Flat White

Dead reef? What dead reef?

13 September 2021

5:19 PM

13 September 2021

5:19 PM

Next time you read that such and such a percentage of the Great Barrier Reef has already been destroyed by humankind, laugh out loud! I say that not to offend, and not because I don’t care about the corals, but because it is better to laugh than to be drawn into their madness.

According to a completely mad research paper published by eleven reef researchers – each a high-profile marine biologist – the Great Barrier Reef was pristine before the arrival of humans. According to this crew, published in the prestigious journal Science in 2003 (entitled ‘Global Trajectories of the Long-Term Decline of Coral Reef Ecosystems’), a rather large 25 per cent of the inner Great Barrier Reef was destroyed with the arrival of Australian Aborigines.

Except that when the Aborigines arrived much of the region known today as the Great Barrier Reef was open Eucalyptus woodland.

There was no Great Barrier Reef.

Back then, the Pacific Ocean began at the edge of Australia’s continental shelf that is now 100 to 200 kilometres offshore.

Sea levels began to rise some 18,000 years ago, after the arrival of the Aborigines. In fact, 100 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef was formed after the arrival of humankind.

The first Australians predate the Great Barrier Reef by some 40,000 years. The first Australians walked across from New Guinea during the depth of the last ice age when there was no Great Barrier Reef. In fact, sea levels were about 120 metres lower than they are today.

It is only in the last 10,000 years, since the beginning of this geological epoch known as the Holocene, that the Great Barrier Reef has formed. It formed after sea levels rose by more than 120 metres during a period from 18,000 to 10,000 years ago when the coastline was being eroded by up to 50 metres each year.

On the subject of laughing: next time one of those expert professors tells you to be fearful of 36 centimetres of sea-level rise, remember that since the arrival of humankind in Australia some 40,000 years ago, sea levels have risen not by some few centimetres, but by around 120 metres! Oh, and all of that was before the industrial revolution that was just a couple of hundred years ago.

If there is one thing that these experts lack, especially the professors running Great Barrier Reef research, it is perspective. While they lack perspective it is the case that they are successfully drawing much of our civilisation into their madness.

There are antidotes. Spend more time at the beach and in the ocean. Australia has a long coastline and most of us live not far from a beach – from the ocean.

I visited Lady Elliot Island at the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year with my husband, John Abbot. Scuba diving, I was unable to find any coral bleaching. Walking along the seashore with John, I could only find evidence of sea-level fall, not sea level rise. Indeed, the image featured at the top of this article shows a Porites sp. microatoll whose growth is constrained by sea level. The coral colony is flat-topped, and dead-on top. A thin veneer of live coral grows around its margin and down to the sand. The live coral would thus be invisible to the surveys from 150 metres up in an airplane —another mad story written up in prestigious journals and repeated in the press.

(It is everywhere, the madness.)

Jennifer Marohasy BSc PhD is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and Founder of Climate Lab Pty Ltd. She blogs at www.jennifermarohasy.com.  

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