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New York Times Story Bizarrely Downplays Impact of Ocean Acidification

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The Grey Lady tonight, in true “newspaper of record” fashion, has an article that manages to acknowledge some of the effects of ocean acidification, and its links to global warming, while sidestepping how grim the implications are.

The article, titled “Scientists Adopt Tiny Island as a Warming Bellwether,” does point out, via recounting how the number and health of various species on Tatoosh Island, Washington, have declined over time, and that the culprit is rising CO2 levels.

But the story is written as if the intent is to anesthetize readers. Tellingly, it mentions “huge declines in Ph” first, and used the word “acidic” sparingly, a mere three times. 14 of its 24 paragraphs are travel narrative, with soothing images of crashing waves and rugged vistas. Some examples, starting with the opening paragraph:

From a stretch of rocky shoreline on this tiny island, one can, on any given morning, watch otters floating on their backs, elephant seals hauling out of the water and a bald eagle flying past murres huddled along a cliff face. The startled birds perform a synchronized dive into the sea, their ovoid black-and-white bodies resembling miniature penguins….

While their parents are out counting barnacles or collecting water samples, the children, Anna, 9, and Ben, 12, lie in their bunks and read. Or they head out to try to catch a fish for dinner, hopping and skipping their way across slippery rocks and past several dark caves to a perch on the island’s north end.

What the researchers call “happy time” comes in the afternoon when the tides return and they gather — along with a rotating cadre of graduate students — outside the Winter Palace on an old dock laid out on the lawn to compare notes, gossip and have a snack.

Everyone gets a brownie, courtesy of Dr. Pfister, but only one — and everyone keeps close watch.

“Being a graduate adviser is like doing a second round of parenting,” Dr. Paine said.

And even when impact on marine life and the species that depend on them are mentioned, the story focuses on the impact on the island, rather than reverting to the typical journalistic device of using the anecdotes to leaven a serious, detailed discussion of the issues, which in this case would be the data and the science. But to the extent the article provides it, it’s in minimalist, dumbed down form:

Among the declines the researchers are noticing: historically hardy populations of gulls and murres are only half what they were 10 years ago, and only a few chicks hatched this spring. Mussel shells are notably thinner, and recently the mussels seem to be detaching from rocks more easily and with greater frequency.

Goose barnacles are also suffering, and so are the hard, splotchy, wine-colored coralline algae, which appear like graffiti along rocky shorelines.

While not entirely understood, the declines are not entirely mysterious. Biologists suspect that the shifts are related to huge declines in the water’s pH, a shift attributed to the absorption of excess carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in ever-greater amounts by the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

As the carbon dioxide is absorbed, it alters the oceanic water chemistry, turning it increasingly acidic. Barnacles, oysters and mussels find it more difficult to survive, which can cause chain reactions among the animals that eat those species, like birds and people.

No where does the article clearly describe that acidification threatens all crustacea, as well as coral reefs. By mentioning the particular species (“barnacles, oysters and mussels”) it makes it sound like the casualties will be comparatively few and ones can we live with (well, I suppose some people can’t get by without moules et frites, but you get the picture).

Contrast the overview from the Times with this section of a 2007 Angry Bear post by Stormy that we discussed at length here:

One of the most startling effects is the acidification of the oceans. Since 1750, the oceans have become increasingly acidic. In the oceans, CO2 forms carbonic acid, a serious threat to the base of the food chain, especially on shellfish of all sizes. Carbonic acid dissolves calcium carbonate, an essential component of any life form with an exoskeleton. In short, all life forms with an exoskeleton are threatened: shell fish, an important part of the food chain for many fish; coral reefs, the habitat of many species of fish….

And, as readers of my last thread might remember, we are accelerating our creation of CO2 at an alarming rate. According to the Energy Bulletin, China alone is planning of 562 new coal plants by 2012.

By 2012, the plants in three key countries – China, India, and the United States – are expected to emit as much as an extra 2.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Monitor analysis of power-plant construction data. In contrast, Kyoto countries by that year are supposed to have cut their CO2 emissions by some 483 million tons.

According to one estimate, between 1750 and 1994, oceans absorbed 118 billion tons of CO2—and we were just starting serious CO2 production. As anyone with a fish tank knows, as the Ph falls, the water becomes more acidic. Fish life becomes more and more problematical.

This absorption has made the world’s oceans significantly more acidic since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Research published last year by Mark Jacobson, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, indicated that between 1751 and 2004 surface ocean pH dropped from approximately 8.25 to 8.14. James Orr of the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory further estimated that ocean pH levels could fall another 0.3 – 0.4 units by 2100.

