Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its corals

The heading above -- from a Warmist outfit -- is most implausible. If it were true,it would have been widely noted by now but it appears to be the first such claim. And the journal article they rely on contradicts it:

"The relative abundances of large colonies remained relatively stable"

And the reference to"greenhouse gases" is also not in the original report.

There has undoubtedly been some loss of coral cover in some places in recent years but the cause is conjectural. Many things affect coral abundance, not the least of wich is heavy weather in the form of cyclones etc.

One of the largest declines happened during a fall in the sea level in the general area. And that exposed corals to unusual dessicatory and other damage

And, finally, even research by doomsayer Hoegh-Guldberg has revealed that bounce-back of damaged coral is very good. So the mere fears in the article below are unpersuasive

Journal abstract included below

A new study of the Great Barrier Reef shows populations of its small, medium and large corals have all declined in the past three decades.

Lead author Dr Andy Dietzel, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoralCoE), says while there are numerous studies over centuries on the changes in the structure of populations of humans—or, in the natural world, trees—there still isn’t the equivalent information on the changes in coral populations.

“We measured changes in colony sizes because population studies are important for understanding demography and the corals’ capacity to breed,” Dr Dietzel said.

He and his co-authors assessed coral communities and their colony size along the length of the Great Barrier Reef between 1995 and 2017. Their results show a depletion of coral populations.

“We found the number of small, medium and large corals on the Great Barrier Reef has declined by more than 50 percent since the 1990s,” said co-author Professor Terry Hughes, also from CoralCoE.

“The decline occurred in both shallow and deeper water, and across virtually all species—but especially in branching and table-shaped corals. These were the worst affected by record-breaking temperatures that triggered mass bleaching in 2016 and 2017,” Prof Hughes said.

The branching and table-shaped corals provide the structures important for reef inhabitants such as fish. The loss of these corals means a loss of habitat, which in turn diminishes fish abundance and the productivity of coral reef fisheries.

Dr Dietzel says one of the major implications of coral size is its effect on survival and breeding.

“A vibrant coral population has millions of small, baby corals, as well as many large ones— the big mamas who produce most of the larvae,” he said.

“Our results show the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to recover—its resilience—is compromised compared to the past, because there are fewer babies, and fewer large breeding adults.”

The authors of the study say better data on the demographic trends of corals is urgently needed.

“If we want to understand how coral populations are changing and whether or not they can recover between disturbances, we need more detailed demographic data: on recruitment, on reproduction and on colony size structure,” Dr Dietzel said.

“We used to think the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its sheer size—but our results show that even the world’s largest and relatively well-protected reef system is increasingly compromised and in decline,” Prof Hughes said.

Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency of reef disturbances such as marine heatwaves. The study records steeper deteriorations of coral colonies in the Northern and Central Great Barrier Reef after the mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. And the southern part of the reef was also exposed to record-breaking temperatures in early 2020.

“There is no time to lose—we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP,” the authors conclude.

Long-term shifts in the colony size structure of coral populations along the Great Barrier Reef

Andreas Dietzel et al.


The age or size structure of a population has a marked influence on its demography and reproductive capacity. While declines in coral cover are well documented, concomitant shifts in the size-frequency distribution of coral colonies are rarely measured at large spatial scales. Here, we document major shifts in the colony size structure of coral populations along the 2300 km length of the Great Barrier Reef relative to historical baselines (1995/1996). Coral colony abundances on reef crests and slopes have declined sharply across all colony size classes and in all coral taxa compared to historical baselines. Declines were particularly pronounced in the northern and central regions of the Great Barrier Reef, following mass coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017. The relative abundances of large colonies remained relatively stable, but this apparent stability masks steep declines in absolute abundance. The potential for recovery of older fecund corals is uncertain given the increasing frequency and intensity of disturbance events. The systematic decline in smaller colonies across regions, habitats and taxa, suggests that a decline in recruitment has further eroded the recovery potential and resilience of coral populations.

Lockdowns are favoured by rich elitists at the expense of the young

Australia has been stress tested by the pandemic and the results are mixed. There is good news. With the diabolical exception of Victoria, our systems of government and public health have proved to be mostly competent and well-organised. In international terms, this turns out to be rare. But there are some harsh lessons.

Before the next crisis, we need to have a frank conversation about managing risk. A disease can be controlled by shutting everything down and placing your citizens under house arrest but it’s hardly ideal. It might be necessary if everyone faced a similar threat but, in this case, they did not. No society can guarantee everyone’s safety so the goal must be the old-fashioned notion of seeking the common good: the greatest good for the greatest number. That should be weighted to the future because, through history, most societies have preferenced their young as a simple matter of survival. In this pandemic, we reversed that. It was a bad decision.

