[Coral-List] Matt Ridley's article in the Wall Street Journal

Douglas Fenner douglasfenner at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 11 15:44:41 EST 2012

    As far as I can tell, the term "acidification" means that the pH is going down, not that the water is "acid."  Yes, the ocean is basic, over pH 7.  Perhaps it would be clearer to say "lowering of the pH" instead of saying "acidification."  I'm all for clarity, but scientists like to use big words, maybe to show off.  I notice people like to say "embayment" instead of just "bay."  Sounds more impressive to say embayment.  There are lots of other technical terms of course.  If people are misinterpreting the word "acidification" then we should use clearer terminology, but we may be stuck with "acidification" since everybody uses it.   

   One additional comment on the Wall Street 
Journal (WSJ) article (oh, and could people please explain your 
acronyms, as is normally required in journals?  A lot of people reading 
coral-list may not know what they mean, I for one am often left puzzled 
by them).  They claim that since pH changes on a daily basis, and has 
large fluctuation in lakes, much larger than projected decreases by the 
end of the century, the coming acidification is nothing to worry about.  But consider for a minute sea level rise.  There are daily changes in 
sea level (called "tides") that are vastly larger than the annual rise 
in sea level.  Tides in many locations are also larger than the 
projected rise by the end of the century.  Yet not only can the yearly 
increase be measured, but the increases over a few decades is enough to 
cause real problems, and if it meets projections for the end of the 
century, could force the people of entire nations to have to find new 
places to live.  Places like Maldives, Kiribati, and the Marshall Is., 
all atolls.  So the fact that there is short term variation that is 
larger than the change over long periods does not mean that the change 
over long periods can't have some pretty drastic effects.
   Cheers,  Doug

interesting cartoon:

Communicating the science of climate change (includes a powerful review)

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In 2010, a survey of more than 1,000 of the world's most cited and published climate scientists found that 97 percent believe climate change is happening and primarily caused by humans.  Anderegg, W.R.L. et al 2010.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107: 12107.

 From: "Gattuso, Jean-Pierre" <gattuso2 at obs-vlfr.fr>
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov 
Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 6:31 AM
Subject: [Coral-List] Matt Ridley's article in the Wall Street Journal

Eugene Shinn mentioned Matt Ridley's article in the Wall Street Journal 
(http://tinyurl.com/77xnp24). Make sure that you also read the comments. 
I am appending below one of mine.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso


Matt Ridley does not provide an accurate account of ocean acidification 

I agree with him that some media have used catchy but inaccurate 
headlines and I often post comments on the ocean acidification blog 
(http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/) to explain that the 
definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the 
properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7?. Despite the process 
of ocean acidification (the acidity of seawater has increased about 30% 
since preindustrial time), the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) 
and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, the "acid" 
or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that 
there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate 
vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments.

That being said, and in contrast to Matt Ridley's statements, ocean 
acidification does impact marine organisms and ecosystems. Some seem to 
benefit from it (certain, but not all, plants), others are negatively 
impacted. The papers alluded to in his article precisely show that 
biodiversity is considerably less in the CO2 vent sites of Ischia 
(Italy) and Papua New Guinea. At the pH level expected at the end of 
this century, 30% of the species are eliminated in Ischia (Hall-Spencer 
et al., 2008). Likewise, in Papua New Guinea, the considerable diversity 
of Indo-Pacific corals takes a hit at the acidity level projected in 
2100, with a taxonomic richness of hard corals down by 39% (Fabricius et 
al., 2011).

Matt Ridley claims that "Laboratory experiments find that more marine 
creatures thrive than suffer when carbon dioxide lowers the pH level to 
7.8". This is also incorrect. Five experts in the field have recently 
concluded that there is a high level of confidence that "Ocean 
acidification will adversely affect calcification" (Gattuso et al., 2011)..

Informing its readership by providing accurate accounts should be a aim 
of the press. The best way to achieve that goal for the Wall Street 
Journal and the journalists who contribute to it is to seek the input of 
the scientific community.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso
Scientific Coordinator, European Project on Ocean Acidification

References cited:

Fabricius K. E., Langdon C., Uthicke S., Humphrey C., Noonan S., De’ath 
G., Okazaki R., Muehllehner N., Glas M. S. & Lough J. M., 2011. Losers 
and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide 
concentrations. Nature Climate change 1:165-169.

Gattuso J.-P., Bijma J., Gehlen M., Riebesell U. & Turley C., 2011. 
Ocean acidification: knowns, unknowns and perspectives. In: Gattuso 
J.-P. & Hansson L. (Eds.), Ocean acidification, pp. 291-311. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press.

Hall-Spencer J. M., Rodolfo-Metalpa R., Martin S., Ransome E., Fine M., 
Turner S. M., Rowley S. J., Tedesco D. & Buia M.-C., 2008. Volcanic 
carbon dioxide vents show ecosystem effects of ocean acidification. 
Nature 454:96-99.

-- Jean-Pierre Gattuso | http://www.obs-vlfr..fr/~gattuso
European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA): http://epoca-project.eu/
"Ocean Acidification", new book (http://tinyurl.com/5skzxb5)

Jean-Pierre Gattuso | http://www.obs-vlfr.fr/~gattuso
European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA): http://epoca-project.eu
"Ocean Acidification", new book (http://tinyurl.com/5skzxb5)

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