Over at Skeptical Science we (Doug Mackie, Christina McGraw, and Keith Hunter) have started a long series (18 parts) about ocean acidification (Introduction , 1, 2). We all deride blog science. Blog science is what happens when people try to get a complex message across in 800 words or less. Real science takes time to explain. There is too much et voila in writing about climate change in general and ocean acidification in particular. Denialists have not touched ocean acidification because they don’t understand it. The chemistry is very subtle and even posts on normally reliable blogs like Skeptical Science have made errors.
A local Dunedin denier sent me ‘proof’ that ocean acidification was not real and even if it was then it wasn’t a problem. The ‘proof’ was a document published by the SPPI. The document was previously ‘published’ (cough) in Energy and Environment. Really, they very best argument the denialists have is “acid means pH less than 7 but ocean pH is greater than 7 so there is therefore no acidification”.
In this document (which I am not linking to because they don’t need the traffic) 5 of the 12 points for policy makers are variations on the pH greater than 7 argument. At first I puzzled at this: Do they really think policy makers are so dumb they won’t notice the same thing said 5 ways? Then I remembered Don Brash and had to concede the point. Yes, many policy makers are that dumb. (6 more points in the summary for policy makers are variations of ‘the gravy train’ meme and the last point says that measurements to date agree with IPCC projections – while mangling the terminology).
So, even the SPPI accept that the average pH of the ocean has dropped by 0.1 pH unit since the start of the industrial revolution. They even accept that this represents a 30% increase in “acidity” of the oceans. (It is actually more like 26% – but what is a little accuracy between friends?) But they harp on that the process is not acidification?
The OED gives the following definition for acidification:
The action or process of making something (more) acidic; conversion into an acid; addition of acid. Cf. acidify v.
Then, as always the OED gives some historical quotations, finishing with this one:
2006 New Scientist 5 Aug. 30/1 Most scientists think it is correct to describe any process that lowers pH as acidification.
I was motivated to write the series because I have seen a lot of well intentioned comments and posts about OA. But most of the posters and commentators plainly don’t really understand and are hiding that by pasting in chunks of big words. That isn’t good enough.
At the start of writing the series we briefly thought about a series of debunking but quickly realised that: a) what was missing was the basic science to explain the debunking, and b) there are very few claims to debunk. Atmospheric temperature is easy – you can sow confusion by talking about urban heat islands and the like. But ocean acidification is different. Marine chemistry is complex.
In this series we have presented the bare minimum entry level chemistry needed to understand the concept of OA. This is the stuff required to even understand half the words in the stuff that gets posted elsewhere.
The series is not for the faint hearted.
- Are you brave enough to SEE equilibrium arrows and find out what happens when they are perturbed?
- Do you want to SEE chemical equations do battle with each other?
- Do you want to SEE androids fighting Brad and Janet?