Monday, March 07, 2016
Scientists are ‘exaggerating carbon threat to reefs and marine life’
The article below points out something that I have often reported, that coral reefs are not easily damaged, bounce back well from damage and can be found in a wide range of water temperatures. One lot even bounced back after being hit with a thermonuclear detonation!
I have for some time now been collecting on one site all the stories I see about coral reefs and a browse through that site will show you what I mean. The academic journal article underlying the report below is here
An ‘inherent bias’ in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification.
Claims that coral reefs are doomed because human emissions are making the oceans more acidic have been exaggerated, a review of the science has found.
An “inherent bias” in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
It has been dubbed the “evil twin of climate change” and hundreds of studies have claimed to show that it destroys coral reefs and other marine life by making it harder for them to develop shells or skeletons.
The review found that many studies had used flawed methods, subjecting marine creatures to sudden increases in carbon dioxide that would never be experienced in real life.
“In some cases it was levels far beyond what would ever be reached even if we burnt every molecule of carbon on the planet,” Howard Browman, the editor of ICES Journal of Marine Science, who oversaw the review, said.
He added that this had distracted attention from more urgent threats to reefs such as agricultural pollution, overfishing and tourism.
Dr Browman, who is also principal research scientist at the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, found there had been huge increase in articles on ocean acidification in recent years, rising from five in 2005 to 600 last year.
He said that a handful of influential scientific journals and lobbying by international organisations had turned ocean acidification into a major issue.
“Such journals tend to publish doom and gloom stories ... stated without equivocation,” he said. The bias in favour of doom-laden articles was partly the result of pressure on scientists to produce eye-catching work, he added.
“You won’t get a job unless you publish an article that is viewed as of significant importance to society. People often forget that scientists are people and have the same pressures on them and the same kind of human foibles. Some are driven by different things. They want to be prominent.”
Dr Browman invited scientists around the world to contribute studies on ocean acidification for a special edition of his journal. More than half of the 44 studies selected for publication found that raised levels of CO2 had little or no impact on marine life, including crabs, limpets, sea urchins and sponges.
Dr Browman said that the edition had demonstrated that there was “a body of work out there that people had difficulty publishing elsewhere” and that “not every study shows that Nemo is going to be doomed”, a reference to the reef-dwelling clownfish in the Disney film Finding Nemo.
The term ocean acidification was also a misnomer, he said, because it suggested that the oceans could become acidic instead of alkaline.
“The oceans will never become acid because there is such a huge buffering capacity in the oceans. We simply could never release enough CO2 into the atmosphere to cause the pH to go below 7 [the point in the pH scale at which a solution becomes acidic].
“If they had called it something else, such as ‘lower alkalinity’, it wouldn’t have been as catchy,” he said.
Dr Browman, a marine scientist for 35 years, said he was not saying that ocean acidification posed no threat, but that he believed that “a higher level of academic scepticism” should be applied to the topic.
Hoagy strikes back -- rejecting the above claims
Hoagy is the go-to man about coral at the University of Queensland -- and a fervent Warmist. He has come out of his shell in order to hype up alarm about Australia's Great Barrier Reef. He went quiet for a while when his own research showed the reef to be very resilient but he seems to have recovered from that blow, as he has returned to the fray a few times in recent years.
Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
I was born a short distance from the reef in Far North Queensland so I have heard about it off and on for most of my life. And for most of my 72 years, I have heard of imminent doom facing it. But the doom has not happened. All that has happened is that the reef has gone through periods of death and rebirth that differ from human cycles of death and rebirth mainly in that the coral deaths have never affected the whole reef. And so the reef is still thriving. It is still a major tourist attraction.
Hoagy's reply is below. As you can see it actually does nothing to refute the many research findings about coral survival in all sorts of settings. He just skates around them. Hoagy is losing it.
