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The Great Barrier Reef and the prophets of doom

By Walter Starck - posted Thursday, 8 May 2008

I would like to make the following points in response to Charlie Veron’s article here in On Line Opinon.

Although Charlie Veron is a highly respected coral taxonomist many of the statements he made regarding climate change are at best doubtful. Like most biologists he appears to have accepted the "consensus" view of catastrophic climate change without being aware of a vast body of peer reviewed non-biological research that casts doubt on or directly refutes all of the major climatic claims he asserts as unqualified facts.

Here are some examples followed by my comments:


"… there have been several major episodes of mass bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef since this began in the late 1980s. Since then the frequency of bleaching events has increased ..."

Living, subfossil and fossil corals all indicate that bleaching associated with high temperatures is a common occurrence in reef corals. There is no evidence to indicate that either the frequency or severity of such events has increased.

"As the greenhouse effect from elevated carbon dioxide has increased, the oceans have absorbed more and more greenhouse heat."

Over the past several years global oceanic temperatures have in fact decreased.

"We are seeing abnormally heated water pulsed onto the Great Barrier Reef during El Niño cycles. When this happens, the ocean is further heated, to levels that corals have not experienced for millions of years."

Abundant uncontested evidence from numerous sediment studies indicates that the oceanic surface temperatures were higher than the present during the Medieval Warm Period about 1,000 years ago. There were even higher ones during the Holocene climate optimum 5,000-9,000 years ago and higher still during the last interglacial period about 125,000 years ago.


"Unfortunately, El Niño cycles appear to be becoming more frequent. This is because the oceans are reaching their upper temperature limit more and more frequently. In a couple of decades, every year will appear to be an El Niño year.”

Five hundred years of historical records and several millennia of sediment records indicate that the recent frequency and intensity of El Niño events is well within past limits and some the strongest events occurred during the cooler period of the Little Ice Age.

"The frequency and severity of bleaching events will continue to increase. That is certain."

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About the Author

Dr Walter Starck has a PhD in marine science including post graduate training and professional experience in fisheries biology. He is the editor and publisher of Golden Dolphin, a quarterly publication on CD focusing on diving, underwater photography and the ocean world.

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Related Links
The plight of the Great Barrier Reef - On Line Opinion

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