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Today's unvalidated computer model

Today's big green unvalidated computer model seems to be the one that tells us that the oceans are all shortly going to be devoid of life due to acidification by man. The story gets an outing on the BBC (where else) along with several other media outlets.

The world's oceans are becoming acidic at an "unprecedented rate" and may be souring more rapidly than at any time in the past 300 million years.

In their strongest statement yet on this issue, scientists say acidification could increase by 170% by 2100.

Probably time to wheel out Matt Ridley's review of the literature on the subject again.

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Reader Comments (41)

'acidification could increase by 170%'

How do you measure 'acidification'

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Here's the link the BBC (Matt McGrath) page -

Matt gives away the real reason all Arctic molluscs are allegedly going to die before tea-time:

"The study will be presented at global climate talks in Poland next week."

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:44 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

The BBC remains firmly wedded to alarmist propaganda, devoid of any scientific analysis.

I'm not sure what his scientific background is, but he's well into journalism:

Fellowship, science journalism
2010 – 2011

University of Bournemouth
MA, Journalism
1993 – 1996

University College Cork
1981 – 1985

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:49 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

But won't the increase ocean temperatures due to global warming (remember that?) reduce the solubility of CO2 and therefore cause more to evaporate from the oceans? To what extent would that counter the increased concentration in the atmosphere?

When Brice Bosnich commented on here last year he seemed pretty sceptical about ocean acidification:

In the comments for that post he provided the following link to a guest post of his at Jo Nova's:

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

The jaw-dropping coverage of this on the Today problem today at around 8.05am had me sputtering into my cornflakes. One despairs...

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Can someone explain how the warming oceans dissolve all this carbon dioxide and yet at the same time release it!? 'Faster than we thought'

Pure magic.

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Schofield


How will the hydrothermal vents with their hellish acidity and over-boiling temperatures, teeming with life, possibly survive this anthropogenic threat?

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

Had me going too Jack, the breathless gasping delivery added for mock seriousness.

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The use of the word acid, acidity etc is of course deliberately misleading. Maybe the ocean’s are becoming less alkaline, to some very small degree, as a result of increased CO2 emissions but the pH balance of the oceans at 8.14 is higher than 7, which is neutral, and they are therefore alkaline.

McGrath statements

“The effect of acidity is currently being felt.. in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. …the gas are turning them acidic.”

is just plain wrong

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterChaveratti

I've only met one physical chemist (in the US) who understood all aspects of oceanic pH control (the interaction of the pH buffers including Mg/Ca ratio and magnitudes).

We only have to consider it in about 145 years from now (it was 150 from 5 years ago). And by then fossil fuels will have substantially declined in use.

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Ocean acidification is like we're in a catastrophe movie where the writers have added one too many plot twists and even ardent fans think 'really? An outbreak of a deadly disease, a riot AND a meteorite hurtling towards Earth that turns out to be an alien space ship?' Instead of strengthening the basic plot it just makes it confusing and increasingly implausible.

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

pH is not someting that real scientists, as opposed to climate psientists, would measure on a % scale.

Mathematically, pH is the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration.

Thus, say for sake of argument average oceanic pH is 8 (it is slightly more), then the hydrogen ion concentration is
0.00000001 molar. If the concentration is increased to 0.00000002 that is a 100% increase but only a 0.1pH unit change.
i.e. the pH has changed from 8 to 7.9.

Doesn't sound very scary does it? And it isn't.

Also see for effect of mariginal pH changes on sea life.

These dramagreens make me want to puke with their distortions and lies

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

In a response to Matt Ridley's article, we have this from Jean Pierre Gattuso, Scientific Coordinator, European Project on Ocean Acidification:-

high level of confidence that "Ocean acidification will adversely affect calcification" (Gattuso et al., 2011)."

Emphasis is mine.

I haven't read Gattuso's work, but as soon as I read the phrase 'high level of confidence' in a supposedly scientific report, I lose all confidence in the scientists conducting the study. Surely the impact of 'acidification' or reducing ph levels in seawater on marine organisms is something that can be studied and measured, with some precision, at least in a laboratory. Why the weaselly statistical levels of confidence?

