[Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist

Julian @ Reef Check julian at reefcheck.org.my
Tue Jan 10 10:44:58 EST 2012

Dear all

Forgive a non-scientist for making a perhaps rather naive observation, but
are we in danger of ignoring the short term problems and focusing too much
on the long term? While I don't doubt that ocean acidification will have an
impact on coral reefs over the long term (20-50 years), I suggest that maybe
it is a bit of a red herring in the face of impacts that are affecting reefs
on a short term basis (next 5 years), and thereby the communities that need
healthy coral reefs today. A paper written about the impact of fish bombing
on reefs around Sabah, East Malaysia, back in the late 90's calculated that
(at the then current rate of incidence) fish bombing would destroy 130% of
Sabah's reefs by 2020 (the date at which Malaysia hopes to achieve developed
nation status). And since you can't actually destroy 130% of something, then
by implication by 2020 there won't be much left in the way of healthy reefs
in Sabah.

So if there won't be much reef left to be affected by ocean acidification,
which is a problem in the 20-50 year timescale, is it not logical that we
should spend at least some time focusing on the shorter term threats, like
fish bombing, as well as trying to address the longer term threats, like


Julian Hyde
General Manager
Reef Check Malaysia Bhd
03 2161 5948
Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rcmalaysia

"The bottom line of the Millenium Assessment findings is that human actions
are depleting Earth's natural capital, putting such strain on the
environment that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future
generations can no longer be taken for granted."

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Ulf Erlingsson
Sent: Tuesday, 10 January, 2012 10:19 PM
To: Steve Mussman; Coral Listserver Listserver
Cc: Eugene Shinn
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist


Argument #2 in the link you gave is invalid and the similitude with climate
/ weather is flawed. At any rate the planet is facing serious problems and
IMHO it is very irresponsible to cry wolf over something that is so
self-serving as this for the scientists involved.


Ulf Erlingsson

On 2012-01-09, at 15:49, Steve Mussman wrote:

