Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Great Barrier Reef: Same old same old scares

Every couple of years we get the whines we read below:  The reef is being destroyed by global warming and farming.  But the reef is still there.  The prophecies of doom don't eventuate.

One should in fact gravely doubt the findings below.  Peter Ridd has shown that the JCU people routinely exaggerate reef damage.  There are always bare spots on the reef and these are attributed to global warming. 

But that is not so. It is the Crown of Thorns starfish that is responsible for most reef damage.  But from an aircraft you can't see starfish so the damage is all put down to global warming.  What you read below is therefore a travesty of science.  No effort was made to exclude competing explanations -- which is utterly basic in science.  They are propagandists, not scientists.

In another sad blow for the Australian environment, it has now been confirmed that once again climate change has taken its toll on one of its greatest natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, home to some 600 species of coral.

But a recent aerial study has confirmed scientists' worst fears, concluding that the reef is experiencing its third large-scale bleaching event in five years.

Coral bleaching is the direct result of warming sea temperatures, which causes corals to become stressed. In this situation, coral expels the symbiotic algae which lives within its tissues, which is responsible for its bright colour.

Usually bright and colourful jewels among the reef, bleaching leaves a stripped-bare skeleton of the coral behind.

Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, led a team of researchers to assess the extent of coral bleaching across the reef.

Professor Hughes said: “We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March, to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Barrier Reef region.

“For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors."

Aerial surveys concluded that while some areas of the reef have remained unscathed, large swathes in other regions have been severely bleached, casting ominous doubt over the reef's future.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has described the phenomenon as a “matter of huge concern”.

So in order to preserve and protect the Great Barrier Reef for years to come, what is the solution?

How can the Great Barrier Reef recover?

Dr Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program, said while people “continue to spew carbon dioxide” the current phenomenon will become a much more common occurrence.

He said: “This is the third widespread, severe coral bleaching in less than five years.

“As long as we continue to spew carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, corals will continue to bleach and die.

“Local efforts to reduce pollution on the reef and to restore reefs piecemeal help keep corals alive.

“If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs around the world, we have to move off fossil fuels as quickly as possible.”

According to Dr Richard K.F. Unsworth, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Swansea University, farming practices needs a significant overhaul in order for the reef to survive.

He said: “Although climate change is the primary cause of bleaching, the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching events is improved when the water quality is high.

“This means low levels of nutrients, sediments and contaminants such as herbicides.

“The water quality in many areas of the inshore Great Barrier reef remains poor principally because of poor farming practices, reducing the capacity of the reef to recover after bleaching.”

Dr Unsworth added: “For the reef to have any chance of survival in the long-term, the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef region needs to improve through better farming practices, and global carbon dioxide emissions need to reduce rapidly.

Phil North at Dive Worldwide said some divers fear it “is not what it once was”, but all is not lost for the reef yet.

He added: “This having been said, the reef is vast. It is the largest living structure on earth that can be viewed from space.

“Not all of it is destroyed and there are some parts that are still quite beautiful.”

While the current bleaching event is undoubtedly a setback for the reef, Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the reef is a “resilient ecosystem” which can still recover.

She added: “We know that on mildly or moderately bleached reefs, there is a good chance most bleached corals will recover and survive.

“It’s heartening to hear that some of the key tourism reefs in the north and central areas are amongst those likely to bounce back from lesser levels of bleaching.”


Hooray!  His Eminence has been cleared

Cleared unanimously by seven judges! I said from the beginning that his conviction was a travesty.  It was only hatred of his church that kept him in jail

Cardinal George Pell will walk free from jail today after the High Court quashed his conviction for sexually abusing two choirboys. 

Australia's most senior Catholic was convicted in 2018 of performing sex acts on the boys in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

The decision overturns an earlier ruling by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Anne Ferguson, president of the Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell, and Justice Mark Weinberg.

It had taken them nine weeks to come to their decision. It took the High Court a little under four to reverse it.

Cardinal Pell was not in the court room in Brisbane for the hearing and will be told the news over the phone by his lawyer.

The court ruled that the trial's jury 'ought to have entertained a doubt' that Cardinal Pell may not have been guilty.

Much of Cardinal Pell's case centred on whether he had an opportunity to commit the offences at all.

Cardinal Pell's barristers had long argued it was not possible for him to be alone in the sacristies only a few minutes after the end of Mass.

Numerous witnesses took to the witness box at his trial to back the notion the crimes could not have been committed. 

In a summary of the decision handed down by the High Court on Tuesday, it stated the Supreme Court judges' analysis at his original appeal 'failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt'.

Cardinal Pell's successful appeal is likely to bring an end to the ongoing saga, which has dragged on for years across four court jurisdictions.

A vindicated Cardinal Pell issued a statement to the media shortly after the ruling was made. 'I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,' he said. 'This has been remedied today with the High Court’s unanimous decision. I look forward to reading the Judgment and reasons for the decision in detail.'

