Climate Change is NOT Killing the Coral Reefs

In a world full of hyperbole and exaggeration, even science and truth can end diverge unfortunately. Let’s point a spotlight at how climate change hysteria obscures the truth about coral reefs.

We have been bombarded for the past few years with messages of climate change hysteria, followed by endless finger pointing at anyone who dared question the premise, or anyone who dared to assail the logical conclusions of the data we have collected around the world. Personally, I find the very act of ostracising dissidents to be contrary to the scientific method. As someone once said, you don’t win a Nobel Prize by promoting a consensus.

The arguments and narrative around “climate change” today, are absolutely hysterical compared to the earliest prognostications when Al Gore released his famous movie, I’m pretty sure everyone has noticed this fact. It seems like every other day, some new think tank or scientific working group is competing for the honour of the most sensationalist predictions. I recall mere months ago that some study predicted that sea level will rise by 9 feet, by the end of the century, despite the fact that according to several key measures, sea level has risen by far less than the conservative predictions when this all started. If the conservative predictions have been wrong, why would the wild predictions be any more accurate?

If you think that’s an unfair assessment, David Suzuki, famous for his narration of the popular Nature of Things TV show, and his admirable advocacy of aboriginal issues like land rights, was recently stumped and even partly roasted on an Australian TV show where he had to answer climate change related questions. His inability to accept facts that run contrary to his personal beliefs around climate change, belies his personal divergence with the scientific method, where conclusions must change based on evidence, not the other way around. Either he’s been seriously misinformed, being more of an ambassador for the current groupthink, or he’s genuinely uninterested in challenging the underlying narratives.

Whilst Suzuki may not represent the entirety of the scientific community, his positions and his language are consistent with the political consensus of the IPCC, and is therefore very representative. What the climate change debate has become, is the battle of cognitive dissonance; a rather fancy way of saying someone who believes in contradictions, or someone who has so compartmentalized their mind, that they can’t create a cohesive narrative when questioned properly. Neither side seems particularly interested in finding the truth, because each is invested in the outcome of their point of view. The IPCC is particularly not interested in the truth, since as part of their mandate, they are not to look at any potential climate drivers that aren’t directly attributable to mankind.

Sometimes the supporters of the doom and gloom narrative will attack the Republicans in the United States Congress for being denialists, or in the pay of the fossil fuel industry, which are perfectly valid criticisms, and probably very accurate. These criticisms are just as apt to level at climate change proponents however, many of whom owe their jobs or at least project funding, to the belief in the scary climate change models, even though all of those models have been proven incorrect.

In the 1980’s, scientists were very worried at the possibility that we might be entering another mini-iceage, or global cooling, based on solar cycle records, and the apparent drop in temperature readings since the hottest year on record, 1940. After the ozone depletion scare of the late 80’s, science started to focus more on understanding the processes of weather formation, which would further enhance the military’s understanding of how to manipulate it more effectively. It is during this time the climate change hysteria flipped 180 degrees, and started panicking about global warming. Curiously, the predicted symptoms were identical between global cooling and global warming, does that make any sense? This is becoming a lot like the yearly hysteria over the next big earthquake in California, the one that never happens.

Thus, as any reasonable person should, I choose to disbelieve all the political conclusions drawn, and all the political rhetoric spoken, to focus on the scientific data.

Ocean Acidification Theory

The latest crazy idea to emanate from the climate change proponents, is actually based on some scientific observation, and a whole lot of conjecture. The logic goes like this: CO2 levels are rising, but atmospheric CO2 is rising half as fast as our CO2 output, therefore the other half must be trapped by the ocean, and CO2 in the ocean must produce carbonic acid, therefore the ocean must be turning acidic. Like every other climate change prediction, this theory would also be wrong, but at least it seems sensible at a glance. Once again, truth is the victim, as is any scientist who dares object to this assertion directly.

Since we are all familiar with the penny in Coca-Cola experiment, this assertion elicits a truism, that acid is powerful, and will dissolve things. It sounds very reasonable if you don’t know that Coca-Cola’s cleaning power is actually related to its phosphoric acid, not the carbonation. The same experiment doesn’t work with pure carbonated water, which is basically what the ocean acidification theory supposes happens, that is the ocean becomes carbonated. Not one acidification proponent ever explained how all the CO2 absorbed by the ocean turns into carbonic acid, not something else, only asserting that the ocean’s pH must therefore drop, and that’s what really matters.

If we stopped here, we would have to accept that the ocean can or will become acidic, but to know that for sure, we would have to know exactly what pH it is now, and what pH it will become. Keep in mind a pH of 0 is fully acidic, 7 is neutral, and 14 is full basic, also considered alkaline. That means any pH above 7 is not acidic, and the oceans would have to fall below a pH of 7 regularly to be considered acidic. It might surprise you then that the oceans are generally around a pH of 8, with some pretty significant fluctuation throughout the seasons, and even during storm activity. What the ocean does not become is acidic.

