A Response to ABC’s Media Watch’s “Shoot the Coral Messenger” Flimflam!

Guest essay by Jim Steele

Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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Great Barrier Reef With Exposed Coral at Low Tide

Being a Yankee I just recently became aware of the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Media Watch (MW) and The Australian when I first attracted Hoegh-Guldberg and later MW’s wrath by posting my essay, The Coral Bleaching Debate: Is Bleaching the Legacy of a Marvelous Adaptation Mechanism or A Prelude to Extirpation?, to the blogosphere. The essay got widespread attention after being re-posted on Dr. Judith Curry and Watts Up With That’s websites. I garnered additional attention when The Australian’s Graham Lloyd posted a few excerpts from the essay as an alternative viewpoint. Oddly the subsequent discussions about coral resilience did not focus on coral biology and the emerging science my essay detailed, but instead Hoegh-Guldberg and MW chose to focus on “Jim Steele” the author. So let me first share my background.

I am a retired ecologist whose research on birds in California’s Sierra Nevada prompted the restoration of a watershed, which I proudly watched revive the vegetation and wildlife. My interests have always been broad, and as past Director of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, I developed a well-attended public environmental education program spanning various disciplines in biology, geology, astronomy and hydrology.

To advocate wise environmental stewardship and to better promote a more resilient environment, I have perused thousands of journal papers examining, analyzing and synthesizing the causes of ecological disruption and recovery, in particular the effect of landscape changes and regional climate change. The complex array of problems facing coral over the past million years had long captured my attention as I suspect it does for all ecologists. As with terrestrial systems, coral can be severely afflicted by local landscape changes and the effects of natural ocean oscillations. In contrast as recent research has shown, many reefs unaffected by human inhabitants now look the same as they did 1000 years ago. And that suggests most reef degradation is due to local factors.

I confess to having the bias of a terrestrial ecologist. I see hurricanes destroy large swaths of forest as well as large expanses of reefs. I see similar disruptions from ocean oscillations when dry La Nina conditions promote great swaths of destructive forest fires and El Nino events that cause wide spread coral bleaching. Despite specific differences, I see both ecosystems undergo similar recovery trajectories, often with a predictable succession of organisms. Large swaths of forest can lose 90% of their vegetation yet new vegetation soon appears as seeds long stored in the soil quickly germinate in the open landscape. Pine cones awaiting a fire, now spread their scales to drop their seeds. And buds that were safely sequestered deep within woody tissues quickly sprout. From an ecologists perspective it was no surprise to learn coral researchers are finding “cryptic polyps”, that like buried seeds, or sequestered buds, can quickly re-sheet a bleached coral colony.

Nor should it be surprising to learn bleached reefs due to tropical storms or El Niño’s would experience a succession of different organisms as they recovered. Bleached skeletons are typically first covered by “seaweeds”. Then as seaweed-eating fish multiply and prune back these fleshy algae, light-craving coral begin to slowly return to dominance. Some coral are fast growing like weedy species that first invade a burnt forest, while other coral are slow growing like forest species that inhabit a more stable environment. What was surprising to learn was severely bleached coral reefs can return to pre-bleaching status in less than 2 decades. This is a very rapid recovery compared to forests in the dry American west that often require a century or more to recover. However terrestrial ecologists would not claim that after a devastating forest fire, the trees are on the road to extinction. So claims that more resilient coral will soon go extinct from El Nino bleaching events appear a tad overly dramatic.

Furthermore knowing the Great Barrier Reef was left high and dry just 15,000 years ago when the Ice Age dropped sea level by 400 feet, and then returned to its present glory when sea level rose, made coral resilience a captivating nature story. In addition coral survived the Ice Age’s intense cold and then thrived in warmer waters 2 C warmer than today just 6000 years ago and 1 degree warmer just a thousand years ago. Such resilience to an ever-changing climate suggested scleractinian coral had evolved exquisite mechanisms of adaptation. And it soon became clear the secret to coral success was their symbiotic partners. As I researched the peer-reviewed literature, I became increasingly aware of the emerging science that coral can expel their symbionts which had once allowed them to thrive in a narrow set of conditions (resulting in bleaching) and then acquire new symbionts with different genes that allow them to thrive in a new set of conditions. By this symbiont shifting and shuffling, an increasing number of coral experts have suggested coral could rapidly adapt to climate change.

But such resilience is at odds with Australian coral researcher Hoegh-Guldberg who has made alarming claims that 95% of the world’s coral reefs would be gone by 2050. Coral resilience and adaptive bleaching, due to symbiont shifting, challenges Hoegh-Guldberg’s doom and gloom scenarios of slow adaptation. This debate over adaptive bleaching has been ongoing in the scientific literature since 1993 and has been somewhat divisive. So that this ongoing debate is hardly a contrivance of The Australian’s Graham Lloyd, as MW falsely tried to suggest.

Furthermore that debate had rarely, if ever, been brought to the public’s attention until I posted my essay The Coral Bleaching Debate: Is Bleaching the Legacy of a Marvelous Adaptation Mechanism or A Prelude to Extirpation?. After Graham Lloyd quoted a few excerpts in an article for The Australian, Great barrier battleground over coral bleaching, Hoegh-Guldberg and MW launched a campaign to characterize me as a fringe scientist and then attack Lloyd as “muddying the waters” with fringe science. But closer examinations reveal it was Hoegh-Guldberg and MW who were slinging the mud.

