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The Biggest Climate Change Lie of All: 'Ocean Acidification'

June 11, 2020

Climate Change Weekly #362

Guest essay by Anthony Watts

Throughout the history of claims about global warming, aka “climate change,” we’ve been served some real whoppers. Of course there’s Michael Mann’s “hockey stick” of temperatures, which was coddled together from bad data, bad computer code, and even “hiding the decline” by truncating data that didn’t agree with the warming narrative and splicing different data on top of it that did.

Then there’s Al Gore’s claims of polar bears disappearing when in fact their numbers are increasing, and the melting ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro, which was supposedly a victim of climate change but turned out to be a result of deforestation. And who can forget the “children won’t know what snow is” claim by British climatologist David Viner which was so laughably over-the-top and wrong that it was finally shoved down the memory hole by the newspaper that published it.

All these climate claims have been shredded for the abuse of science that they are.

But it turns out that the biggest whopper of them all is still being used today by the media and some scientists to push a doomsday scenario: the dreadful-sounding “ocean acidification.” The phrase conjures up images of sea life dissolving in acidic seawater.

It’s completely untrue. The ocean is not acidic at all, and not even close. In fact, the phrase “ocean acidification” is a complete lie. Media outlets and science claim the ocean is “acidifying” because of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They claim ocean acidification is dissolving the shells of marine creatures.

While media claims run wild about dissolving sea creatures in an “acidic” ocean, real world data shows the ocean is far from acidic.

Have a look at this figure showing where seawater currently is on the pH scale. The reality shown in the figure is that with an average pH of 8.1, the oceans are a long way from turning acidic. Using the word “acidic” instead of more neutral phrasing in media reports sounds scarier for the cause of climate alarmism.

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Figure: Comparison of the pH of common substances.
Data source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

The acidity or alkalinity of sea water is described by its pH level. Water is acidic at a pH less than 7 and alkaline if pH is greater than 7. Seawater is naturally alkaline at 8.2.

Although climate models suggest the ocean’s surface pH has dropped from pH 8.2 to 8.1 since 1750, that change was never actually measured. The pH drop is merely a modeled conjecture that is, unfortunately, constantly repeated as fact. The concept of pH was first introduced in 1909, and the pH concept was not modernized in chemistry until the 1920s.

Despite our sophisticated global fleet of 3,800 Argo floats that measure ocean temperature and salinity, only 10 percent also measure ocean carbon dioxide chemistry, and just 40 floats measure ocean pH, suggesting the researchers don’t think it is a really big problem. Measured trends in ocean pH only began in the 1990s, which is far too short a time to allow a robust analysis.

A new white paper from the CO2 Coalition, Ocean Health—Is There an ‘Acidification’ Problem?,” outlines the issue in scientific detail. The principal researcher for the paper is biologist Jim Steele, a member of the CO2 Coalition and recently retired director of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada field campus, a position he held for more than 25 years.

Steele reports a scientific consensus that even if atmospheric CO2 concentrations were to rise from today’s 0.4 percent to .10 percent (over about 250 years at current rates), ocean pH would fall only to 7.8, still well above neutral for all ocean surface waters, and stabilize there.

The paper reveals that the term “ocean acidification” was invented to scare citizens into opposing the use of fossil fuels, which power 80 percent of the U.S. and world economies. It also shows that carbon dioxide is a vital part of ocean health and the ocean food web, because additional CO2 input allows marine life to thrive. The foundation of the ocean food web is phytoplankton, which includes organisms such as microscopic plants and bacteria. These organisms require COto make their food through photosynthesis.

COCoalition chair Patrick Moore, a noted ecologist and a former top-ranking Greenpeace official, said, “This paper details the powerful cycle that takes surface carbon down to the depths for lengthy periods, before upwelling to enrich surface life again. Shells and marine species thrive in widely varying pH levels, making the so-called acidification crisis yet another cynical example of propaganda masquerading as science. As with fears of polar bear extinction, frequencies of hurricanes, length of droughts, and ‘accelerating’ sea-level rise, the specter of ‘ocean acidification’ has no basis in the scientific data.”

—Guest essayist Anthony Watts is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and the founder and publisher of Watts Up With That, the world's most-viewed site on global warming and climate change.

SOURCES: CO2 Coalition; The Heartland Institute


IN THIS ISSUE …

NO ‘HOCKEY STICK’ FOR THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE … LAND USE HAS BIGGER IMPACT ON CLIMATE THAN GREENHOUSE GASES … WELFARE INCREASES WILL DOMINATE CLIMATE COSTS


NO ‘HOCKEY STICK’ FOR THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE

Guest essay by Jim Lakely

More bad news for Michael Mann and his hockey stick. (Can someone let him know? He has blocked us on Twitter.)

According to a post by Kenneth Richard at NoTricksZone, “new paleoclimate records from Europe, Scandinavia-Russia, China, and the northeastern USA indicate there has been no unusual modern warming. Instead, these newly published reconstructions show warmer periods and more rapid centennial-scale warming events occurred in past centuries, or when CO2 concentrations were much lower than they are now.”

Those facts, of course, fly right in the face of Mann’s hockey stick graph, in which he used tree-ring evidence in North America to construct the stubborn myth that the Earth's climate was relatively quiet and stable (and cool) for nearly 1,000 years and then suddenly rocketed up faster than SpaceX at the start of the Industrial Revolution. That is proof, Mann says, that human CO2 emissions have caused catastrophic, runaway global warming.

Well, two can play the tree-ring game. A study published in Quaternary Science Reviews by Jessie K. Pearl et. al. looked at tree-ring records (as well as "sub-fossil trees”) of Atlantic white cedar going back 2,500 years, from 411 B.C. to 2016 A.D. When they did this, the hockey stick disappeared.