Given that we are pretty familiar with what happens when acid is poured onto other materials such as rock, there should be no rational way to assume that the ocean could ever actually be acidic, when there is so much material that would react with it. More to the point, the acidification theory seems to completely ignore the carbon capture by lifeforms. Just like on land, plants and other forms of life ingest CO2 for use in making sugars, or even making hard structures like chitin. At the least, any credible scientist should be examining whether life is indeed harnessing the increased CO2 content for constructive purposes, but the oceans are vast, and who wants to do that kind of real research anyway?

So we are left with people who sit at their desks, not sure about what’s going on underwater, not even sure the CO2 is being trapped by he oceans, also not sure how much of the missing CO2 was captured on land, but still making computer models that show we’re all going to die unless we stop producing CO2. We also know acidification articles are not penned by people who want to be scientifically accurate, because unless the oceans are already acid, they are only being neutralized. This is the state of science today, fit for a 3 year old’s colouring book, that’s about it.
chemistry lesson
Sometimes I get the sense that climate change alarmists are suffering from some kind of guilt complex. They spend much of their time trying to blame human consumption, blame urbanization, blame fossil fuels etc, as an allegory for blaming humanity. They may be right to blame humans, but they are misguided by the low hanging fruit, and the majority will hypocritically support the industrialization of the world that has brought us amenities like washing machines. It’s fine and dandy to want to save the planet, but if we are honest, we will need to understand cause and effect relationships, to a far greater degree than we do today, to have any chance of success. Assuming the worst can be just as detrimental as pretending everything is fine.

Everyone will agree that chopping down a rainforest to raise cows is a bad thing, but some will focus on the loss of habitat, others will focus on the destruction of the vast carbon sink that such a forest creates, while others will focus on our inhumane treatment of the animals. The climate change activists focusing on carbon downplay the loss of biodiversity, and the activists focusing on the welfare of cows ignore the millions of acres of forest being clearcut for the sake of farmland, that’s just how activism works. Saving the gorillas hasn’t helped the orangutans, and while millions of people were upset at Cecil the lion’s death, not many gave a second thought about the ecological disruption caused by farmers killing too many wolves.

Hypocrites, every damned one.

To coral or not to coral

Every theorem needs some basis to exist, and where the evidence is lacking or inconclusive, truisms seem to take their place. The best example of this is the recent linking of ocean acidification with the destruction of coral reefs. There is no actual evidence to suggest reefs are being destroyed by slight reduction of pH towards neutral, but it sounds good. What if you found out the real enemy of the reefs was mankind, but by an entirely different mechanism?

We’ve been hearing stories about how the reefs are being destroyed for some time now, sometimes they will call it bleaching, other times they won’t even explain what is happening, just that we are killing them with climate change. If you search for the right terms, articles from every journal and daily will talk about the seriousness of climate change induced die-offs of coral, yet these same publications mention nothing about climate change when there are mass die-offs of dolphins, seals, whales, squid, etc. Why is that? Also notable will be the absence of NOAA and NASA articles specifically linking CO2 or temperature to coral death, any link is implied only, while they openly admit it is complex:

The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program’s satellite data provide current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, where corals lose the symbiotic algae that give them their distinctive colors. If a coral is severely bleached, disease and partial mortality become likely, and the entire colony may die.

Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scales provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching. When bleaching conditions occur, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions.

Since NOAA doesn’t prove what’s causing the bleaching, nor dispute the accepted narrative, we are encouraged to conclude the other articles must have the answer, and they all say it’s climate change right? Only if you don’t know what to look for, but let’s continue with the alarmist narrative about the reefs. Here’s a reverse study, doing the opposite to see if the opposite result happens:

The team manipulated the alkalinity of seawater flowing over a reef flat off Australia’s One Tree Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef. They brought the reef’s pH closer to what it would have been in the pre-industrial period based on estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the era. They then measured the reef’s calcification in response to this pH increase. They found that calcification rates under these manipulated pre-industrial conditions were higher than they are today.

There is a major problem with this study, let’s accept their premise that more alkalinity equals more coral growth, it still assumes there is an ideal growth rate for coral, although there is nothing to suggest they increased alkalinity while removing CO2 or how alkalinity even affects CO2 capture. We could repeat the same study with tree rings, and we would find years with more CO2 yielded more growth, in direct contradiction to the supposed growth rate of coral in the presence of increased CO2. Importantly, the increased tree growth would also correlate to increased crop and plant growth, and who doesn’t want that?

