Failing the Acid Test – Jane Lubchenco

In the whole panoply of distortion and disinformation surrounding the claims of global warming, few can be more dishonest than the claims of Ocean Acidification.  Head of NOAA, Jane Lubchenco, is currently on the Australian circuit to try and convince people that the new Carbon tax is valid and necessary to save the planet and of course, as it’s Australia, to save the Great Barrier Reef from extinction. Ocean acidification first saw the light of day in 2003 and found its way into AR4. It is now embedded in AR5, based on the shakiest of science.

Read on, to find out how the claim of a “30% increase in ocean acidity since the industrial revolution” came into being and check out the NOAA video, where Jane Lubchenco tries to fool the public with “The Vinegar Trick” and a piece of chalk.

In August 2009, the National Resources Defense Council  produced a film “documentary” claiming that CO2 was turning the oceans to acid: It was funded by the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and had the title, “Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification”. An in-depth analysis, Acid Seas – Back to Basic” was published by SPPI in January 2010, (Deliberately “Basic” as in Acids and Bases).

This account draws on the material in  “Back to Basic”:

The narration was by actress Sigourney Weaver, of “Alien” fame, giving a suitable aura of impending doom to the blurring of fact and fiction in this movie. The other actors are scientists, a fisherman and a couple of NRDC staff.

 As is usual before any big UN event, considerable efforts are are made in the run up, to hype up the doom-laden scenarios upon which the global warming/climate change agenda is deeply dependant. In this case it was the UNFCCC Conference in Copenhagen that the film was aimed at. Currently, Julia Gillard is in need of some support with the Australian carbon tax, so Jane Lubchenco is there, helping out with her own brand of doom.

The claim is that “the ocean” has become 30% more acidic since the start of the industrial revolution, in spite of the fact that the there can be no single pH value for the world’s oceans. The range of pH can vary in some locations by as much as 1 pH unit in 24 hours, yet this claim of 30% since the Industrial Revolution, is quoted far and wide, not least by Jane Lubchenco, who has been using the media-friendly phrase, “Global Warming’s Evil Twin”, for at least three years.

The two scientists in the NRDC film are Dr Ken Caldeira and Dr Stephen Palumbi, both of Stanford. Dr Caldeira was a member of a Royal Society panel that produced a report in 2005, saying that increasing CO2 was producing increased ocean acidification. Other panelists were from the University of East Anglia and the UK Tyndall Centre. The issue was then ripe for inclusion in IPCC AR4 and it was duly reported by WG1:

A decrease in surface pH of 0.1 over the global ocean was calculated from the estimated uptake of anthropogenic carbon between 1750 and 1994 (Sabine et al., 2004b; Raven et al., 2005). The mean pH of surface waters ranges between 7.9 and 8.3 in the open ocean, so the ocean remains alkaline (pH > 7) even after these decreases. The consequences of changes in pH on marine organisms are poorly known (see Section 7.3.4 and Box 7.3). For comparison, pH was higher by 0.1 unit during glaciations, and there is no evidence of pH values more than 0.6 units below the pre-industrial pH during the past 300 million years (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003). 

A decrease in ocean pH of 0.1 units corresponds to a 30% increase in the concentration of H+ in seawater, assuming that alkalinity and temperature remain constant.

That’s it. That’s where the claim comes from. Nowhere else.  Within the narrow confines of the data used, it is technically correct, but to claim it as evidence of the world’s oceans having become 30% more acidic than before the Industrial Revolution, is to descend into the realms of fantasy.  The Royal Society report was trashed by Gerald North (ret), of the Argonne National Laboratory, who discovered that extrapolations of data out to 2100 and even out to 2300, were based on 18 years of data from Ocean Station Aloha.

Acid Seas -Back to Basic:

So the basis of all the hype is a calculation from an estimate, which gives a precise figure of 0.1 pH decrease, they don’t even know the consequences of changes in pH, and the conclusions they reach are based on an extrapolation of eighteen years of data from one Pacific ocean station, to 2100 and 2300.

It was picked up by AR4 WGII, which has a page  of climate definitions, including this one:

Ocean acidification
Increased concentrations of CO2 in sea water causing a measurable increase in acidity (i.e., a reduction in ocean pH). This may lead to reduced calcification rates of calcifying organisms such as corals, molluscs, algae and crustacea.

