People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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Climate change skeptics ‘lack scientific credibility’

Apr 2010

The skeptics who frequently deny the reality of climate change in the world’s media lack all scientific credibility, charge three eminent Australian researchers who have just been listed among the world’s 20 most influential scientists in the field of climate change.

Marine researchers Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor Terry Hughes and Professor John Pandolfi were ranked in the world’s top 20 by the international science citation analysts Thomson Reuters and ScienceWatch, for the decade 1999-2009. All three are coral reef researchers, members of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

However, they warn, many self-proclaimed climate skeptics have never conducted any authentic climate research nor had it peer-reviewed by the world scientific community and published in respected journals.

The three researchers are urging the Australian and international media to be far more cautious in accepting views about climate change put by people whose work has not been subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny and peer-review – and to question the motives behind it.

Hughes, Hoegh-Guldberg and Pandolfi have published extensively in the world scientific literature, in particular on the impacts of climate change on the world’s coral reefs, fish and ocean ecosystems, and on the appropriate management responses to human-related climate change.

Collectively, their research papers on climate change have been cited by over 5000 other scientific publications, giving their work a powerful influence over the thinking of other researchers globally, who then cited it in their own peer-reviewed reports.

Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg, of CoECRS and the University of Queensland, is a co-author of the world’s most cited paper on climate change,  the 2002 Nature report, “Ecological responses to recent climate change” (G.R. Walther et al., Nature 416: 389-95, 2002), which has now been cited about 1,100 times.

James Cook University, where the ARC Coral Centre is headquartered, ranks 1st in Australia and 2nd in the world, for the impact of its climate change research. The US National Center for Atmospheric Research is ranked as the world’s most cited institution. Its most cited paper – the 2003 Science report, “Climate change, human impacts and the resilience of coral reefs“ – was co-authored by an international team including Hughes, Hoegh-Guldberg and Pandolfi (T.P. Hughes et al., Science 302: 1503-1504, 2003)

“There are no climate skeptics among the coral reef science and management community, because we have seen first-hand the damage caused to reefs in response to the global warming that has already occurred. The evidence for man-made climate change is unequivocal,” says CoECRS director, Prof. Hughes.

“Our focus now is to move beyond the gloom, doom and denial, and look for practical solutions that will limit the damage from climate change.”

CoECRS Deputy Director Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg says “The evidence emerging from both ocean and atmospheric science makes it increasingly clear that humanity is going to have to get atmospheric CO2 levels back down to 350 parts per million or less, if we are to avoid major impacts on the planet and everything that lives on it.

“It is good that Australian science is playing a significant role in this global awakening – and Australians generally can support their science by demanding greater urgency and more action from their governments and political parties.”

CoECRS principal researcher Professor Pandolfi says “We are entering a new era in the history of environmental change on our planet: dramatic changes in climate coupled with massive degradation from overexploitation and pollution continue to threaten the foundations of many ecosystems.

“By showing that these linked threats are unprecedented in the Earth’s long history, we are drawing a line in the sand for immediate and substantial action to promote the rehabilitation and recovery of ecosystem goods and services.”

More information:
Professor Terry Hughes, CoECRS and JCU, +61 7 4781 4222 or +61 0400 720 164
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, CoECRS and GCI, UQ, ph +61 7 3346 7417 or +61 0401 106 604
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 7 4781 4222
Jan King, UQ Communications Manager, +61 7 3365 1120
Jim O’Brien, James Cook University Media Office, +61 7 4781 4822 or +61 0418 892449


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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au