But maybe he lost it long ago. As I have often pointed out, corals are at their most prolific in the Torres Strait area, Queensland's warmest waters. So how is warming harmful to them? Hoagy has never answered that as far as I can see. The most that warming would do would be a slight alteration to the distribution of species -- and I am sure Hoagy knows that
If you read The Australian or Britain’s The Times this week, you might have concluded that concerns about ocean warming and acidification are all a big beat-up.
Based on a study of the expert literature, the newspapers ran with a line that the marine science expert community has a penchant for “doom and gloom stories which has skewed academic reporting” because we only report the bad bits and rarely the good.
Given that the majority of scientists in this area (including the hundreds working in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process) do not feel this is the case, what is going on?
Newsflash: the dog isn’t barking
Reporting that a dog isn’t barking can sometimes be as important as reporting when it is. However, if we were to follow the newspapers' rationale, the scientific community should be pumping out endless scientific papers that report that nothing has happened. This would lead to numerous and repetitive studies showing that there is no significant effect (if that were indeed the case).
Print space in science journals is in short and coveted supply. To publish in a respected journal, you need to have something new, significant and well supported to say. In the case of the impacts of ocean acidification, it would indeed be newsworthy if a study reported that a set of organisms was unaffected by ocean acidification (to use our analogy, a newsworthy non-barking dog).
Indeed, some studies have shown precisely that, in the case of some invertebrate and fish species. These studies have received considerable attention given their departure from a literature that is finding a vast number of species that are affected.
This is not surprising. But after several studies have convincingly documented how one group of organisms responds, the novelty, significance and appeal of publishing further papers about those organisms quickly falls away. That doesn’t mean that the observations of no effect have been discarded or demoted in importance. The conclusion of “no effect” will remain until credible studies demonstrating the opposite come along. That is, until a study finds a dog that is barking.
Of course, once we have established that dogs bark, there are likely to be many papers to produce about the significant nuances of dogs and their barking such as the effect of size on barking, how important evening light might be for stimulating juvenile dogs to bark and so on. Again, this the way science produces detailed insight into significant issues like ocean warming and acidification.
Paper weight versus significance?
The importance of an idea is not a simple function of the number of papers. We don’t rate an idea or conclusion solely on the weight of the pages on one side versus another. This is where the newspapers and the original study wrongly assumed that the smaller proportion of “no effect” papers on the subject of ocean acidification was an indication of “skewed academic reporting”.
In reality, the massive and growing proportion of studies showing that ocean warming and acidification have real effects on ocean life shows that there is much to learn and be concerned about when it comes to these issues.
If the headlines from The Australian and The Times were correct, then conclusions about risks associated with ocean warming and acidification could be refuted at every turn. Our projections of the future of coral reefs, based on our allegedly distorted scientific literature, could be safely ignored.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Over the past year or so, many marine scientists like myself have been watching a very large blob of ocean water, up to 2℃ warmer than normal, across the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We have been predicting substantial mass coral bleaching across the planet as 2016 unfolds.
At first, you might question our hypothesis and projections – these changes seem to be small changes in sea temperature. Yet we know these small variations can have huge implications. An increase of as little as 1-2℃ on top of regular summer temperatures can mean the difference between life and death for coral reefs.
However, the past, plus a rich and valuable scientific literature, has taught us that these changes are serious. The Great Barrier Reef, for instance, has lost up to 10% of its corals to these warming events over the past three decades. Over the past 25 years, relatively short periods of anomalously high sea temperatures have killed up to 95% of corals on some reefs.
The evidence suggests that we are likely to lose most corals worldwide in as little as 30 to 40 years if we continue to warm the climate at current rates.
The ultimate test is whether the elevated sea surface temperatures (the “warm blob”) translates into impacts on the ground. True to expert predictions, Hawaii and many other parts of the Pacific, including Australia, have begun bleaching on cue – hardly evidence of biased and unreliable science.
And as the year rolls out, we should see mass coral bleaching and mortality across the western Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia and, later, the Northern Hemisphere as the year progresses and the third global bleaching event rolls out around the planet. We should also see the significant loss of corals from many parts of the world.
