Sunday, March 27, 2022

Australia declares 'mass bleaching' at Great Barrier Reef

The usual lies, presumably. Probably because of La Nina, Australia is having a rather cool year so global warming is an unlikely explanation for bleaching.

And is there really any bleaching? Viewed from a distance, corals underwater look grey regardless of their close-up colour. So what these galoots saw from their planes and helicopters may tell us nothing

The last big bleaching event was caused by reduced sea levels so if there is actually any bleaching, sea levels, not warming are likely to blame

Australia's spectacular Great Barrier Reef is suffering "mass bleaching" as corals lose their colour under the stress of warmer seas, authorities said Friday, in a blow widely blamed on climate change.

The world's largest coral reef system, stretching for more than 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) along the northeast coast of Australia, is showing the harmful effects of the heat, said the Reef Authority.

The Great Barrier Reef, home to some 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc, was suffering despite the cooling effect of the La Nina weather phenomenon, which is currently influencing Australia's climate, the authority said.

Though bleached corals are under stress, they can still recover if conditions become more moderate, the Reef Authority said.

The mass bleaching report emerged four days after the United Nations began a monitoring mission to assess whether the World Heritage site is being protected from climate change.

UNESCO's mission is to assess whether the Australian government is doing enough to address threats to the Great Barrier Reef -- including climate change -- before the World Heritage Committee considers listing it as "in danger" in June.

He pressed the government to show the damaged areas to the UN mission now inspecting the reef rather than the picturesque areas that have been untouched.

"Here, corals are being cooked by temperatures up to four degrees above average, which is particularly alarming during a La Nina year when ocean temperatures are cooler."

When the UN previously threatened to downgrade the reef's World Heritage listing in 2015, Australia created a "Reef 2050" plan and poured billions of dollars into protection.

"Unfortunately, as more severe bleaching is reported across our beloved Great Barrier Reef, we can see these devastating events are becoming more common under the continuing high rate of greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

- 'No safe limit' -

An average increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would see more than 99 percent of the world's coral reefs unable to recover from increasingly frequent marine heatwaves, they reported in the journal PLOS Climate.

"The stark reality is that there is no safe limit of global warming for coral reefs," lead author Adele Dixon, a researcher at the University of Leeds' School of Biology, told AFP.

The 2015 Paris Agreement enjoins nearly 200 nations to keep global heating "well below" 2C.


Chinese company exits Cubbie Station as Macquarie takes control of famed cotton property

The Chinese actually rescued Cubbie after it went broke due to drought

China’s multi-billion dollar textile giant Shandong Ruyi has finally exited its once controversial holding in Australia’s largest irrigated cotton property Cubbie Station, selling its 51 per cent interest to funds controlled by Macquarie Group.

The Chinese company had a decade long involvement with the station and in its early years of ownership came under political pressure to sell down its long time 80 per cent stake to 51 per cent.

It hit that mark in 2019 when an agricultural fund managed by Macquarie took over a 49 per cent stake.

The Macquarie-led fund has now bought the remaining 51 per cent stake in Cubbie Station, associated properties and cotton ginnery, bringing the fund’s total ownership to 100 per cent.

The sale comes amid a pullback of China’s ambitions in property and corporate Australia, and at a time that also suits Macquarie’s expansion in Australian agriculture.

The 2012 purchase of Cubbie Station by Shandong Ruyi sparked political discord about rising foreign, and in particular Chinese, investment in Australian farmland. Former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan approved the $232m deal on the condition that the Chinese group “sell down its interest in the Cubbie Group from 80 per cent to 51 per cent to an independent third party (or parties) within three years”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison later extended Ruyi’s deadline by another three years when he was treasurer in 2016.

Cubbie Station is one of the country’s most critical agricultural assets and accounts for about 10 per cent of national cotton output. The 93,000-hectare property near Dirranbandi and St George, on the border of Queensland and NSW, also has valuable licences to store more water than Sydney Harbour.

However, before the Chinese-led purchase Cubbie Group had languished and fell into administration in 2009 with debts of about $300m.

Shandong Ruyi initially took an 80 per cent stake when its acquisition was finally approved in 2012, with Melbourne-based family company Lempriere holding the remaining 20 per cent interest. By 2016, the Chinese owners had absorbed Lempriere stake into their business, and Dubbo businessman Roger Fletcher took the remaining 20 per cent stake.

Colliers head of agribusiness, transaction services Rawdon Briggs confirmed his involvement in Shandong Ruyi’s initial sell down in 2019, but declined to comment on the latest sell-off of the company’s remaining interest.

Macquarie Asset Management, which manages the acquiring fund, is one of the country’s top operators in local agriculture and said it “looks forward to continuing Cubbie Ag’s involvement in and support for local communities”.

The company said the ownership change would “not materially change the day‐to‐day operations of Cubbie”. Veteran manager Paul Brimblecombe will continue as chief executive of Cubbie, and staffing remains unchanged.

The now full owners said there would also be no change to the Voluntary Water Contribution that was announced when the Macquarie fund acquired its initial interest and the area’s environment has since been transformed.

