Suppressing the good news
Jan 1, 2016
Bishop Hill in Bureaucrats, Climate: Oceans

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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