> Gene,
> With all due respect there are sources and there are . . . . sources.
> I'm not a scientist, but I know enough to question sources of information.
> I can find sites that claim that cigarette smoking is beneficial, but 
> that doesn't mean that one should give credence to this perspective.
> Proclaiming rising atmospheric CO2 levels and current rates of ocean 
> acidification to be a good thing is reprehensible in my view. 
> Here is a alternate perspective that deserves serious consideration 
> based on the credibility of the author and the list of sources cited.
> http://www.skepticalscience.com/ocean-acid.html
>   Respectfully yours,   
>    Steve Mussman      
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
>> Sent: Jan 9, 2012 10:39 AM
>> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
>> Subject: [Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist
>> I missed the 60 minutes program because I was at sea when it aired. I 
>> nevertheless wonder if they discussed any of the scientific issues 
>> presented in the WSJ (below). or the lengthy technical presentation 
>> at   http://co2science.org/subject/o/acidificationphenom.php.  Gene
>>>> Source:  WSJ
>>>> [SPPI Note:  More in-depth papers on this issue can be found at the 
>>>> SPPI website:
>>>> C02 Science's Ocean Acidification Database
>>>> Quantifying the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Organisms
>>>> Effects of Ocean Acidification on Marine Ecosystems
>>>> Answers to a Fisherman's Testimony about Ocean Acidification
>>>> EPA's Role in Protecting Ocean Health Should Focus on the 
>>>> "Here-and-Now" Threats
>>>> See also CO2 Science website for reviewed papers on the topic
>>>> ***************************
>>>> WSJ text beings here:
>>>> Coral reefs around the world are suffering badly from overfishing 
>>>> and various forms of pollution. Yet many experts argue that the 
>>>> greatest threat to them is the acidification of the oceans from the 
>>>> dissolving of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
>>>> The effect of acidification, according to J.E.N. Veron, an 
>>>> Australian coral scientist, will be "nothing less than 
>>>> catastrophic.... What were once thriving coral gardens that 
>>>> supported the greatest biodiversity of the marine realm will become 
>>>> red-black bacterial slime, and they will stay that way."
>>>> Humans have placed marine life under pressure, but the chief 
>>>> culprits are overfishing and pollution.
>>>> This is a common view. The Natural Resources Defense Council has 
>>>> called ocean acidification "the scariest environmental problem 
>>>> you've never heard of." Sigourney Weaver, who narrated a film about 
>>>> the issue, said that "the scientists are freaked out." The head of 
>>>> the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls it global 
>>>> warming's "equally evil twin."
>>>> But do the scientific data support such alarm? Last month 
>>>> scientists at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography and 
>>>> other authors published a study showing how much the pH level 
>>>> (measuring alkalinity versus acidity) varies naturally between 
>>>> parts of the ocean and at different times of the day, month and 
>>>> year.
>>>> "On both a monthly and annual scale, even the most stable open 
>>>> ocean sites see pH changes many times larger than the annual rate 
>>>> of acidification," say the authors of the study, adding that 
>>>> because good instruments to measure ocean pH have only recently 
>>>> been deployed, "this variation has been under-appreciated." Over 
>>>> coral reefs, the pH decline between dusk and dawn is almost half as 
>>>> much as the decrease in average pH expected over the next 100 
>>>> years. The noise is greater than the signal.
>>>> Another recent study, by scientists from the U.K., Hawaii and 
>>>> Massachusetts, concluded that "marine and freshwater assemblages 
>>>> have always experienced variable pH conditions," and that "in many 
>>>> freshwater lakes, pH changes that are orders of magnitude greater 
>>>> than those projected for the 22nd-century oceans can occur over 
>>>> periods of hours."
>>>> This adds to other hints that the ocean-acidification problem may 
>>>> have been exaggerated. For a start, the ocean is alkaline and in no 
>>>> danger of becoming acid (despite headlines like that from Reuters 
>>>> in 2009: "Climate Change Turning Seas Acid"). If the average pH of 
>>>> the ocean drops to 7.8 from 8.1 by 2100 as predicted, it will still 
>>>> be well above seven, the neutral point where alkalinity becomes 
>>>> acidity.
>>>> The central concern is that lower pH will make it harder for 
>>>> corals, clams and other "calcifier" creatures to make calcium 
>>>> carbonate skeletons and shells. Yet this concern also may be 
>>>> overstated. Off Papua New Guinea and the Italian island of Ischia, 
>>>> where natural carbon-dioxide bubbles from volcanic vents make the 
>>>> sea less alkaline, and off the Yucatan, where underwater springs 
>>>> make seawater actually acidic, studies have shown that at least 
>>>> some kinds of calcifiers still thrive-at least as far down as pH 
>>>> 7.8.
>>>> In a recent experiment in the Mediterranean, reported in Nature 
>>>> Climate Change, corals and mollusks were transplanted to lower pH 
>>>> sites, where they proved "able to calcify and grow at even faster 
>>>> than normal rates when exposed to the high [carbon-dioxide] levels 
>>>> projected for the next 300 years." In any case, freshwater mussels 
>>>> thrive in Scottish rivers, where the pH is as low as five.
>>>> Laboratory experiments find that more marine creatures thrive than 
>>>> suffer when carbon dioxide lowers the pH level to 7.8. This is 
>>>> because the carbon dioxide dissolves mainly as bicarbonate, which 
>>>> many calcifiers use as raw material for carbonate.
>>>> Human beings have indeed placed marine ecosystems under terrible 
>>>> pressure, but the chief culprits are overfishing and pollution. By 
>>>> comparison, a very slow reduction in the alkalinity of the oceans, 
>>>> well within the range of natural variation, is a modest threat, and 
>>>> it certainly does not merit apocalyptic headlines.
>>>> ******************************
>> -- 
>> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
>> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
>> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
>> University of South Florida
>> College of Marine Science Room 221A
>> 140 Seventh Avenue South
>> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
>> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
>> Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 
>> -----------------------------------
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