticism, they would have found something different. Essentially, they would have found a strawman.

In another Sky News interview, Rozner told political commentator and climate science denialist Andrew Bolt: “Peter Ridd estimates as much as 50 percent of the so called peer-reviewed science on the Great Barrier Reef might not be completely accurate. According to Peter Ridd, these are a natural sign that the corals are adjusting to warmer temperatures.”

Or to put it another way, the corals naturally adjust to warmer temperatures by dying, after which, they remain dead. Naturally.

The “50 percent” claim was made by Ridd in his Viewpoint article, but it actually referred to a study about replication of results in biomedical science.

Rozner’s movie is, admittedly, slick. But here’s why.

In late 2018, Rozner and IPA colleague Daniel Wild traveled to Los Angeles for a four-day video workshop put on by the Atlas Network — a coordinating group of more than 400 conservative think tanks around the world.

Atlas itself has been funded by the likes of the Charles Koch FoundationExxonMobil, and Donors Trust (a way for rich folk to donate to conservative causes without being identified).

World Expert?

Once Ridd decided to sue James Cook Univeristy, he started a crowdfunding campaign, which, thanks to promotions from the IPA and climate science denialists around the world, raised more than AU$250,000.

Ridd then hired a team of lawyers including Stuart Wood QC — described as one of the country’s leading industrial relations barristers. He won’t be cheap — sources say he usually charges upwards of AU$10,000 a day.

“The IPA have been the source of this,” Ridd told Rozner. “Not just for the financial support, but also the moral support that helped me go on.  John Roskam (the IPA’s executive director) gave me a call and said he would get some lawyers to look at it and it was not until that happened that we thought we were in with a fight.”

In a segment on another Sky News show, Peta Credlin, who was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said Peter Ridd was “world renowned” as a reef scientist, and that in Australia “you can’t find a better expert on the Great Barrier Reef.”

One way of measuring what scientists think of each other’s work, is to look at how many times scientists cite the studies of other people. 

Ridd does not have a Google Scholar profile (the easiest place to check citations), but his ResearchGate page shows his work has been cited 3,113 times. For comparison, according to ResearchGate Terry Hughes has been cited 41,600 times. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland, and a pioneer of coral bleaching research, has also been cited 41,600 times.


I mention Hoegh-Guldberg, because during one of the Rozner interviews, Andrew Bolt claimed the Queensland scientist had been forced to back-peddle on his claims over the years.

Hoegh-Guldberg told me: “My 1999 paper predicted back to back bleaching and loss of corals by mid-century. But that’s happening right now. The impacts we predicted are actually unfolding much quicker than we thought.”

So, is Ridd a world-renowned expert on the reef?  “No,” said Hoegh-Guldberg. “If he was, it would be reflected in his citations. He’s not heavily cited.”


Alan Jones, a Sydney shock jock who thinks climate science is “witchcraft,” has also tried to pain Ridd as the plucky underdog going up against a big institution.

“Here is a bloke who is challenging the groupthink on climate change,” he said, “but it’s unequal wherever you turn.”

Unequal? Unequal, except for the fact that it was Ridd who chose to take his employer to court, not the other way around

Unequal, except for the support of an entire news channel and a quarter of a million dollars to hire a top legal team.

And unequal, except for the support of a think tank that has accepted at least AU$4.5 million in funding since 2016 from Australia’s richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart.



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