Sunday, September 01, 2019

Australia downgrades outlook for Great Barrier Reef to 'very poor'

OK.  I guess I should say something about this rubbish, as nobody else is stepping up to the plate so far.  For a start, note that this is prophecy, not a factual report.  They are prophesying that the reef will deteriorate.  Given the erratic influences on the reef (unpredictable cyclones, unpredictable starfish attacks, sea-level oscillations etc), this is simply a stab in the dark. Many things could happen and nobody knows which will.

Secondly this is not a report of any objective measurements. It is "based on a qualitative assessment of the available evidence."  Note: qualitative, not quantitative.  It is in short simply an expression of opinion from people with a vested interest in alarm

And pointing the skinger of forn at global warming is the silliest thing of all.  Where does the reef flourish best?  Where does it display the greatest biodiversity?  In the far tropics.  In the WARMEST parts of the reef waters. Corals LIKE warmth.  Global warming would be GOOD for the reef.  We live among madmen

Australia downgraded the Great Barrier Reef's long-term outlook to "very poor" for the first time on Friday, as the world heritage site struggles with "escalating" climate change.

In its latest five-yearly report on the health of the world's largest coral reef system, the government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority singled out rising sea temperatures as the biggest threat to the giant organism.

"The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition," the government agency said.

"Climate change is escalating and is the most significant threat to the Region's long-term outlook.

"Significant global action to address climate change is critical to slowing deterioration of the Reef's ecosystem and heritage values and supporting recovery," it said.

But the agency added that the threats to the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef were "multiple, cumulative and increasing" and, in addition to warming seas, included agricultural run-off and coral-eating crown of thorns starfish.

The agency said the outlook downgrade from "poor" in 2014 to "very poor" now reflected the greater expanse of coral deterioration across the massive reef, notably following back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by sea temperature spikes in 2016 and 2017.

"The window of opportunity to improve the reef's long-term future is now," it said.

The conservative Australian government has faced criticism from environmentalists for favouring an expansion of its massive coal mining and export industry over action to curb climate change.

The United Nations had asked to receive the latest update on the reef's health by December so that it can determine whether the site can retain its world heritage status when UNESCO next considers the issue in 2020.

The reef is estimated to be worth at least $4 billion (£3.3 bn) a year to the Australian economy - serving as a magnet for tourists and emblem of the country. 


The Great Barrier Reef is not dead ... long live the reef

By Sussan Ley (Sussan Ley is the Australian federal Minister for the Environment)

A fortnight ago I was on the reef, not with climate sceptics but with scientists, the country’s lead reef agencies, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science and accredited master reef guides.

Their advice was clear: the Reef isn’t dead. It has vast areas of vibrant coral and teeming sea life, just as it has areas that have been damaged by coral bleaching, illegal fishing and crown of thorns outbreaks.

To help the reef, its wildlife and the 64,000 jobs it supports, we need to recognise both realities.

There are those who will not be happy unless we declare the reef dead in the name of climate change, just as there are those who want to claim that nothing out of the ordinary is taking place. As a minister who respects the science, who has consulted over many weeks with reef experts from the park authority, the Institute of Marine Science and the innovative Great Barrier Reef Foundation, I do not subscribe to either position.

We have the best managed reef ecosystem in the world. We have a massive job to do in protecting its future and we are getting on with that job.

The Great Barrier Reef covers some 346,000 square kilometres and the tourism experience you will find snorkelling from Cairns and other locations such as  the Whitsundays remains awe-inspiring.  The reef is showing us that it has the capacity to regenerate from impacts such as cyclones, bleaching and crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.

But it also faces enormous challenges if we do not take action. Reducing threats from rising sea temperatures, poor water quality and crown of thorns outbreaks are critical in protecting its future.

I trust the scientists who tell me that climate change is the biggest single threat to the reef, just as I trust those who tell me of the things we can do, and are doing, to make the reef more resilient.

The Morrison government is taking meaningful action to reduce global emissions. The $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package will deliver the 328 million tonnes of abatement needed to meet our 2030 Paris target.

From an environment perspective, my focus is on the things we can do on the reef and in its catchment, from the work with farmers addressing water quality to the protection of marine park areas, the control of crown of thorns starfish, collaboration with local communities and traditional owners, and the investment in new technology to improve coral spawning success and adaptation to warmer environments.

The federal government is investing $1.2billion in the reef, including $443 million through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which will in turn attract significant private-sector investment in innovative reef protection partnerships. Already there are some significant gains in terms of crown of thorns control, partnerships with landholders and increased marine park compliance and surveillance.