Alas, we have lost the ability to have frank conversations. There are many reasons for this but let’s poke one highly sensitive bear: the most ardent lockdown enthusiasts come from privileged classes who don’t live and work in the front-line suburbs where their daft decrees fall hardest. They work in white-collar jobs and many are in the public sector where their wealth has grown as they worked from home. That is not something cleaners, security guards, cooks or factory workers can do. As ever, the poor suffered most.

The Morrison government has had a, mostly good, pandemic but its real test lies ahead in the transition from financial life support to economic reboot. It succeeded in building a safety net under most of the economy, but the budget is the dividing line between triage and recovery.

A fascinating political battle is now afoot with Big Government conservatives lining up against Bigger Government Labor and money is no object. One wants to pump billions through the arteries of taxpayers and business to reboot the engine of private enterprise, the other sees government itself building a shining new light on the hill.

Scott Morrison starts as favourite. He has proven to be a pragmatic and flexible leader who learns from his mistakes and adapts. This makes him a formidable foe and Labor needs to stop underestimating him. It also needs to ditch the cul-de-sac obsession with identity grievance and return to its roots.

In the looming battle, Labor’s text has already been written: “If the movement can make someone more comfortable, give to some father or mother a greater feeling of security for their children, a feeling that if a depression comes there will be work, that the government is striving its hardest to do its best, then the Labor movement will be completely justified.” The lesson? Be more Ben Chifley and less Ben Affleck.

The pandemic has starkly revealed the structural weakness of the Commonwealth in the federation. It pays the big bills, but it has been frozen out of some of the big decisions. The Commonwealth’s preference was always for a short hibernation to fortify the health system, suppress but not eliminate the virus, and return to something like normal as swiftly as possible. It wanted schools and borders to say open. It lost most of those fights. Nothing spoke more eloquently of the Commonwealth’s impotence than the Prime Minister calling a radio show in a failed bid to get the Queensland government to let a young woman out of quarantine to attend her father’s funeral.

National cabinet has yielded mixed results. It was a good co-ordinating system early on when there seemed to be a shared goal. But, when pressed, some premiers proved they have little regard for the idea of Australia. This is deeply disturbing. It is simply ludicrous that the borders in the European Union are open when Australia’s internal borders are shut.

If a state premier's success is measured by a low disease count and high approval ratings, then most did well. But to protect their virtue they have strapped an elimination chastity belt on their jurisdictions. That demands extremely limited international intercourse, the potential to swing state lines open and shut and eternal border vigilance.

And we need to talk about experts. Wise governments seek the best advice, but it should be drawn widely. Even the health experts’ views on how to manage this disease are divided and when the proposed solution is shutting society down then many voices must be heard. In the end, it is the politician’s job to decide and wear the consequences because it is both undemocratic and the height of gutlessness for a leader to say she/he has outsourced responsibility to a bureaucrat.

An arts/humanities degree has long been the butt of predictable joke but there's another side

Of course I have an arts degree. How could you tell?

I've always said that an honours degree in art history is the most useful preparation you can ever get for the kind of daily journalism and broadcasting I do: it's not until you truly understand the imagery and meaning of a Renaissance painting of a crucifixion that you will ever make sense of a federal leadership spill.

The blood; the sorrow. The weeping and rending of garments. And that's just on the Coalition side.

Yesterday the Federal Government revealed that the humble arts degree was now going to be nailed to the cross, with fees set to soar for humanities subjects from 2021.

An arts degree has long been the butt of many a predictable joke, but the other week a senior employment recruiter shared with me on air what organisations were telling her they wanted to see in new employees, and there was a familiar echo in what she had to say.

As AI replaces more and more of the jobs we once assumed our children could grow up to do, this recruiter's research with leaders across several industry sectors identified the most important character traits needed in a post-COVID-19 workforce. They include adaptability, emotional control and resilience, persuasion and negotiation skills, relationship building and “skin or soul in the game”.

Let's say your infrastructure firm needs to persuade the Queensland Government of your construction agenda. You had better check the above list. Or say you're an economist advising the loans division of a bank or the manager of a medium-sized business dealing with suppliers. Imagine you are a primary producer scouring for a new export market: check the list.

That list above describes my four-and-a-bit years at uni, travelling in and around art history, English, Russian literature and Australian history. It describes the self-reliance, organisational skills, critical and comparative thinking and sheer enthusiasm for new and challenging ideas that those years fostered in me and my peers.

Despite the Federal Government's announcement yesterday, they clearly get this too: indeed the Education Minister, Dan Tehan, was the one who funded and opened a new centre at RMIT in Melbourne last year to investigate the ethical use of emerging AI technologies. Humanities, eh?

Is 'job-ready' the goal?