We would then have to ask the question, what takes precedence? Since ultimately we are trying to make a judgement about what their ideal growth rate is are we not? If the two are mutually exclusive, more CO2 equals less coral and more terrestrial plant growth, are we prepared to accept a reduced plant growth rate for the sake of increasing the corals? Probably not, but this kind of nuanced big picture thinking is completely absent from the climate change debates altogether. That’s if you even manage to get a debate organized, most climate change proponents refuse any and all attempts at a moderated debate with skeptics, even Al Gore.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Australian Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world, it is the calcified remains of untold numbers of tiny lifeforms, the same reef billionaires frequently damage with their yachts. It has been around thousands of years, but seems to be dying at unprecedented rates in the last few decades. Naturally the activists that hypocritically hate humanity have attached this tragedy to the current armageddon scenario of runaway global warming, as further proof of how bad things really are, and how much worse they will get, but are they right? Nope.

Bleaching is a natural phenomenon with coral, when sea levels fall and the sun penetrates deeper, or the water becomes too warm for other reasons, coral tends to expel the symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae. Just like trees change colour in the fall, as the available spectrum changes, and the unneeded types of chlorophyll dies off, it is a natural response. When the coral expels the algae which normally captures light for photosynthesis, it becomes brighter, and brighter objects reflect heat. Simply put, the coral has a mechanism to deal with excess heat and sunlight. Unfortunately this mechanism doesn’t help it block excessive UV rays, which every weather channel will constantly remind you about is higher than normal, but the bleaching in itself is obviously not the problem, nor is it related to CO2.

I was first alerted to the real danger to the reef in an obscure science posting, but it was only in passing, no details were given, nor the enormity of the danger. Also missing was the precise cause, which took some digging to find, and for the self-loathing activists, they are at least partly right, mankind is at fault, it just has nothing to do with CO2, even if we can link climate to it somehow. In fact, it has everything to do with man-made ecological destruction, and man-made modern agricultural farming.

You see, the corals have a natural enemy, and that enemy is benefiting from our terrestrial farming activity. Every day, hundreds of tons of farm runoff, containing pesticides, effluent, and fertilizers runs into the sea around Australia. They irrigate and fertilize places that never were when the Great Barrier Reef was formed, but that’s only half the story. That’s our contribution to the problem, and it’s very similar to how we almost killed Lake Erie with phosphate detergents.

The enemy is a starfish, their natural predator, who knew? Well some knew, some have known for a very long time, it is just suppressed by the people with a political agenda, who have so thoroughly hijacked the scientific community with bribery and threats. Of course, onc eyou know what to look for, the studies and evidence is all there for you. It’s a shame you can’t rely on NOAA or NASA to give the full truth and nothing but the truth.

Population outbreaks of the coral eating starfish Acanthaster planci have been responsible for 42% of the over 50% decline in coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef between 1985 and 2012
Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science

Lest you think that’s an outlier, the World Wildlife Fund concurs.

Big hungry starfish

The crown-of-thorns starfish, is one of those impressive, yet simple creatures. It has many poisonous spines on it’s back protecting it from fish or animals who might have a taste for the meat, and it can grow up to 21 legs, with old ones reaching a span of 3 feet. It moves slowly, and eats slowly, but scientists estimate a large one can eat about a dinner plate sized area of coral every day. Multiply this by millions, and pretty soon we have one mighty appetite for coral.

It’s estimated there are already between four and 12 million starfish on the Reef now. In The Starfish That Eat The Reef report Dr Glen Holmes calculates those numbers could reach 60 million over the next five years.

Researchers have been studying the Great Barrier Reef, and many lesser named reefs surrounding it extensively since the 80’s. They have charted the slow decline over the years of some large regions, and noticed no loss in other regions. This doesn’t imply climate change is the culprit either, since we have very different results across the span of the reef. Perhaps the issue is more complex than we are aware of, and maybe the starfish is just capitalizing on a slight change in conditions caused by man, as life tends to do, but then we shouldn’t be making terrifying predictions either. We also shouldn’t be trying to make billions of people feel guilty for something they had no hand in doing, especially when that faux-guilt will enable the elites to levy even more taxes on everything, as their traditional revenue sources dry up in the coming economic collapse.

The research shows that the reef could rebuild itself in 20-30 years despite the cyclones and bleaching, if the starfish population died back.

The experts agree that doing nothing is not an option at this point. “The problem is entirely soluble, and coral reefs can be saved through concerted effort over this and the following two or three generations,” said Kaufman. “There is absolutely no excuse for failure to do this, and if we do fail our generation will forever be remembered for unimaginable, unforgivable stupidity and sloth.”

That sounds rather optimistic coming from the people who best understand the issues. Words we don’t hear from some political panel in a meeting room in Copenhagen, which seems to want us to jump through any hoops they can think of, while demonizing the primary food of life on this planet.

Some honest debates might be nice too, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

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