In fact, by 2050,

…there may be too little carbonate for [in the Pacific] organisms to form shells as soon as 2050.

Since 1990 alone, Ph levels in the Pacific have dropped .0025. Such a drop may not seem significant until one understands Ph levels.

Both of the articles cited above are well-worth reading in full. The first article is perhaps the most germane, touching, as it does, on the causes of the Permian extinction, the largest mass die-off in the earth’s history. Yes, the oceans became acidic, far more so than ours will by 2100, I think, I hope.

Yves here. In case you think Stormy was being unduly alarmist, consider this section of a post we published in March of this year:

Consider the scope of the paper in Science, per a very good discussion in ars technica:

A new paper in Science examines the geologic record for context relating to ocean acidification…The research group (twenty-one scientists from nearly as many different universities) reviewed the evidence from past known or suspected intervals of ocean acidification…They find that the current rate of ocean acidification puts us on a track that, if continued, would likely be unprecedented in last 300 million years.

There is an important driver of this process that this overview mentions only in passing further on, and it’s useful to have it in mind when you review the discussion of the historical record: ocean acidification depends primarily on the rate of atmospheric CO2 increases, not the absolute concentration. Look at how attenuated the rate of past CO2 changes was in the past versus the speed now:

The first period the researchers looked at was the end of the last ice age, starting around 18,000 years ago. Over a period of about 6,000 years, atmospheric CO2 levels increased by 30 percent, a change of roughly 75 ppm. (For reference, atmospheric CO2 has gone up by about the same amount over the past 50 years.) Over that 6,000 year time period, surface ocean pH dropped by approximately 0.15 units. That comes out to about 0.002 units per century. Our current rate is over 0.1 units per century—two orders of magnitude greater, which lines up well with a model estimate we covered recently.

The last deglaciation did not trigger a mass extinction, but it did cause changes in some species…

During the Pliocene warm period, about 3 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 was about the same as today, but pH was only 0.06 to 0.11 units lower than preindustrial conditions. This is because the event played out over 320,000 years or so. We see species migration in the fossil record in response to the warming planet, but not ill effects on calcifiers…

Next, the researchers turned their focus to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (or PETM), which occurred 56 million years ago. Global temperature increased about 6°C over 20,000 years due to an abrupt release of carbon to the atmosphere (though this was not as abrupt as current emissions). The PETM saw the largest extinction of deep-sea foraminifera of the last 75 million years, and was one of the four biggest coral reef disasters of the last 300 million years…

The group also examined the several mass extinctions that defined the Mesozoic—the age of dinosaurs. The boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic included a large increase in atmospheric CO2 (adding as much as 1,300 to 2,400 ppm) over a relatively short period of time, perhaps just 20,000 years. The authors write, “A calcification crisis amongst hypercalcifying taxa is inferred for this period, with reefs and scleractinian corals experiencing a near-total collapse.” Again, though, it’s unclear how much of the catastrophe can be blamed on acidification rather than warming.

Finally, we come the big one—The Great Dying. The Permian-Triassic mass extinction (about 252 million years ago) wiped out around 96 percent of marine species. Still, the rate of CO2 released to the atmosphere that drove the dangerous climate change was 10-100 times slower than current emissions…

In the end, the researchers conclude that the PETM, Triassic-Jurassic boundary, and Permian-Triassic boundary are the closest analogs to the modern day, at least as far as acidification is concerned. Due to the poor ocean chemistry data for the latter two, the PETM is the best event for us to compare current conditions. It’s still not perfect—the rate of CO2 increase was slower than today…

The authors conclude, “[T]he current rate of (mainly fossil fuel) CO2 release stands out as capable of driving a combination and magnitude of ocean geochemical changes potentially unparalleled in at least the last ~300 [million years] of Earth history, raising the possibility that we are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change.”

Translation: “We’re probably fucked, but the data is so far outside of historical parameters, we can’t say anything with a high degree of certainty.”

Back to the current post. It’s not hard to find this sort of discussion on the grim effects of ocean acidification, yet the Times chooses to gloss over it as if the potential impact isn’t known. Get a grip: scientists are looking at mass species die-offs as the closest comparable. By contrast, what we get from the Times is a narrowly accurate but substantively misleading bromide of the “no one knows for sure” sort. This is how the article concludes:

He speaks of the calcareous sponges that live in the caves of Tatoosh and, like hard-shell species, use dissolved calcium carbonate, in this case to form their skeletons or spicules, thus making them vulnerable in more acidic waters.

