One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson listens to marine scientist Alison Jones as she holds coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
Oh, the i.r.o.n.y.
Right-wing Australian politician and climate change waffler Pauline Hanson visited the Great Barrier Reef Friday and declared everything looked fine to her.
In early 2016, sections of the immense 2,300-kilometre (1,430-mile) reef suffered through a global coral bleaching event that especially impacted its northern reaches. Scientists found that unusually warm water temperatures spurred by El Nio and climate change had a devastating effect. But what’s expertise in the face of blind ignorance?
The leader of the One Nation Party took a dip near Queensland’s Great Keppel Island, the ABC reported, more than 1,000 kilometres from the epicentre of the reef’s coral bleaching event at Lizard Island.
“If you actually go deeper, 12-20 metres deeper in the ocean, the reefs there are in pristine condition,” Hanson said. “And they’re growing all the time.” She suggested those publicising their concerns about the reef were hurting the tourist trade.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority found in October that 22 percent of coral on the reef had died “due to the worst mass bleaching event on record,” with 85 percent of mortality taking place between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island.
Bleaching occurs when coral expels the colour and nutrient-providing algae that lives in its tissue. The action can be caused by stresses like pollution and rising water temperatures. While bleached coral can recover, they may die if water temperatures remain high or the water is polluted.
In photos taken from the trip, Hanson is also seen touching a piece of coral that’s being held out of the water. This raised questions on social media about whether the visit was done by the book.
Alison Jones, who escorted Hanson on the trip, told Mashable the reef she handled was already “broken off.” Jones claimed she had the necessary permits for the dive.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has been contacted by Mashable for comment regarding the permits. “You must not damage, collect or otherwise take coral, including dead coral … in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit,” its site states.
Hanson’s views on what she has deemed “scare mongering” may not have been challenged on the trip. While she considers herself a scientist, Jones said she does not believe in man-caused climate change. “I don’t believe man-made actions are changing the climate and don’t believe man-made actions can influence the climate,” she said.
In Jones’ view, the bleached northern reaches of the reef will recover on their own. “Because it’s caused by a local and regional weather pattern, not by climate change,” she said.
She is very lonely in this view, with a preponderance of climate and coral scientists agreeing that Australia must act now to protect the reef. In June, more than 2,000 coral reef scientists warned that reefs globally were at risk of “complete collapse” in the face of climate change.
Hanson was accompanied on the trip by fellow One Nation senator and avowed climate change denier Malcolm Roberts. Roberts last made headlines after he was schooled on the science of rising atmospheric temperatures by physicist Brian Cox on national television.
“The Greens and their cabal of international NGO’s are using the reef as a pawn in their deceitful game to de-industrialise the Western world,” he wrote on Facebook.
Hanson’s office was contacted for comment but did not pick up the phone.