JUST as we learn that the Great Barrier Reef is safe after all, the BBC warn us that Australia’s mangrove forests are in peril – you guessed it, because of global warming.
A BBC News video, titled ‘Mangrove forests: How 40 million Australian trees died of thirst’, shows a series of lurid images of dead scrub, with captions such as ‘This is what climate change looks like really’, ‘Dying of thirst – Australian mangrove forests in peril’ and ‘This makes it the world’s worst climate-related mangrove loss’.
The claims are so absurd that they belong on Jackanory.
Mangroves grow in inter-tidal zones, in other words between low and high tides. The video correctly reports that the die-off occurred during 2015/16, as a result of a 40cm drop in sea levels caused by the El Niño event at the time. This sort of drop in sea levels is a natural phenomenon in the tropical Western Pacific during El Niño, because strong trade winds push the seas eastwards. (The name ‘El Niño’ is widely used to describe the warming of sea surface temperature that occurs every few years, typically concentrated in the central-east equatorial Pacific. It is a natural cyclical event.)
Mangroves at the most exposed locations near the high tide mark dried out as the sea levels fell.
Despite the apocalyptic headlines, this die-off was not widespread, and affected only the Gulf of Carpentaria, in the north of Australia. Most of Australia’s coastline is not affected in any way by El Niño sea level change.
At Weipa, Queensland, which is at the tip of the Gulf, tidal gauges show that 40cm sea level drops, similar to that in 2015, have happened several times in the recent past. It has nothing to do with global warming.
The BBC love to use emotive terms such as ‘40million trees dying of thirst’, as if they were sentient beings. But that is actually a tiny number – it represents only 2 per cent of the mangroves in the Gulf, and less than 1 per cent of Australia’s total mangrove forest which extends for 7,000 miles around the coast. The BBC, of course, imply that this loss is permanent. What they don’t tell you is that mangroves are essentially weeds which quickly grow back. A study which examined the major mangrove decline following Cyclone Monica in 2006 found that the forest was back to normal within five years.
As the same study pointed out: ‘Surprisingly, despite the dire 2016 environmental death-trap for northern Australian mangroves, the Landsat-derived maps reveal that mangrove forest area nationally for that year was still larger than it was in 1992 when the maps show mangrove forest extent at its lowest point in the recent past. From that 1992 minimum, mangrove forests steadily grew until peaking in 2011 with an additional 600 sq km compared with 1992. This new study puts the massive 2016 dieback into a broader context. Many of the mangroves that were lost during that event had recently expanded into that region – during the 1992 minimum, many of them were not there. These mangrove victims were relatively recent colonists that had followed the higher sea levels to new portions of the coastline.’
Mangrove die-offs like the 2015/16 event are regular, natural occurrences, and it is dishonest to claim that they have anything to do with climate change.
The video, by the way, is presented by Dr Norman Duke, of James Cook University. You may recall that it was this university which fired the marine expert Dr Peter Ridd four years ago, because he publicly challenged the shoddy work and lack of quality assurance of his colleagues, who for years had wrongly claimed the imminent death of the Great Barrier Reef.
As ever in climate science, money talks.
Our alarming dependence on China
TWO reports from the International Energy Agency (IEA) raise the alarm over our ever greater economic and energy dependence on China.
The first gives an update on global solar PV supply chains, in other words solar panels. In 2021, China dominated the world’s production, particularly of wafers and cells, which are the building blocks of the modules, the panels themselves.
Worse, this dominance is expected to grow in coming years:
To a large extent, this virtual monopoly has been based on low electricity costs (thanks to coal power, of course), an utter disregard for environmental standards and what amounts to slave labour.
It is a similar story with EV (electric vehicle) batteries. China produces three quarters of the world’s lithium batteries, 70 per cent of cathodes and 85 per cent of anodes, both key components, and has more than half of the world’s lithium, cobalt and graphite processing capacity.
Although governments in Europe and the US have launched initiatives to develop battery supply chains, the IEA say that China will continue to dominate global production beyond 2030. One reason for this is that China has spent the last decade buying lithium and cobalt mines and new projects around the world.
A report from S&P last year stated:
‘Chinese companies are snatching up lithium projects worldwide, ensuring access to supplies of the metal amid worsening global shortages and surging prices. The nation’s mining and battery companies acquired 6.4million tonnes of lithium in reserves and resources in 2021, as of October 18, nearly matching the 6.8Mt of lithium acquired by all companies in 2020. China-based mining and battery giants have placed winning bids on five development-stage lithium projects valued at $1.58billion, not including off-take and royalty deals, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence.’
Even if Europe does start building its EV batteries in large numbers, it is likely to be with raw materials and components from China.
One of the great advantages enjoyed by China in battery production, as with solar PV, is the absence of any environmental standards, or even concern about them. This is in stark contrast to Europe, where lithium producers such as Albemarle Corporation may have to shut down plants because of EU environmental regulations
It is deeply ironic that while Europe obsesses about ESG (Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance), it becomes ever more dependent on a country which totally ignores it. More important, this reliance is extremely dangerous.
Is That True, Or Did You Hear It On The BBC?
I AM reading a new book by David Sedgwick called Is That True, Or Did You Hear It On The BBC?
According to the Amazon blurb: ‘What exactly is the purpose of the BBC nowadays – to entertain, educate and inform? But is that all? The broadcaster itself claims to be a fearless and independent provider of news tasked with ‘speaking truth to power’ – a true champion of the underdog. However, as Sedgwick reveals, the reality is somewhat different: not only does the BBC diligently protect power from scrutiny, it attacks and attempts to discredit those who dare to challenge the status quo.
‘Formed in 1922 by the British establishment, the BBC has always been a reliable ally of ultra-wealthy and powerful interests. Indeed, the broadcaster occupies a pivotal position within an international corporate-political alliance which promotes only those narratives which consolidate the “global order”.
‘Using multiple examples of BBC reporting, the author argues that the tax-payer funded broadcaster is a proxy which acts on behalf of a tiny, but very powerful clique – a role which compels it to pump out disinformation on an industrial scale, misleading all those who consume its content.’
The book covers topics such as climate change, Brexit, Covid, anti-Semitism, Trump and the NHS. It is good to see that his chapters on climate change highlight many of the issues I have raised over the years.
Sedgwick’s premise that the BBC has always protected the establishment is an interesting one. One implication is that this same establishment has morphed over the years, from a reactionary one of the past to the left wing, big government, global world order one of today.
Well worth buying!