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NoTricksZone’s post cites another study of tree-ring data from Northern Eurasia, this one in the journal Climate Dynamics (Feng Shi et. al.). That study shows the region warmed “three to six times faster during the 4th, 15th, and 19th centuries than during the 1900s-2000s”—the time of Mann’s hockey stick. And what do you know, the researchers also found “regional temperatures were warmer during the first millennium than during the last century.”

But hold on, there’s more. Scientists reported in a new paper in the Journal of Geographical Sciences (Zhixin Hao et. al.) that their study of ice cores, tree rings, lake sediments, and stalagmites throughout the “whole country” of China found the “longest warm period on the centennial scale” happened between the 10th and 13th centuries. NoTricksZone also reports the study confirmed that “the two warmest 30-year periods during the Medieval Warm Period are also ‘comparable’ to the warmth of recent decades.”

Someone tell Michael Mann they found his missing Medieval Warm Period. It was all over the Northern Hemisphere. How did he miss it?

SOURCES: NoTricksZoneQuaternary Science Reviews, Climate Dynamics, Journal of Geographical Sciences


LAND USE HAS BIGGER IMPACT ON CLIMATE THAN GREENHOUSE GASES

Guest essay by Jim Lakely

A recent study published by the International Journal of Climatology (Mi Yan et. al.) looks at the temperature record of the 20th century and examines not only the effect of greenhouse gases (GHG) but also the role historical land use/land cover change (LUCC) has played in the equation. Their conclusion: “Globally, the biogeophysical effect of historical LUCC can offset the warming induced by increased GHG.”

The scientists note the vast majority of their peers have focused primarily on trying to determine the way human GHG emissions have affected the composition of the atmosphere, and that they consider it “a primary cause of present-day global warming.” The role of land use in climate change “remains under debate” and an open field pardon the pun) for further study, the scientists state.

For instance, not all forest clearing is equal. The authors write:

“Over high latitudes, there is a positive vegetation‐albedo feedback over northern North America. Initial cooling leads to tundras replacing forests and causes greater cooling because tundras have a higher albedo and reflect more solar radiation. Simulation shows that the loss of boreal forests would provide positive feedback for glaciation (Meissner et al., 2003). Over low latitudes, there is a positive vegetation‐rainfall feedback. Initial increased precipitation is helpful for forests replacing grasslands, which leads to the increased transpiration of water vapour and results in additional precipitation. <

“From a biogeophysical point of view, surface warming caused by the low albedo of tropical forests might be offset by strong evaporative cooling. From a biogeochemical point of view, it is not clear whether the potential role of tropical forests would notably help mitigate global warming through the absorption and emission of carbon (Houghton et al., 2015; Murdiyarso et al., 2015). For temperate forests, the effect of the climate is also uncertain.”

 

The authors are more certain, however, about their conclusion that the “statistically significant biogeophysical impact of historical LUCC is comparable in overall magnitude to that of historical GHGC, especially over high latitudes.” They urge scientists to “pay more attention to the interactions between external forcings and internal variabilities when investigating the climate effects of external forcings either for the past or for the future projection.”

Good advice. Who knows where it may lead?

SOURCES: International Journal of Climatology


LOMBORG: POOR BETTER OFF IF WE IGNORE PARIS

Guest essay by Jim Lakely

Everyone’s favorite telegenic, lukewarm non-alarmist, Bjorn Lomborg, has a new paper in the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Lomborg takes another lap on a topic that has become his specialty: pointing out that the enormous costs of “fighting climate change” would be better spent on things the world’s poorest people actually need, such as clean water and the vaccines that have eradicated most dread diseases in the developed world.

In his abstract, Lomborg does a little throat clearing that keeps him in the good graces of climate realists. There is no evidence that extreme weather is increasing in a warming world; even the IPCC finds no trend in global hurricane frequency; the global risk from extreme weather has declined by an astounding 99 percent over the last 100 years and by 28 percent since 1992, he notes. Even if hurricanes do get stronger if less frequent, our increasingly wealthy societies (the wealth of which is driven by the use of fossil fuels, though Lomborg doesn’t mention that) will weather the storms more effectively and rebuild more quickly.

Lomborg brings up the oft-ignored fact that the unrealistic climate policies pushed by global planners “also have costs that often vastly outweigh their climate benefits.” If the world  embraces the Paris Climate Accord fully and actually implements it, it will cost the global economy between $819 billion and $1.9 trillion per year starting in 2030, Lomborg notes. And for what? To “reduce emissions by just 1% of what is needed to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5°C,” Lomborg writes. By Lomborg’s math, “each dollar spent on Paris will likely produce climate benefits worth 11¢.”

Given the choice between two of the IPCC’s scenarios for the future—the “sustainable” SSP1 and the “fossil-fuel driven” SSP5—Lomborg says the decision is easy: go for the fossil-fuel driven option. “After adjusting for climate damages, SSP5 will on average leave grandchildren of today's poor $48,000 better off every year. It will reduce poverty by 26 million each year until 2050, inequality will be lower, and more than 80 million premature deaths will be avoided.”

Yes, Lomborg advocates imposing “carbon taxes” and cares about trying to reduce the rate of warming over the next 80 years. He also pushes “investment in green R&D to make future decarbonization much cheaper.” Although those instincts may annoy climate realists, it’s a certainty that Lomborg annoys the alarmists at the IPCC even more.

SOURCES: Science Direct

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org
Author
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute.
awatts@heartland.org @wattsupwiththat
Author
Jim Lakely is the Vice President and Director of Communications of The Heartland Institute.
jlakely@heartland.org @jlakely
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