There is no doubt that this type of information sounds alarming. It is not, however, a consequence of biased or skewed science. Rather, it is a function of the careful build-up of significant ideas to which we would be well advised to pay attention.
Women finally realizing that feminist goals are not for them
WHEN Taryn, 28, imagines her wedding day and married life, it's not just the white-lace dress, rose bouquet and happy tears she pictures. It's packing her husband's lunch, making the bed every morning and even cleaning the bathroom that she dreams about.
Taryn, an account manager and contestant on Channel Nine's The Farmer Wants a Wife, says that she has always wanted to be a stay-at-home spouse. "Although a career is important, it's never been my main priority in life," she explains. "I've preferred to focus on finding the right person, settling down, getting married and having at least two or three kids."
She's not alone. A recent study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly found that while females of Generation Y are more accepting of working mothers, there is an increased desire among them to stay at home, compared to the generation before. Thirty-two per cent of millennials in the US believe men are best suited to be the breadwinners and women the homemakers. This figure is up from 27 per cent in the 1990s.
More and more young women want to settle down and stay at home.
More and more young women want to settle down and stay at home.
In Australia, there is a similar subset of young people with traditional attitudes towards the role of women in the household and workforce. Dr Jennifer Baxter of the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) reports there is a significant portion of 15-29-year-olds who agree with the statement: "It is better for everyone involved if the man earns the money and the woman takes care of the home and the children."
Sophie, 25, and her husband Leon came to an agreement very early on in their relationship that she would stay at home while he worked full time and studied. She is proud to be called a housewife, but admits, "These days, it's a bit of a dirty word. Stay-at-home wives and mothers are very underappreciated." Despite the `stigma', Sophie sees motherhood as "the most important job anyone could have" and is happy raising her one-year-old son, Charles, at home.
Belinda, 25, is also happy for her husband Nigel to be the breadwinner in the family, while she looks after their children, Alexis, five, and Brock, three. "Let's just say he doesn't have much patience and gets bored very quickly," she laughs. "He is happy working and I have always wanted to be home with the kids."
Kirsty, 29, is another millennial grateful to be in a position where she can stay at home with her children, Isla, three, and Axel, one, while they are young. She describes motherhood as her true calling and says, "I've always been a very maternal person, even when I was a little girl."
It's curious that a subset of young women in 2016 - a time when females are so strongly encouraged to get a university education, join the workforce and climb the corporate ladder - would rather be at home than in an office. So why are these Gen-Y women choosing to stay at home and nurture the future generation?
Experts suggest it's a reaction to being raised by Gen-X mothers, the first generation of women who were empowered to have both a family and career. That's the case for Taryn, who says her desire to be a stay-at-home wife and mother is a result of her own childhood. "I grew up with a single mum and it was hard to spend time with her because she worked a lot," she says. "I'd go into after-school care on a regular basis because she was on a single income with four kids." Seeing her mother struggle to work and raise a family cemented Taryn's decision to instead choose the domestic option.
Dr Margaret Henderson, author of Marking Feminist Times, agrees the swing back to traditional gender roles is a reaction to millennial upbringings. "They've seen their parents' marriages break up and [have grown up with] working mothers and [seen] the pressure that puts on the family," she explains. "And so they think staying at home is the easier option."
Kirsty laughs at the idea of staying at home being easier. "I don't ever get to sit down. I'm constantly doing jobs: cleaning, washing, cooking meals."
But while it's not any less difficult, staying at home is increasingly seen as an alternative to the harsh reality of the workplace by some women. Dr Henderson describes a culture of retreatism in young women. "We bring girls up saying that they can do anything with their lives, and then they go to university and get a job and find out the workplace is tough," she says. "The home is becoming this haven from a bad, tough old world."