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Aggrey

'acidification could increase by 170%'

How do you measure 'acidification'

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

You I both, and plenty of others, know the answer to that one, Latimer.

A chemist who routinely used percentages (%) to describe changes in acidity/alkalinity would be laughed at by his/her peers. Most biochemists performing laboratory tissue culture would laugh at the idea of trying to quantify the putative effects on biology of the hypothesised pH changes.

And most coral is surrounded by, errr, alkalai-metal carbonates from all the huge masses of dead coral. When you start doing some calculations on the chemical stoichiometry involved (human emissions; how much chalk comes off the White Cliffs of Dover every year; how many moles of carbonate in a square kilometre of reef; size of the great barrier reef; etc. Simple stuff), the wheels rapidly start to come off the argument

Chemistry by computer is fun. I still do it. But it's generally not sensible to believe much of it. Biology by computer is still ridiculous. And Mr McGrath is a poor computer model of Richard Black.

Nov 14, 2013 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Yesterday on the Today programme (0654) they interviewed Dr. Jennifer Gill about climate change affecting the breeding and migration of black tailed godwits. In the 20 year study she suggested the migration was now 2 weeks earlier. She also said it was not weather related and didn't even mention climate change.

At 0708 a report by Claire Marshall reported a warmer climate is causing godwits to migrate 2 weeks earlier. The report, all in a catastrophic tone, was backed up by Naughtie saying 2 weeks is a major change. (gloom doom)

I spent 2 hours trying to find the paper, have a read, and make my own decisions. I couldn't find a recent paper relating to climate change and godwits. Whilst a prolific writer of papers, Gill J.A. has been involved in a few papers critiquing climate change papers. It appears they prefer models to provide them with climatic data than actual weather data.

Two points arise, one, the temperature over the last 20 years has not risen in the UK. Two, 20 years is not climate.

Just more scare mongering from the Beeb, I really do despair at their lack of proper investigative skills, scientific knowledge and honesty.

If anyone can find this new paper and provide a link I'd be grateful.

Nov 14, 2013 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeilC

Is there a chemist in the house who could explain what the following even means? It makes no sense to me:

acidification could increase by 170% by 2100.

Nov 14, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commentergeckko

Its neutralisation first, then it becomes acidification, but of course that doesn't sound scary enough.

Nov 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike

@ Mike 10:37

But if the neutralisation is exothermic, maybe that will exacerbate global warming, and that will be scary.

To whom should I apply for a research grant?

Nov 14, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

No wonder so many geologists are sceptics. Firstly there is little or no fundamental connection between climate and CO2 concentrations throughout the entire Phanerozoic geological record, at least on time scales greater than about 10 My.-

And, regarding marine shelly fauna, when CO2 levels were orders of magnitude higher, marine life was so diverse and prolific.-

Nov 14, 2013 at 11:21 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

Neil C,
The paper you seek is-
Climate is not its main thrust. It seeks an explanation of why individual birds always return to their nesting grounds at the same time every year but younger birds return earlier than older ones. It only offers some correlation between arrival dates and temperatures at arrival. As the birds mate for life but winter separately (up to 600 miles apart) I would expect them to agree on a meeting date and I cannot believe they get weather reports from Iceland while wintering in England or Holland!

Nov 14, 2013 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Flanders

"The world's oceans are becoming acidic.."

No, they're not.

Nov 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I still haven't seen anything that adequately explains why a warming sea is a net sink of CO2 rather than a source. Surely it can't all be based on the bald assertion that the ocean must be a sink because they can't think of any other land-based sinks?.

I wondered how they estimated acidity in the past but apparently it's from another assertion that ocean acidity and atmospheric CO2 are in lock step.

As for the idea that they can estimate past pH levels with any degree of certainty with no qualifying error bars - words fail me.

It's quite amazing just how much grant money can be squeezed out of a measly rise of 0.6 degrees C per century.

