Exclusive: Ocean acidification not a current problem, top NOAA scientist insists in FOIA-ed e-mails

JunkScience.com got NOAA scientist e-mails via FOIA? Why can’t Congress?

Last October, the New York Times published this dire op-ed on ocean acidification, supposedly authored by NOAA chief Richard Spinrad and his UK counterpart Ian Boyd.

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Curious, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to NOAA for the e-mail related to the development and publication of the op-ed. I received 443 pages of e-mail in return.

First, the op-ed was actually written by NOAA staff Madelyn Applebaum, not Spinrad or Boyd. The purpose was to tout NOAA not inform the public about ocean acidification.

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Second, the New York Times initially rejected the op-ed for its U.S. print edition and web site, the e-mails show. NOAA staff then submitted the op-ed to the International NYTimes staff in London (because Madelyn knew the INYT staff) where it was placed in the International NYTimes print edition and NYTimes.com.

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Next, NOAA staff was appalled at the New York Times-selected title, which was a lot different than the NOAA-picked titled:

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But the most notable e-mails stand in stark contrast to the information presented in the NYTimes op-ed.

Specifically, NOAA’s Dr. Shallin Busch insists the op-ed exaggerates the ocean acidification problem:


Below are clips of Busch doing so:





JunkScience has maintained for years now that there is no evidence that ocean “acidification” is causing harm. Glad to see that a top NOAA scientist sees it the same way.

BTW, we were about to FOIA scientist e-mail from NOAA. Not sure why Congress can’t get it and Judicial Watch has to sue for it.

25 thoughts on “Exclusive: Ocean acidification not a current problem, top NOAA scientist insists in FOIA-ed e-mails”

  1. More about John Holdren:

    Glenn Beck: De-develop America?

    “GLENN: … Here is John Holdren which kind of fits into this on, my question for union workers: How is it that your unions who have fought for American jobs staying here in America and they have been responsible for shipping almost everything overseas, how is it they’re now saying that we need to be in bed and a global union? How are you going to protect American jobs if the union that represents you also represents somebody that makes $1.50 a day? For doing the same job? Help me out with that. PAT: John Holdren gave us the key a while ago and that was de-development he spoke about in one of his books. So one of the CSN news reporters was asking about those comments.

    “GLENN: Here it is.

    “REPORTER: No, I want to just ask you, you wrote a massive campaign must be launched to restore high quality environment in North America and to de-develop the United States in your book Human Ecology. Could you explain what you meant by de-developing the United States?

    “HOLDREN: Have you guys what we meant by that was stopping the kinds of activities that are destroying the environment and replacing them with activities that would produce both prosperity and environmental equality. Thanks a lot.

    “REPORTER: And how do you plan on implementing that?

    “HOLDREN: Through the free market economy.

    “REPORTER: And you also talked about a world of zero net physical growth? Could you talk about that a little bit?

    “PAT: Now he’s walking away

    “REPORTER: That was in your World Bank essay.

    “HOLDREN: I have another engagement.

    “PAT: Leaving the area.

    “REPORTER: CNSnews.com interviewed Holdren in June of this year and he said his past work is a, quote, stale topic. I just want to I just want to ask you real quick about a lot of your past work. I’ve read

    “HOLDREN: No, this is a stale topic.”

  2. The current science appears to be here: Ocean Acidification, Present Conditions and Future Changes in a High-CO2 World, 2009, Oceanography 22, 36-47. The emails seem to reflect what is contained in this article.

  3. A government agency committing op-eds to propagandize its activities is doing an illegal things clearly forbidden by its remit (EPA is infamous for that). Even more when it is scaremongering with baseless and exagerated claims. American taxpayer should sue the ass out of it.

  4. actually if you read these emails, the scientists see ocean acidification as a problem that is just starting to develop, not totally understood yet, but very likely will have impacts on the future oceans. they want to be realistic about this and the NYT editors make them dramatize it.

    now you blame the scientists for lying because the article in the end turned out quite dramatic? and at the same time you say that this being a future problem proves that it is not a problem?
    seriously? the emails actually prove quite the opposite of what you claim they do.

  5. We could do something about ocean acidification tomorrow if we wanted. OA is caused, not so much by CO2, which is practically unavoidable anyway, but by thousands upon thousands of ocean vessels (VLCCs, tankers, warships, large fishing, container ships etc) burning … wait for it…. HIGH SULPHUR BUNKER FUEL. We dealt with land based SO2 pollution in the 70s. It’s now time to deal with all these ships. Either scrub their stacks or remove sulphur from bunker fuel, same as we did for diesel. Cheap solution compared to carbon scam. How come nobody talks about this. Am I the only person in the world who is aware of this?

  6. It’s interesting to note how well these emails prove the most basic principle of regulatory bodies: their first impulse is to survive.

