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Stunted Science
How Scientists Are Exaggerating the Threat of Ocean Acidification

Increased carbon emissions are one of the key drivers of climate change, but CO2 can also lower the alkalinity of our planet’s oceans, potentially harming sea life. However, according to the editor of the ICES Journal of Marine Science, scientific journals are “biased” towards publishing studies that exaggerate the threat of ocean acidification. The Times of London reports:

An “inherent bias” in scientific journals in favour of more calamitous predictions has excluded research showing that marine creatures are not damaged by ocean acidification, which is caused by the sea absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. […]

[A review of the science] found that many studies had used flawed methods, subjecting marine creatures to sudden increases in carbon dioxide that would never be experienced in real life.

“In some cases it was levels far beyond what would ever be reached even if we burnt every molecule of carbon on the planet,” Howard Browman, the editor of ICES Journal of Marine Science, who oversaw the review, said. He added that this had distracted attention from more urgent threats to reefs such as agricultural pollution, overfishing and tourism.

The idea that scientific journals might want to publish more striking studies—or bury the less exciting variety—isn’t a new phenomenon, and it isn’t unique to climate science. However, the environmental movement has a history of getting out over its skis. Greens’ favorite way of justifying their costly and often unrealistic policy proposals is to lean heavily on science, but too often they end up exaggerating or misrepresenting findings, ultimately undermining their cause. Ocean acidification has some frightening implications, but bending the facts to make it more ominous than it already is only feeds skeptics.

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  • CapitalHawk

    “getting out over its skis” – such a pleasant phrase to describe lying.

  • Pait

    Seems like wishful thinking, holding on to some slight thread to protect us against climate change. Attacking the scientists doesn’t really have an effect on the oceans.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Apparently neither does increased levels of CO2 (in any meaningful way that is)…

      • Pait

        No, attacking scientists doesn’t have an effect on CO2 levels either.

        • f1b0nacc1

          We aren’t talking about CO2 levels, we are talking about ocean acidity, and the article in question was a direct, and relevant, attack on the poor reasoning and weak analytical skills of those making the argument that ocean acidification represents a looming threat.

          This is, in fact, precisely what science is about….challenging assumptions, demanding evidence, requiring a coherent theory that matches the evidence. Respecting self-appointed elites just because they call themselves scientists is a brand of religion….

          • Pait

            Your grammar was mangled. That’s what I understood you were saying. Now looking again, I can’t parse it.

            Confronting scientific a+evidence requires a lot more than what I see here. Buzzwords are not enough.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Translation: You have nothing but ad hom snark….

          • Boritz

            Good idea for a horror flick though: Night of the Attacking Scientists.

          • Pait

            Synopsis: Lone multibillionaire saves the world from conspiracy of hordes of white-coated, chalk-soiled, mild-mannered scientists by hiring froth-mouthed besuited trolls to patrol the internet at night.

            Too implausible even for a horror flick.

          • f1b0nacc1

            The need attacking….good for the soul

          • Tom

            That grammar was not mangled at all.

          • Pait

            “…neither does increased levels…” What doesn’t do what? I don’t know.

          • Tom

            “Attacking the scientists doesn’t really have an effect on the oceans.”

            “Apparently neither does increased levels of CO2.”

            The one clearly follows from the other.

          • Pait

            I still don’t get the grammar. Sorry. Roger and out.

    • CaliforniaStark

      Below is the abstract of the article the Via Meadia post refers to; it was done by a respected Norwegian scientist, and makes a valid point. Are you insinuating that the skepticism that the author raises is somehow “attacking scientists.” Shouldn’t all scientific research be subject to robust peer review by other scientists?

      “Applying organized scepticism to ocean acidification research

      Abstract

      “Ocean acidification” (OA), a change in seawater chemistry driven by increased uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the oceans, has probably been the most-studied single topic in marine science in recent times. The majority of the literature on OA report negative effects of CO2 on organisms and conclude that OA will be detrimental to marine ecosystems. As is true across all of science, studies that report no effect of OA are typically more difficult to publish. Further, the mechanisms underlying the biological and ecological effects of OA have received little attention in most organismal groups, and some of the key mechanisms (e.g. calcification) are still incompletely understood. For these reasons, the ICES Journal of Marine Science solicited contributions to this special issue. In this introduction, I present a brief overview of the history of research on OA, call for a heightened level of organized (academic) scepticism to be applied to the body of work on OA, and briefly present the 44 contributions that appear in this theme issue. OA research has clearly matured, and is continuing to do so. We hope that our readership will find that, when taken together, the articles that appear herein do indeed move us “Towards a broader perspective on ocean acidification research”.

      • Pait

        The overwhelming majority of scientific research points to growing negative effects of climate change caused by human activities. There is a considerable amount of uncertainty on the extent and nature of the effects – most of the research tends to be conservative, in the sense of underestimating the change, but some of the predictions may be inaccurate or overestimated.

        I do not mean to impugn this particular piece of scientific research; however outside the context of the complete scientific effort, one paper is not very meaningful. That is why I maintain that relying on one article that raises the possibility that one of the effects may be less than the current consensus is wishful thinking.

        • CaliforniaStark

          Presently there is a raging argument among those accepting the current consensus whether there was or was not a pause in global warming over the past twenty years. Pause or not, the amount of warming has been significantly less than the IPCC models projected twenty years ago. This does not mean they will be wrong over the long-term. But consensus alone does not guarantee truthfulness; as someone once said: “A ‘consensus’ is important in Congress, or when Scouts are planning an outing — but less so in science.” Scientific models need to be verified through observation and empirical evidence.

          • Pait

            No, there is no raging argument among scientists. There is an argument between scientists and raging ideologues, but that is quite different.

  • Fat_Man

    Typical of the rubbish hysteria of the environmentalists. Oceans are alkaline, have always been alkaline and will always be alkaline. Oceans sit in bowls of rock. Rocks are oxides. Oxides are alkaline. Disolving CO2 in water creates a weak acid, carbonic acid H2CO3. However, that acid reacts with dissolved metal oxides in the water. E.g. CaO (lime). The resulting carbonate (CaCO2, limestone) is less soluble than the metal oxide and tends to precipitate out of solution. This is an enormous non-problem.

    • f1b0nacc1

      If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the percipitate

      • Fat_Man

        Rimshot!

        • f1b0nacc1

          Try the veal….Remember to tip your waiter

  • f1b0nacc1

    Wait, let me see if I understand this….warm-mongers exaggerate (really, create out of whole cloth) a non-existent threat to bolster their already weak case…
    <—-This is my surprised face

  • Beauceron

    This doesn’t have much to do with science per se (science is just discredited by it).

    This has to do with the Left and how they operate.

    The Left latches on to global warming. The Left want to use it as part of its re-distribution policies. The Left owns academia. The two work together. The Left gets it redistribution policies put into place, and academia gets lots of money thrown at it.

    They’re both happy. The people get screwed of course, but if our elites are fat and happy, I suppose we should be pleased.

  • JR

    I’m fairly certain that ocean life will continue long after every human is dead and gone.

  • ljgude

    “However, the environmental movement has a history of getting out over its skis. ”

    Folks in the South might not appreciate this but as a New Englander I know exactly what it feels like to fall on one’s face on skis only to discover that one’s legs are somehow entangled with the skis such that getting up is not at all a straightforward affair.

    • Andrew Allison

      As, I suspect does Michael Mann these days.

  • Andrew Allison

    The “inherent bias” is not restricted to marine studies or to scientific journals. It’s even present here on our favorite blog, which has been notably silent about last week’s bombshell, which blew up the so-called “scientific consensus” on climate change.

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