Keeping You in the Loop By Dr. Jennifer Marohasy

FUNDAMENTAL to the scientific method is the assumption that reality exists independently of our belief systems; that there is such a thing as evidence, and that it matters.

In an article in The Weekend Australian newspaper (page 18) written by Graham Lloyd entitled ‘No place in debate for contrarian hijackers’, Misha Ketchell who is the editor of the influential academic publication The Conversation is quoted claiming to care so much about the evidence that the opinions of ‘sceptics’ must be excluded.

But this begs the question: how do we define scepticism, and on what basis do we discount the opinion of a so-called sceptic?

If their opinions are at complete odds with the evidence: then wouldn’t it be more useful to show this? To use them, and their wrong claims, to explain the truth within the theory of human-caused global warming?

It is claimed that sceptics like myself have an undue and powerful political influence, repeatedly successfully thwarting attempts to implement necessary public policy change.

Indeed, if my arguments are so devoid of evidence, this should be easily proven. Except that the skills scores from my rainfall forecasts, when compared with reality, are far superior to anything forecast by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

There has always been a role in science for models and predictions — that can be objectively tested against reality/the evidence —- so the predictions of sceptics could be juxtaposed against predictions from the consensus.

Another way of finding universal truths is through simple observation. If we have catastrophic sea level rise, for example, then this should be evident when we visit the beach, or somewhere like Sydney Harbour. It should be evident in our coastal landscapes. I explained some of this in a recent talk I gave at the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club that the Institute of Public Affairs had filmed and that is now available on YouTube.

Given science is about real world phenomena, it should not be that difficult for Misha Ketchell to test the evidence repeatedly being put forward by particular individuals, like myself, against what comes to pass in the real world — what is observed.

But instead of relying on such simple tests of the truth — in my rainfall forecasts or in a coastal landscape or at a coral reef (as I suggest in the next part of this note) — those in authority, and who edit important journals and websites, have decided that I should be banned.

As Graham Lloyd explains I’m listed, in, of all places, the journal Nature as a dangerous dissident who must be shunned, and denied, because, it is claimed, that I misrepresent the evidence. That so many of us are actively de-platformed is only just now being acknowledged, and I am grateful that it has been explained in The Weekend Australian.

The conspiracy against me dates to at least 2008 when Bryant MacFie gifted $350,000 to the University of Queensland (UQ) in a donation facilitated by the Institute of Public Affairs to pay for environmental research scholarships. After I set all of this up, the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS) intervened and told the Law and Agricultural facilities that if the program was to go ahead it must be without me … because as someone sceptical of global warming I lacked integrity.

I was replaced by Richard Burns, as the team leader. And more recently, in January just this year, after another strategic intervention perhaps involving the Bureau this time, I was removed as team leader from a project with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The University of Queensland program did go ahead without me back in 2008.

I moved to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains is, of course, a great place for bush walking, which is a great way to reconnect with the natural world. It is in nature that we find evidence for the universal truths that exist independently of any and everything Misha Ketchell, and other such Australian opinion leaders, choose to publish — or not.

So, while I have repeatedly tried to escape to nature, it draws me back to science.  Science is a method for transcending the chatter now everywhere in our faux scientific institutions and their junk publications.

I have kept showing that David Jones and Blair Trewin at the Bureau of Meteorology keep changing the temperature record, and more recently that the journal Nature publishes incorrect information from David Wachenfeld, the chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. 

THE EVIDENCE is being misrepresented when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef. 

I was recently in North Queensland surveying and filming coral reefs off Bowen.   Coral reefs in shallow waters adjacent to the Australian mainland are considered particularly susceptible to coral bleaching, and also smothering by sediment from turbid water. This was all lamented the week I was there, including by Sussan Ley, the Federal Environment Minister. Relying on a review of more than 1,000 reports by academics who don’t get out enough, she told the nation that the prognosis for the Great Barrier Reef, and particularly inshore reefs, is very poor.

One of the papers that helped shaped this opinion is by Tara Clark (and colleagues including David Wachenfeld, the Chief Scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority) entitled ‘Historical photographs revisited: A case study for dating and characterising recent loss of coral cover on the inshore Great Barrier Reef’ published by Nature (DOI: 10.1038/srep19285).

