Only the unknown frightens men. ~Antoine de St. Exupery
Scare Tactics to Create Fear
As public awareness grows that human-caused warming is false, the extent and degree
of attempts to scare the public increases. The scare preference is for remote geographic
areas such as the Arctic or Antarctic or complex obscure topics ideally with global
implications, which the public knows little about. The latest scare story is ocean
acidification, which combines these traits with the advantage of a word with negative
connotations and used before in acid rain.
Like all scares, it is based on total acceptance that an increase in atmospheric
CO2 is a problem. The claim in this case is it is causing temperature increase, but
also changing the chemistry of the oceans. Like all the scares, it is pure speculation
after you accept the false claim CO2 is causing temperature increase. To counteract
suggestions that they are overstating the threat, they use a form of the precautionary
principle which holds we must act anyway. We don’t even know if a problem exists
– or, if it did, what impact it would have. Yet the full impact of ocean acidification
and how these impacts may propagate through marine ecosystems and affect fisheries
remains largely unknown.
What Is Ocean Acidification?
Oceans absorb or release CO2 primarily determined by the amount in the atmosphere
and the water temperature. The argument is that regardless of what the air temperature
does increased CO2 amount in the atmosphere due to human activity guarantees more
going into the oceans. This change results in a change in water chemistry reflected
in one measure, the pH.
A solution has a pH level that is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity. The pH
scale is from 0 to 14 and a measure of 7 is neutral. The scale is created relative
to standard solutions and agreed on internationally. Above 7 the solution is more
alkaline and below 7 it is more acid. The oceans are considered to have a pH of 8.2
with a variance of 0.3, so it is an alkaline solution.
The claim of ocean acidification is based on estimates and computer models; these
use the very questionable pre-industrial atmospheric level of CO2 to calculate an
increase of about 0.1 pH units. Of course, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) attributes the CO2 increase to human production, which is wrong because
the global carbon cycle is very vague about sources, storage and length of time in
each condition. For example, the error in the estimate of CO2 from the oceans each
year is greater than the total human contribution.
The idea that a 0.1 pH unit increase is significant is ludicrous when the estimate
has a range of 0.3 units. There is a subtle but important point here, because words
are part of the scare component. Even if you accept the claimed change it, is not
acidification; it is proper to say the solution is becoming less alkaline, but that
doesn’t sound threatening. More problematic is the validity of the measures
Although pH in seawater has been measured for many decades, a reliable long-term
trend of ocean water pH cannot be established due to data quality issues, in particular
the lack of strict and stable calibration procedures and standards. Moreover, seawater
pH is very sensitive to temperature, and temperature is not always recorded or measured
at sufficient accuracy to constrain the pH measurement.
Even if CO2 increases to 560 ppm by 2050 as the IPCC predict, it would only result
in a 0.2 unit reduction of pH. This is still within the error of the estimate of
What is the Real Threat?
So what is threatened by this reduced alkalinity? Most marine life, if you read all
the stories; but scare stories need one issue people view positively. Coral fits
the bill well because the underwater scenes of color and diversity of life mesmerize
us all. According to the experts, ocean acidification may render most regions of
the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue
to increase. It could lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening
food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing
industry. Scares require dramatic change beyond any previously recorded:
Ocean acidification is more rapid than ever in the history of the earth and if you
look at the pCO2 (partial pressure of carbon dioxide) levels we have reached now,
you have to go back 35 million years in time to find the equivalents.
Scares also require an impending critical point beyond which remedial action is useless.
This so-called “tipping point” is currently estimated to allow a drop of about 0.2
pH units, a value that could be reached in as near as 30 years.
It is no surprise the author of these outrageous and incorrect remarks is chair of
the EuroCLIMATE program Scientific Committee.
A plot of CO2 levels over the last 600 million years shows current levels are very
low at 385 ppm.
The only period in 600 million years when CO2 levels were equal to the present was
over 300 million years ago. Since that time CO2 levels averaged 1000 to 1200 ppm
or 3 to 4 times current levels. How did the plant and animal life survive those levels?
It makes a mockery of the claim that even a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is a problem.
More recent measures of pH levels show how current levels and claimed changes are
well within natural variability. Here is a reconstruction of pH levels for the South
China Seas by Liu et al (2009) that illustrates the point.
The Light of Understanding
Marie Curie, one of the greatest scientists of all time, said:
Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.
Gradually, more and more evidence shows the hypothesis that human CO2 is causing
warming or climate change is false. Fear is subsiding as more people, including many
scientists, understand and are speaking out. A surprising one recently was Tom Tripp,
a member and lead author of the IPCC since 2004. At the July 2009 Utah Farm Bureau
Convention, he said there is so much natural variability in weather it makes a scientifically
valid conclusion about man-made global warming difficult. Specifically, he said,
It may well be, but we’re not scientifically there yet.
That contradicts the message from the reports he helped author. It also disavows
the claim the science is settled. The outrage is alarmists continue to present a
message of certainty. However, just in case you are wavering, the sky is definitely
falling and they will continue to produce outrageous unsubstantiated scares to prove