The full benefit of many investments and management strategies already under way in the park are still to be realised through our monitoring systems.

We need to continue to accelerate our actions in these areas, as well as invest in steps to reduce plastic and waste in our waterways.

The Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Plan – endorsed by the United Nations World Heritage Committee – is a world-leading strategy for a marine protected area. I hope to see it gain more momentum as we work in partnership with all tiers of government, the private sector, NGOs, traditional owners and the wider community.

The Australian and Queensland governments are investing $2 billion in the future of the reef, working with many partners including independent scientific panels, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the CSIRO.

Our investment in innovation through the foundation has enormous potential to deliver forward-looking conservation projects for the reef, with significant scope for private sector partnerships.

This is anything but a head-in-the-sand approach and it is in stark contrast to those who would rather rush to declare the reef dead than look at the steps we can take – and are taking – to preserve it into the future.


Universities have lost their way as homes for free speech

In 2016, the Collins English Dictionary ranked “snowflake generation” as one of those annoying new phrases for the year. It is time to bury it. It’s a beat-up and, worse, it is an unfair slur on the current generation of students.

That is the good news from a forthcoming research report by the Institute of Public Affairs into the state of free speech on campus. Far from being snowflakes, it turns out kids are not the problem.

But the bad news is that there is, most definitely, a free speech crisis on campus. The results show that universities are failing students, boys in particular, and this institutional dereliction of duty raises questions about the relevance and sustainability of universities in the 21st century.

Instead of speaking to univer­sity administrators and academics, the IPA commissioned a survey from independent market research company Dynata, asking 500 students to agree or disagree with a series of statements about free speech, diversity of views and so on. Importantly, students joined the survey groups without knowing they would be asked about free speech on campus.

The first point to note is that 82 per cent of students said they should be exposed to different views even if they found them challenging or offensive. And free speech is not a political issue. Of those who said they should be exposed to different views, 86 per cent of Greens supporters were concerned and 82 per cent of Labor supporters were worried, as were 82 per of Coalition supporters.

And those noisy anti-free students who try to shut down views they don’t like? They are tiny in number. With only 2.2 per cent of students disagreeing with the statement that they should be exposed to different views, why on earth are university leaders so pusillanimous in dealing with them? After riot police had to be called, it took a nine-month investigation for the University of Sydney to discipline a student organ­iser of the protests that tried to stop Bettina Arndt from speaking at a function last year.

The next set of numbers point to a truly depressing state of free speech crisis on campus. A little more than 41 per cent of students said they sometimes were unable to express their opinions at university. Just under a third of students had been made to feel uncomfortable by a university teacher for expressing their opinion. And 59 per cent of students said they sometimes were prevented from expressing their opinions on con­troversial issues by other students.

This last figure should cause students to rethink their claimed commitment to a diversity of views. You can’t, on the one hand, say you support different views on campus, even if they are challenging and offensive, and on the other hand make students expressing different views feel uncomfortable. A genuine belief in free speech means defending the right of people you disagree with, even vehemently, to speak freely.

The other damning results show that students are going elsewhere to express their views and to learn about different ideas from others. More than 47 per cent of students said they felt more comfortable expressing their views on social media than at university, and 58 per cent of students said they were exposed to new ideas on social media more than they were at university. Almost 45 per cent said that social media played a bigger role in shaping their views than what they learned at university.

This raises serious questions about the diminishing relevance of universities for students who are keen to be exposed to diverse opinions, so keen that they are seeking out other platforms for different ideas.

The learning environment at universities is letting down young male students in particular. The survey results reveal a consistent gender gap between male and female students when it comes to feeling free to express views. Most concerning, 44 per cent of male students (compared with 23 per cent of female students) said they had been made to feel uncomfortable by their university teacher for expressing their views, and 47 per cent of young male students (compared with 38 per cent of young female students) said they sometimes felt unable to express their views at university.

Time to bury another myth, then: the one about boys hogging discussion in the lecture theatre and in the tutorial room. Maybe this sharp gender gap should be no surprise given a recent workshop at the University of Melbourne where organisers wanted white male students, and anyone who looked like a Liberal voter, to remain silent in tutorials. It turns out that the students wrapped in their identity politics on campus didn’t need to make that demand because many boys are self-censoring. It hardly needs pointing out — or maybe it does today — that this kind of self-censorship is not a healthy learning environment for male or female students.

The IPA’s survey also explains why Jordan Peterson is a cultural rock star among young men. The gender gap is pronounced when it comes to those students who feel more comfortable expressing their views on social media (56 per cent of male students compared with 41 per cent of female students), and those who say they are exposed to more new ideas on social media than at university (65 per cent of male students compared with 54 per cent of female students).