When the 2019 sale was announced the new joint-owners committed to supporting the Northern Murray Darling Basin, with a voluntary contribution of up to 10GL to the Culgoa River and Lower Balonne intersecting streams.

Ruyi and Macquarie said at the time that the 10GL would “increase the volume of water in the river at critical times and help deliver a range of community and environmental outcomes.

Cubbie’s three properties are near Dirranbandi and St George in south west Queensland and span 93,700 hectares, including 22,100 hectares of irrigated cropping.

The last time before the 2019 deal that Cubbie took water from the river system was in April 2017 when it drew 14GL, or about 9 per cent of the 156GL that passed through St George.

After the Ruyi-led consortium bought Cubbie Station in 2012 for $232m it poured more than $26m into maintaining and improving the efficiency of Cubbie’s operations and put more than $25m buying and upgrading the Dirranbandi ginnery, and also funded major low-season maintenance programs.

The Chinese parent group has been under financial pressure.

Last month, creditors of Shandong Ruyi said the Chinese company had defaulted on a loan used to buy Lycra Co. and that they would seek to gain control of the stretchy-fabric maker.

That move was but the latest financial challenge for Ruyi, the company assembled by textile magnate Qiu Yafu, who had promised to challenge the likes of LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE as a global luxury conglomerate.

Macquarie’s purchase is well-timed as cotton price have spiked – doubling since 2019 – and despite challenges by the drought since then Cubbie Station is now receiving heavy water flows after the floods.


Group of Eight universities boost their share of international students

The Group of Eight research-intensive universities have boosted their share of international students during the past year of the Covid pandemic.

New data from the Go8 shows its universities enrolled nearly half (48 per cent) of international students in January this year compared with 41 per cent in January last year. The figures indicate that students are more wedded to what they perceive as the more prestigious degrees at Go8 universities, compared with the generally lower-cost courses at other universities.

The Go8 universities also enrol a higher proportion of Chinese students – who have proved more willing to continue studying during the pandemic – than other universities, either online or at study centres set up in Chinese cities. In January this year the Go8 market share of Chinese students enrolled in higher education courses in Australia rose to 75 per cent, compared with 69 per cent in January last year.

Overall, the number of Chinese students studying in Go8 universities is still lower than a year ago. In January this year the figure was 65,663, compared with 70,760 in January last year.

But even in the Indian market, where students look for lower-fee courses and the research-intensive universities attract a far smaller segment of the market, the Go8 still improved its share of students over the past year. In January this year the Go8 had a 17 per cent slice of the Indian market, compared with 14 per cent in January last year.

Again this was achieved despite a drop in the number of students from India enrolled in Go8 universities. In January this year the figure was 4083, compared with 6130 in January last year.

The Go8 data gives a fuller picture of the latest international student statistics released by the federal Education Department, which shows 201,052 international students were enrolled in higher education in January this year, 23 per cent less than in January last year.

In all education sectors (including vocational, schools and English language tuition), there were 364,643 international students in January, down 21 per cent on January last year.

The worst hit sector is English language tuition where 8,187 international students were enrolled in January this year, 52 per cent less than in January last year.

Because English language tuition relies on students spending a relatively short time in Australia for courses of up to six months, it was quickly devastated by the Covid border closures. This year’s enrolments are 83 per cent less than two years ago


Lies, damned lies, and Covid statistics

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet lied. The New South Wales Health Department lied. The question remains, did other state premiers misrepresent Covid health policies?

No, this is not an assumption, unfounded allegation, or exaggeration.

Several weeks ago, Dominic Perrottet openly admitted to deliberately misleading the public in a bizarre rant that exposed recent health orders in New South Wales as nothing more than superficial (and expensive) measures to make the Department of Education ‘feel better’ about children returning to school.

Perrottet referred to the re-installment of QR testing and the state-wide use of RAT testing in schools as having ‘no utility’ and ‘no science’.

‘The most ironic one I thought was we [NSW government] ended up bringing QR codes back when we weren’t even tracking and tracing. There was no science behind it at all. It had zero utility. But there was a massive campaign and when those campaigns get run what it does is that it depletes confidence. And that kind of reporting, as we have seen over this period of time has been depleting confidence in our people. So we actually brought it back for one reason only – to instil confidence so that people would go out using QR codes.’

Yes, our supposed ‘trust the science’ Covid-Safe society was unable to handle the truth, so the government made businesses stand there and watch people check-in to nowhere for weeks, and police fined them if they refused to partake in the theatre of nonsense.

According to an ABC article at the time, Perrottet’s decision came after a National Cabinet meeting (the contents of which are protected after the Prime Minister passed legislation to deter Freedom of Information requests). Perrottet explained the decision to reintroduce QR check-ins was created as part of a range of measures that would ‘assist with contact tracing’.

What is this if not a lie?

The NSW websites still says, ‘From 18 February 2022, QR check-ins will only be required for nightclubs, strip clubs, sex on premises venues and for music festivals with more than 1,000 people. Hospitals, aged and disability facilities may use their existing systems for recording visitors.’

Is anyone using this information? It seems unlikely, and even if they are, what is the scientific value of tracing a virus with 195,000 active cases?