“Almost nothing is known about this species,” Dr. Paine said.

“No one in their right mind has the time to sample calcareous sponges, let alone recognize them,” he added. “They’re likely to disappear.”

While some species may be able to adapt to new oceanic conditions, many will not.

“You can predict change,” Dr. Paine said, “and most of the changes are going to be in a direction we don’t want.”

So what is the coded message here? Yeah, we’re gonna lose some species, but they are so obscure most scientists don’t recognize them. The fact that acidification can and likely will make the ocean hostile to many forms of life, either directly or second hand, by diminishing their habitat or food supply, is acknowledged in “many will not adapt to new oceanic conditions,” a remarkably bloodless formulation.

There have probably been other examples of this sort of news treatment that I’ve missed, but this story comes off as a new form of propaganda. Rather than run a Big Lie, and say something isn’t happening when it is, or try agnotology, in claiming the research around an issue is inconclusive when it isn’t, this piece ‘fesses up to the existence of a Big Problem and presents it as something not to be worried about, a threat to fungus and sponges and mollusks, not to Life As We Know It.

Stormy’s conclusion from March 2007 is still apt:

I like my old metaphor—and will again trot it out: We are all subprime borrowers. Right now our credit seems good. Life seems good. We look around and behold the miracle of our civilization, on its capacity to grow and on the energy it has harnessed.

But all things have their price; nothing is free…. Repayment may be sooner than we think.

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42 comments

  1. tracy coyle

    Studies of the ocean show that ph levels already are so variable as to include the ’2100′ levels and pre-industrial levels.

    Reference
    Hofmann, G.E., Smith, J.E., Johnson, K.S., Send, U., Levin, L.A., Micheli, F., Paytan, A., Price, N.N., Peterson, B., Takeshita, Y., Matson, P.G., Crook, E.D., Kroeker, K.J., Gambi, M.C., Rivest, E.B., Frieder, C.A., Yu, P.C. and Martz, T.R. 2011. High-frequency dynamics of ocean pH: A multi-ecosystem comparison. PLoS ONE 6: e28983.

    Background
    The authors write that “natural variability in pH is seldom considered when effects of ocean acidification are considered,” and they suggest that this omission is disturbing, because “natural variability may occur at rates much higher than the rate at which carbon dioxide is decreasing ocean pH,” which is about 0.0017 pH unit per year according to Dore et al. (2009) and Byrne et al. (2010). And because of this fact, they contend that “ambient fluctuation in pH may have a large impact on the development of resilience in marine populations,” noting that “heterogeneity in the environment with regard to pH and pCO2 exposure may result in populations that are acclimatized to variable pH or extremes in pH.”

    What was done
    To further explore this possibility, Hofmann et al. recorded continuous high-resolution time series of upper-ocean patterns of pH variability with autonomous sensors deployed at fifteen different locations stretching from 40.7303°N to 77.8000°S latitude and from 0 to 166.6712°E longitude and 0 to 162.1218°W longitude, over a variety of ecosystems ranging from polar to tropical, open-ocean to coastal, and kelp forest to coral reef.

    What was learned
    The eighteen researchers report that their measurements revealed “a continuum of month-long pH variability with standard deviations from 0.004 to 0.277 and ranges spanning 0.024 to 1.430 pH units,” which variability was “highly site-dependent, with characteristic diel, semi-diurnal, and stochastic patterns of varying amplitudes.”

    What it means
    Directly quoting Hofmann et al., “these biome-specific pH signatures disclose current levels of exposure to both high and low dissolved CO2, often demonstrating that resident organisms are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100.” And these facts suggest that the current real-world heterogeneity of the world’s oceans with regard to pH and pCO2 exposure may indeed “result in populations that are acclimatized to variable pH or extremes in pH,” such as those that have been predicted to be the new norm in 2100.

    1. Thorstein

      If @Tracy Coyle had taken the time to read the whole article, she would have found that the CO2/pH levels “not expected until 2100″ were recorded at upwellings, estuaries, and thermal vents. Discussing their measurements at coral reefs the authors were careful to add the qualifying phrase but moderate:

      In contrast to more stochastic changes in pH that were observed in some sites, our coral reef locations displayed a strikingly consistent pattern of diel fluctuations over the 30-day recording period. Similar short-term pH time series with lower daily resolution [69], [70] have reported regular diel pH fluctuation correlated to changes in total alkalinity and oxygen levels. These environmental patterns of pH suggest that reef organisms may be acclimatized to consistent but moderate changes in the carbonate system.

