Breitbart Claims That The Dying Great Barrier Reef Is "Fake News"


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

An aerial view of the GBR. superjoseph/Shutterstock

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a microcosm demonstrating what the excesses of human activity can do to the planet’s natural beauty. By all accounts, it’s in trouble: increasingly warm and acidic waters are triggering record-breaking bleaching events and die-offs.

That’s why it’s curious that Breitbart – the “platform for the alt-right” that’s neck-deep in xenophobia, conspiracy theories, and fear-mongering – published an article with the headline: “Barrier Reef ‘Dying’ Scare Exposed As Fake News.”


So is there any truth to this? Of course there isn’t, but let’s dismantle the article claim by claim.

It’s worth mentioning right away that this piece is by James Delingpole, a braggadocious climate change denier who has repeatedly penned pieces for Breitbart that rally against the overwhelming consensus of scientists. He is not a scientist; if anything, he’s a wannabe polemicist who’s rabidly vexed by nothing less than factual information.

So what has Delingpole claimed to have exposed? Right at the outset, he suggests that “Australia’s state propagandist” outlet, ABC, has run a story suggesting that the GBR is recovering “surprisingly fast.”

The story focused on the fact that the GBR experienced its worst bleaching event ever last year. At one point, 93 percent of the coral was bleached, and by the end of the 2016 event, as much as 29 percent was dead. As of May this year, the GBR was undergoing its second bleaching event in as many years, although it’s too early to tell how bad it will be.


The ABC piece explains that, despite this catastrophe, parts of the GBR that were severely bleached are making a recovery. That’s the key part here: coral that was bleached, but didn’t die, is managing to pull through despite the intensity of the event.

The future of the GBR. acro_phuket/Shutterstock

The fact that “parts” and not “all” of the GBR are recovering is also significant – southern segments of the reef, for example, are doing better than northern areas, which not only have bleaching to deal with but regular destructive cyclonic activity.

Neil Cantin, a scientist from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told ABC that it’s "very surprising” to see this recovery so soon, as “previous studies have shown a two-to-three year delay in reproductive activity following bleaching events.”

None of this relatively good news, though, means that the GBR isn’t dying, because that remains the overall trend.


Nevertheless, Delingpole claims that scientists and the “regressive left” are making this up, that they're "[promoting] fake news stories knowing that they will remain in the public consciousness long after the tiny correction has been run.”

Delingpole couldn’t have come up with a more perfect description for his own articles. He's peddling bullshit, and he knows it.


  • tag
  • climate change,

  • hoax,

  • Great Barrier Reef,

  • anti-science,

  • Fake news,

  • Breitbart,

  • alternative facts,

  • Delingpole,

  • bleaching event