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« Environmentalists trashing the environment, part 729 | Main | Holthaus thoroughly maued and knappenburgered »

Suppressing the good news

Just before Christmas, Steve Milloy reported on his successful bid to get the email correspondence relating to an op-ed in the New York Times, ostensibly by Richard Spinrad of NOAA and Ian Boyd, the chief scientist at Defra. this was on the subject of ocean acidification and carried a fairly scary paragraph about what scientists were said to be observing:

Ocean acidification is weakening coral structures in the Caribbean and in cold-water coral reefs found in the deep waters off Scotland and Norway. In the past three decades, the number of living corals covering the Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half, reducing critical habitat for fish and the resilience of the entire reef system. Dramatic change is also apparent in the Arctic, where the frigid waters can hold so much carbon dioxide that nearby shelled creatures can dissolve in the corrosive conditions, affecting food sources for indigenous people, fish, birds and marine mammals. Clear pictures of the magnitude of changes in such remote ocean regions are sparse. To better understand these and other hotspots, more regions must be studied.

The email correspondence is therefore most enlightening, not only because it reveals that the authors who appeared on the byline had little involvement in actually writing the article, but also because behind the scenes it appears that the Times was trying to get the scientists to come up with evidence of what the present-day impacts were, and were told in no uncertain terms that there was none.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now. If you want to use this type of language, you could write about the CO2 vent sites in Italy or Polynesia as examples of things to come. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful on this!

It's funny, but that message somehow didn't make it into the article. Tony Thomas at Quadrant magazine has gone into the story in much more detail, and there are several other aspects that cast a fairly murky shadow over the whole affair.

Happy New Year by the way.

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Reader Comments (47)

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Now, who was it who said that? Oh yes, it was Mark Twain.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

I repeat my New Year's prediction from the previous thread. Alarmists will continue to ensure that the facts never get in the way of a good scare story.

Happy New Year.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:05 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

NYT provide a sad example of the current state of the art in mainstream journalism. Thank goodness for FOI and those who use it for truth.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

The white cliffs of Dover were laid down in the Cretaceous when the CO2 level was a minimum of 4 times the current level. Where was the acidification?

This whole scare campaign has been generated by people with little or no knowledge of chemistry (and of AGW theory; if CO2 causes warming then less CO2 will dissolve in the sea).
Sea water is buffered by calcium and magnesium salts which make the reactions quite different to rain water. In any case 98% of CO2 doesn't react, it is there as dissolved gas. The reaction to carbonic acid works quickly at a pH of 9.5 but very little sea life would survive such alkalinity. the reaction slows as the pH drops and stops about pH 5.5.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

My New Year resolution is to be nice to environmentalists, the poor dears need all the help they can get, what with the "Last Chance to Save the Planet" having been a dismal flop.

One has to be especially kind to the chemists and biologists, having seen the mathematicians and physicists (and the undercover police officers) get all the girls, they have to live with global greening, increasing crop productivity and the flourishing of polar bears, penguins and coral reefs, despite having to host David Attenborough and an army of marine biologists and chemists conducting futile searches for the "anthropogenic signal".

Jan 1, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

So - off we go again, then...?

Jan 1, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

OA always was a diversion from the Pause. Sounds impressively scary, too - perfect propaganda. File alongside 'extreme' weather as something to out flesh climate change beyond mere temperatures. Or more succinctly, just another lie.

Jan 1, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

Well said, Mikky. My 2016 predictions are they will find a new "Last Chance to Save the Planet," and the ninth "First Climate Refugee" will be identified.

Jan 1, 2016 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

The irony is The Times is not only owned by the 'evil Murdoch' but is very mush of the establishment , both of these, we are told by the alarmists, are part of 'fossil fuel funding' conspiracy out to stop action on CAGW.

It really makes you think how bad their situation would be if their 'conspiracy' claims were actually true?

Meanwhile this is case of were the press has run with a non-story ,however let us remember there are plenty working in climate 'science' who are more than happy to provide the press with what they 'want' and have little concern with shaping their work to in a direction which as poor scientific validity, but does produce nice scary headlines with an 'impact'

Jan 1, 2016 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

"If you want to use this type of language, you could write about the CO2 vent sites in Italy or Polynesia as examples of things to come."

That statement doesn't inspire much confidence in whoever wrote it.

Jan 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

There were never any alarming facts behind ocean acidification that stood up to serious examination. Only rampant, speculative exaggeration about the future. Same as usual. If more environmentalists studied Chemistry and Biology, they would be less easily frightened by equally ignorant journalists.

For most of them "Acid" is still something which comes next on the same list as "Plutonium", the brighter journalists having figured out that "Global Warming" and "Mediterranean Climate" just doesn't seem to alarm people very much.

Jan 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

"cults" don't care much about the truth in spreading/defending their faith.

I note Patrick Moore is particularly aggressive as condemning OA are merely hype.

BTW here Millroy's article is the easiest to read

Jan 1, 2016 at 1:47 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Michael hart
And if more so-called "environmental journalists" had studied Chemistry and Biology then they wouldn't be so easily taken in by enviro-activists with an axe to grind!

