We’re publishing a guest post by journalist Chris Morrison about one of the great global warming myths – that coral around the world is rapidly disappearing thanks to man made climate change. In fact, it’s in rude good health.
Corals occupy an exalted place in the climate tablets of doom. These photogenic little critters find themselves on the science obit pages on an almost daily basis. In fact, their demise has been grossly exaggerated for political purposes. There may not be too much certitude in climate projections, but at least we can hang our hat on one scientific prediction – the little fellows will be around for another 500 million years.
Their demise of course is projected from the bleaching that occurs when they expel symbiotic algae in reaction to sudden changes in water temperature. The changes occur due to natural weather oscillations, often around the El Nino event. These occur on a regular basis and once localised conditions have been stabilised, the coral usually recovers. Tropical coral grows in temperatures between 24C and 32C and sometimes grows quicker in warmer waters. Cold water coral is also abundant and grows in latitudes up to 65 degrees above and below the equator, often in deep water and at temperatures as low as 4C. The one event all this coral is unlikely to be affected by is climate warming, or cooling, which occurs over a much longer period.
The mythology around Corals represent one of the more obvious misinterpretations of data that seek to suggest local and temporary weather-related events are connected to long term changes in the climate. Needless to say, there is not a scintilla of scientific proof to make the connection in the case of coral. Professor Peter Ridd, an authority on the Great Barrier Reef who has spent 40 years observing it, noted recently that the reef was in “robust health”. Coral growth rates have, if anything, “increased over the last 100 years”. Fired from his post in 2018 at James Cook University in Queensland for “uncollegial” activities, i.e., questioning global warming dogma, Professor Ridd went on to note that “somehow, our science organisations have convinced the world that the reef is on its last leg”. The BBC rarely needs much convincing of coral catastrophe: “Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change”, it reported in October 2020.
Of course, corals need environmental protection. It is not a good idea to drench them in untreated sewage, smash up their habitat with reckless fishing, dump litter on them or douse them with toxic chemicals. But these are mundane planet-keeping measures, nothing like as exciting as ‘save the world’ political posturing in aid of the net zero project.
Corals are the second most successful animal on the planet after their close cnidarian cousin the jellyfish. They have been around for 500 million years (reef building ones for 400 million) having survived five major extinction events including the Permian-Triassic Event, which wiped out 96% of marine life. They have survived C02 levels as high as 2,240 parts per million (ppm) in the Ordovician period, to the more modest 400 ppm we know today. During their time on Earth they have survived massive temperature changes such as the Permian period when global temperatures rose by around 10C and the Ordovician period when they dropped by 8C. And of course they are happy to live almost anywhere. Even in Scotland, where the Darwin Mound remained untouched by the recent massive expulsion of greenhouse gases by the COP26 private jets.
Corals, like polar bears (numbers rising nicely), are just too valuable a propaganda tool for the climate change and net zero green zealots to relinquish. Too pretty. It was surely not a coincidence that in the run up to COP26, one of Prince William’s £1 million Earthshot gifts was handed out to a small Bahamian company called Coral Vita that says it grows coral to replant in the ocean. How did coral survive so long just left to its own evolutionary devises? But thanks to this company’s good offices, you can now “sponsor” or “gift” a coral, gaining “discount codes for our Coral Vita shop”.
The second danger to corals, it is suggested, is posed by higher levels of CO2 dissolved in the ocean. This is often said to make the ocean more acidic, although the correct scientific term is less alkaline. The ‘acid’ will then attack the calcium carbonate skeletons of the corals, it is said.
It is possible to plot average temperatures and atmospheric levels of CO2 over the last 600 million years since complex life began to evolve. Temperatures vary greatly, as do CO2 levels, although the latter have trended downwards to our current low point. It would take a much larger brain than your correspondent possesses to make any connection between the two, although it may not be beyond the ability of a number of self-identifying IPCC scientists. Compared to the geological record, current CO2 levels are very low – some scientists even suggest dangerously low – and temperatures could do with being a little warmer. Corals, as has been observed, have put up with huge variations in temperatures and CO2 levels in the past.
In 2015 the noted physicists Dr. Roger Cohen and Professor William Happer of Princeton wrote a short note looking at ocean ph. They found that doubling atmospheric CO2 from 400 to 800 ppm only decreases the ph of ocean water from about 8.2 to 7.9. They went on to note: “This is well within the day-night fluctuations that already occur because of photosynthesis by plankton and less than the ph decreases with depth that occur because of the biological pump and the dissolution of carbonate precipitates below the lysocline.”
The scientists noted that “scare stories about dissolving carbonate shells are nonsense”. Regarding their own paper, the authors concluded: “This minimalist discussion already shows how hard it is to scare informed people with ocean acidification, but, alas, many people are not informed.”