I'm not going to bang on here about how our shared and contrasting human histories and experiences, and our emotional connections to and understanding of the world, are almost entirely contained within the study of the humanities — after thousands of years of human civilisation that much is clear.

One Vice Chancellor — with double degrees spanning the sciences and creative arts — remarked to me that viewing university education as fundamentally about turning out "job-ready" graduates misses the point.

The question now is what the consequences of this de-funding will be?

The late essayist and quicksilver intellectual Christopher Hitchens once argued that "above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment … and this Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person".

For many, the universality of the humanities degree is the most democratic expression of this ambition.

Spending on childcare is already very high

Josh Frydenberg has confirmed the Morrison government, fresh from bringing forward some tax cuts slated for 2022, still plans to lift the top marginal tax rate of 47 per cent to $200,000 in 2024.

That may not happen if Labor gets to implement its universal childcare policy, born of the absurd idea that the federal budget handed down last week was anti-women.

The government already spends more on childcare as a share of GDP than socially democratic Germany, The Netherlands and Austria, and about the OECD average.

Federal spending on childcare, supercharged by the Coalition’s 2017 reforms, is on track to rise 30 per cent from last financial year to $10.3bn by 2024, according to the budget.

That’s not enough for Labor which, we learned in Anthony Albanese’s budget reply speech, wants to increase the subsidy per dollar families spend on childcare from 85c to 90c.

Reflecting its base among high-earning public sector workers, where two incomes easily lift household income above $189,000 a year, Labor would scrap the cap of $10,500 per child a year that applies at that level of household income. Households earning below $530,000 a year — basically all of them — would receive a subsidy.

The government screamed “upper-class welfare” but it was crossbench senators David Leyonhjelm and Derryn Hinch who imposed a modicum of discipline on the Coalition’s own childcare reforms in 2017, capping support at household income of $350,000.

We are well past the optimal quantum of childcare funding, which increasingly forces the childless to subsidise the career ambitions of well-off parents who would have had children anyway.

It’s understandable high-income earners advocate universal childcare, making all sorts of fabulous arguments about how it’s good for the economy and GDP. While formal childcare can pay developmental dividends for children in single-parent or lower socio-economic households, for children in other households it’s glorified childminding.

Of course putting children in childcare adds to GDP: parents caring for their own children don’t count in the formal economy. Fees to childcare centres do, as do wages earned in a job. But this says nothing about prosperity.

Advocates overlook the cost of raising the funding: the distortion of higher taxation and the goods and services those taxpayers would have bought instead.

But it’s worse than that. Excessive childcare subsidies create childcare jobs that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. They can lure parents into work that — even with the taxpayer subsidy — pays little more than childcare workers earn, implying it would be better if they swapped jobs and left the poor taxpayer alone.

And, naturally, childcare centre owners cream off as much of the public subsidy as they can, knowing government will pick up the bulk of the fees charged.

Childcare funding is really about ideology, not economics or fertility. It’s about socialising child-rearing and “empowering” women.

Labor is opposed to the third stage of tax cuts, for instance, which would return years of bracket creep for those earning above $180,000, yet it is happy to give the same households sizeable handouts for childcare.

The great increase in female workforce participation — and collapse in fertility — occurred in the 1970s, long before significant childcare subsidies emerged.

Scandinavian nations spend double what we do and have similar female workforce participation and fertility rates. Even if childcare did boost fertility, with almost eight billion people on Earth (up from 4.4 billion in 1980) the case for subsidising people to have more isn’t obvious.

Economics has long considered work a disutility, something you avoid if you are fortunate enough to be able to. Childcare advocates see having women in paid work as desirable in and of itself, independently of what women themselves want.

If families want to use childcare that’s fine, of course, but why should others — including families that choose to look after their children — pay for it?

Government could make childcare more affordable by paring back the so-called National Quality Framework, which micro­manages supply.

If parents don’t care whether staff have Certificate III, let them pick a cheaper centre that doesn’t care either.

If there’s to be a bias in the system it should be towards parents caring for their own children, the most efficient transaction of all, even if it’s ignored by GDP — one sustained by love, not money.

Taxpayers already fund primary and high school education, and a multitude of other payments and benefits in kind. Can we draw the line somewhere, please?

In economic terms, children once had the characteristics of an investment from the perspective of the parents: more hands to work on the farm, daughters to sell off for dowries, and for some help in old age, and so on. But today they are more akin to consumption.

“A very young child is highly labour-intensive in terms of cost, and the rewards are wholly psychic in terms of utility,” Nobel prize-winning American economist Theodore Schultz noted.

“From the point of view of the sacrifices that are made in bearing and rearing (children), parents in rich countries acquire mainly future personal satisfactions from them.”




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