And a Happy New Year from me. as well!

Jan 1, 2016 at 2:07 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The two main comteporary examples of ocean 'acidification' cited in the Seattle Times series comprise academic misconduct concerning corals and 'knew or should have known' gross negligence concerning oyster spat. Exposed with a review of ocean pH chemistry/biology in essay Shell Games.

Jan 1, 2016 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Ah, but tum diddle wiiddy do.
But are people.
Because fish drive petroleum are. If you look closely.
The peat beds of Ireland have. Regularly and often.
Oh yes.

Jan 1, 2016 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterFork of Bjork

Happy New Year to all.


[...] they have to live with global greening, increasing crop productivity and the flourishing of polar bears, penguins and coral reefs, despite having to host David Attenborough and an army of marine biologists and chemists conducting futile searches for the "anthropogenic signal".

No better demonstration of just how far the rot has set in than me (re)watching 'Blue Planet' (2001). Oceans full of life, Polar Bears trying to catch 1 ton Whales, 5 billion Herring 'hanging out' just off Norway and much else that was both interesting and educational. I tried to imagine what the series would look like if it were made now.

I imagine the whole team trudging around the Arctic looking for dead Polar Bears and Whales. Having found them they would set about examining the different camera angles that would hide the bullet hole in the Bear and the mostly eaten Whale caracas. Attenborough would provide the political narrative and a once world class documentary team become another note in history. Truly sad.

Jan 1, 2016 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Mike Jackson,

If more so-called "environmental journalists" had studied Chemistry and Biology then they wouldn't be so easily taken in by enviro-activists with an axe to grind! environmental journalists! FIFY :)

Jan 1, 2016 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhil R

Phil R
Yes, well; that as well of course! But I think the point stands.
Where would we be now if all the journalists whose job it was to read all the self-serving guff from the scientivists and their green cronies had understood the basic science?
The whole fiasco would have been put to death years ago!

Jan 1, 2016 at 4:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Greenpeace will be looking for money to give their Rainbow Warrior Class of Diesel Powered Luxury Cruise Yachts extra resistance to the corrosive acid oceans.

Most people call it paint.

Jan 1, 2016 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Why has this faked up story not made it into Guardian yet? Either as a scary story from one of their expert on science and the environment, or as a condescending piece on the pitfalls of sloppy journalism.

The Guardian could even run the same facts, with two different stories, on different pages of the same paper, without anyone even noticing, especially the editors.

Jan 1, 2016 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

“The irony is The Times is not only owned by the 'evil Murdoch' …” knr at 1:10 PM.
That’s The Times (UK), in the US Murdoch owns The Wall Street Journal.

Jan 1, 2016 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Hanley

Check out Indur Goklany's report "Carbon Dioxide, the good news", available from the GWPFoundation papers (September 2015). It contains solid proof from many papers that ocean acidification is not a problem for the coming 300 years and that in areas like reefs and seagrass ocean acidification is reversed through photosynthesis by fytoplankton, so that corals and other calcified structures are preserved and can even grow.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:27 PM | Registered CommenterAlbert Stienstra

Even a passing familiarity with the marine macro and microfaunal biodiversity and vigour of calcareous skeletal species through the geological fossil record, evolving and thriving under conditions of atmospheric CO2 several fold higher than present, often with such massive proliferation as forming primary rock building limestone units hundreds of feet thick, should be sufficient to regard alarmism about ocean acidification with scorn and contempt.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:31 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I love Oreskes as much as I do the NYT.

Jan 1, 2016 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Aila, how very strange of you. Fortunately for the sake of humanity, their combined beauty is without comparison.

Jan 2, 2016 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I'm developing a crush on Dr Shallin Busch. She's trying to keep her job, suck up to her somewhat careless or dishonest bosses, and do what she can to support the warmist orthodoxy, but she still accepts that it is her job to tell the truth as she knows it.

Reminds me of Mr. Salter, foreign editor of The Beast, in the Waugh novel Scoop. When his boss says something that he knows to be correct, he says "Definitely, Lord Copper." When he says something incorrect: "Up to a point, Lord Copper."

You might find some actual damage from ocean acidification somewhere, er, possibly one or two vent sites .....

Jan 2, 2016 at 3:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd R

What part of lysocline don't you understand ?

Steve Milloy is clearly out of his calcite compensation depth.

Jan 2, 2016 at 7:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterrussell

Here we go again and the input of more preposterous red herrings from the man of straw, "lysocline".

Passing over for the time being, the marine deposition of large scale CaCO₃ deposits of coccoliths aka the lithology of Chalk and Limestone.

But where, the original article has been thoroughly exposed as nothing more than very idle but hyperbolic speculation, ratting on as it does about REEF CORALS and not much else but alluding to some sort of specious linkage to absorption rates in sea water of CO₂. All the while, everybody and his dog knows that a variation of, human tourism (amateur scuba/snorkelers], over fishing, riverine pollution and sea bed drag trawling are to blame for the degradation of coral reefs whether they be off Scotland or, in the Caribbean.