Sociologist and feminist Eva Cox cites a different reason for their desire to stay at home; she thinks it's a reaction to workplaces failing to accommodate the needs of women who are juggling a career and children. "Changes to workplaces have not really made it easier for women to manage both over the last 20 years," she says. "And I think for a lot of younger ones, they're thinking, `Why should I kill myself trying to do both roles?'"
According to a 2013 AIFS report, many mothers are choosing to avoid that stress, with 57 per cent of couple mothers opting out of a job. Dr Baxter confirms: "Australia's female employment rate is lower than the OECD average through those childbearing years."
While Belinda sees herself going back to work at a later stage, she says the benefits of her staying at home outweigh those of joining the workforce right now. On top of saving money on childcare (fees can be as high as $160 a day in Sydney and $120 in Melbourne), she talks about the joy of watching her children grow up. "I get to raise my kids the way I want, without relying on others to teach them the things I want them to learn," she says.
However, even though most non-employed couple mothers may not want a job, some don't have a choice. The financial demands of having a family can outweigh the desire to stay at home. Sophie recently had to return to work in the childcare industry two days a week to contribute to her family's budget.
Kirsty, too, is planning to go back to work "for the sole reason we need to financially". Despite wanting to have more kids in the future and enjoying her role as a stay-at-home mum, she feels she needs to get a job to help her family get ahead, save for a home deposit and maybe a holiday.
In a society where being called a housewife could be considered an insult, is choosing to stay at home instead of pursuing a career a rejection of feminism?
Sophie says no. Strongly. As a proud feminist and housewife, she sees feminism as having the choice to be whatever you want to be, whether that's a homemaker or a hydrometeorologist.
Cox sees feminism as not having to make a choice at all. "The whole point of feminism is to not be forced into making choices according to one's gender."
We should be able to have both a career and children, or one or the other, or neither. That's everyone's prerogative, after all
Swimsuit model hired as policy adviser to Queensland MP
A PhD student and swimsuit model who has been attacked online as a "taxpayer-funded call girl" has been hired by as a policy adviser researching Sharia law for a Queensland MP.
Tamara Candy, 27, told The Courier Mail that she has been conducting research for the Member for Dawson, Liberal-National MP George Christensen.
The PhD student of politics at the University of Canberra said her work for Mr Christensen focused on all facets of Sharia law and how it could work within the Australian legal system
She said her inquiries have led her to believe that Sharia law could one day be recognised in Australian courts for "things like dowries and Sharia divorces".
"We could see legal recognition of it in the courts one day, things like dowries and Sharia divorces," she said.
"The thing that's worrying me is the issue of genital mutilation. Eighty thousand women in Australia are survivors."
On the topic of the burqa, the model said it was not her style "but I've got nothing against women who wear them".
Personally, Ms Candy said she was regularly called a "bimbo" because of the way she presented herself and said she expected criticism.
But she said she should not be judged and took aim at "progressives" who always failed to defend her against verbal abuse.
"It shows the utter hypocrisy of the left," MS Candy said.
"Where are they when a conservative woman is being attacked?"
Australia's Star Chamber is worse than the 16th century original
Obsessional and tyrannical secrecy. Australia badly needs a 5th amendment
When the 20-year-old man who can be named only by the pseudonym ZZ appeared before the Australian Crime Commission he couldn't even tell his mother where he was going.
He was frightened, tired, suffering from what was later diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from allegedly being tortured by a foreign intelligence agency, and couldn't find a lawyer to represent him.
He could tell nobody that he had been called before the commission, not even his friends or family. To do so would be illegal. He was required, under threat of jail, to answer all the questions put to him truthfully.
"I was there for two hours. It felt like two days," he would later tell a forensic psychiatrist.
While it holds hearings in a way that may look like a court, the crime commission operates more like an intelligence agency; with its day-to-day workings and the identities of those who comes before it kept confidential.
The commission has the power to force people to give evidence against their friends and family in secret. This can later be used to help build criminal investigations.
