Peter Ridd contributed the first chapter in Climate Science: The Facts 2017 “The Extraordinary Resilience of Great Barrier Reef Corals and Problems with Policy Science”. This is the kind of critical review of the literature which in 2016 prompted the James Cook University to censure Ridd for not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputation of his colleagues. He was warned that if he continued to speak out he could face a serious misconduct charge.
As I understand it he lampooned the actions of the university in private emails and was stood down for violating the code of professional conduct of the university. The case is in court and the episode has become an international incident due to the threat to free speech posed by the university’s concept of collegiality and misconduct.
In this paper he wrote “The reef is photogenic, the water sparkles blue, the fish and coral are beautiful and delicate, and most who see it – particularly marine biologists – fall in love with it.” It has become an icon to symbolize the threat of global warming and from President Obama down the population of the world appears to be convinced that it is about to die. Peter Ridd and others dissent from that view and argue that reports of the impending death of the reef are exaggerated as Mark Twain wrote from London in response to concerns about his health.
The grain of truth in the story is that bleaching occurs every decade or so when warmer temperatures prompt the coral to expel the symbiotic algae which live inside the polyps. These are the organisms which and lay down the calcium carbonates structure. The bleaching appears to be a defence mechanism and the coral usually recovers. It is claimed that the bleaching is a recent thing that did not happen 100 years ago. The argument of this paper is that the coral is too resilient to be damaged seriously or permanently by any foreseeable changes in the temperature or the level of atmospheric CO2.
That means that the extra half a billion allocated to save the reef is just a piece of virtue -signalling by the Turnbull government at our expense. Of course it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good and a deal of good will fall to the marine scientists at James Cook.
The GBR grows in water with a temperature range from 25 in the south to 27.4 in the north. To my simple mind it is obvious that warming would shrink the reef at the top while it would grow further at the bottom, so in a generation or three there might be a perceptible migration towards NSW. Peter Ridd used to be paid to do more sophisticated analyses than that and he has looked at the growth rates of reefs in the hotter waters around Indonesia and Thailand.
Not surprisingly, for biological processes, he found a linear relation between temperature and growth rates and the corals in the south of our reef calcify at half the rate of corals in Indonesia and Thailand.
To be continued.