Cardinal Pell said he held no ill will to his accuser. 'I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,' he said.

'However, my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. 'The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.'

Victoria Police issued a statement on Tuesday declaring it respected the decision of the High Court and praised the the 'tireless work' on the case by its Taskforce Sano, which brought the case against Cardinal Pell.

The jury in the original trial found Cardinal Pell guilty of sexually abusing two boys in the priests' sacristy at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral after presiding over one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop in the 1990s.

The jury further accepted he abused one of the boys a second time in a corridor at the rear of the cathedral after another Sunday mass.

Cardinal Pell was jailed in March last year for six years with a non-parole period of three years and eight months.

Since then, he has been caged predominantly at Melbourne Assessment Prison in the heart of the city, but was recently moved to Barwon Prison, which houses some of the nation's vilest criminals.

There he has spent his days locked in isolation away from the jail population which no doubt would have treated him as a prize scalp.


Coronavirus: If there were ever a time for a liberal approach, it is now

It is two weeks since Jacinda Ardern closed New Zealand for non-essential business, claiming that a hard, early lockdown was the surest way to defeat the coronavirus. On Friday the country’s Chief Medical Officer signed an order that classed sexual intimacy as non-essential. Gardening or home decorating is out, since hardware stores and garden centres are closed to the public, if not yet to tradesmen. Home delivery of takeaway food has been stopped.

“The lockdown is the best way to stop the virus and it is also the best thing for our economy by making the pain as short as possible,” the NZ Prime Minister declared on Sunday.

NZ and Australia have adopted radically different strategies to beat COVID-19. Ardern’s sledgehammer is the tool many have been urging Scott Morrison to adopt. The Australian Prime Minister has resisted, preferring social-distancing laws that mini­mise restrictions on economic activity.

“Now, if you ask me who is an essential worker?” he told a press conference the day before the NZ lockdown came into force. “Someone who has a job. Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. And that means they will need to continue to be able to send their children to school.”

It may be some time before Morrison’s critics will acknowledge that he has handled the COVID-19 pandemic somewhat better than they predicted. A little over a fortnight ago, University of NSW dean of medicine Vlado Perkovic predicted the number of confirmed Australian cases could reach 8000 within two weeks and 32,000 in three. On Saturday the number of confirmed cases was 5548 and the rate of increase slowing. It is three months since Australia’s first known carrier landed in Sydney, 17 days before the first confirmed arrival of the virus in Italy. Yet the death rate from COVID-19 in Australia stands at just 1.2 per million people while in Italy it is 256.

The different paths chosen by Ardern and Morrison reflect their philosophies. Arden puts her faith in the paternalistic state. The grown-ups command and the economy obeys.

Morrison, on the other hand, has chosen the liberal approach with its inclination to make incremental steps towards a goal rather than heroic leaps into the unknown. If there were ever a time for the liberal approach, it is now. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a wicked policy challenge riddled with variables, imperfect information and no determinable end point.

The tension between public health goals and economic objectives cries out for a compromise, yet the two are inseparable. Social distancing and isolation put the brakes on the economy. Taking the restrictions away could swamp our health service.

The idea that we can bring business activity to an abrupt halt and wait for the virus to clear ignores the knock-on effects and the increasingly complex web of interdependency between businesses. It ignores the risk that businesses won’t restart.

Allowing normal economic free movement, on the other hand, means the virus also will run free, putting the elderly and sick at risk. Lifting the current restrictions, too, would send the wrong signal to the country, which is largely obeying the guidelines.

The Prime Minister began to navigate the gentle curve from pessimism to optimism on Friday when he hinted that the health modelling showed signs of the curve flattening to a level the country can manage until a medical solution arrives. The government is tilting towards a more targeted response to the virus, supplementing the social-distancing rules with extra measures to protect the elderly and the sick.

By saving someone in their 80s from contracting the virus, you are probably 20 times more likely to save a life than if you keep a backpacker on Bondi Beach virus-free. One way or another, commercial activity has to resume to as close to normal as possible. Independent modelling not yet finalised shows an economic loss of more than $500bn and a 1.2 million rise in unemployment if the current measures stay in place for six to nine months.

It is also showing that the effects of an NZ lockdown would be considerably worse, creating more economic damage in the short term from which it would take longer to recover.

Prolonged community isolation is to be avoided for reasons other than economic. Higher rates of domestic violence, mental health issues and suicide are some of the consequences we can expect. Panic and uncertainty put their own constraints on economic activity, lowering business and consumer confidence and delaying non-essential spending.

When asked by Roy Morgan pollsters last week if things would get worse before they got better, 85 per cent said yes.

On the current trend, they are almost certainly wrong, as least when it comes to the virus. The economy, however, is another thing altogether.


