Scientific Measurements Of Ocean Acidification Are An Elitist Consiracy, Alt-Right Anti-Environmentalist Declares
For a long time, the Breitbart right wing activist web site has pursued a campaign of promoting every kind of Cold Earther conspiracy theory it can get its hands on. Breitbart writers insist that the Earth’s climate is not actually warming, while paradoxically claiming that the warming of the climate is natural, not the result of human activity. Yesterday, Breitbart expanded this regular course of climate obfuscation into the realm of ocean acidification, claiming that, actually, the world’s oceans are not acidifying, and even if they were, the acidification would certainly be natural, not the result of human activity.
Breitbart, whose leadership is now openly campaigning to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States, published an article by James Delingpole under the headline: Ocean Acidification: Your Chance To Help Kill This Dodgy Scam Once And For All! Experienced political observers will be able to see some hints in this headline of Delingpole’s political perspective on this matter.
In his article, Delingpole asserts that the concept of ocean acidification is “crap”, but never actually cites any evidence that models of ocean acidification are scientifically invalid. Instead, Delingpole weaves a vague tale of a worldwide conspiracy by scientists to fabricate evidence for climate change in general, and to create a hoax of ocean acidification as a subplot in this grand deception. “Ocean Acidification was invented to serve the same purpose as the Siegfried Line did for the Germans in the Second World War: that is, as a fall-back position for when all the other plans failed,” Delingpole writes. Delingpole’s central contention is that scientists needed to invent an elaborate global conspiracy to fabricate billions of points of fake evidence for climate change and ocean acidification because they couldn’t come up with any other ideas for how to get funding for research.
As part of this tale, Delingpole claims that Phil Williamson, a British expert on ocean acidification, can’t possibly be regarded as a credible source on ocean acidification because, “since 2010 he has been paid as Science Coordinator of the UK Ocean Acidification research programme.” What’s more, Delingpole accuses the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme of being funded by the UK’s National Environment Research Council, an organization with the shocking mission “to promote and support, by any means, high-quality basic, strategic and applied research, survey, long-term environmental observation and monitoring and related post-graduate training in environmental and related sciences”.
Actually, Phil Williamson doesn’t work at the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, as that organization doesn’t even exist any more, with its mission achieved and funding ended. Such distinctions about what exists and what does not exist seem profoundly confusing to Delingpole. The larger point, however, is that Delingpole regards it as highly suspicious when scientists work for scientific research organizations that are funded by scientific research councils. That Phil Williamson is recognized as an accomplished expert in his field is only further evidence, in Delingpole’s fevered arguments, that the entire scientific establishment is in on the conspiracy.
From Breitbart’s perspective, James Delingpole is the perfect person to refute Phile Williamson’s qualifications as a scientist because Delingpole doesn’t have any degrees in science. He studied literature at college instead, and so is unpolluted by the corruption of a scientific education.
If only the oceans were as unpolluted as James Delingpole’s mind. When it comes to understanding ocean acidification, though, ideological purity isn’t the point. Objectively measured reality is. Despite the vigor of Delingpole’s rants about secret conspiracies of scientists, the data on ocean acidification are extremely clear. Acidity isn’t a subjective impression or a political tool. It’s a specific, measurable, chemical condition. Scientists have been carefully monitoring levels of ocean acidity for quite a long while. The simple facts show that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of the oceans has increased by 30 percent. This acidification is largely driven by the absorption of high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, originating from human industrial activities, into seawater.
Increased atmospheric concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been correlated with decreased pH (increased acidity) in ocean water at specific locations, as in the case of the chart below, derived from scientific studies near Mauna Loa off the shore of Hawaii.
The National Research Council explains, “Studies that began in the mid 1980s have shown that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the ocean is increasing in parallel with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. At the same time, the pH of the ocean is decreasing (becoming more acidic), indicating that carbon dioxide levels have exceeded the ocean’s natural capacity to buffer pH.”
Nobody knows precisely what the future will bring. However, for hundreds of years, scientists have been carefully gathering information about the world around us, and discovering correlations between different events. Generation after generation, their careful, thoroughly scrutinized measurements and analysis have strengthened our understanding of how the world works, enabling not just description of what has happened in the past and how that relates to conditions in the present, but also the construction of predictive models of what is likely to happen in the future.
The discipline of science is to require carefully checked hard data as a foundation for assertions about the nature of the world around us. Flights of fancy are an equally important aspect of the human experience. We need opportunities for imaginative expression in order to remain psychologically healthy. However, when it comes to making concrete decisions of public policy that affect the entire human population of planet Earth, flights of fancy such as those concocted by James Delingpole need to give way to the more rigorous methods of science.