ZZ is just one of dozens of people being compelled to give evidence against their friends and family in relation to terrorism matters. His case is the latest in a string of people who are often described as "linked to" or "closely connected" to terrorism investigations - although they may have committed no offences themselves - brought before the commission or its state equivalent, the New South Wales Crime Commission.
While terrorism investigations are an important law enforcement function, legal experts have raised concerns about whether these kind of proceedings are really consistent with basic principles of natural justice. And whether they could potentially be doing more harm than good and damaging relationships with communities.
The ACC chief executive officer, Chris Dawson, told Guardian Australia the ACC "adopts measures to accommodate young and vulnerable witnesses. Such proceedings are subject to general administrative law principles in relation to procedural fairness and natural justice."
ZZ was charged and prosecuted with contempt for failing to answer questions before the commission. In 2015 Justice Steven Rares found that while he may have been suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, his failure to answer the commission's questions were contempt.
The contempt case against him is unique. It gives the public a rare glimpse into the work of the commission. Guardian Australia has obtained and published the full transcripts of the ACC hearings that led to ZZ's imprisonment. What follows is an account of the hearing.
The case: ZZ called before the commission as part of special national security investigation
ZZ was called before the ACC in February 2014 as part of a special operation relating to the recruitment and funding of foreign fighters. He was unemployed. He was receiving no employment benefits. He lived with his mother, father and sister. His brother was in prison.
Six days, only three of which were working days, before appearing before the commission, he was served with a summons at his house. When he arrived at the Sydney office, he showed up without legal representation. He said the barrister he contacted was not able to come to represent him on the day.
Standing in the commission before what is known as an "examiner", in this case Geoffrey Sage, the commission's legal officer Kate Deakin and a handful of staff, he was alone.
This would be an opportune moment to describe what the commission looks like, but that isn't possible. The public is not permitted to attend hearings, or even see the inside of the commission.
Those who have seen how it works say that the proceedings can be intimidating.
"You're summoned, you can't have any support persons. You have people sitting around you and you have no idea who they are," said Moustafa Kheir, a solicitor at Birchgrove legal who has considerable experience in crime commission proceedings.
"You have four people sitting by your side. They aren't questioning. They have computers in front of you. They just stare. It's a form of intimidation."
In ZZ's case, the questions begin with a series of outlines about what can happen if he breaches the law by failing to answer a question. They go on to ask whether ZZ has spoken to anyone. Deakin asks whether he told his mother about it. They take his phone and download a copy of its contents. They ask him about his email addresses and social media accounts. They even asked him what his profile picture is.
A lot of the first interrogation is about a sum of money that had been deposited in his account and who gave it to him. It was slightly more than $2,000.
Deakin says, "Mr ZZ listen to me, don't make up stories." And again, "Don't tell me maybe." And again, "Don't interrupt me."
ZZ answered vaguely. He said he didn't know about why some of the amounts appeared in his account. Maybe it was from some people in prison to pay his brother?
Eventually, a photograph was produced, an image from an evening in September 2013. The photograph appeared to show a group of men. One particular man was pointed out, he was dressed in white.
Deakin: "Who's the guy in the white?"
ZZ: "I don't know"
Deakin: "Come on Mr ZZ."
It's a painstaking cross examination and ZZ is alone. Even if he had a lawyer there would be little he could do to object to it and there's no judge in the chamber.
Another photo is produced with ZZ and same man in white in it. ZZ said he wasn't lying before, "I didn't see myself."
A phone call is then played that ZZ says he could not recall and it is put to him that ZZ was talking to the man in white during it. It's about this point of the hearing that the examiner tells ZZ he is considering charging him with contempt and the hearing is adjourned while ZZ is allowed to seek legal advice.
Three days later ZZ travels to the airport and tries to board a flight to Vietnam. He is detained by the Australian federal police and immigration officials and kept from leaving.