This is how dodgy science grows legs and evolves into the latest doom and gloom scenario, with more money being poured into new University departments in order to examine the “problem”.

The UK Natural Environment Research Council is the main UK body in charge of funding research into the Natural Environment, which effectively means anything perceived to warrant the labels, “global warming” or “climate change”.  NERC notes that:

Dr. Ken Caldeira and Dr. Michael Wickett from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US were among the first to point out the problem in a Nature paper in 2003. This was followed up by a Royal Society report two years later. 

One of the Co-chairs of WGII for AR4, is Dr Chris Field of Stanford. He is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology where Dr. Caldeira is based and a preamble for AR5 says

We now know that increasingly acidic seas are reducing coral reef health and changing ocean ecosystems. But will the increasing CO2 uptake by the ocean and warmer oceans also bring risks for all life on Earth?” 

So there we have it. Ocean Acidification exists and is a real threat to the planet.

And the Vinegar Trick?

Dr. Stephen Palumbi, the other scientist in the film, is based at Stanford University’s Hopkin Marine Station and he has a video on his web site showing that a piece of coral placed into a flask of vinegar will slowly dissolve. It is intended for schools and there is a link in grades 9-12 to the vinegar video.

On the NRDC website, Lisa Suatoni, described as a Senior Scientist within the organisation, describes “ocean acidification” thus:

“It’s really not much different from predicting that a cup of vinegar added to a gallon of distilled water will drive the acidity of that water up by a given amount – adding the vinegar – and then observing that the acidity did, indeed, go up by the expected amount.” 

 On the NOAA website, Jane Lubchenco, scientist and head of NOAA, also uses the vinegar trick, in this on-line NOAA video, where she shows that putting a piece of chalk into a flask of vinegar will make it slowly dissolve. The implication is that this is what is happening in the oceans and she follows it up with a video clip of a pterapod, concluding with a secondary video clip of a computer simulation  of what would happen to said pterapod, at the projected levels of “acidity”  in 2100.

The impact of these messages can be seen in this 2009 web-post, when “Acid Test” was being promoted for Copenhagen,

 Huseby discusses gorgeous little sea animals called pterapods that are struggling to grow their shells due to this acidification – they can’t survive without their shells. Salmon and other fish feed on pterapods and so, the marine cycle begins to struggle and our oceans are in trouble. Imagine the sea without fish.

 What can we do on a day-to-day level to reduce carbon emissions and thus, help prevent ocean acidification?

The oceans are not acidic and they cannot become acidic, because of the massive buffering capacity of sea water, but such is the scientific integrity of those pushing the global warming mantra, that they will happily misuse basic school science, as they continue their efforts to impose taxation on the use of hydrocarbons for energy.

Acid Seas – Back to Basic


Acidified Shellfish – A Distorted View


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14 responses to “Failing the Acid Test – Jane Lubchenco

  1. Well, I suggest you not store your chalk and coral in vinegar.

    Why stop at vinegar? Drop a piece of metal in sulfuric acid and talk of the damage to the tin-headed nimrods at the IPCC and NRDC?

    • They call it demonstration of the concept*

      It was a dramatization, because the real thing in the ocean is happens on a scale smaller than we can register with our eyes in a day – but that doesn’t make it any less true a lesson.

      *And Lubchenco was quite clear about that.

      Why do you folks try so hard to ignore the lesson to be learned here?

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      Science is about culling the useful information and building up knowledge based on what you do know, not in endless armchair second-guessing -

      Youz guyz are doing politics with it’s one-sided focuse on every potential flaw or area of not-knowing, in order to willfully ignore all we do know – in the service of winning one’s political/economic crusade – over and above learning. A shameful thing to do in this age.

      As for the many misguided comments below, do a few searches at Google Scholar…
      The evidence is out there for those who have the intellectual honesty and curiosity want to learn about it.

  2. I watched Lubchenco’s testimony live years ago. I was amazed at her unfamiliarity and discomfort with the very basic lab ware she used. And then when she used vinegar as an analog for seawater with a slightly lower pH, I was incredulous. As Pockets suggests, why not just dump that chalk into sulfuric acid? Same thing. /sarc And those “sea butterfiles” are soooo cute!