Hoegh-Guldberg has long attacked the adaptive bleaching hypothesis in the scientific literature. But he now had a new problem. How to discredit this emerging science of coral resilience without attracting too much attention within a more public arena. My essay contained too many facts and evidence about coral resilience that the public might embrace. So to defend his more alarmist stance, Hoegh-Guldberg engaged in a flimflam that worked like this:

Seek the public’s trust by emphasizing he is the coral expert and suggest Jim Steele is just a fringe scientist. Never discuss or debate any contrary scientific evidence as that only gives credence to alternative explanations. Then quietly step outside the arena of honest scientific discussion, and unscientifically attack the “arguers instead of the arguments”. Finally discredit any journalist who brings public attention to this debate by accusing them of only advocating “fringe science”. As discussed before attacking the arguer was one of Carl Sagan’s key science baloney alerts, and every critical thinker should dismiss such tactics. But discrediting the arguer and avoiding the arguments has always been the preferred and a successful tactic of dirty politics. So Hoegh-Guldberg and MW eschewed mainstream science ethics and chose a more expedient political tactic.

Hoegh-Guldberg initially executed his flimflam on a blog and never once discussed the science I presented. Instead he tries to demean “Jim Steele” as just being a “bird enthusiast”. And then by extension asks who would honestly quote a mere bird enthusiast about coral. But the answer was simple. I was the only scientist who had published an essay that synthesized the latest peer-reviewed mainstream science about coral resilience engendered by shuffling and shifting symbionts. And more importantly I had presented it in away the public could understand. Hoegh-Guldberg and MW apparently did not want the public to entertain such optimistic viewpoints.

Grahm Lloyd was attacked for simply reporting, “But Jim Steele, from San Francisco State University, puts a counter view, arguing the ability of corals to rapidly adjust to changing environments by modifying their symbiotic partnerships has been the key to their success for millions of years.

Steele argues bleaching, whether or not it results in coral mortality, “is part of a natural selection process from which better-adapted populations can emerge”.

“In contrast to researchers like Hoegh-Guldberg who emphasizes coral bleaching as a deadly product of global warming, bleaching is a visible stage in a complex set of acclimation mechanisms during which coral expel, shift and shuffle their symbionts, seeking the most beneficial partnership possible,” Steele says.”

To be clear, I do not suggest that symbiont shifting and shuffling will cure every coral problem. It merely has allowed coral to adapt to changing climates that were warmer and colder than today. It does not protect coral from tropical storms. It offers little protection from being smothered by sediments due to landscape changes. It cannot protect coral from predaceous starfish whose populations exploded due human pollution. Mainstream coral science has reported that 80% or more of coral mortality is due to storms and Crown of Thorns starfish. Bleaching causes only 5 to 10% of coral mortality and despite periodic bleaching, coral have evolved resilience to millennia of ever-changing climates. That Hoegh-Guldberg and MW avoid discussing this emerging science or coral resilience is telling.

I was contacted by one of MW’s “crack scientific investigators” Flint Duxfield. Duxfield emailed me asking for an interview explaining that they were investigating an Australian article by Graham Lloyd and Lloyd had quoted excerpts from my essay. I mistakenly thought Flint was sincerely interested in my side of the debate and uncovering the broader truths. But Flint never questioned any of the facts I had synthesized from peer-reviewed papers by coral experts. Instead Flint stated, “There have been some questions raised about your expertise.”

If you want to evaluate the expertise of a chef, as the saying goes, the “proof is in the pudding.” I knew my facts were quite accurate and welcomed Media Watch’s interview and any efforts to check my facts. Such a fact check would determine my level of expertise. Furthermore I did not want the public to be misled if I had made any mistakes. But it soon became abundantly clear MW was not interested in my “scientific pudding”. They hadn’t even bothered to “taste” it. MW was on a mission to persuade the public not to listen to any facts offered by Lloyd or myself.

I first asked Flint, “Are you a biologist”. He replied, “No!”

I asked, “Did you read my essay?” Flint again said, “No!”

Hmmmm. I now had to question Media Watch’s intentions. How could they evaluate the validity of my essay and expertise if they had never read the essay? Do they claim to be clairvoyants? Or was there another more sinister agenda?

As the interview progressed it was clear that Media Watch only wanted to do a hatchet job on Graham Lloyd, and to do so, they ignored, or perhaps failed to grasp, all my well-researched science, trying only to paint me as an untrustworthy fringe scientist. Flint harped on issues like did Lloyd get your permission to quote you. Or are you retired, Lloyd failed to say.

Flint asked if I was a coral expert. I said that depends on your definition. I have not carried out experiments on coral or monitored changes in coral cover or reef biodiversity. So in that sense I am certainly not an expert. But I am an expert biologist and my expertise in coral biology could be likened to an expert historian. I had perused, analyzed and synthesized hundreds of papers written by coral experts. You judge the expertise of historians by how well they assemble the facts and evidence. So please read my essay. Ask the other experts if had had my facts straight.

I asked Flint if he was aware of the benefits of shuffling and shifting coral symbionts. Again he pleaded ignorance but said Dr. Ruth Gates claimed adaptive bleaching had been disproven. I replied that was an abject lie as evidenced by increasingly published research that supports the adaptive bleaching hypothesis. It is not yet a proven hypothesis but no one has refuted it. When I asked what did Dr. Gates say exactly, Flint backed down saying he didn’t know, but it was written down somewhere. I don’t know if Gates was lying or Flint was bumbling.

One of the earlier predictions of the adaptive bleaching hypothesis stated that a multitude of various symbionts with diverse physiological responses would be discovered. That prediction has been confirmed and Gates has co-authored several papers characterizing some of these newly discovered symbionts. Gate’s research has also explored “assisted evolution” that seeks in part, ways to modify the community of coral symbionts and accelerate acclimation by artificially encouraging symbiont shifting.