      It is, of course, coral reef biomes that are the focal concern of scientists concerned by ocean acidification, not just because they are especially sensitive to pH fluctuations, but also because they are a foundation of the marine food chain.

      Who are these people who respond to Yves’ 12:30 AM post within 2 hours on a Sunday morning with a pre-digested set of talking points? Ahh, Public Relations meets the web! They take their work home with them and they’re on-call 24/7. Some bot crawls NC every half-hour, sees the words “ocean” and “CO2″ pop up new, and fires an alert off to the PR troll who has been programmed with the “ocean-CO2″ responses. The troll gets a bonus if it captures the top comment slot. O brave new world, that has such people in’t.

      1. wbgonne

        Prove that what I’m doing will kill you. After you’re dead we’ll discuss the next step.

      2. Ruben

        “It is, of course, coral reef biomes that are the focal concern of scientists concerned by ocean acidification, not just because they are especially sensitive to pH fluctuations, but also because they are a foundation of the marine food chain.”

        No. Coral reefs are not “a foundation of the marine food chain”. They ocuppy less than 0.5% of the ocean’s surface, and are located in shallow waters. Most of the oceans’ food webs have nothing to do with coral reefs.

        Species diversity, yes, foundation of food webs, nope.

  2. psychohistorian

    There is the belief that mankind has already run itself off the proverbial cliff and the descent to the bottom will be quick.

    That or we are going to have to keep redefining the term bizarre in relation to human “evolution”……I am trying to be positive about the potential anthropological legacy of our species in the universe.

    My penultimate delusion is that aliens will come and save us from our universal stupidity and ignorance……wheeeeee!

    Where are the adults in our would anyway?

  3. RalphR

    Aha! The suspicious first comment that seeks to debunk the post! And with a citation, even better!

    Funny, the Los Angeles Times has a big story tonight on acidification, apparently coming out of a major conference (540 scientists, wonder why nary a mention of that out of the New York Times?)

    The “oh there’s no firm answer here” is classic agnotology. The LA Times reports, au contraire, that you can generalize about the change in ocean Ph:

    “The world’s oceans have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution began more than two centuries ago. In that time, the seas have absorbed 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide that has built up in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels.”

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-acidic-oceans-20121007,0,7494056.story

    And what’s the date of your paper? It does acknowledge that the oceans are becoming more acid, and that 0.0017 Ph unit per year IS serious, this is a classic case of lying with numbers. Even that Stormy article that Yves referenced understood that:

    “Since 1990 alone, pH levels in the Pacific have dropped .0025. Such a drop may not seem significant until one understands pH levels….”

    17 x .0017 is HIGHER than the .0025 that Stormy cited, and it’s likely the study he got that from didn’t include 2007, given the March post date. So the data you are citing is consistent with the data coming from the people who are freaking out.

    1. Ruben

      “Aha! The suspicious first comment that seeks to debunk the post! And with a citation, even better!”

      And this poor sarcasm is supposed to debunk an argument based on the results of a scientific article in PLOS One?

      The point of the PLOS One article, published in 2011, is not agnosticism; the article _assumes_ the ocean acidification trend and it argues -based on natural current pH variations across ecosystems- that marine biota may already be acclimated to the pH levels expected by 2100 under the _assumed_ trends.

    1. Ms G

      WTF!. And to a soundtrack that keeps repeating the word “Life” against rave instrumentals. Now I understand why so many people think we lived in an Advanced Stage of Evolution. :(

      My favorite comment under the video:

      “These people are enjoying what they have worked for to provide themselves. It’s fun for them, why can’t those that are negative find their own entertainment other than become so negative and critical. I think this is terrific. Thank you.” DeeFaun 1 day ago 4

  4. urjustjealous

    Pure conjecture, scientism and psuedo scine. They have no long term base-line data to even begin to make these assertions, not to mention valid and falsifiable theory.

    If someone in a real scient, say physics or chemistry, try this sort of fluffy nonsense they wold be laughed of the podium.

    And it defies basic common sense: If this phenomea was to be so wide spread as to reach such a remote place then the alleged :phenomena” would have examples world wide. It would be in fact almost ubiquitous.

    Scientism in the puresuit of poltical aims.

    These folkd, and the NYT, are postively rapurous in their stupidity and bias. IT is very reminicent of the “Acid Rain” scare tactics or the Rain Forest BS of years past.

    You could plunk these people down anywhere and they would find “evidence” of global warming or “carbon damage” no matter what the situation was.