The historical photographs were taken circa 1890 and 1915 of corals in the vicinity of Stone Island, off Bowen, and they show healthy corals including species of the branching coral Acropora spp.. The historic photographs have Gloucester Island and Gloucester passage as an iconic backdrop.

Tara Clark, David Wachenfeld, and colleagues concluded in the peer-reviewed paper published in 2016 that:

“Using a combination of anecdotal, ecological and geochemical techniques, the results of this study provide a robust understanding of coral community change for Bramston Reef and Stone Island. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, historical photographs revealed large and abundant living tabular Acropora sp. and massive faviid colonies at Bramston Reef and high cover of both plating and branching Acropora sp. colonies at Stone Island. By contrast in 1994, no living Acropora colonies were found at either location and the majority of the large faviids that featured so prominently at Bramston Reef in c.1890 were dead, covered in algae and/or mud.

And further that:

“In 2012 (eighteen years later), Bramston Reef was still characterized by many large faviid colonies, dead and overgrown by algae and sediment, as well as a large number of small living faviid colonies. Yet there was evidence of some small increase in coral cover, primarily driven by tabular Acropora sp. and other genera. In addition, living faviid colonies that appeared to be of equal size to their predecessors were also found in 2012, albeit scarc. At Stone Island, the reef crest was similar to that observed in 1994 with a substrate almost completely devoid of living corals.”

I visited Stone Island late August, and was surprised to find an abundance of Acropora spp. forming both plate and branching colonies. I saw and photographed large pink plate coral on 25th August — some more than 1 metre in diameter — at the reef edge just 30 metres from where Tara Clark and colleagues ended their transect as published in Nature.

As Graham Lloyd explained in the Weekend Australian a couple of weeks ago:

“Dr Marohasy repeated the transects used in the Clark research which found there had been a serious decline in reef health from historical photographs in the late 19th century to the present.

Dr Marohasy said if the transects used in the Clark analysis had been extended by 30m to the south of Stone Island they would have found a different story.

“I saw and photographed large pink plate coral on August 25 — some more than 1m in diameter — at the reef edge just 30m from where Tara Clark and colleagues ended their transect as published in Nature,” Dr Marohasy said.

Several hundred metres away, across the headland, in the northern-facing bay, was an area of 100 per cent coral cover stretching over 25ha.  [Ends]

This beautiful coral garden — with so many foliose and also branching hard corals — will be featured in a short filming I’m making with underwater photographer Clint Hempsall.  

The film not only includes spectacular underwater cinematography showing so many different species of soft and hard corals all at that one coral reef near the entrance to Bowen Harbour, but it also includes so much drone footage.  With my drone Skido — that I was launching from our little boat skippered by Rob McCulloch — it is possible to get an idea of the extent of a reef.

 The film is entitled ‘Most corals are Beige’.  But you can see from the underwater and aerial cinematography that there were also purple and some green corals at Beige Reef.  The purple coral shown in the feature image beginning this little note is from this reef. 

That purple coral is perhaps Turbinaria mesenterina, photographed with perhaps Acropora pulchra, using my little underwater Olympus camera on 27th August 2019.  To be clear, the photograph was taken at that coral reef fringing the north facing bay off Stone Island where the experts say there is no longer any coral.  By-the-way, the Acorpora pulchra also comes in a form with florescent (glowing) purple tips, as Clint and I show in the film about this coral garden.

Science is a method that relies on evidence.   That there is a beautiful coral garden existing as inshore reefs where the water is especially warm and turbid — not a kilometre from the Australian mainland at the entrance to a harbour — is hard to reconcile with the idea that we have catastrophic human-caused global warming.

Science is never settled. We must therefore always be open-minded, tolerant and ready to be proven wrong.

History will eventually show that it is David Wachenfeld and Misha Ketchell who are wrong.

Graham Lloyd is a rare and brave journalist to report the evidence, to tell some of my story, especially when it does not accord with the dominant narrative.   So, go and buy the Weekend Australian if you haven’t already done so and turn to page 18.  Alternatively, go online and leave a comment here:

If you don’t already have an online subscription, perhaps get organised and get one. 

Thanks for caring.

Dr Jennifer Marohasy
Researcher & Writer

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