A new study is calling on scientists to be more skeptical of research claiming man-made global warming is driving a phenomenon called “ocean acidification.”
Howard Browman with Norway’s Institute of Marine Research calls “for a heightened level of organized (academic) scepticism to be applied to the body of work on” ocean acidification, and he argues “an insufficient level of organized scepticism has been applied” to the research field.
Browman is the editor of the Journal of Marine Science and has read hundreds of articles on ocean acidification — an event that’s been called the “evil twin” of global warming. A huge increase in papers on the topic have been published in recent years, which Browman said has contributed to alarmism on the subject.
“Such journals tend to publish doom and gloom stories… stated without equivocation,” Browman told the Independent, a UK newspaper.
“You won’t get a job unless you publish an article that is viewed as of significant importance to society,” he said. “People often forget that scientists are people and have the same pressures on them and the same kind of human foibles. Some are driven by different things. They want to be prominent.”
Browman does acknowledge ocean acidification is occurring and the science on the subject has improved, but he argues there’s still lots of uncertainties. There’s also research showing ocean acidification will have little to no effect on some marine species.
Other studies on ocean acidification were extremely flawed, for example, showing animals being subjected to high CO2 levels much faster than would ever happen in the natural world.
“In some cases it was levels far beyond what would ever be reached even if we burnt every molecule of carbon on the planet,” Browman said.
Ocean acidification is a “a change in seawater chemistry driven by increased uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the oceans,” according to Browman. Some scientists have sounded the alarm on increased CO2 levels in the ocean.
Studies have been published claiming global warming-driven ocean acidification is killing off the world’s coral reefs.
A recent study by Rebecca Albright of the Carnegie Institution for Science argued ocean acidification is slowing the growth of coral reefs, and the liberal news site Climate Central reported the planet is seeing the longest coral “bleaching” event on record.
Skepticism over such claims has been on the rise recently. One of the first major pushbacks in recent months against ocean acidification fears came from Greenpeace co-founder and ecologist Patrick Moore.
Moore published a study in November claiming the “concept of ocean acidification is a recent phenomenon that has resulted in an explosion of journal articles, media reports and alarmist publications from environmental organizations.”
“Assumptions about pre-industrial ocean pH beginning around 1750 and laboratory studies that cannot adequately emulate natural oceanic conditions are the basis for the predictions of the future pH of the oceans,” Moore wrote.
“All species are capable of adapting to changes in their environments,” he added. “Over the long term, genetic evolution has made it possible for all species extant today, and their ancestors, to survive radical changes through the millennia. In the short term, phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational plasticity allow species to adapt to environmental change in relatively rapid fashion.”
While Moore made his concerns public over the science underlying ocean acidification alarmism, government scientists were much more reserved about making such criticisms.
Emails uncovered by the science blog JunkScience.com show Dr. Shallin Busch, a scientist who studies ocean acidification at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was concerned about a recent New York Times op-ed on the subject.
“I think it is really important to resist the NYT editor’s impulse to say that [ocean acidification] is wreaking all sorts of havoc RIGHT NOW, because for ecological systems, we don’t have the evidence to say that,” Busch wrote in a September 2015 email to a NOAA colleague.
“Also, the study of OA is so young that we don’t have any data sets that show a direct effect on OA on population health and trajectory,” she wrote.
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