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Australian Professor Sues His Own University for Right to Tell the Truth about the ‘Dying’ Great Barrier Reef

An Australian Professor of Physics is suing his university, which is trying to gag him from telling the truth about the “dying” Great Barrier Reef.

The truth, of course, is that the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) isn’t dying at all. (As we’ve written here and here)

In fact it’s doing just fine and the gagged professor – Peter Ridd of James Cook University – has plenty of solid scientific evidence to prove it.

Ridd has been studying the GBR for 30 years and believes that the oft-heard claims that it is seriously threatened by climate change or pollution are just environmentalist scaremongering. He is also highly critical of those supposedly reputable institutions which have been promoting this alarmist myth, among them the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

But when Ridd pointed this out in a published essay and a radio interview last year his university accused him of serious misconduct. It claimed that his criticisms were “not collegial” (the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies is actually part of James Cook University) and threatened him with dismissal. Furthermore, the university ordered him not to mention to anyone the existence of its allegations, let alone any detail. Ridd ignored this order and went public.


Now he is fighting not just for his job and his academic credibility but also for the integrity of science itself.

As he recently wrote at Fox News:

The problems I am facing are part of a “replication crisis” that is sweeping through science and is now a serious topic in major science journals. In major scientific trials that attempt to reproduce the results of scientific observations and measurements, it seems that around 50 percent of recently published science is wrong, because the results can’t be replicated by others.

And if observations and measurements can’t be replicated, it isn’t really science – it is still, at best, hypothesis, or even just opinion. This is not a controversial topic anymore – science, or at least the system of checking the science we are using, is failing us.

The crisis started in biomedical areas, where pharmaceutical companies in the past decade found that up to 80 percent of university and institutional science results that they tested were wrong. It is now recognized that the problem is much more widespread than the biomedical sciences. And that is where I got into big trouble.

According to an editorial published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, this problem is endemic across science.

Its editor Richard Horton wrote:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.

Such a pity that Horton hasn’t learned his own lesson by reining in some of the articles The Lancet so frequently publishes endorsing all the latest junk science nonsense about climate change. Still, his broader point is well made: a lot of what passes for science these days simply cannot be trusted.

This is especially the case with pretty much anything to do with the environment, because the alarmist narrative – “more must be done and it’s all our fault” – too often takes precedence over scientific fact.

The Great Barrier Reef is especially vulnerable to this political activism masquerading as science because, being so big (133,000 square miles), famous, and photogenic, it has become one of green lobby’s poster children of man-made environmental degradation and climate doom.

You’ll get an idea about the self-righteous passion the reef arouses in greenies from this angry piece published by the Guardian last year:

It takes a very special person to label the photographed, documented, filmed and studied phenomenon of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef“fake news”.

You need lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Donald Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at.

It also helps if you can hide inside the bubble of the hyper-partisan Breitbart media outlet, whose former boss is the US president’s chief strategist.

So our special person is the British journalist James Delingpole who, when he’s not denying the impacts of coral bleaching, is denying the science of human-caused climate change, which he says is “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Delingpole was offended this week by an editorial in the Washington Post that read: “Humans are killing the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and there’s nothing Australians on their own can do about it. We are all responsible.”

Whatever. But if you read carefully, you’ll have noticed the trick played by the author in that first sentence: he’s conflating the very real, natural, often observed problem of “coral bleaching” (which no one denies) with the completely imaginary problem of total, man-made-climate-change-induced reef apocalypse.

This is the kind of trick greenies often play. What’s disgraceful is the degree to which major scientific institutions – like the ones called out above by Peter Ridd – play along with them.

But surely there’s no smoke without fire? Surely there must be something to the claims made by these top institutions that the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble?

Nope, as Peter Ridd patiently explains here:

I have published numerous scientific papers showing that much of the “science” claiming damage to the reef is either plain wrong or greatly exaggerated. As just one example, coral growth rates that have supposedly collapsed along the reef have, if anything, increased slightly.

Reefs that are supposedly smothered by dredging sediment actually contain great coral. And mass bleaching events along the reef that supposedly serve as evidence of permanent human-caused devastation are almost certainly completely natural and even cyclical.

These allegedly major catastrophic effects that recent science says were almost unknown before the 1980s are mainly the result of a simple fact: large-scale marine science did not get started on the reef until the 1970s.

By a decade later, studies of the reef had exploded, along with the number of marine biologists doing them. What all these scientists lacked, however, was historical perspective. There are almost no records of earlier eras to compare with current conditions. Thus, for many scientists studying reef problems, the results are unprecedented, and almost always seen as catastrophic and even world-threatening.

The only problem is that it isn’t so. The Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory. Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone.

Reefs have similarities to Australian forests, which require periodic bushfires. It looks terrible after the bushfire, but the forests always regrow. The ecosystem has evolved with these cycles of death and regrowth.

The good news is that Ridd is being supported in his law suit by Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs and has successfully crowdfunded the $95,000 he needs to fight his case.

The bad news is that even if he wins – as surely he must for the facts are so clearly on his side – it will be a drop in the ocean. For James Cook University, see also: pretty much every academic institution in the world. They’ve all bought into the climate change narrative; they all persecute or silence academics who don’t toe the line. It’s just that most of them aren’t lucky enough to have professors as brave and principled as Peter Ridd…

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