In the 2015 paper Gates co-authored, Building Coral Reef Resilience Through Assisted Evolution she wrote, “Exposure to nonlethal light or temperature stress is common on reefs; in natural populations and experimental settings, such conditions have sometimes resulted in enhanced tolerance to coral bleaching (the breakdown of the obligate coral-Symbiodinium symbiosis in response to stress) during subsequent thermal stress events. This process of within-generation acclimatization is achieved by changes in the taxonomic composition [i.e. Symbiont shuffling and shifting] of the algal endosymbiont communities found in corals and/or processes likely involving epigenetic modification.” [my bold]

Knowing Duxfield was interviewing Gates, I felt certain she could confirm that my essay’s assertions about coral acclimatization via symbiont shifting cannot be dismissed as “fringe science”. But I was horrified by MW’s avoidance of the science, choosing instead to amplify Hoegh-Guldberg’s flimflam and belittle my abilities. MW’s concluding “damnation” of Lloyd was he failed to tell his audience I was not a coral expert but just a “bird expert”.

Media Watch’s presentation was titled “Muddying the waters on the Great Barrier Reef” and narrated by Paul Barry. Barry is a talking head whose expertise is mostly in economics, and he too has no expertise in science or biology or coral. Barry is not even a bird enthusiast.

Barry would ask and then reply to his own questions,

“So, is he [Jim Steele] regarded as an expert on coral? Answer, No.”

“Is he known to be an expert on oceans? No, again.”

“So is he a famous climate scientist? No he is not.”

Then Barry prepares the audience for the fruits of MW’s “astute and rigorous investigative reporting” that we would expect from such a devoted watchdog organization stating,

“so we asked Professor Gates about him.”

Gates reply, “I don’t know who this person is….”

That was it! I was flabbergasted! That was all MW asked? Did it matter if Gates knew me? Why was there never a discussion about whether or not I had accurately relayed information on symbiont shuffling and shifting! Why never a question if I had my facts straight. I became quite concerned for the Australian populace. If Media Watch was their watchdog, the fox is guarding the hen house.

In my essay I also reported Hoegh-Guldberg had a history of denying the enhanced tolerance acquired by symbiont shifting. He had a history of exaggeration and circular reasoning that had led other coral experts to accuse him of “popularizing worst case scenarios”, while others have accused him of persistently misunderstanding and misrepresenting the adaptive bleaching hypothesis. While Hoegh-Guldberg falsely argues there is no evidence for increased resilience due to symbiont shifting and shuffling, other researchers state, “flexibility in coral–algal symbiosis is likely to be a principal factor underlying the evolutionary success of these organisms”.

So I was eager to read how Hoegh-Guldberg countered those criticisms in a riveting MW interview. A famous coral expert like him should easily provide counter examples if this mere “bird enthusiast” was ill-informed. But he never refuted a word. Instead he chose to accuse Lloyd of “taking a sniff of there being something different to the scientific perspective and promoting it as a widely held belief. It’s scandalous.” But Hoegh-Guldberg mistakenly equates his perspective the “scientific” perspective. His is just one of many. One would think that MW’s investigative reporting might ask Hoegh-Guldberg why Gates and the other coral experts whose work I referenced, were finding enhanced tolerance of coral bleaching due to symbiont shifting and shuffling. There is more than a sniff of contrasting viewpoints. But MW investigated no further.

But instead as the final “evidence” of my supposed untrustworthiness, MW notes I am a climate skeptic who wrote the book “Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism”. They don’t tell the public I wrote the book due to the same concerns I had for Sierran meadows as I have for coral reefs. The obsession with blaming everything on global warming has misdirected our funding and research efforts away from real local problems that we can address and correct. It wastes funds on worthless remedies. Gates’ call to ban coal mining will never correct the injuries to coral from landscape changes, pollution and dynamite fishing.

Clearly Media Watch was trying to suppress a public discussion about the varying scientific opinions that divide the coral research community. Of course all researchers are concerned about coral as indeed I am. Researchers have long been concerned about bleaching at least since they launched the Great Barrier Reef expedition of 1928-29 and focused on warm weather coral bleaching. But it is local problems we must address.

 

There is a subset of scientists whose forte is synthesizing diverse data sets and research, evaluating contradictions and assumptions. Historically these synthesizers play an important role in scientific progress as they often see the forest through the trees. The iconic example is Watson and Crick. Initially they did not even know that the adenine and thymine bases were proportional in a genome. Nor did they recognize that Pauling’s failed model was due to an elementary chemistry mistake. Perhaps this was because Watson was also an avid bird enthusiast. Yet their view from the “fringe” allowed a synthesis of all the various avenues of research and that resulted in arguably the greatest discovery of our time, the structure of DNA.

I would suggest that Hoegh-Guldberg and Media Watch embrace the advice of another “bird enthusiast” and theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman. He advised Caltech graduates, “you should not fool the laymen when you’re talking as a scientist. . . . I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you maybe wrong, [an integrity] that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.”

In contrast Hoegh-Guldberg and Media Watch have eschewed that integrity. Instead of promoting a scientific discussion of alternative explanations that is accessible to the public, they have tried to suppress discussion and obscure any evidence that contradicts their tenuous claims. Even a bird-brain can see they do a great disservice to the scientific process. But Hoegh-Guldberg’s persistent efforts to discredit the adaptive benefits of symbiont shifting and shuffling, serve as blatant example of why Feynman also argued “Science is the belief in the Ignorance of Experts.”

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Jim Steele is author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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Robert from oz

The alarmist ABC is green thru and thru and they are easy to pick , the left leg is longer than the right so they usually have a pronounced limp .
Usually you can tell when they are lying be watching if their lips move and sound is being expelled media watch has had to make apology’s before but usually with a qualification that makes the apology meaningless .
ABC report longest hottest warmest biggest wettest most ferocious unprecedented lies ever .

