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(Failure at the New York Times and ClimateWorks) Why So Many People Are So Unperturbed

It says a lot about contemporary “green” journalism when a report that links the Permian extinction to “methane burps” using a Baltimore Sun article of Dec 2004 is described as “the best job I [Justin Gillis of the NYT] have seen of explaining, in layman’s terms, why scientists keep pressing the issue“.

Perhaps we simply shouldn’t have anymore laymen writing about environmental stuff.

Anyway, here’s my comments to “The Costs of Delay” by Hal Harvey and Sonia Aggarwal for the ClimateWorks Foundation:


How many times can the same concepts be regurgitated before people recognize they don’t lead anywhere?

The report says “A delay—of even a decade— in reducing CO2 emissions will lock in large-scale, irreversible change“. Ironically, this same sentence has been heard first more than TWO decades ago.

It then goes on to “Carbon “sinks” are disappearing” but “the proportion of total emissions soaked up by the oceans between 2000 and 2007 _MAY_ have declined by as much as 10 percent.” I am afraid such weaselry with words is very 2008.

the more CO2 [the seas] absorb, the more acidic they become“: a physical impossibility due to all that salt. Seawater could become less alkaline, but to call that “more acidic” is again a trite, old way of playing with words.

The pages on “impacts” only deal with future stuff that “may“, “is likely“, etc etc happen. That means it “may not”. “Estimates” are so 2008 too.

It gets even more ridiculous when the Permian extinction is linked to a “methane burpby way of a Baltimore Sun article of 2004. Is that a joke? And the authors proceed to mention two studies that depict adaptation in worse terms than even the Stern Review, thereby forgetting all the research that points in the other direction.

In conclusion the Climate Works report shows exactly why so many people are so unperturbed. The case for mitigation against climate change should be made in a less amateurish, less partisan, and decidedly more scientific way. IF that’s possible, that is.

  1. Markg
    2011/08/11 at 17:40

    Yes, I know of Sabine’s work. His statemenets are correct but in this context, not complete, a little out of context, and I suspect he would admit that. Oceanic chemistry is very complex. I don’t argue that the sea could or could not become more acidic from CO2, just the generalization about the chemistry you mentionned. There is a large abundance of minerals in the oceans including an abundance of Ca++ which forms calcium carbonates with CO2 helping to buffer the oceans to a pH of around 8 (slightly basic); thank goodness because adding CO2 to pure water reduces the pH considerably. CO2 also helps increase plant life in the ocean which can be a good thing. But CO2 also certainly forms carbonic acids in the presence of H+ (lots of that in the ocean). There is debate not over the fundamental chemistry but how the comlexity of ocean chemistry will behave in the long run. This is a large nut to crack and there will be dissagreements along the way but that’s how science works and why supercomputers are applied to the problem.

    p.s. I’m a chemist, and you?

    • 2011/08/16 at 12:08

      Markg – not sure what happened to your latest comment…I can see it in the admin section and it’s approved but I cannot see it in the blog post page itself. Anyway, when I write that the oceans on planet Earth as of now cannot become “acidic” or even “more acidic” but rather “less alkaline”, that’s what I am referring to. I am not stating that it’s impossible to turn “seawater” into an acidic solution in some kind of controlled setting.

      And I do believe that to speak of “more acidic” of a resolutedly alkaline solution is like reporting a fall in the stock market as “the pauperization of Warren Buffett”, even if Mr Buffett remains incredibly rich: an inappropriate choice of words to say the least.

  2. MarkG
    2011/08/11 at 01:31

    What you mean “…. sea water… acid…. Impossible”? Did you sleep during high school chemistry?

  3. 2011/08/04 at 18:34

    Update: of course among all the accusations against the “skeptics” at the NYT site, not one single commenter (not even Mr Gillis) has found anything to say about the most ridiculous part of the Climate Works report.

    The authors there blame the Permian extinction to “methane burps” using a Baltimore Sun article of Dec 2004.

    Yes, the citation is from a newspaper of seven years ago.

    Any warmistas or environmental journalist willing to defend that? How can anybody pretend to deal with climate change seriously if such obvious idiocies are swallowed whole every single time?

    • MarkG
      2011/08/11 at 00:37

      What? Saltwater making ocean acidity a physical impossibility? Are you a scientist? How then is carbonated mineral water acid? Did you take high school chemistry? Grab a hydrogen ion (H ) from H2O and associate it with a CO2 molecule and you have an acid; with or without NaCl (salt).

      • 2011/08/11 at 04:01

        MarkG – you don’t know what you’re talking about. Read this and come back if you have any question. In particular:

        Would dissolving all the CO2 released by burning all the world?s fossil fuel reserves ever make the seas acidic?

        No. The fundamental chemistry of the ocean carbon system, including the presence of calcium carbonate minerals on the ocean floor that can slowly dissolve and help neutralize some of the CO2, prevents the oceans from becoming acidic on a global scale. — Christopher L. Sabine, Supervisory Oceanographer, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA

        […] It seems impossible to acidify the oceans, given how salty they are. How could CO2 overcome all that salt?

        When acids and bases neutralize each other in a laboratory experiment, salt and water form. But in the ocean, the major ions that make seawater “salty” (like sodium, chloride, and magnesium) have come from rock weathering, which provides a balanced amount of positive and negative ions to the seas over many millennia. Variations in ocean pH on shorter time scales of decades to centuries are controlled by weak acids and bases, like bicarbonate or borate. Of these weak acids and bases, the dissolved forms of CO2, known as carbonic acid, bicarbonate, and carbonate, have the largest impact on global ocean pH variations because their concentrations are changing quickly relative to other ions in the ocean. — Christopher L. Sabine, Supervisory Oceanographer, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA

        Even the people most fixated with this new idiotic scare called “acidification” disagree with you. And they can’t fail to suggest that to call the phenomenon “acidification” is like calling Bill Gates’ slightly-dwindling stock market portfolio’s value as “pauperization” even if Bill Gates remains immensely rich.

  1. 2011/08/03 at 07:16

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