Young male students are disproportionately looking elsewhere for a more diverse range of opinions, and for a space where they can express their own views. Again, this should be no surprise given the phenomenal popularity of long-form podcasts and YouTube conversations, by left-liberals such as Dave Rubin to more conservative ones such as Peterson and Ben Shapiro.

The terrific news is that students don’t have short concentration spans when they are listening to views that challenge the orthodoxy. In fact, the next generation of leaders, teachers, lawyers, scientists and engineers want to learn; this survey shows they are hungry for ideas.

What an indictment on the university sector in this country that these students, especially young men on campus, rely on social media, not their own campus, to challenge their views and, ultim­ately, to form their opinions. And don’t imagine these findings are akin to a young conservative man feeling stifled in the audience of the ABC’s Q&A. The gender gap uncovered by this survey is reflected among young male students across all political persuasions. In other words, the lack of free speech on campus transcends politics.

It is also clear that open intellectual inquiry is unhealthy across university faculties, not just in arts and humanities. Among the 500 students, 234 students are studying science and technology, and 40 per cent of them said their teachers sometimes unnecessarily inserted political content into their courses. These areas should be the least political. But again, are we surprised? After all, James Cook University unlawfully sacked esteemed physics professor Peter Ridd for asking questions that challenged the climate change orth­odoxy on campus.

And these findings are only slightly below the percentage of all students, 45 per cent of whom said university teachers sometimes unnecessarily inserted political content into their courses.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Wednesday, federal Education Minister Dan Tehan announced his plan to work with the university sector to collect student feedback on diversity of opinions on campus and whether students felt empowered to voice nonconformist views. “I believe universities want to know if students and staff are afraid to discuss certain topics,” Tehan said. We can test that by watching how university vice-chancellors respond to the IPA’s findings.

Their reaction to the French report into the state of free speech released in April points to disheartening default settings: they told us they were committed to free speech; that any other suggestion would be ludicrous because they were universities after all; then they did nothing to explore what in fact was happening on campus. Worse, they turned their noses up at evidence collected by others. By not mentioning the French report they prayed it would go away and, when pushed to respond, they grabbed one titbit — a line from the report that said there was no free speech “crisis” — so they could quickly resume normal programming even though French made clear there were problems around free speech that universities must confront.

Like a recalcitrant child, some VCs eventually signalled they would consider adopting some version of French’s model code on free speech. Even then, as French noted, adopting a code is no substitute for changing the university’s culture.

For example, following a Senate estimates inquiry late last year, Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence was reported as being “galled” that Liberal senator Amanda Stoker prised from federal education bureaucrats a new-found focus to hold univer­sities accountable for obligations they have under the law to be ­places of free intellectual inquiry.

This latest research by the IPA shows those laws are not working.

Yet, in response to Stoker’s line of questioning, Spence told one newspaper: “Have you ever heard of a more shocking waste of public funds?” Yes. Last year $17.5 billion was provided to universities by taxpayers, many of whom have not been to university. How extraordinary that it needs saying, let alone enforcing, that each university drawing on public funds should be an oasis of free intellectual inquiry, offering a range of diverse and challenging opinions, so that fee-paying students don’t need to go elsewhere to feel comfortable expressing their views.

The days of university vice-chancellors paying lip service to free speech are coming to an abrupt end. As evidence mounts, with more people, including students, contesting the ability of universities to be places of genuine learning, taxpayers should expect university funding to be strictly tied to their ability to foster diversity of opinions. That we need such measures at all, and given the history of intransigence among university VCs, we also need to start planning for the next phase of learning, offering new avenues for higher education and deciding whether universities should be publicly funded at all.


Scott Morrison slams new transgender toilets in Prime Minister's office and orders them REMOVED - calling them 'over the top political correctness'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has slammed a toilet sign encouraging staff to use the bathroom which 'best fits your gender identity'. The sign was installed at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's office in Canberra. 

'PM&C is committed to staff inclusion and diversity. Please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity,' the sign read. 

Mr Morrison has slammed the sign as 'political correctness over the top'. 'Honestly this is why we call it the Canberra bubble, it's ridiculous ... It will be sorted out,' he told 2GB Radio.  

'I don't think this is necessary. I think people can work out which room to use, 'It is political correctness over the top.'

He has spoken to the department officials about the sign and said he expects the note to be taken down. It is unknown when the sign was put up.

The PM&C's website said 'promoting diversity and inclusion is critical' in order 'to achieve our goal of best supporting government and improving outcomes for all Australians'.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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