Actually, the right leg was removed a couple of decades ago! Along with the busted right wing at ‘their’ ABC. They are pathetic, agenda driven keyboard monkeys. My apologies to monkeys everywhere.
Every few years I see evidence of bleached corals off the Kimberley coast, but they soon return to their usual fabulous colourful state.

Gentle Tramp

Just yesterday, I did listen to ABC news radio when they sendet one of their several mission statements after a news section. The essence of it was:
“… WITHOUT BIAS OR AGENDA… ”
LOL !!! These hard-core greenish ABC clowns are truly perfect comedians… 🙂

ozspeaksup

of course..Jim wasn’t aware of ove’s beloved status for fearmongering n bullshit hes trotted out BY aunty abc regularly to keep the panic on the reef going to suit their greentards agenda.
theres another I call whinging will..he sounds permanently near tears..either a william or a bill someone from nsw I think? usually with extra drivel from mr98% for extra pathos.
and while MW does do some good investigative shows..this has exposed the fact that WE the public..better double check anything they air..
ABC= australias Pravda

PA

If you have seen the movie “300” sometimes the only way to deal with a message is to kill the messenger.

Jeff Alberts

OSHA would not approve of a giant bottomless pit in the middle of the village without a railing.

PA

An OSHA representative in Sparta would get about the same welcome as a Persian.
Perhaps we can learn from the Spartans.

simple-touriste

Users/Anthony/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/EC7GDE9V/Revisiting%20the%20Cassandra%20syndrome%3B%20the%20changing%20climate%20of%20coral%20reef%20research
really?
http://files.gamebanana.com/img/ico/sprays/566f092c9f006.jpeg

observa

So Hoegh Guldberg is just a coral collector? Right, that clears up any misconception we might have he has anything worthwhile to say about CAGW because he’s not a renowned climatologist. Media Watch need to be much more careful in giving a platform to such impostors trying to step in the footsteps of giants. Still being such astute media watchers no doubt there’ll be a follow up episode pointing out how Hoegh managed to slip under their guard.

Mrk - Helsinki

“What was surprising to learn was severely bleached coral reefs can return to pre-bleaching status in less than 2 decades”
I have built reefs for the guts of 2 decades and have stated this over and over, bleached sections of reef are the foundation for fast recovery, I tried tell one or two at NOAA in a technical manner how this happens.
But it matters not, they dont want the truth Jim, they want a political narrative.
I posed many questions and put forward many facts re corals on NASA Climate’s facebook and to this day, they still have not answered yet bat away many other less technical questions and claims
I’ve asked researchers who claim coral doom, and none engage, because they dont know anything about corals, that is the truth. Having lived a reef daily, build hundreds with corals reefs, not only have I studied them in a technical sense, after than long you get a feel for how reefs react to different things, light spectrum changes, nutrient inaccessible predators that made their way into the reef tank and the destruction one tiny crab can do in a matter of days.
Reminds me of the Australian kelp forest lie, decimated by a predator the blame is squarely put on warming, which is complete nonsense
We truly live in an age of building concepts and designing science to fit that concept.
Great article

4 Eyes

Valerie Taylor, a long time diver who was interested in sharks, has reportedly seen the GBR bleached in the 1970s and then recover strongly. I guess if this detail doesn’t fit your narrative you just ignore it – after all she is not a coral reef expert like Hoegh Guldberg.

PA

It is obvious that some of the coral are exposing themselves.
One solution to coral bleaching would be to apply suntan lotion to the exposed corals.

Mark - Helsinki

“What was surprising to learn was severely bleached coral reefs can return to pre-bleaching status in less than 2 decades”
This is not surprising to non alarmist people
I have built reefs for the guts of 2 decades and have stated this over and over, bleached sections of reef are the foundation for fast recovery, I tried tell one or two at NOAA in a technical manner how this happens.
But it matters not, they dont want the truth Jim, they want a political narrative.
I posed many questions and put forward many facts re corals on NASA Climate’s facebook and to this day, they still have not answered yet bat away many other less technical questions and claims
I’ve asked researchers who claim coral doom, and none engage, because they dont know anything about corals, that is the truth, other than putting them in acid or studying their biology, but actual living reef evolution, nope. Having lived a reef daily, build hundreds with corals reefs, not only have I studied them in a technical sense, after than long you get a feel for how reefs react to different things, light spectrum changes, nutrient inaccessible predators that made their way into the reef tank and the destruction one tiny crab can do in a matter of days.
Reminds me of the Australian kelp forest lie, decimated by a predator the blame is squarely put on warming, which is complete nonsense
We truly live in an age of building concepts and designing science to fit that concept.
Great article

Old'un

Wonderful essay. Thank you for highlighting “The idiot syntax of the righteous,” as Emma Cline calls it in The Girls, her novel about the Manson cult.

“Feynman also argued “Science is the belief in the Ignorance of Experts.”
Ok. I believe in His Ignorance.

AndyG55

Ignorance is all you have to believe in.
Its your main stay in life. Your soul occupation.

Latitude

Scientist..someone with no clue…desperately trying to get one

Jeff Alberts

In Mosher’s case, it’s the Arrogance of self-proclaimed experts.

Frederick Michael

Steven, you make his point. Feynman would agree with you.

catweazle666

Yes Mosher, you are something of an expert on ignorance.

