Twisting words bends nature out of shape

A NZ Herald headline today blares “Oceans’ acidity threatening coral and mussel survival”, making us imagine reefs and shellfish beginning to fight for their lives. The article begins:

Rising carbon dioxide levels are increasing acidity in the oceans faster than scientists thought, posing a greater threat to shell-forming creatures such as coral and mussels.

An eight-year project in the Pacific has found that rising marine acid levels will challenge many organisms, because their shell-making chemistry is critically dependent on a less acidic, more alkaline environment.

The study monitored seawater pH levels at the northeast Pacific island of Tatoosh off Washington state in the United States.

Notice how the scope of this alarmist item contracts dramatically from “oceans” in the headline, to “the Pacific” in the second paragraph, to “an island” in the third paragraph. That’s an important point: the scientists haven’t been studying the whole ocean, just one bit of it.

If a scientist claims to know what is happening in the whole ocean after studying a single island, should we award him a medal or just smile politely and agree to humour him? Continue Reading →

Huge increase in the minuscule is still tiny

Last Wednesday the NZ Herald tried to shame New Zealand into more grown-up climate behaviour.

A body grandly known as the UN Climate Change Secretariat, a moniker which smoothly conveys an image of sponging up large amounts of cash for no earthly good, had just released figures showing “the growth in New Zealand’s emissions between 1990 and 2006 to be among the worst in the world’s industrialised nations.” Continue Reading →

Dr Pachauri, you should desist

Michael Duffy wrote yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald that the chairman of the IPCC gave an erroneous presentation. Others have commented on the IPCC’s increasingly discredited reputation. I did some research and posted the following comment on Dr Pachauri’s blog; so far it hasn’t been published:

Dr Pachauri,

In January you were quoted in The Guardian as saying you would “look into the apparent temperature plateau so far this century.” Continue Reading →