Prof takes aim at Reef pa­pers

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - AN­DREW BACKHOUSE an­drew. back­house1@ news. com. au

A TOWNSVILLE aca­demic has cast doubt on the ve­rac­ity of re­search into the Great Bar­rier Reef.

In the re­cently re­leased book Cli­mate Change: The Facts 2017, co- au­thor Pro­fes­sor Peter Ridd ar­gues the cred­i­bil­ity of key re­search pa­pers driv­ing in­vest­ments in reef man­age­ment rested on “to­tal re­liance of the demon­stra­bly in­ad­e­quate peer- re­view process”.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment is ex­pected to spend more than $ 1 bil­lion on the reef to mit­i­gate the ef­fects of cli­mate change and much of the fund­ing re­lies on the re­search Prof Ridd has crit­i­cised.

He summed up the peer re­view process as “a quick read by other sci­en­tists”.

“There’s no repli­cat­ing or test­ing,” he said. “It’s a very cur­sory first check. It’s a good first check but not the ba­sis to spend a bil­lion dol­lars to save the reef.”

The cli­mate change scep­tic and geo­physi­cist has called for a more ad­ver­sar­ial ap­proach to the peer re­view­ing of sci­en­tific pa­pers.

“All the ma­jor sup­posed stres­sors to the reef are highly du­bi­ous,” he said.

“A lot of the sci­ence they’re us­ing is not tested or repli­cated.”

Prof Ridd au­thored a chap­ter in the book ar­gu­ing coral bleach­ing was not a con­cern for the reef’s long- term vi­a­bil­ity.

The book con­tains 22 es­says by cli­mate- scep­ti­cal com­men­ta­tors.

Lead­ing coral bleach­ing au­thor­ity Pro­fes­sor Terry Hughes, di­rec­tor of the Australian Re­search Coun­cil Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence for Coral Reef Stud­ies based at James Cook Univer­sity, said he would not com­ment on a book he had not read.

But he did say cli­mate change was a real and well- es­tab­lished fact.

“It’s been ac­cepted by the Australian Govern­ment as a fact,” he said.

Prof Hughes said Prof Ridd’s was a mi­nor­ity view, not sup­ported by sci­ence.

“Cli­mate re­search has been peer re­viewed and pub­lished in jour­nals like Na­ture, which is a well re­spected jour­nal,” he said.

A Great Bar­rier Reef Marine Park Au­thor­ity spokesman said cli­mate change was “in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised as one of the big­gest threats” to the reef.

“This is clearly stated in our own 2009 and 2014 Out­look Re­ports and was last year ar­tic­u­lated by some 2500 coral reef ex­perts at the 13th In­ter­na­tional Coral Reef Sym­po­sium,” a state­ment read.

“For the last three years, coral bleach­ing – due to ocean warm­ing as­so­ci­ated with cli­mate change – has im­pacted coral reefs world­wide.

“This is the long­est- run­ning mass coral bleach­ing event ever recorded, trig­gered by record- break­ing sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures caused by cli­mate change and am­pli­fied in 2016 by a strong El Niño.”

CUR­SORY CHECKS: An aca­demic says peer re­views of coral re­search is in­ad­e­quate.

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