  7. Just let me know how you intend to get serious conclusions about science progress and strategy from scientists e-mails? If you are a scientist, you might get the main points, but if you are not? I can tell you the story: most of people will focus on easy words and recover a shortcut story full of fantasy and rubbish. Is this really what you want? A shortcut story full of fantasy and rubbish? (thank you Internet, you make the world smarter and better each day)


    Is a government employee using government equipment on government time to write editorials? Why are they wasting my TAX MONEY!

  9. Another thing to consider is the long history of atmospheric CO2 and the evolution of both plant and animal life. For most of just the past 600 million years, atmospheric CO2 has been dramatically higher than today. Levels ten times higher (3500 to 4500 ppm) were not uncommon at a time when many plants and animals were evolving. Virtually all plant life evolved with much higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (essential for all plant life).

    So how is it that oceans fared just fine with CO2 levels ten times what they are today for so many millions of years, yet small increases today from historically very low levels of atmospheric CO2 are reason to be concerned?

  10. The dirty little secret about CO2 and sea water is that within the pH range of 7-8, 90% of the CO2 in sea water is present as bicarbonate ion (HCO3-), which is the form used by marine life. Corals use it to build reefs, mulloscs use it to build shells, diatoms use it to build their skeletons, and the rest. The concentration of bicarbonate is almost unvarying because of what chemistry calls ‘buffering action’.
    If the acidity increases some bicarbonate become carbonic acid (H2CO3 – which is not very stable and leads to the release of CO2 back to the atmosphere), and carbonate (CO3=) becomes bicarbonate to replace that amount used.
    If the alkalinity increases some bicarbonate becomes carbonate (which leads to the formation of insoluble calcium carbonate) and some carbonic acid becomes bicarbonate to replace the amount used.
    The real drivers of oceanic pH are the strong acids and bases such as sulfur dioxide (from volcanic vents on the ocean floor) or alkali compounds (from river runoff) which are about 50-100 thousand times more potent at changing pH than CO2. One thousand tonnes of SO2 from the effusive eruption of a ‘black smoker’ somewhere on the mid-Atlantic ridge will acidify the ocean as much as 100 million tonnes of CO2.

  11. @Rosco.

    If you want the NOAA scientific speak about the fact that the starfish is responsible of death of the Great Barrier Reef, just clic on the link for all email obtained. They don’t really show the same distort reality that this article in JunkScience, but you could find comment like:

    “This [degradation of the GBR] has been primarily attributed to crown of thorns starfish, cyclones and coral bleaching, but underlying all of those factors is the fact that the corals are so stressed from ocean acidification that they can’t recover from those other impacts the way they used to be able to recover. Ocean acidification does not result in dead fish washing up on the shore and it doesn’t give swimmers skin rashes”

    Interesting fact: NOAA scientist working on OA have some knowledge of what they are talking about.

  12. Of course it’s not a problem. The ‘normal’ range is between a PH of 7.7 (some proxy studies say 7.9) and 8.3. Currently around 8.0. Any number above 7.0 is alkaline, so acidification is an alarmist term for the uninformed. It was 7.9 in 1930 when the test was invented. 55 million years ago, it was below 7, and no one knows why, at least not yet. I know for sure my Grand Cherokee had nothing to do with it.

  13. The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is always quoted as a threatened system.

    And it is – but not by CO2 or climate change !!

    For over 4 decades Australian governments have simply ignored the plague of the greatest coral destroyer that was identified in the late 1960’/early 70s – the Crown of Thorns Starfish !!

    A recent University study showed that areas where there is a plague of these coral destroying menaces 40% – yes 40% – of coral had been destroyed !

    In outer areas where the starfish are not in plague proportions reefs have 25% more coral over several years of monitoring.

    The study confirmed that a simple vinegar injection controls the starfish.

    So – instead of 40% destruction of some significant areas of the Great Barrier Reef we could easily have seen 25% increase in coral numbers !!

    And who wouldn’t like a job scuba diving and injecting starfish with relatively harmless vinegar – sign me up !

    So – if the world and green groups are so concerned about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef why aren’t they demanding real action over a known threat – the proven number 1 killer of coral reefs – instead of bleating about a non threat – OA or climate change ??????

    Like all climate science this is just another example of junk science./

    How much extra CO2 from outgassing warmer oceans do we need to change the pH from ~8.1/8.2 to even a neutral 7 ?

    I’ll bet we don’t have enough.

    Liars and gullible idiots demand something they will never get – CO2 reductions – from China or India while they simply ignore something that could easily be controlled which has destroyed up to 40% of some reefs !!

    Beggars belief !

    Also noticed NOAA seems more concerned with prestige than any science !

  14. “. Not sure why Congress can’t get it and Judicial Watch has to sue for it.”
    Maybe because they will use against them and all you can do is post it on your forum.

  15. I am glad that CO2 has not led to the complete extinction of scientific integrity at NOAA. Dr. Shallin is proof that isolated professional scientists may still be found.

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