Mark - Helsinki

So how are your temperature predictions going, after making your claim you can, you have not stuck your neck out once

Jack

Hoegh-Guldberg has been on the Climate Council. They love the Great Barrier Reef because it is there go to scare.They use their bogus climate advocacy as a type of gun held at the “head”of the GBR. One false move and the Reef gets it!. It is like watching an old Cagney movie.
The government straight away spills out some more tens of millions.
Media Watch is a joke. The presenter is paid something like $250,000 or more per year. He has a staff of 9. They produce 15 minutes of television per week. Media Watch is a program made in house for the Australian Broadcast Commission. The ABC always takes the far left green position on global warming and environmental issues. It is fully funded by the government. Its charter is to present both sides of an argument, which it blithely ignores, being captive to PC marxist journalists and editors and a Managing Director who could not care less. Although the new one might make some slight difference.
So as soon as Duxfield said he was from MW, you should have replied you were busy. They love to denigrate anyone not of their political persuasion.

observa

That sums them up perfectly Jim and explains why you had to be bushwhacked as a heretic. Just maintain the faith that true enquiring science will out them and all their political séance at some stage.
In that regard I’m enjoying the chickens coming home to roost with wind energy in South Australia although you wish they’d heeded rational science and economics in the first place. Instead we have to endure their emotional train wreck now but it will benefit others as the message gets out. You can fool some of the people..yada, yada..

ConTrari

@Jack
So Media Watch is a TV program? I thought it was some kind of oversight organ.

Get Real

Perhaps this is why the ABC and MediocreWatch have rapidly lost credibility with everyone.

gnomish

ew- don’t let them misdirect your thinking to their stinking.
keep on with what you love.
reason is not coin with these climate catamites.
it’s a better world if you do your own thing.

Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
“Furthermore knowing the Great Barrier Reef was left high and dry just 15,000 years ago when the Ice Age dropped sea level by 400 feet, and then returned to its present glory when sea level rose, made coral resilience a captivating nature story. In addition coral survived the Ice Age’s intense cold and then thrived in warmer waters 2 C warmer than today just 6000 years ago and 1 degree warmer just a thousand years ago. Such resilience to an ever-changing climate suggested scleractinian coral had evolved exquisite mechanisms of adaptation.”
“In contrast Hoegh-Guldberg and Media Watch have eschewed that integrity. Instead of promoting a scientific discussion of alternative explanations that is accessible to the public, they have tried to suppress discussion and obscure any evidence that contradicts their tenuous claims. Even a bird-brain can see they do a great disservice to the scientific process. But Hoegh-Guldberg’s persistent efforts to discredit the adaptive benefits of symbiont shifting and shuffling, serve as blatant example of why Feynman also argued “Science is the belief in the Ignorance of Experts.””
A must read…

Jeff

Media Watch is becoming extreme with their character assassinations.
They are really playing the man, not the ball.
I also think they went over the top with their rant against Dr Maryanne Demasi, an ABC reporter,
saying she should be sacked.
I don’t they will ever forgive her for rightly questioning the widespread prescription of statins.

Ernest Bush

I suspect the job of Media Watch is extreme character assassination of “alternative voices” who don’t support the leftist agenda. It sounds like the kind of organization that is funded by people of the George Soros ilk.

PA

Media Watch is typical of the liberal truth finding groups.
1. Examine the statement.
2. Check its conformance to liberal orthodoxy.
3. If if conforms, find factoids and other liberal disinformation to claim it is true.
4. If it doesn’t conform to liberal orthodoxy, find factoids and other liberal disinformation to claim it is false.
Since they are liberal and not honest they can’t tell if something is true or not and can only validate against liberal orthodoxy.

Mr Steele: An excellent rebuttal and there not enough stars. Thank you!

Adam Gallon

A classic example of ignoring the message & attacking the messenger. Happens every time when somebody from outside the climate clique producing anything that counters the “We’re doomed I tell you!” message.
Susan Cockcroft with Polar Bear Science? She’s a “Dog Expert”, what does she know, Steve McIntyre? He’s just a fossil-fuel shill, Anthony Watts? A mere weatherman.

Thank you Jim Steele. Yet another great reef scientist who is Paul Kench.
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Kench/contributions

I’m afraid this is what you’re up against, Mr Steele, when you try and debate Warmunistas with facts and science. They refuse to debate with anyone who is knowledgeable enough to show them up as charlatans – because the empirical evidence does not support their alarmist stance. This is why their ONLY defence is to resort to ad hominems. You should look on it as a victory!

Nonetheless, ad hominems, character assassinations, insults all get under one’s skin (as I know only too well). Apart from being used in lieu of factual evidence, this is what they are designed to do of course. But the observer can see them for what they are, not that that helps to placate the victim’s feelings of hurt and unjust, ungrounded, criticism.

commieBob

Strangely, Jim might have received less grief if he had been “just a journalist”. MW wouldn’t have been able to question his scientific credentials. It would have had to question the credentials of those scientists he was quoting.
Nina Teicholz wrote an exposé of Ancel Keys‘ bad science and political machinations.

The journalist Nina Teicholz, who directly disputes Keys’ theories in her book The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (2014), writes that if there is a Great Man theory of history … whereby strong personalities steer events using their own personal charisma”, Ancel Keys was, by far, the Greatest Man.”

People accuse her of having got it wrong but they then have to show how she misunderstood the science.
Anyway, it’s interesting to compare the behaviour of Ancel Keys with that of Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

Russell
Another Ian

Jim
A fine serve back to “The Hoover” IMO

gnomish

these are jihadis.
they are not now and never will be friends.
you are a kaffir.
there is only one thing they want to do with you.
it ain’t huggin.
don’t even try.