    How furture generations will laugh at us.

    Environmentalism: the Modern form of Scholasticism.

    1. skippy

      Firstly: “And it defies basic common sense” – urjustjealous

      Common sense is not utilized in scientific endeavor, intuition is another thingy. Common sense has, will be, defied… continually.

      Secondly: “Pure conjecture” – urjustjealous

      To suggest so strongly – with out – evidence is actually conjecture. So basically you refute yourself by your own measure.

      Couple of options, 1) some form of breather 2) industry shrill, 3) Yves and mob are conducting behavioral studies…

      PS. Per the PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

      Abstract

      By the end of this century, anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are expected to decrease the surface ocean pH by as much as 0.3 unit. At the same time, the ocean is expected to warm with an associated expansion of the oxygen minimum layer (OML). Thus, there is a growing demand to understand the response of the marine biota to these global changes. We show that ocean acidification will substantially depress metabolic rates (31%) and activity levels (45%) in the jumbo squid, Dosidicus gigas, a top predator in the Eastern Pacific. This effect is exacerbated by high temperature. Reduced aerobic and locomotory scope in warm, high-CO2 surface waters will presumably impair predator–prey interactions with cascading consequences for growth, reproduction, and survival. Moreover, as the OML shoals, squids will have to retreat to these shallower, less hospitable, waters at night to feed and repay any oxygen debt that accumulates during their diel vertical migration into the OML. Thus, we demonstrate that, in the absence of adaptation or horizontal migration, the synergism between ocean acidification, global warming, and expanding hypoxia will compress the habitable depth range of the species. These interactions may ultimately define the long-term fate of this commercially and ecologically important predator.

      http://www.pnas.org/content/105/52/20776.full

      ———

      The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover in the last 27 years. The loss was due to storm damage (48%), crown of thorns starfish (42%), and bleaching (10%) according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville. – snip

      “We can’t stop the storms, and ocean warming (the primary cause of coral bleaching) is one of the critical impacts of the global climate change,” says AIMS CEO, John Gunn. “However, we can act to reduce the impact of crown of thorns,” he says. “The study shows that in the absence of crown of thorns, coral cover would increase at 0.89% per year, so even with losses due to cyclones and bleaching there should be slow recovery.

      Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-10-great-barrier-reef-lost-coral.html#jCp

      Lastly… “You could plunk these people down anywhere and they would find “evidence” of global warming or “carbon damage” no matter what the situation was.” – urjustjealous

      Skippy… It’s every where, that the wonderful thing about anthropogenic results, it follows humanity all around the globe. Wheres your common sense?

      1. jabre

        Everyone wants to feel that they are responsibile and can directly manage perceived problems. With respect to bleaching the evidence is demonstrating this is caused by a virus, not anthropogenic acidification: http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ismej201275a.html

        I have the utmost respect for Yves with respect to financial matters. When she strays into other areas, that are so much more effectively covered by other blogs, she is doing a disservice into her credibility.

        1. skippy

          “In recent decades, however, acute and chronic environmental stressors have frequently destabilized this symbiosis, ultimately leading to coral mortality and reef decline” – ISME – your link

          Its a compound problem, whats your point again?

          Skippy… Yves should sit in her little corner or “she is doing a disservice into her credibility”? Personally, myself, people should not try and – tweak – the conversation. It does – their – credibility a disservice… eh.

          1. jabre

            Good example. You focus on the one vague commentary statement rather than the science of the paper. This is a complex issue. But it is one that has been covered on many other blogs over the last several years. Here’s a better blog posting than is found in this attempt on the topic.

            http://joannenova.com.au/2012/01/scripps-blockbuster-ocean-acidification-happens-all-the-time-naturally/

            This is Yves blog. I do respect her right to post what she wishes. As a reader, I also consider it appropriate to provide constructive criticism. Despite these few ill attempts at off-core topics I still do come back for the financial posts because the are, for the most part, excellent.

          2. skippy

            “You focus on the one vague commentary statement rather than the science of the paper.” – jabre

            Cough… that was exactly your approach in the first case i.e. bleaching is not caused by AGW/induced ocean acidification, but, by a virus, its complicated. Yes… a virus that flourishes in the environmental conditions AGW/ocean acidification presents. I still can not – see – the relevance of your criticism as bleaching IS exacerbated by ocean acidification, a by product of AGW.

