Pissing in the ocean

Another budget item has been released before the federal budget is actually brought down; the government has stated that it will spend $500 million to help deal with the problems facing the Great Barrier Reef. This comprises a new $444 million partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and $56 million for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Department of Environment and Energy1.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the reef was under a lot of pressure but those challenges could be overcome, adding: “We’ll be improving the monitoring of the reef’s health and the measurement of its impacts. The more we understand about the reef, the better we can protect it”1.

The $444 million funding will include: $201 million to improving water quality with changed farming practices such as reduced fertiliser and pesticide usage; $100 million to reef restoration and funding science that supports reef resilience and adaptation to heat stress; $58 million to counteract the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish; $45 million to community engagement including indigenous coastal management; $40 million to enhance reef health monitoring and reporting1.

Nowhere did Frydenberg mention that taboo phrase ‘climate change’, which he is largely prevented from using by the right wing nutters in the Liberal Party2,3. That was left to the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Dr John Schubert, who said that “we must all work together to do everything possible to achieve the Paris Agreement” and “while the world works to tackle climate change on a global scale, there are many things we can and must do to build the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef right now”1.

Frydenberg was cagey when asked if some of the damage on the reef was ‘irreparable’, saying that experts had told him the reef could be ‘remarkably resilient’1. He didn’t say who those experts were. Maybe they were Senator Pauline Hanson and then Senator Malcolm Roberts, who undertook an extensive study of the Great Barrier Reef during a couple of hours with snorkels and wetsuits at Great Keppel Island4.

Unlike the Dunning-Kruger exemplars Hanson5and Roberts6, Terry Hughes is the director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies and actually knows what he is talking about, having published an enormous number of research papers into corals and coral reefs7. He is what expertise looks like, not like the halfwit Hanson and her equally idiotic hanger-on Roberts. A recent paper published by Hughes and numerous others in the highly respected, peer-reviewed journal ‘Science’ has reported on the spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the period 1980-2016. They found that tropical reefs are now suffering recurrent bleaching with such regularity (every 6 years or less) that they are unable to recover completely8.

So, despite Frydenberg’s allusion to experts telling him that the reef is remarkably resilient, it most likely will not be resilient enough to survive global warming if that increases much more than the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement, despite that limit seeming like a forlorn hope. An increase of 2 degrees or more now seems probable, and if that occurs, the reef simply will not survive9.

So, Frydenberg’s $500 million for the Great Barrier Reef is just a public relations stunt, which while it addresses a few current relatively minor problems, does not address the existential threat posed by climate change. This is all because the fossil fuel industry donates far too much money to the Liberal Party, to allow the government to be concerned for the Great Barrier Reef and those directly or indirectly dependent upon it for their livelihood. Donors always win, and the people and their environment always come last.

Sources

  1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-29/great-barrier-reef-$500m-package-to-preserve-area/9708230
  2. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/climate-change-deniers-in-parliament/
  3. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/parliamentary-climate-scientists-emboldened/
  4. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-25/pauline-hanson-visits-the-great-barrier-reef-climate-change/8059142
  5. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/pauline-hanson-dunning-kruger-effect/
  6. http://www.blotreport.com/australian-politics/malcolm-roberts-and-the-dunning-kruger-effect/
  7. https://www.coralcoe.org.au/person/terry-hughes
  8. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6371/80
  9. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2018/04/australia-pledges-379-million-to-help-save-the-great-barrier-reef-but-it-wont-be-enough/

 

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