By far the more disturbing insight offered by Perrottet was the abuse of the state’s children to make the Education sector ‘feel better’.

‘When we announced schools going back, the media would rush to find the scariest epidemiologist who was out there saying “every child across New South Wales would die”. And that was a problem, because we had to instil confidence. So what did we do? Together we agreed we would go and get all these Rapid Antigen Tests – which was a massive fee,’ said the Premier.

Instead of standing his ground and defending the much-lauded ‘science’ of NSW Health – something that citizens were told that they could not question when it was destroying their businesses and holding them hostage in their homes – Perrottet implemented measures to keep the media quiet.

With the state in a financial mess, Perrottet authorised the NSW Department of Health to spend over $57 million on Rapid Antigen Tests for school students to make the Department of Education feel better about hypochondriac parents and teachers.

Dubbed the ‘Covid Smart Plan’ to (unnecessarily) assist the return of children to school, it remains proudly advertised on the government’s website – even after the Premier rubbished it as old-fashioned propaganda.

‘Premier Dominic Perrottet said supporting students to return safely to the classroom is vital after two years of disruption to their education. […] New COVID-smart measures will help make this happen, including surveillance testing both students and staff twice weekly with RATS.’

Compare this to the Premier’s candid comments in late February.

‘I mean, we had to procure – we procured millions of these tests and had the plan together and distributed them before schools started to three thousand schools across our state and five thousand childcare and early childcare education centres.

‘And by doing that together and having that plan – and this is another interesting thing about the pandemic – [the Department of] Health completely disagreed with this approach, by the way, they didn’t see the point of having surveillance testing, but [the Department of] Education wanted it because we need to once again instil confidence in our teachers and instil confidence in our parents.’

This is a lie that continues in print and as policy. Why hasn’t it been retracted with an apology?

When these revelations came to light on social media, the majority of the press allowed the embarrassing truth to sink quietly beneath the headlines, probably because they had invested thousands of pages in justifying and congratulating the exposed health measures – and also because Perrottet name-dropped the press as being part of the problem.

There were no repercussions for this deception – not for the Department of Education, the Department of Health, or the media.

At least Perrottet offered an admission to the fabrication of Covid health orders at this late stage of the pandemic, but what about his peers in National Cabinet?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk ran near-identical RAT programs for school children earlier this year while the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, competed for bragging rights.

They have said nothing.


Good News About "Threatened" marsupial

A recent Epoch Times article details the resurgence of one iconic Australian animal species impacted by the “Black Summer” fires of 2019-2020. The story out of Australia demonstrates, once again, the resilience of animal species confronted with disturbed habitat and is good news for anyone concerned about the impact of large wildfires on vulnerable animals elsewhere.

In the article, “Australia’s Rare Potoroos Bouncing Back After Bushfires,” Epoch Times reports that in December 2021, in the aftermath of large fires across Australia, the rabbit-sized relative of kangaroos called “potoroos” were spotted via camera monitoring systems in 35 of 120 monitored locations. The number of sites has increased since then.

“On March 2022, environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio announced that this has increased to 53 sites across over 300,000 hectares of land,” Epoch Times writes.

The good news for the potoroo has not been widely covered by corporate media outlets. The resurgence of the marsupial serves as an example of nature recovering from bushfires, which at the time were hyped as proof of the impacts of climate change.

Even before the Black Summer fires, alarmists claimed that climate change would decimate the Australian native mammal populations by more frequent or intense fires and associated habitat destruction.

Meteorological data discussed in Climate Realism show there is no meaningful trend of increasing or decreasing rainfall across Australia. In addition, data does not suggest Australian wildfires are becoming more extreme or widespread as the earth modestly warms. To the contrary, data show a declining trend of wildfires since at least the 1970s. NASA satellite data show the amount of acres lost to wildfire annually across the globe decreased by 24 percent since 1998, as described on Climate Realism, here.

As with other fires, new environmental policies, such as limiting the clearing brush, timber, and halting controlled burns may be most responsible for the severity of the 2019-2020 bushfires, following, as they did, multiple years of abundant rainfall and growth. Evidence indicates that many of the Australian fires were lit on purpose by arsonists. Regarding wildfires, the co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson said “[a]bout 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson.”

Invasive grass species and mismanagement of fuel load were also be to blame for the out of control bushfires.

Besides the fact that there is no increasing trend of wildfire extent or severity in Australia, fire is completely natural to the landscape, and even essential to many native species’ survival and health. This is most famously seen in some eucalyptus trees which need fire to germinate their seeds. Eucalyptus are highly flammable, which assists their reproduction.

Rather than climate change induced wildfires, invasive species brought to Australia by humans, like cats and foxes, and habitat loss to development, pose the greatest threat to all small native ground dwelling species. In fact, one of the strategies implemented to aid the potoroo’s continued rebound mentioned by Epoch Times is to set traps and poisons for foxes that are known to kill the marsupial. This active approach to helping the potoroo numbers grow in their original habitat will do far more to promote the species flourishing than limiting fossil fuel use to fight climate change.




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