            BTW the author of that blog, your link: A prize-winning science graduate in molecular biology, Jo has also hosted a children’s TV series on Channel Nine, and has done over 200 radio interviews, many on the Australian ABC. She was formerly an associate lecturer in Science Communication at the ANU and is based in Perth, Western Australia. A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; Jo Nova was just explaining science, but ended up protecting science on a crusade for logic and reason, and ****against Big-Government.****: Jo Nova: libertarian, science bod and blogger who gets 2 million hits a year.

            Skip here… Oh yeah… Jo Nova a rabid neoliberal Rupert Murdoch, Allen Jones, Gina Rinehart and gang paid shrill:

            Prediction 2 confirmed: they will reject the research, cherry pick its arguments

            Throw the sceptic movement a piece of empirical research, and they will switch to motivated reasoning mode and search for the smallest of errors.

            Bishop Hill and Jo Nova are leading that change, being cheered on by Anthony Watts.

            The comments fields on these blogs are filled with the exact same misinformed reasoning and misinformation that accompanies most of the discussion on these sites.

            Yawn.

            However, they’ve also started a campaign of FOI requests and other tactics straight form the “lets-harass-the-scientists” play book (I’ll explore in next post).

            Prediction 3 half confirmed: I expect the likes of conspiracy theorist and climate sceptic Jo Nova to go ballistic

            Well I have so say I was a little disappointed with Jo.

            I had the popcorn out and was waiting for some classic Nova/Evans “OMG it’s the international bankers coming to get my money arrrrrgh! Where’s my gold? Under the bed!?!?!?!”

            I’d built my expectations on the last time Jo responded to research produced in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, one of the world’s foremost scientific journals. In her fury she redesigned the front cover of the journal:

            http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/category/jo-nova/

            ———

            FYI…

            Students Publishing in New Media: Eight Hypotheses – a House of Cards?

            William Rifkina, Nancy Longneckerb, Joan Leachc, Lloyd Davisd, Lindy Orthiae

            This article argues that an experiment in how to engage and motivate science students can legitimately rest on what might be termed a ‘house of cards’, a range of variously-linked hypotheses that are supported individually and collectively by both published and as yet unpublished data. This argument for legitimacy has been endorsed already by peer review, by a panel assessing a grant
            proposal to explore student publication in ‘new media’ in large science classes as a way to develop
            the graduate attributes of university students in Australia. The Australian Learning and Teaching
            Council (ALTC) are funding our project to identify and evaluate, and where appropriate develop and
            disseminate, ‘new media’ teaching strategies and resources suited to large classes in science. We are
            engaging science academics in evaluating and testing approaches that have students creating ‘new
            media,’ such as podcasts, blogs, videos, wikis, webzines, and web sites.

            http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=science%20communication%20at%20the%20anu%20and%20is%20based%20in%20perth%2C%20western%20australia&source=web&cd=18&cad=rja&ved=0CEQQFjAHOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fojs-prod.library.usyd.edu.au%2Findex.php%2FCAL%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F3529%2F5422&ei=pBByUP_hOcmQiQfcvIDoCg&usg=AFQjCNHapKHtZeLTdYylz1HZtXycaVI-qw

            Disclaimer… I have no dog hunting in the carbon trade, zero market exposure, political affiliation, worship electrons of price.

            PS… jabre… interesting blog handle, kinda like Jabre Capital Partners Cayman-based, Jabcap Global Balanced Fund Ltd or Jabre Holdings Pty Ltd au. et al… Anywho, Philippe would have more pressing matters to attend, so, one has to wonder, minion, acolyte, or wannabe… Blogistan is strange… eh. Scientific Rigor old boy… get some.

      1. Dan_in_KC

        Troll based on a the content of both this comment and a prior comment posted by him/her in response to a September 25th post on Mitt’s taxes.

      2. ebear

        “Troll or sarcasm?”

        Or are they the same….. ?

        No, wait! I have it. A troll is someone I disagree with.

        Yeah, that’s it.

        1. Woody in Florida

          Lol, Ebear you might be the best troll ever. I actually reread you comments four times until I realized I had allowed myself to be trolled, so hat tip for you.

    2. nonclassical

      hmmmnnn…

      …how ’bout Stanford PhD, both Physics and Chemistry, who has pursued the subject since retiring, Grade 1 Pentagon clearance, military-industrial (Congressional) complex…for over 15 years now, and is appalled at lack of action upon given science??

  5. Max424

    I just read this article at Denny’s! What a coincidence. I swore off the sellout rag 3 years ago, but I needed reading material for breakfast, and my local Sunoco QuickMart (regular: $4.03) was out of the USA Today (don’t knock it, great sports page!), so I had no choice but to grab the Grey Hag.

