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The Forum > Article Comments > Great Barrier Reef threatened: so where is the evidence? > Comments

Great Barrier Reef threatened: so where is the evidence? : Comments

By Walter Starck, published 28/4/2005

Walter Starck argues there is doubt as to whether the Great Barrier Reef was ever under threat.

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Hype is endemic; and even the GBR has not been spared. Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg writing for WWF Australia and Queensland Tourism Indusrty Council said "Global warming is causing the corals of the Great Barrier Reef to bleach and die. The only hope we have ... lies in massively reducing heat-trapping emissions and stabilizing the earth's climate within two degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels."

But there are two big problems here. FIRST - there was no such thing as "pre-industrial levels" of climate. Our climate is ever-fluctuating. We are currently on a 300-year warming trend since the 'Quiet Sun' of the Maunder Minimum, over-printed by a 50-70 year cold/warm fluctuation driven by variable upwelling in the Pacific. (The last steps were cooling from the 1940s, and warming from 1976/77.) SECOND - not even King Canute could succeed in "stabilizing the earth's climate" unless he first stabilises the Sun. Paving Australia with wind farms won't do it.

The interesting thing is that solar eruptive activity (the principal driver of climate) can be calculated. If the Sun keeps playing by the rules as we now understand them - and it might not, of course - the next Little Ice Age (cold) period of reduced solar activity (Landscheidt Minimum) should be with us by about 2030. We might then need to call on Canute to warm things up a bit
Posted by fosbob, Thursday, 28 April 2005 12:37:54 PM
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Dr. Starck starts off with an even, balanced discussion of the environmental impacts on the GBR. He lists the claimed impacts (including very compelling sustainable catch data) and then describes that the claims for reducing fishing are overstated. He makes an excellent point about the impacts of stopping fishing from the GBR having more serious impacts on a global scale that must be considered. We are just starting to realise the importance of this kind of analysis with the debate about water. Desalinisation uses lots of energy. Extra dams flood habitats. Trade offs need to be made. The analysis of the fishing on the GBR adds to that concept and is important in all the analysis we make of impacts on the environment.

Then the last paragraph throws out the balance and rationality and trashes the entire "modern environmental" movement in a quick concluding paragraph.

"Modern environmentalism has become much more than simply a concern for a healthy environment. It has developed into a peculiar quasi-religious blend of new-age nature worship, science, left-wing political activism and anti-profit economics."

Isn't "modern environmentalism" multi-facetted with many different kinds of people involved? Dr. Starck sounds to me like an environmentalist or he wouldn't take the trouble to publish Golden Dolphin. As a scientist he needs to back up his statements or he falls into the same traps that he warns us against in the first part of the article.

Are the majority of "modern environmentalists" in favour of reducing the fishing on the GBR? Are the majority of "modern environmentalists" new-age, left-wing, anti-profit, political activists. They aren't in my experience. Maybe Dr Starck's next paper will provide some support for these statements, but for me it just ruined a really good article on the Great Barrier Reef
Posted by ericc, Monday, 2 May 2005 6:21:03 PM
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"Not a single one of the thousands of species of reef creatures has been exterminated since European settlement. Not one is endangered."

From a scientist who grouches about wild statements from irritating "Environmentalists"!

In the wild world of nature, everything is balancing on the edge of ecological stability and species disaster - as always. And it applies to humans; for the limited duration of our species. Charles Darwin ruffled the staid feathers of his society by going so public on that matter. Proximity to imbalance ("endangered") is the relevant consideration. It's tooth and claw out there on the reef. There are one or two species we are not yet clued-up on; of which we know not whether they were hanging desperately upside-down by their toe-nails before our arrival.

Considering the grumpy tone about others' use of words, I would have expected more caution in a scientist's opinion. Perhaps "No irrefutable evidence has yet come to light --."

That many of the concerned statements in regard to the reef's long-term health should be regarded with caution is fair enough. But perspective should be brought to the article's considerale prominence to fishing as a component of activities within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The fishing industry there is indeed important economically to locals engaged in it, and to local communities. Hopefully it can continue, by the locals, at a truly sustainable rate. That is the end of it - forever to be a minor player in Australian fish production, which itself is tiddly-squat in world terms.

Our marine park fisheries will never take significant pressure off the ever-depleting overseas wild fish stocks. And human lusting after fish flesh is increasingly catered for by aquaculture (in Australia 30%), which itself is increasingly impacted upon by disease, ecological problems, and costs. Fish dinners for most will decline from the disease-prone preferred species, and will have to make do with the more robust "European" carp, and catfish. Vale farmed salmon and tuna. Good luck to those locals continuing to feast on Coral Trout and Cooktown Salmon.
Posted by colinsett, Thursday, 12 May 2005 1:25:55 PM
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Dr Starck's comment :"It is remarkable that politicians can introduce restrictive legislation without first demonstrating they have fully comprehended and analysed the likely consequences."

Consider the Vegetation Management Act In Queensland. No consideration has been given to the ecomomic consequences of the restrictive VM codes. The great majority of pastoralists eg are small producers who work on small profit margins. They are just not in a position to comply with Mr Beattie's codes and roll back their herds to accommodate them. He has offered no compensation!! What they will be forced to do is run the same number of stock on their unrestricted areas. So what was intended as "saving the environment" will end up being an environmental disaster.

All this just to win the preferences of the environmentalists federally.
Posted by Charlie, Saturday, 14 May 2005 8:10:08 PM
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