Uh and oh yeah, the 'lysocline' - CaCO₃ solubility is dependent on; water pressure, ie deep water, temperature and salinity and er..........

Coral reefs, are found almost exclusively in shallow shelf seas where there must be considerable turbation of marine sediments and light for photosynthesis. Thus, these conditions; sunlight and copious amounts where 'food' can be sifted from sediments mainly caused by marine currents up-welling from the depths - do rather preclude the development of coral reefs in very deep water (excepting volcanic atolls and ocean arc islands) - and of course: where the 'lysocline' effect becomes a factor.

Plus, notwithstanding the very fact that, vast open waters far away from continental shelves are very much, comparatively speaking marine 'deserts', ie there is little to no sediment mixing, actually food for plankton zooxanthellea et al.

Jan 2, 2016 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Oreskes' beauty is not skin deep.

Deal with it.

Jan 2, 2016 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

I think the troll meant to say he was "liesoclining" about OA. Yet another example of a failed climate obsessed claim biting the dust. The only unusual aspect of this is the clear documentation of how media, at decision making levels, is deliberately setting out to deceive regarding the do called climate consensus.

Jan 2, 2016 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter called climate consensus... Sorry about that, am traveling this last few days and find typing on a smart phone is not so easy...

Jan 2, 2016 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

hunter, 97% of climate scientists will believe anything, and they have a peer reviewed consensus to prove it, with the peer reviewers all having been vetted in advance. This is how the intellectual purity of climate science is guaranteed, with no risk of contamination by independent thinking.

Jan 2, 2016 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Talking of suppressing the good news, may I direct everyone's attention to the piece at the head of Anthony Watts blog today by David M Hoffer, in which he quotes no less an authoritative organisation than the IPCC:

'For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impact of other drivers (medium evidence, high agreement)....'

Folks, this is the IPCC's assessment - so I am tempted to suggest - what the F*** is everyone worried about..??

...and just how thoroughly have Western governments studied this assessment..?

Jan 2, 2016 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

hunter - I synpathise with ypur problens typng on a snartphone - I have thr same problen typng p*ssed....

Jan 2, 2016 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Then of course there is the recent paper: healthy, growing coral may actually make the surrounding ocean more acidic. This may be part of what Dr. Busch had in mind.

Jan 2, 2016 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd R

"I note Patrick Moore is particularly aggressive as condemning OA are merely hype"

Indeed, he gave an excellent presentation on OA in Paris in December which can be found on

Jan 2, 2016 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

"Science politicized is science betrayed", a once wise man once said.

Jan 2, 2016 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrant

Athelstan, , what part of polymorph don't you understand ?

The live coral issue is the aragonite compensation point, which is generally shallow- there are lysoclines for each and every different polymorph of CaCo3 that gets biomineralized.

Jan 2, 2016 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterrussell

Cue typo blowhards on the small 'o' in CaCO3

Jan 2, 2016 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterrussell

Russell, the
NYT deliberately lied. Now you are a self playing fool.

Jan 2, 2016 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Tell that to Nick Wade .

Jan 3, 2016 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterrussell

So you are ok with playing yourself for the fool...

Jan 3, 2016 at 3:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

What ever are you talking about? Broad and Wade authored <I>Betrayers of the Truth

Show Nick a substantive error of scientific fact in the Times

( no ellipsis please ) and you will very shortly see a correction published .

Jan 3, 2016 at 6:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterrussell

They lie, but they are so pretty.

Jan 3, 2016 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Russell, sorry but your refusal to admit the NYT editorial strategy is to lie about the issue speaks too loudly to ignore. Your attempt to do hijack the thread ain't working.

Jan 3, 2016 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter


I live in the Pacific NW. I've corresponded with Dr R. Freely who is one of the leading researchers into OA and it's impacts to shell fish. The NW coast is well known for deep water upwelling. As I'm sure you know, colder water, under pressure, has a higher concentration of CO2. So what do you think happens as it gets pushed to the surface?

Washington shell fish producers have dealt with the "acidification" problem by shipping their larvae to Hawaii for their first few weeks, until they've formed their shell enough that they are not subject to pH changes. Knowing these two facts - presence of cold upwelling and the shellfish being fine in Hawaiian waters - I asked Dr. Freely if they were able to determine if any pH change was due to CO2 exchanged with the atmosphere versus CO2 brought to the surface from deeper waters. The answer was of course no. So when I asked how could they claim anthropogenic CO2 was the cause of the problem I got some lame response with regard to climate change possibly leading to changes in wind patterns, which could then change locations of upwelling currents.

To buy into Climate Change caused OA, one has to make a leap of faith. Because basic problem analysis tells us that if atmospheric CO2 is causing OA, then it should be observable everywhere - Hawaiian waters as well as Washington waters. It also tells us that a known source of CO2 is present, just not one that is anthropogenic.

Jan 4, 2016 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

Yes Richard Spinrad and Ian Boyd, life can't survive too much CO2, or can it?

Oceans with puddles of liquid CO2 at its depths, CO2 that bubbles up, hummm ...

Jan 7, 2016 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered Commentertom0mason

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