Coronavirus: Experts slam calls for lockdown to be reversed in Australia, but loosening some restrictions may be possible

An Australian think tank has been slammed after calling for an end to Australia’s lockdown but experts believe it’s time to relax restrictions.

A video from the Institute of Public Affairs calling for an end to lockdowns is being mocked on social media but there is a growing call for Australia to reconsider its current restrictions.

In the footage, posted to the conservative think tank’s social media accounts, policy director Gideon Rozner calls for the “sensible” reopening of churches, restaurants, cafes, bars and community sport.

“Our response to the coronavirus outbreak has decimated our society, ruined thousands of lives, turned Australia into a police state and, worst of all, put hundreds of thousands of Australians out of work,” Rozner says.

He says it is time for state and federal governments to come up with a plan on how to win the lockdown and let people rebuild their lives.

“Do it safely with appropriate social distancing measures in place, but do it now, not in six months, not in one month. Now, because Australians were not meant to live like this, and we cannot allow this to go on any longer,” he says. “Enough is enough. It is time to begin to end this lockdown now.”

Many have condemned the footage from the free-market group, saying it would endanger people’s lives.

“Are you are satirical performer of some kind? Or just a complete imbecile? Shut up, and stop endangering lives, you clown. In a suit,” actor Sam Neill tweeted.

Sydney law professor Tim Stephens said Twitter should remove the post as it jeopardised public health.

The IPA is not the only group sceptical about whether Australia’s restrictions should be relaxed. In an opinion piece on the weekend, The Australian’s commercial editor Steve Waterson also questioned the “ridiculous restraints” being implemented by “hysterical” governments.

Australian National University infectious diseases physician Peter Collignon also believes the restrictions in NSW and Victoria have gone too far. “Not letting people go outside and sit on a park bench, for instance; how will that stop transmission?” he told the ABC this morning.

However, Prof Collignon doesn’t think Australia should reopen pubs, clubs, bars or dine-in restaurants until September or October at least.

You only need to look at what’s happening in Italy or New York to understand why. Italy, which has a population more than double Australia’s, saw its health system overwhelmed after the virus spread through its community. It has recorded about 124,000 cases so far and 15,000 deaths. Hundreds of people are still dying every day even after a months-long lockdown.

In comparison, Australia has recorded about 5700 cases and 40 deaths, with the number of new cases declining.

In New York State, home to about 20 million people — less than Australia’s population of 25 million — there have been nearly 4200 deaths.

“If we just open the doors and went back to normal it would be an ugly zone,” University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely told “We would be in Italy’s zone and New York’s zone where their health resources are overstretched. It’s a dumb idea.”

Letting the coronavirus spread among the community is dangerous because there is no immunity within the population so more people are likely to get sick. This drives up the death rate because hospitals become overwhelmed with patients and there are not enough ventilators or intensive care unit beds.

“I can’t see us opening pubs and cafes again until we get a vaccine (in about 18 months),” Prof Blakely said. “I can’t quite see that working but I could be wrong.”

However, Prof Blakely said he wasn’t surprised by the IPA’s push for an end to the lockdown. “These are extraordinary times and the government has been taking action without parliamentary oversight because they needed to move fast,” he said.

He said public health officials, the public and government should be congratulated for the response and the speed at which it has brought down new cases, but the new question was “now what?”.

Prof Blakely believes it is time to think about Australia’s response to the coronavirus now that new infections seemed to be under control.

He said those who were advocating for a return to normal as soon as possible deserved to be heard as the economic and health implications of a drawn-out lockdown would be severe.

Prof Blakely believes there are three options Australia could consider but none of them were easy.

First, it could still try to achieve a full elimination of the virus but this would involve even stricter lockdown restrictions being enforced for between six weeks to three months, and Prof Blakely is sceptical it could be achieved.

The second option is to “squash the curve”, which means the community lives with social distancing restrictions, similar to what we have now, until a vaccine is developed, which could be 18 months or longer away.

Prof Blakely believes the quickest way for Australians to get back to their old way of living was to adopt option three: flatten the curve to herd immunity.

This option would still take about six months to achieve, depending on how risky governments were prepared to be. It would involve allowing people to slowly get infected until about 60 per cent of the population had coronavirus, at which point there would be “herd immunity” and it would be much harder for the virus to spread.

This option would see more people die but Prof Blakely said if certain measures were taken to protect the vulnerable, the number of deaths could be brought down to about 30,000, which is only 50 per cent greater than the number of tobacco-related deaths each year.

Prof Blakely believes it is time for a public discussion on the path Australia should take and this should involve not just politicians but also epidemiologists, economists, philosophers and ethicists.

Modelling the Federal Government is using to inform its decision making is due to be released tomorrow. Prof Blakely said this would be critical in understanding the implications of the different options and what would happen if certain restrictions were eased.


 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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