Truthseeker

Clever antonym for their ABC …
http://www.xyz.net.au

Erny72

Jim,
Thanks for a good post.
On behalf of thinking antipodeans everywhere, sorry you had to endure the ‘rigourous investigative journalism’ of the pathetic ABC; not all of us whose taxes are squandered funding the ABC would do so if given the choice.
The ABC’s nickname is ‘Aunty’ which probably has something to do with the ignorant gossiping and muck-raking they seem to spend so much of their time endulging in. Take heart from the fact that almost no grown ups in Australia are watching the ABC anyway, much less paying attention to anything their anonymous talking heads have to say.
If you had asked anyone from Australia beforehand, you would have been forewarned that the ABC are the gumment funded refuge of the sort of ‘journalists’ who are too thick to get a job in the corporate networks (which isn’t saying anything good about the rest of our lame stream media, merely pointing out that ‘Aunty’ is the worst of an appalling lot) and given it’s workforce is comprised of bachelor of arts graduates who never grew out of of their demented student politics, the ABC logo should be a watermelon.
Like the BBC, the idea that the ABC are impartial on politics or gullible warming is pure fantasy. Their understanding of ‘science’ is limited to the ‘political science’ they collectively studied while ‘finding themselves’ undertaking their worthless art degrees.
The take away lesson is that If someone from the ABC is speaking and you don’t smell bullshit, then you need to get your nose checked.

PiperPaul
CD in Wisconsin

@Erny72. As an American, this leaves me wondering: If the ABC is government funded and is not following its charter, why does the Aussie government not crack down on it? Does it not have the authority and means to do so?
Here is the U.S., all (or most) of our lame stream media outlets are private sector organizations with no govt funding. When you add in the fact that they have constitutional protection from govt interference in their activities, there is nothing govt can do when their output is clearly biased. In Aussieland however, I should think there would be a govt bureau or agency with the responsibility to monitor and enforce the ABC charter if ABC is govt funded.

John Graham

There should be, but there isn’t.
Although a conservative Coalition (a little to the left of the US Republicans) is in power, it is limited to bluster and empty threats against the soft-left ABC. This simply reinforces the bias of the organisation. The major opposition parties (Labor, to the left of Bernie Sanders, and The Greens, to the left of Jeremy Corbyn) hold this bias to be justified and thus non-existent. Whenever an alliance of the two left parties is in power (eg 2010-13) any restraint applied to the ABC is withdrawn, so no real change is possible.
On the other hand, the ABC speaks only to true believers of the left, and its influence on the swinging middle – the vital group in Australia given compulsory voting – is negligible.

Christopher Hanley

“… Hoegh-Guldberg who emphasizes coral bleaching as a deadly product of global warming …”.
================================
There has been no significant net change in the sea surface temperature in the GBR marine park for at least thirty five years:
http://mclean.ch/climate/figures_2/GBR_SST_Anom_Jul2014.gif

Robert from oz

Not interested in facts just innuendo and supposition but also a touch of self serving sensationalism .

Mark - Helsinki

Yes which is exactly why tmax was not the problem as I keeps telling fools. Sudden natural variation is the cause and we can do nothing about that

Mark - Helsinki

If mass bleaching never occurred reef life would be much less diverse, and there would be far less reefs

Christopher, Excellent graphic. Do you have a link where I can download temperature data just for the GBR?

Bubba Cow

links here, Jim:
http://mclean.ch/climate/GBR_sea_temperature.htm
great piece, thanks, and Einstein was a patent clerk

Seth

Seth I clicked on your version of Willis Island but got a “Not Found” message. Do you have a link to the data for your graph? Has there been any homogenization recently? That often creates such divergent trends.
Since you were diligent and checked the data, can I infer that you also dont refute the GBR temperature data, only the Willis Island?
You might also find this graph of GBR temperatures of interest mentioned in my original from Hendy 2003 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00338-003-0304-7
http://landscapesandcycles.net/image/115378348_scaled_616x444.jpg

Crispin in Waterloo

Christopher thanks for that chart. Of all the things said about the Great Barrier Reef the most common is that the sea temperature has risen and is killing it off.
Bile and bollocks.

Ziiex Zeburz

Thank You Australia, Keep what you have at home! If your MW got loose and became CMW ?( “Clinton Media Watch “)

Except they love Clinton and hate Trump. I’m no fan of his but bias is bias.

richardX

Thank you for the very informative article. Australia’s ABC is an utter disgrace. It is required by its charter to present a balanced view. Ha! It depends how you define “balanced”. Somewhere between Pol Pot and Kim Jong-un. Media Watch is one of its most vile and vicious outlets for its version of “balanced”.

CD in Wisconsin

@richardX: I’ll ask you the same question that I asked Erny72 above. Thanks.

richardX

It’s government (really, taxpayer) funded but largely self regulated. Their way of handling complaints of bias is to examine the case internally and decree that there is no bias. It would take a conservative government with guts and a good majority in both houses to do anything effective. I don’t think it can be reformed. 50-odd years of hiring people from the left has been very effective.

Thomho

Steele is a collateral bystander victim of a media war going on between the left leaning ABC and the Fairfax media with the Murdoch press especially the high quality national paperb the Australian whose environmental writer is Graeme Lloyd the butt of Media Watch’s attack on his coverage of recent bleaching of some of the Great Barrier Reef
The taxpayer supported ABC is a CAGW advicate along with fashionable if contradictory support for gays and muslims

Instead he tries to demean “Jim Steele” as just being a “bird enthusiast”. Funny that, Lord Krebs of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change is just a “bird expert”.

johnmarshall

Excellent article Jim, many thanks.

Tony Marshall

Jim, most Australians are far more sensible than the loopy left at the ABC, quite a lot I know have a good laugh at there childish attacks on real science, the attack dogs are let loose on any person who has a different view on climate etc, so don’t feel left out , more people are waking up to the climate fraud every day

Peter

Welcome to my country. Welcome to free speech in the sciences in Australia.

Analitik

I’m often ashamed the leftist nature of the “reporting” by our ABC but this is simply appalling. Media Watch started as one man’s left leaning but reasonably interesting opinion mouthpiece but has devolved into just another sensationalist, expose-style current affairs show, specialising in bashing conservative and CAGW sceptical positions.
My heartfelt apologies, Jim Steele

Ditto.Gramsci’s long march through the Institutions is
deeply ensconced in Oz. The people’s ABC is a Leftist
Green mouthpiece for Marxist ideology paid for by the
taxes of the middle class workers they despise.