He appears before the commission again in February, March and April, each time giving the same answers and now with a lawyer representing him, Phil Butterfield. In a later hearing Butterfield has to give the commission an undertaking that he will destroy his notes relating to ZZ after the examination finishes.
Butterfield presents the commission with a mental health assessment of ZZ from the consultant forensic psychiatrist Richard Furst, who says ZZ appears to be suffering from PTSD. He attributes the diagnosis to ZZ being detained when he was 18 for a month in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, where ZZ alleges he was subject to "severe torture" by a foreign intelligence agency.
It also states that he presented with a high level of anxiety, depression and experiences flashbacks and nightmares from his interrogation. In court the ACC did not dispute his incarceration or his mental condition. Consular officials who saw ZZ during his incarceration said he had told them he was not being mistreated, although his interrogators were also in the room at the time.
"His memory and capacity to recall past events may have been affected, as people often find it hard to concentrate and remember things when stressed, especially in a setting that reminds them of past traumas," the assessment reads. Two other psychologists backed the report.
The ACC put forward evidence from Dr Stephen Allnutt. While he acknowledged that ZZ may have had PTSD, he disputed the opinions of the other doctors that ZZ was suffering from memory impairment.
In April 2015 ZZ was charged with four counts of contempt and brought before the federal court. In a thorough examination, Rares found ultimately that while it was likely he did have PTSD, this had not impaired his memory; he said ZZ had deliberately given statements to the ACC that "were not truthful, and knowingly so".
ZZ was found guilty of contempt and jailed in NSW.
Is it the right approach for terrorism matters?
Before his appearance at the ACC, ZZ hadn't been charged with any offence. His only crime, as far as we can tell, was knowing the wrong people.
While the ACC's initial remit was largely focused on drug and organised crime cases, it now operates far beyond this, and still compels people to give evidence in secret.
Increasingly its powers are being used in active terrorism investigations. Many matters currently before the courts are relying on the unseen probing of the ACC and the NSW Crime Commission in order to help them build cases.
While the responses given by ZZ and others can't be used as direct evidence in criminal proceedings, they can be used to derive further evidence about a case.
Recently, a 16-year-old who has been summoned to appear before the NSW Crime Commission in relation to a terrorism matter sought to challenge the summons on the grounds it didn't afford him procedural fairness. His lawyers argued his vulnerability should have been taken into account.
"He has to deal with the stress and anxiety of this process having been commenced that will see him having to incriminate a sibling," Lawrence said.
Last week an 18 year old woman was charged with failing to answer 31 questions about her husband's involvement in alleged terrorism activities.
In the context of debates over deradicalisation, these questions about the secret commissions are all the more important.
"The Australian Crime Commission regime where they have very draconian powers to force people to give evidence is a great concern. These powers are now obviously being exercised frequently and regularly," said Stephen Blanks, the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.
"There is almost no scrutiny or accountability with how the ACC works. And it is entirely possible that its activities are a significant factor in deterring people in the Australian community from cooperating with law enforcement agencies because of the fear that draconian powers will be used against them."
The ACC takes issue with these concerns. Its chief executive officer, Chris Dawson, told Guardian Australia in a statement: "The Australian Crime Commission is supporting the national effort against terrorism through its foreign fighters taskforce."
"Working under Project Ridgeline, the Australian Crime Commission is increasing the national understanding of the evolving threat posed by foreign fighters, identifying previously unknown threats, and contributing to domestic monitoring and disruption activities."
"Examinations of witnesses are conducted in private with appropriate safeguards for witnesses, including protection against use of their evidence in criminal proceedings and restrictions on publication of the fact witnesses have been examined and what they have said."
And what happened to ZZ? After a month he was released from prison. Although we don't know all the details, the federal court found he had given answers to the ACC after he was jailed that satisfied them.
Little else can be said about him. While some in the community may know of ZZ's fate, they can't talk about it.
Even if ZZ happened to be reading this now, he wouldn't even be able to tell us who he is.