    What an inspirational piece! It’s a love story! There’s a Winter Palace! It’s Dr. Zhivago! It’s Yuri and Lara holed up at Varykino, except, instead of having hot sex and writing timeless poems, our couple studies sponges!

    And then they have kids. And the kids leave the safety of the Winter Palace to go “hopping and skipping across slippery rocks.” And that reminded me of when I was wee boy, when I used to force my little brother to accompany me whilst I did all sorts of crazy shit.

    And at the end, it’s like, who really cares if all the fish in the sea die? If everything, in fact, dies? There’s always “happy time,” and a brownie for everyone.

    But just one.

  6. J Sterling

    Very good article, Yves; I hope you don’t mind if I nitpick your first paragraph just a little. Ocean acidification is linked, not to global warming, but to increase in carbon dioxide.

    There are some schemes for technically correcting some of the effects of global warming, such as placing an asteroid between the earth and the sun to slightly reduce the global temperature. I think these are quite clever and may turn out to be necessary, although they don’t fix everything, even of the global warming problem (e.g. they reduce the energy available to plants, they don’t help the tendency for the upper atmosphere to cool relative top the lower atmosphere, nor for the poles to warm relative to the equator, and so on).

    But none of these schemes for mitigating temperature will do anything to help acidification, because that’s all about the chemistry of carbon dioxide dissolving in the water and becoming carbonic acid. That’s temperature independent, and is a second, completely different environmental effect of fossil fuel extraction from under the ground.

    One other, even more trivial, nit: pH is spelled with a little p and big H. Counterintuitive, I know, but it’s analogous to the way the chemists talk of the activity of the carbon dioxide as “pCO2″ rather than “Pco2″.

  7. Ray Duray

    Oregon, 2007:

    “In the summer of 2007, something strange and troubling happened at the Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on Netarts Bay in Oregon, which raises oyster larvae for shellfish growers from Mexico to Canada. The hatchery’s “seed,” as the oyster larvae are called, began dying by the millions, for no apparent reason.”

    http://grist.org/food/2011-08-17-the-great-oyster-crash/

    In 2008 a jar of commercial oysters cost about $3.00 in the local market. Today it is about $7.00 for the same jar.

    Anyone who calls this acidification issue mere conjecture is suffering from an extreme case of cranialrectalitis.

    1. Susan the other

      Thank you Ray for the reference to the Oregon Oyster disaster of 2007 and its aftermath. Very accessible information. I see it was originally published by the NDRC in On Earth. And I’m also grateful to Yves for giving me an accurate new word to work with: agnotology. My spell checker doesn’t even recognize it! Clearly agnotology describes the genesis of the condition you call cranialrectalitis. I really am offended to read a bunch of twitted-out skeptics doing their klunky stubborn agnotologizing of important established facts as if the rest of us – who actually do read and understand the threat we all face – will just say, “Oh gee I didn’t think of that! Those enviros are so hysterical.” Thanks again. And Skippy was great today too. And thanks, Yves, you brought out some very good comments. Too bad we can’t put the agnos and the NYT in that constructive category.

  8. The Dork of Cork

    One must just hope for a China implosion……….as they are the guys burning the Coal to supply the grot to the west.

    1. Susan the other

      I remember a fairly recent article here on renewable energy by Galbraith (I think) which pointed out the vulnerability of the giant hydroelectric project on the Yangzte – it can be taken out with a missile. This awareness pushes China to insure other sources of electricity – coal plants. Now we see almost 600 of them are in the pipeline. And the tonnage of CO2 is massive. If the ocean (as in above piece by Ray) upwells acidified water from the depths with a time lag of 50 years due to the decomposition process, and that upwelling is now occurring on an ongoing basis, it is doubtful any crustaceans or coral reefs will be spared. Best would be to reassure China that they can invest in renewable energy and possibly invest in it with them just to seal the deal.

    2. anon y'mouse

      and we are planning to sell them the coal to do it with!

      http://theworldlink.com/news/local/eugene-to-hear-coal-protesters-supporters/article_da2b3338-10ad-5bde-86d8-936c39f1c266.html

      this back-and-forth is all over the state. i’ve heard a lot of “please don’t send these trains through my yard” but nearly nothing about selling our vital energy resources (and they will be vital, regretfully, if peak oil wreaks havoc on U.S. lifestyles) so China can keep building our plastic widgets for us and churning out pollutants of all kinds.