Nov 14, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

The "could increase by 170% by 2100" presumably refers to the hydrogen ion concentration.

Nov 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

@ joe public 11.20am:

Neutralisation IS exothermic! No grant I'm afraid it is "O" level chemistry. And @ gekko 11.20. The statement makes no sense because it is as senseless as its maker.

Nov 14, 2013 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

On a matter of detail, IIRC the strict definition of pH is in terms of hydrogen ion activity, not concentration. The activity (again, IIRC) will be influenced by all the other dissolved salts floating around, and in this respect sea water won't behave in the same way as tap water. Whether or not the difference is trivial I don't know, but others will.

Nov 14, 2013 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

I notice that there's no opportunity to respond against that story on the BBC website..
They're very good at that...

Nov 14, 2013 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSherlock1

A comment above mentions "spluttering into cornflakes", but I have to admit that before the end of the piece I was actually shouting. It was the sheer effrontery, deceit and anti-science of the piece, combined with the inability to do anything to counteract the relentless BBC propaganda made me lose my composure. I have always deploted 'direct action' but I'm beginning to think it might be the only solution.

Nov 14, 2013 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartinW

JamesG Nov 14, 2013 at 1:12 PM

you might be interested in reading this post and the related links in it:

there seems to be considerable amount of research suggesting that oceans are net sources of CO2, not net sinks.

Nov 14, 2013 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPethefin

geckko -
"Is there a chemist in the house who could explain 'acidification could increase by 170% by 2100.'"

As Paul Matthews states, it's the hydrogen ion concentration. This corresponds to a change in pH of -log(2.70) = -0.43.
You can see their projection of pH in one of the graphs here.

As previously noted (both on this thread and on earlier occasions), scientists rarely if ever refer to the actual H+ concentration. There's a reason why a logarithmic scale is customary.

Nov 14, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

It is relatively to complain to the BBC. The answer may cause more cornflake problems though.
Start here

Nov 14, 2013 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommentersandyS

The story's already fallen down the BBC home page and is now under Sci/Environment (note which is spelled out in full) linked with the delightful:

Emissions drive oceans 'acid trip'

The allusion to a hallucinogenic trip to help the delegates of COP19 in Warsaw see the world as they desperately wish it was is I'm sure an accident. Yeah man.

Nov 14, 2013 at 5:26 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Reading the BBC alarmist story and this blog post reminded me of Willis Eshenbach's blog post in WUWT from 2010.

Still very much to the point and also makes the point that pH changes all the time and the noise is more prevalent that actual changes.

Nov 14, 2013 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

Recall the climate science standard of making predictions and coming to conclusions based on sample sizes of 0.
Since oceans are not acidifying, it is in fact, from the AGW kook point of view, entirely reasonable to assert that ocean acidification will increase by 170% in the coming years and at an unprecedented rate.
Afterall, 170% of 0 = 0.
BBC, like the ABC and american major media is great when they are actually applying critical thinking skills to reporting.
Except they never apply critical thinking skills to their reporting.

Nov 14, 2013 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The ocean will never become 'acidic' as long as there are rocks. The oceans are pretty well saturated with CO2 at all times - liquid CO2 is found at the bottom of deep ocean trenches.
As mentioned in the above comments the oceans are buffered. If more CO2 dissolves (in colder water) more CaCO3 is attacked by the carbonic acid creating Ca(HCO3)2 which is both soluble and alkaline.

300 million years back and earlier CO2 atmospheric levels were thousands of times bigger than they are now (of the order of 20% of the atmosphere) life flourished in the oceans.

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

the use of 'acidification' is further proof that the alarmist will go for scary over factual any day of the week and as with 'hidden' ocean heat its only required in the first place because of the failure of 'the causes' claims to match reality .

Nov 14, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR


"300 million years back and earlier CO2 atmospheric levels were thousands of times bigger than they are now (of the order of 20% of the atmosphere) life flourished in the oceans."