  3. “This may lead to reduced calcification rates of calcifying organisms”?
    This is supposed to be in a *definition*, but it sounds anything but definitive.
    Vinegar is NOT carbon dioxide, nor is it bicarbonate ion.
    Carbon dioxide *IS* bicarbonate ion, as soon as it finds liquid water, and it is the bicarbonate ion that corals NEED to thrive and build their carbonate reefs. Carbon dioxide is essential for reef-building, and it comes from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  4. Current ocean PH is within the historic range according to studies going back thousands of years. An historic low was matched in 1930, it then went up (more alkaline) until it reversed about 25 yrs ago as it always has. It is cyclic.

    ‘Acidification’ is the green/lefty alarm word to scare the sheeple.

    • ‘Acidification’ = Shorthand for ‘some ecology twit is about to lie through her teeth’ at you.

  5. Ken Caldiera is such a busy guy. He’s involved in geoengineering too.
    What I find amazing is that any attention was paid to his acidification paper.
    The last time I looked he was trained in Atmospheric Sciences…nary an oceanographic or biology credential to his name, but he signed this, along with Gleick:
    “Like dentists practicing cardiology” – Climate scientists respond to Wall Street Journal disinformer op-ed. When you’re talking about planetary life suppport, it really matters what your credentials are.”

  6. an Alkaline solution is an alkaline solution till it goes under Ph7. hence the Oceans are Alkaline ……. But “ACIDIC” is so much more scarier then alkaline.
    They did the same thing with CO2 ,With the Megatons and Gigatons etc. is soooo scarrrry! then that miniscule .018%(attributed to humans) of Co2 .

  7. Here’s the most frustrating thing. The formula is as simple as simple can be
    CO2+ H2O <= H2CO3 => HC03- + H+
    Ca(2+) + HCO3- CaCO3 + H+
    So at equilibrium, where everything in brackets is a concentration, and a is a ratio of the rate constants and changes line by line because I’m lazy
    [Ca][HCO3] = a[CaCO3][H+]
    [Ca][H2O][CO2]/[H+] = a[CaCO3][H2O][CO2]/[HCO3]
    [Ca][H2O][CO2] = a[CaCO3][H2O][CO2][H+]/[HCO3]
    [Ca][H2O][CO2] = a[CaCO3][H+]^2
    as it is aqueous, water is 1, so
    [Ca][CO2] = a[CaCO3][H+]^2
    [CaCO3]= a [Ca][CO2]/[H+]^2

    In isolation, an increased concentration of CO2 increases the concentration of CaCO3 linearly, and acidification reduces it quadratically. However, as the world’s oceans are heavily buffered, we can expect the change in H+ to be greatly reduced (if it is not effectively constant). Therefore, changes in CO2 should dominate this equation.

    Bold inserted by Ed. To use less than and greater than signs in html you must encode “& gt or lt ;” (without spaces)

    • Sorry, the forum interpreted the sign as an html tag, pretend that’s between the constituents in the top 2 lines.

  8. I guess all the geniuses at NOAA are going to change the laws of Chemistry to fit their Misanthropy. Why even get educated, with the nuts running the government, its what they say that is their “truth” One of these days, these Charlotens are going to run into that large immovable rock, called reality.

  9. wow, what a fraud being perpetrated by Jane Lubchenko with her non scientific acid trick. It just so happens that I have a ph testing kit at home which I use to monitor the nutrient solution for my hydroponic growing system. Did a quick little test and here are the results. Our tap water is 8 to 8.5 ph.which is not neutral ( 7.0 ) as she says but slightly alkaline. Pure water may be 7.0 but I suspect most tap water would be slightly alkaline like mine. The vinegar is 4.0 or slightly higher and the 50/50 solution of water and vinegar is about 4.5 ph. For her to imply that ocean water is becoming similar to her beaker of half water and half vinegar is a flat out lie. If my high school chemistry had seen this video the first thing he would have done was make us all duplicate her little experiment to see if her statements and conclusions were on the up and up. How many science or chemistry teachers are showing this video to the boys and girls and taking her word as gospel without doing a simple ph test ?

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