  9. wbgonne

    What is it about global warming that makes so many people insanely stupid? I suppose it’s because the notion of finite resources is anathema to the doctrinaire free marketeers. The implications of global warming are a dire threat to their ideology and if protecting that ideology means a return to the Dark Ages and a hell on earth so be it.

  10. Ep3

    Yves, giving the travel narrative twists people’s thoughts about the reality and then slowly over time builds that acceptance of “it’s ok to trash the environment because the ‘adults’ said it was ok, remember”. Like in sketch comedy, SNL will do a bit where “come to Hiroshima, where it’s snowing in august”. And then the tourists arms are falling off and they are growing tails. And everybody laughs and the family enjoys their vacation.
    Its propaganda yves. The times is the media arm of the democrat party.

  11. rob

    It seems to me, like all things where the “proof”,won’t really be in until the experiment is over.we can in fact take warnings seriously.which means only rational response.
    Like all things in nature, we can’t really predict exactly how every life form will fare,exactly.nature’s resilience is amazing,and suprising.But while the koch heads, and the rest of the ostrich party, are trying to reassure everyone in a burning building to just sit down and be calm, and wait until proof of their demise is certain,sensible people ought to think .and act with deliberation.
    Just because we don’t actually know the future, doesn’t mean that whatever we can do now to mitigate the worst possible effects of our technology upon our biology,isn’t a good idea.
    rather than our current allowance of big money to drag us thru wars and oppression, as they cling to these present energy sources and agricultural monopolies,there are voices out there who are trying to show a better way…and I’m talking about actual practices, not someone wanting to financialise a carbon credit….
    who is in the way..adm,goldman sachs,monsanto,jp morgan chase,standard oil,royal dutch shell,BP,etc.what they are selling…is all we get to buy….but it is not all that nature has supplied.

    1. JEHR

      On my ipod during this morning’s walk, I heard a scientist talking about the pollution of a Florida estuary where she does her research. She works with sea organisms that emit light. The light is connected to the breathing of the organism. She has devised a way to find pollutants by putting these light-emitting organisms into environments and has plotted “weather-type” maps of where the pollution is and is not.

      She has organized a foundation that invites students to participate in her research by plotting those pollution maps using her light-emitting organisms. By so doing, she is teaching the next generation what can be done to find the polluted areas and from there they can go on to reduce the pollution. Involving students is so important for future research work.

      This scientist says that you have to be an optimist to do this work. She said that MLK didn’t say “I have a nightmare…” She was great and is certainly on the right path to detecting what is wrong and taking the next step to righting that wrong. I was so impressed with her attitude and her work with students.

  12. Zuzu's roots

    Ocean acidification will be the Achilles heal for the global warming deniers. What will they say, that the sun caused it?

    I for one will sadly miss clam chowder and clam cakes if I live to the time when quahogs disappear. Lobsters too. But that’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime. Instead, the mass disappearance of sea life is just another of a string of disasters our generation will leave for future people to deal with. And those people will curse us and shake their heads for what we did.

  13. TiresiasAGW

    Even more bizarre, when I have talked to coal export supporters here in the Pacific NW about ocean acidification they seem convinced that it is caused, like acid rain, by sulphur contaminates rather than CO2. This article may begin to clear up that misunderstanding, but probably not.

    Jellyfish seem to like higher pH’s and temperatures, so we could see a new dominant species, the jelly, emerging in the oceans.

  14. charles sereno

    The NYT excels in “bromides.” You might say it’s an avatar of Bromo-Seltzer. “Gray Lady” or, for that matter, “Eminence Grise” has nothing to do with hair coloration.

  15. Will

    I have a PhD in chemistry from a top 5 chemistry graduate program. The scientific details of this issue aren’t worth regurgitating here in depth. The facts are undeniable that as the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere increases so will the “dissolved CO2″ (carbonic acid) in the water. People in the comments cite numbers like 100s of billions of tons of CO2, but the mass of the oceans is more than a million fold greater than that. What is difficult to quantify is the effect of more dissolved CO2 in something as complex as the ocean. There are all kinds of potential feedback mechanisms which can dramatically change the outcome.

    I encourage readers of this blog to look at the arguments from scholars with differing opinions and to consider how their work is/was funded. Professors and scientists are far from unbiased…

    Technology is changing so fast that it is extremely hard to predict what the world will be like even 5-10 years in the future. How many of you had a smart phone 5 years ago with a touch screen? Who knew 10 years ago that the US would have a 100 year supply of some the lowest cost natural gas in the world?

    1. psychohistorian

      Spoken like a true faith breather.

      Who would you have us follow over what cliff Will?

      Is there ever a reason for prudence?

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