This is wrong. There is debate as to the amplitude of fluctuations in CO2 levels during the Phanerozoic with estimates ranging from peak levels somewhere between 5 and 20 times present day levels during some periods of the past but not thousands of times bigger.

Not with standing this your observation about a vibrant marine fauna during times of high CO2 levels is relevant.

Nov 14, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Dennis

It seem obvious that very few measures of ocean pH have been taken, and there are doubts about the accuracy of the instruments:

While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.

The Challenge: Improve Our Understanding of Ocean Acidification

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a $2 million global competition that challenges teams of engineers, scientists and innovators from all over the world to create pH sensor technology that will affordably, accurately and efficiently measure ocean chemistry from its shallowest waters… to its deepest depths.

There are two prize purses available (teams may compete for, and win, both purses):

A. $1,000,000 Accuracy award – Performance focused ($750,000 First Place, $250,000 Second Place): To the teams that navigate the entire competition to produce the most accurate, stable and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.


More here:

"We know nothing of pH at depth, which is a real concern," says biologist Paul Bunje, a senior director for oceans at the X PRIZE Foundation and the administrator of the new contest. "We have a spotty picture of what ocean acidification looks like around the world."

B. $1,000,000 Affordability award – Cost and Use focused ($750,000 First Place, $250,000 Second Place): To the teams that produce the least expensive, easy-to-use, accurate, stable, and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.

While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.

Nov 15, 2013 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered Commentermarkx

Throw undersea erupting Volcanos into the mix

Nov 15, 2013 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I'm constantly surprised by the lack of understanding about how corals and other califiers take-up carbonate. They use bicarbonate - releasing protons as they do so, which are then used in photosynthesis or to improve nutrient uptake. Decreasing pH actually increases bicarbonate (at the expence of carbonate). This explains why coccolithophores (which constitute a very large component of the oceanic carbon pump) actually increase in size with dereasing pH.


Nov 15, 2013 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered Commenter@lanK

It's BBCEnviro=Greenpeace PR dept so why are we talking about this ?
We know it's not news and just part of COP19 hype
- Secondly they are entitled the use the word acidification, just in the same way as if winter arctic night temperature rose from -31C to 30 can be called warming.

1. BBCEnviro is not a credible source of news , info coming out of it can be just treated as if it comes out of the Greenpeace PR office. It will have a hyping headline, people will spend hours analysing the story and it will almost always be found flawed by a sceptic spending hours deconstructing it.
2. Is it news ? is it new ? It doesn't even come with the moniker "according to a NEW research published in X journal" ? no rather the new item is based on the fact some thing called International Geosphere-biosphere Programme IGBP are publishing a summary for policymakers called "Ocean Acidification Summary for Policymakers 2013", but that is NOT NEW as it's "based on the latest research presented at The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, held in Monterey, California, in September 2012."
i.e. some ones taken notes from more than one year ago and put them into a report for policymakers... probably specially made for COP19
- Is IGBP credible ? Well they existed since 1987, but their homepage has a graphic of drying desert, dirty chimneys, and skewed graphs ..telling me their ethos is to push the CAGW message rather than be independent.
- "in 2009, IGBP's income totalled 1,531,000 EUROS." so not exactly a big research institute are they ?
3. It will have language loaded with rhetorical tricks calculated to create a lie in the mind of the reader e.g. using "may be" below which is meaningless, but many people will read as "is"

The world's oceans are becoming acidic at an "unprecedented rate" and may be souring more rapidly than at any time in the past 300 million years.
- and look at those words .. now it's clear that this new item is a rehash of that discredited Fiona Harvey story in the Guardian from a month a go which had an obvious error in the first sentence, which none of the Guardianistas noticed, but rather was corrected after 1 week only after Latimer Adler & Ruth Dixon pointed it out. (on BH)

Nov 15, 2013 at 10:14 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Could one of you climate guy explain the Mauna Loa result for 5/28/13 to me from because from my simplistic reading the magical 400.27 ppm data used zero flasks and was rejected by the researchers...


Nov 16, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chorley

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