Experts Can’t Confirm Current Ocean Acidification Damage

Published January 8, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #198

With the pause in global temperature rise continuing well into its 18th year, polar bear populations and Arctic and Antarctic ice levels on the increase, and hurricane land strikes at historic lows, the list of horribles climate alarmists can trot out to scare the public is dwindling.

Thus it didn’t surprise me at all to see one of the leading mainstream media voices of climate hysteria, The New York Times, run a nearly 1,300-word commentary misleadingly titled, “Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas.” The story told was not new. The authors – Richard W. Spinrad, chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Ian Boyd, chief scientific advisor to the British government’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – claim oceans are acidifying as they soak up human carbon dioxide emissions, threatening numerous ocean species including oysters, corals, and even clownfish.

Not so fast! As e-mails released by NOAA in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Steve Milloy at attest, the Times actually pushed the authors to make their piece more alarming and its findings more certain than evidence for the dangers of ocean acidification (OA) actually justify. And boy did NOAA and DEFRA respond to the suggestion.

In an attempt to satisfy the Times‘ request for examples of existing damage, each agency circulated drafts of the op-ed internally asking their colleagues to provide examples of present harms resulting from OA. One researcher suggested they cite damage to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as caused by acidification and the final op-ed did so, saying, “In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system.”

NOAA’s claim stems from a 2012 paper that analyzed 27 years of data, finding the Barrier Reef’s coral cover was down from 28% to 13.8% by area, meaning half the initial coral cover had been lost. That paper concluded the losses occurred due to cyclones (48%), crown-of-thorns starfish (42%), and coral bleaching (10%). The paper attributed no part of the decline to OA. Parts of the northern reef not affected by any of those factors suffered no decline in coral cover. The researchers determined the coral overall would have grown by nearly 3% a year absent cyclones, starfish, and bleaching.

The internal emails reveal NOAA’s Dr. Shallin Busch, who works in the agency’s Ocean Acidification Program, warned, “Given my knowledge of the literature, OA is more of a future problem than a problem right now for the Great Barrier Reef. I think it is important to resist the NYT editor’s impulse to say that OA is wreaking all sorts of havoc right now, because for ecological systems, we don’t yet have the evidence to say that.”

When asked for help in providing examples of present damage from OA, Busch responded honestly, one might say scientifically, “Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are no areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now … the study of the biological impacts of OA is so young that we don’t have any data sets that show a direct effect of OA on population health or trajectory.” Spinrad and Boyd should have listened to Busch.

When writing about the harm to oysters and other shellfish, Spinrad and Boyd linked to OA a decade-old spike in baby oyster deaths in the West Coast fishery. Yet, as they and the Times should have been well aware, research showed the infant oysters had been killed by fecal contamination of sewage that had washed into the oyster beds. Ever the gadfly to the alarmists’ OA trope, Busch noted shellfish production in the Washington oyster industry has in fact risen since climate alarmist first began to warn of an OA “crisis.” As I noted in the February 20, 2015 edition of Climate Change Weekly, a comprehensive study published in 2015 in Bioscience reported, “There is, as yet, no robust evidence for realized severe disruptions of marine socioecological links from ocean acidification to anthropogenic CO2, and there are significant uncertainties regarding the level of pH change that would prompt such impacts.”

If one needs further proof OA can’t be linked to shellfish damage, one need look no further than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since EPA issued its endangerment finding, asserting human greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and the environment, it has taken every opportunity it could to flex its regulatory muscle to limit emissions. Yet when a lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, opening the door for EPA to impose upon the Pacific Coast stricter Clean Water Act protections due to the supposed harms caused by OA to shellfish in the region, EPA demurred, saying there was insufficient evidence of harm to shellfish to warrant using CWS to further restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps most important, as noted in a recent paper by Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, marine species arose, evolved, and thrived through millions of years when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were many times higher than at present, and surveys of the research literature show the effect of lower pH has a net beneficial impact on the calcification, metabolism, growth, fertility, and survival of calcifying marine species, even when pH is lowered well beyond what is considered a plausible change due to rising human carbon dioxide emissions.

In short, contrary to the Times‘ recent scaremongering, OA does not rank high among the serious threats facing the world’s oceans and fisheries.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Quadrant, The New York Times, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Climate Change Weekly #160, and Climate Change Weekly #137


At least half of the post-1970 warming was due solely to Atlantic OscillationMedieval Warm Period was real and globalArctic ice decline pauses along with temperatureClimate truths summed up

Research published in the Universal Journal of Geoscience shows much of the variability and at least half of the latter twentieth century’s temperature increase was due to natural forcings related to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Accounting for the AMO, the post-1970 temperature trend is less than half that recorded in the raw data used by England’s Hadley Center for Climate Sciences and Services and much lower than trends produced by computer models that fail to account for the AMO. And this is just the effect of the AMO. Though this paper doesn’t address the issue, if the AMO alone accounts for as much as half of the post-1970 warming, what percentage of global temperature change and variability might the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and other long-term or periodic climate factors like El Niño and La Niña have contributed … and thus how much less a factor might rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions be?

SOURCES: Universal Journal of Geoscience and Judith Curry

Beginning with the initial publication of Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” graph by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if not before, global warming alarmists have tried to write the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) out of the science and history textbooks.

That revisionist effort has been made more difficult by the efforts of two German scientists who have put together an interactive map documenting the massive amount of peer-reviewed literature showing the MWP was both real and global. While they continue assembling research to provide additional data points, so far the Medieval Warming Period Map has 157 markers plotted on it with each marker containing an embedded link to research showing the MWP’s existence for the location.

Geologist/paleontologist Sebastian Lüning, Ph.D. and chemist Fritz Vahrenholt, Ph.D., co-authors of the book The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe (recently republished by The Heartland Institute), assembled the map, in part to demonstrate the overwhelming evidence the MWP occurred, was global in nature, and produced temperatures as warm as or warmer than today. In addition, they hope the map will spark research concerning why climate models don’t reproduce the MWP and what factors contributed to the MWP at a time when carbon dioxide levels were much lower than at present.

SOURCE: No Tricks Zone

Science Matters reports 2015’s sea ice extent has recovered from two unusual events – an unusually warm “blob” of ocean water that melted ice in the Bering Sea a month early and an August storm that pushed sea ice extent down for 28 days – and now exceeds the low sea ice extent measured in 2007. Measurements show in 2007 ice extent was lower than any year since, with the average annual Arctic extent for 2015 exceeding 2007’s low 400,000 km2. This marks the ninth straight year of Arctic sea ice recovery.

SOURCE: Science Matters

While Earth’s climate continues to change, recent changes are relatively mild and benign. Satellites provide the only transparent temperature records in existence. Although the data cover only the past 37 years, that includes the entire period of the latter twentieth century’s warming. The satellite data reveal Earth warmed just over four-tenths of a degree Celsius (almost three-fourths of a degree Fahrenheit) during the past 37 years. If that trend were to continue for another 63 years, Earth’s average warming would be 1.1º C for the century of satellite coverage, putting it well under the 1.5º C target established at the Paris climate change summit. The warming over the past 37 years has not been uniform. The North Pole and Australia have warmed the most, while other regions, including Antarctica, have cooled. All in all, the satellites have measured only a fraction of the warming computer models predicted would occur in response to rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

As the renowned physicist Richard Feynman said, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.”

SOURCE: Power Line

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