Wise Hok Wai Lum

Almost no one is aware that the Great Barrier Reef has had two bumper years of record high coral cover. The excellent results of 2022 were repeated in 2023, showing that the grand recovery of the corals, after years of bleaching, was no fluke result.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the world, stretching 2,300 kilometers, and including about 10% of the worlds corals1https://www2.gbrmpa.gov.au/learn/reef-facts. But despite mankind producing one trillion tons of carbon emissions2https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/cumulative-co-emissions?country=~OWID_WRL the coral is healthier than it has ever been in last 37 years of detailed surveys.

Back in 1986 when the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) started doing intensive underwater surveys3https://apps.aims.gov.au/reef-monitoring/reefs, atmospheric CO2 levels were only 347ppm, far below the supposedly deadly levels of 420ppm recorded today4https://gml.noaa.gov/webdata/ccgg/trends/co2/co2_annmean_mlo.txt. Yet despite humans producing more than half of all the emissions we have ever produced, the Great Barrier Reef is in great condition.

The situation is a remarkable turnaround from 2012, when the long term trends looked dire and coral cover was so poor it was less than half the latest numbers.

Graph courtesy of Peter Ridd.

Where is the crisis?
It’s been an amazing recovery, showing just how resilient the reef system is, and how irrelevant carbon dioxide emissions are. Despite rising CO2, rising sea levels, and supposedly warmer oceans, the corals are thriving.

Ocean acidification was marketed as the big threat to coral growth. Yet when multiple cyclones smashed the Great Barrier Reef a decade ago, it recovered to higher highs despite the rising CO2.

Where are the environmentalists and the institutions of science?
The secret “record high” levels also reveals so much more. The environmentalists that say they care about the reef don’t seem the slightest bit excited. They haven’t admitted they were wrong, changed tack, or shifted emphasis. There have been no parties to celebrate the power of nature.

The institutions that are paid to monitor marine parks don’t seem to want to report good news. The latest results were not even described as a record high by AIMS but merely as a “pause in recent coral recovery”, almost as if AIMS doesn’t want people to realize how well

the reef is looking after itself? Perhaps the government funded institutes need a reef crisis more than the reef needs government funded institutes?

As Peter Ridd points out, this shows a grand failure of our institutions of science:

The latest statistics on the amount of coral on the Great Barrier Reef, just released by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, should end 60 years of flawed predictions of its imminent demise.

Last year’s record-breaking result was also embarrassing to the GBR science institutions. They had proclaimed that the reef had just been devastated by four unprecedented hot water bleaching events in 2016, 2017, 2020 and 2022 – but then it had more coral than ever.

The truth is we have been scammed for decades, and the perpetrators have been caught out. Once-trusted science institutions have become untrustworthy. It is time they are subjected to serious scrutiny. Have they become ideological? Are they inclined to groupthink? Are they motivated by the funding imperative, which relies on the reef being perpetually doomed? How do they handle ­dissenters – are they ostracised or welcomed? What are their quality assurance systems that clearly failed? How did they get this so wrong for 60 years?

Peter Ridd, The Australian

AIMS used to announce the combined average coral cover of the whole reef until 2017, but now they split the reef into three subsections and report each number separately. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Peter Ridd no one would know that the results combined for the entire reef were phenomenally good. This is despite AIMS receiving $160 million dollars (AUD) to report exactly this kind of information to the taxpayers of Australia.

AIMS stopped reporting the combined figures of coral cover in 2017, instead splitting the reef into three sections and reporting on those separately.

If the Great Barrier Reef were at record lows, would AIMS and the media be so reluctant to tell the world?

Virtually no media outlets, apart from The Australian, have mentioned the extraordinary new results. It’s no wonder almost no one knows the true state of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Australian Environment Foundation found that a month after last year’s results were announced barely 3% of Australians knew the reef was at record high coral cover. Half of the country thought the coral cover was so bad, it was “below average” or at a “record low”. Ten years after the reef hit rock bottom, 1 in 2 Australians have no idea of the true state of the reef.5Compass Polling surveyed 1,004 Australians online on September 13-14, 2022 six weeks after the news of the “record high”. Question: Compared to the last thirty years, what do you think the state of the coral coverage on the Great Barrier Reef is today? Answers: Record High, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Record Low, Don’t know. A data table is available in the Appendix online.

The numbers of people in the rest of the world would be even lower.

AEF polling shows 97% of Australians don't realize the Great Barrier Reef is in record good health.


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    Compass Polling surveyed 1,004 Australians online on September 13-14, 2022 six weeks after the news of the “record high”. Question: Compared to the last thirty years, what do you think the state of the coral coverage on the Great Barrier Reef is today? Answers: Record High, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Record Low, Don’t know. A data table is available in the Appendix online.


Joanne Nova

Joanne Nova has written over 5,000 articles at joannenova.com.au during the last fifteen years and published nearly one million comments. The site won Best Lifetime Achievement and Best Topical Blog in the global bloggie awards.  She is author of The Skeptics Handbook — translated by volunteers into 15 languages. Some 220,000 copies were printed and distributed in the US congress and Australian Parliament.

Her paper Climate Money was the first to document the unprecedented rise of volunteer auditors  and independent scientists and the massive one-sided way government funding worked to distort science: supporters of the man-made climate catastrophe had been paid 3,500 times as much as skeptics. She was  among the first to spotlight the influential role of banks and financial houses in the climate debate. Banks want to save the world. Who knew?

Nova is a prize winning graduate of Molecular Biology, and has published research in Y chromosome probes. As an associate lecturer at ANU Joanne helped to develop the Graduate Diploma in Science Communication. She has hosted a children’s Television series, published a book on hands-on science experiments, been a keynote speaker on Science, Science Communication, Medical research, Energy and Climate change. She has presented in New York, Sydney, Washington, Munich, London and Oslo. Years ago, she was a member of The Australian Greens, a vegetarian, and spoke as a regular radio presenter on the Australian ABC.

Her blog motto: “A perfectly good civilization is going to waste.”

In September 2023 Nova joined the editorial team of Clintel.