From Joanne Nova in Perth, Australia, we learn that only 3 percent of Australians believe that the Great Barrier Reef has attained record high coral cover. And according to the iron rule of climate science that truth is discovered by counting noses, that finding must mean the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) isn’t at a record high. After all, consensus. Though you get a different result if instead of getting a show of hands from humans you get a show of polyps from “marine invertebrates within the class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria” because, as Nova explains, the 3% who say the reef is at record coral levels are correct, and everyone else is wrong. Dang, turns out science isn’t a democracy.
We have previously discussed the evidence of a startling coral comeback over the past decade (see here and here). From the late 1980s to 2015 the GBR had been declining, which led the smart set to jump to the conclusion that it was all over and climate change was to blame, only to have the reef come roaring back and reach all-time record high coverage levels in 2022, even growing during large bleaching events. So the Australian Environment Foundation, of which Nova is a board member, decided to conduct a survey to see if the public knew about this highly pertinent real-world development.
Since every major news organization has a “climate” reporter, and governments devote vast sums of money to promoting discussions of climate change, it was reasonable to suppose that people should have been told this bit of good news. But, unsurprisingly given that all climate news is bad, the public has been kept safely in the dark.
Fully 90% of Australians believed the reef was at an average or below-average extent, with nearly a quarter of respondents saying they thought it was at record lows. Seven percent figured it was above average but not at a record. Only three percent correctly answered that the GBR was at record-high levels of coral coverage. Adding to the irony, the voters who supposedly care most about the environment knew the least:
“An astonishing 44% of Green voters thought the coral cover was at a record low — the most incorrect answer possible. All up, more than 75% of Greens thought the reef was doing worse than usual. They were the most misinformed.”
“If the Great Barrier Reef had been at an all-time record low, as it was in 2012, we know the university and media outlets would ensure most people were aware of it. We would consider them failing in their duty if they did not. But now, when the corals are healthy, the silence is deafening, and ultimately that’s bad for the environment. There are only so many funds available, and if Australians have little idea how quickly the Great Barrier Reef recovers, we miss the most urgent issues while trying to save things that are largely managing themselves.”
So kudos to the three percent of Australians who tuned out the noise and nonsense and got themselves informed about the reality of the GBR. And for everyone else, any time you find yourself ensconced in a 97% consensus, it might be a clue you’re being misled.