Bob M

It has always been a problem in science of the “protection of my product” due to the sheer effort and necessary immersion in ones subject and of course the need to succeed as an expert. I’ve even fooled myself on occasion. To remind myself, here’s the saying that hung on my wall and served me well:
“The greatest obstacle to progress is the illusion of knowledge”.

Mike T

Excellent article, Jim, thanks very much. Media Watch is well-known for severe imbalance and the episode you cite is one of the worst I’ve seen, not that I watch it much these days, the bias is unpalatable. One small thing, it’s the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, a publicly funded organisation, whose continued political lean to the left is a cause of great rancor in large sections of the community.

ozspeaksup

oh I forgot
the NOT insignificant effects of melbourne and sydney and brisbanes sewerage/stormwater outfalls being dragged along the coastline, killing seagrasses and adding far more pharma and chem TO the oceans all along..
is NEVER EVER mentioned.
blame the farmers for runoff, blame anyone and co2 but DONT!! force them to filter process and dump the waste INLAND for reuse as fertiliser on the poor soils that need it!
no…that would need some effort and the money we WASTE on co2 drivel would go a long way to supporting such as a one time big cost then reap benefits forever.

bit chilly

might have been a better use of the tax payer funds that built your de sal plants.

graphicconception

I am working on my Climate Science Assessment theory. Whenever you see an article in the media you can be sure that the following check list has been applied:
1. Is the source “on message”? If so believe completely and ignore any possible concerns.
2. If the source is not “on message” then a wrong answer to any of the following will permit the information to be dismissed out of hand:
a) Do we know the original source?
b) If so, is the source an approved one?
c) Was it peer-reviewed?
d) Where the reviewers “approved”?
e) Did the person have a PhD?
f) Was the PhD in one of the approved subjects?
g) Can he or she be associated with a “non-approved” person or organisation like Heartland, for instance?
h) Have they ever been associated with funding from a “non-approved” source like Big Oil or Tobacco.
i) Are they just spokespeople for someone with an opposing view?
j) If you run out of ideas check Sourcewatch.
k) If all else fails, they can be dismissed because they are not “on-message”. When using this option try to include a strawman argument to appeal to the faithful.
You can easily see that the list is valid with a couple of simple tests:
Professor Richard Lindzen. Fails 1 so passing to 2: Passes 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f, 2g (dubious), 2h FAIL!
Propagandist Bill McKibben: Passes 1. So everything he says is the truth. No further checks required.
QED
Notice that The Science is not a concern.

Ripper
Latitude

Jim, expand your thinking on this…
Think of corals as a group of individuals….they can host more than one clade at the same time
..and think of “coral reefs” as this god awful weed bed in your yard
They are actually the water equivalent of a land weed bed…..

EricHa

A wall of death

Tom in Florida

“”The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.”
–Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785. (*) ME 5:181, Papers 8:632 ”
How prophetic.

TA

The Thomas Jefferson quote is describing the current state of “journalism” in the U.S. and other Western nations. We are being lied to folks. Big Time. An entire false reality is created by the Leftwing propagandists in the news media. And the Leftists live in that false reality, like it was real. If you believe what the Leftwing News Media says, then you live in that false reality, too.
Meanwhile, back in the real world . . .
At least, nowadays, there are media outlets that give the other side of the story, so someone seeking the truth can find it if they look hard enough. I worry though about the people who accept the Leftwing propaganda at face value. They are misled, and they vote.

Reasonable Skeptic

The best experts are the ones that say they aren`t experts and know they have far more questions than answers Here is a CBC documentary about experts that bring this home.
http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episodes/the-trouble-with-experts
The problem is that people want to hear black and white not grey. They want their experts to tell them the truth, not to lead them to the truth.

Old'un

“The problem is that people want to hear black and white not grey. They want their experts to tell them the truth, not to lead them to the truth”
Yes, but they also suffer from two critical delusions, firstly that ‘experts’ (Including scientists) cannot be wrong and secondly that they have sworn some form of Hypocratic oath that assures their honesty.

Jenn Runion

++++++1
And those delusions are kept active through the media.

The ABC (and SBS) is a a sheltered workshop for Left Wing advocates who love Global Warming, Socialism, Clintons and Islam and hate free speech and Donald Trump. This treatment of Jim Steele is typical of them.

Gamecock

Appeals to authority baffle me.
I do not have a PhD in math, yet I will argue that 2 +2 =4*
Ohm’s Law is for everyone to use. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer, nor even an electrician.
The “experts” appealing to authority practice many disciplines as laymen, yet they will challenge others for not being “experts” in a specific field. It is a hollow challenge; the facts speak for themselves.
*Base 10

Steve Fraser

… And in all bases above 4, as well.

Rick K

Thank you, Jim. I always enjoy and learn so much from you.

John of Cloverdale WA Australia

Jim, Flint has been exposed before as a Green stooge in this well written article in the Quadrant (see below), back in March, 2015. Media Watch is run by a fox hunting elitist, called Jonathan Green (no kidding he is a Green by name and a pretend Green by nature). Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair have much have much fun in their blogs putting Mister Snotty Nose in his hypocritical place.
https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2015/03/media-watch-wind-beatup/

If the other side resorts to an ad hominem argument, you are winning. Go for it, Mr Steele !

Kaiser Derden

sadly, you should never have done the interview …

Richard Carlson

Great job. You might add the example of Cuba’s healthy reefs. The water is warm but the reefs are healthy because Cuba is so broke it can’t afford fertilizer. No fertilizer pollution = healthy reefs but near starvation for the people. When Venezula collapses and cuts off Cuba’s subsidies, the reefs will be even healthier as Cuba starves.

J B

Why would Cuba have good reefs due to poverty? Impoverished people denude the landscape, they do not have a choice. Their communities would pour untreated waste into the ocean. Surely Cuba is a classic example of how the Left cause poverty and poverty destroys the environment? I would expect their reefs are dynamited, over-fished and exploited unless the population are not allowed into boats for fear they will cross to Florida. As far as fertilizer goes, that is a great segue to the embarrassing relative Ove has locked in the basement.
More below.

Major fertilizer pollution messes up reefs. Cuba can’t afford fertilizer therefore reefs helped. Reefs also hurt by erosion from plowing fields. Cuba can’t afford to run its tractors, so less erosion. Poor people do cut down trees for firewood, but that happened mostly many years ago in Cuba. Darn few trees left.

Jenn Runion

Next time? Write down their info and what they want to talk to you about, tell them you will think about it and get back to them. Then hang up the phone and do some research on them. If you don’t feel as if your viewpoints are going to be addressed the way you want them to, don’t call them back. And if they call you…treat them as if they were a scammer telling you you’re computer called them needing to update the windows (sidenote, my reply was why do my windows need computers…they hung up on me).
Media burns suck and I understand your outrage. But it sounds like MW has no more credibility than the National Enquirer.
So now we all know. 🙂

Oddly the subsequent discussions about coral resilience did not focus on coral biology and the emerging science my essay detailed, but instead Hoegh-Guldberg and MW chose to focus on “Jim Steele” the author.
============
When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the man.
The simple fact that Hoegh-Guldberg are arguing the man shows that Jim Steele is correct on coral bleaching. For my part, having lived on remote, uninhabited coral reefs for many years, I also strongly agree with Jim’s position.
Hard Corals grow almost exclusively in the hottest tropical locations on earth. They are almost completely non-existent in temperate and colder climates. To argue that hotter climates is bad for corals is a nonsense. If the earth was to heat up such that the polar regions were now tropical, we would find hard corals in the polar regions.
Coral polyps have no trouble reproducing in massive quantities both sexually and asexually. There are 7 billion people on earth. You can probably find that many polyps in a swimming pool of ocean water. There are probably more polyps in the ocean than grains of sand on the beach or stars in the sky.
And what are these polyps doing? Looking for a solid surface in warm water that nothing is growing on, so that they can attach and start reproducing before they get eaten by something else. This is the limiting factor for polyps, there is only so much exposed rock in the ocean. Most of the ocean bottom is mud. Vast plains of nearly perfectly flat mud. Mud that has rained down from above over the millions of years, and filled in all the valleys, so that only the mountain tops are still exposed. And in this mud you find no corals.

Corals grow best in almost crystal clear ocean water. Most of us that live in cities have no idea of how clear the water is where corals are found. We think of the ocean as green or blue, with limited visibility. But once you get away from the coast and the sediment from rivers and the land, the tropical oceans are near crystal clear. Snorkeling is almost like flying, the water is that clear.
However, in the past 50+ years logging of tropical forests has substantially increased and there has been a massive increase in sedimentation along the coast of most tropical nations and this sedimentation is deadly to corals. The once white coral sand beaches of Malaysia in the Malacca Straights for example are now mostly thick brown mud. Tourists used to come from all over to visit these beaches, but that industry has almost completely disappeared

Jannie

Great essay, though I must confess some of it above my head I got most of it.
But as an Australia, I know this: The ABC is the most prejudiced LeftGreen propaganda outfit that I have ever encountered, excepting perhaps the propaganda ministries of the world’s vilest dictatorships. They are known for ambushing conservatives, or anybody who does not buy wholesale the socialist project and its various mantras, such as global warming. It’s a weeping sore on the dying carcass of democratic Australia. And worst of all, as a taxpayer I am forced to contribute to it.
I read a lot of WUWT, but rarely post. Keep it up Mr Watts, you provide some sensible balance to the global idiocy which is really ruining the planet.

JPeden

Dr. Steele, your previous Post on Coral greatly informed me as to how Corals survive within the wondrous but very exacting World we also live in. In part, they farm Coral somewhat like we farm Cattle.
But we Skeptics and other people of ‘mere’ common sense – and those who are almost totally occupied by just trying to survive – must also live amongst the “nattering nabobs of negativism” who’ve increased the stakes and their tactics such that they appear to want to either farm us or destroy us so they can be the next step Humans take along the path of Evolution – or within the eternal battle between Good and Evil if that’s the way some people like to understand or conceptualize it. Instead of the non-skeptics in effect trying to take Humans backward to the good old ‘Utopian’ days of near total rule by Totalitarianism at the least, and then maybe even to the Stone Age, if not back to the age of the Missing Link! [My apologies, especially to the Missing Link.]
So I really enjoyed this Post and your small but telling gems of Reason stemming from your own informed and free, but very ordered mind, which also is and must be a very skeptical mind. Such as:
“Are you a biologist…Did you read my essay”.
And, especially, “But I am an expert biologist and my expertise in coral biology could be likened to an expert historian.”
Once a “Progressive” tried to question my arguments for establishing a secure United States Border between it and Mexico by triumphantly arguing that I had to have “seen the/a border” in order to understand and talk about it/one with any credibility. It was on Twitter, so I just said something which expanded to,”No, *you* are the one who needs to see a border. I can understand borders because I’ve gone to school and have a different mind compared to yours.”

Ed Bo

I do find it amusing that a lot of proxy-based paleoclimate studies use increased coral growth as an indicator of higher temperatures. I haven’t seen any that have used the other half of the “hump” — has anyone else?
Also, in a significantly warming world, there should be a poleward expansion of the reefs. Has anyone found evidence of this?