A part of my John Everett series – read more: 0/I – II.0 – II.5 – II.75 –  III.0 – III.3 – IV.0 – IV.4 – IV.8 – V – VII – VIII – Full Report 

The last part of Dr. Everett’s testimony presents his conclusions. Much of it is simply reiteration ofclaims he has already

Fig. 1. The rate of change in atmospheric carbon dioxide, based upon gas samples from three ice cores (Law Dome, Taylor Dome, and Vostok) and direct measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory. Data courtesy of NOAA Paleoclimatology and ESRL (see endnotes). Click for full.

made, but he also takes the opportunity to thicken the smoke screen just a little bit more. Some parts are mundane: ‘The most important approach [...] is to examine what happened during past times.’ I completely agree! See Fig. 1. But other parts are more problematic. Here’s a quick flyby:

He claims ‘There is no reliable observational evidence of negative trends that can be traced definitively to lowered pH of the water’, and dismissing experimental results. However, studies meeting his criteria exist, and they demonstrate negative consequences.

He demands that experiments be run over sufficient generations to allow for adaptation, but he doesn’t say how many generations are sufficient. This leaves any study demonstrating negative effects open to rejection by moving the goalposts for sufficient experimental length. Ironically, a paper which Dr. Everett had earlier claimed cast doubt upon acidification studies mentions the short time scales of current experiments, but concludes that it could well be masking the more severe effects of acidification:

‘Although suppression of metabolism under short-term experimental conditions is a “sublethal” reversible process, reductions in growth and reproductive output will effectively diminish the survival of the species on longer time-scales.’  (Fabry et al. 2008)

Conclusions he doesn’t like can be further dismissed: ‘If there were [an observation of deletrious effects of acidification], it would be suspect because there is insignificant change relative to past climates of the Earth.’ We have seen this statement to be simply incorrect. He fails to give further support for this position, stating that ‘Scientific studies, and papers reviewing science studies, have similar messages’, but not giving us any examples.

He adds: ‘Papers that herald findings that show negative impacts need to be dismissed if they used acids rather than CO2 to reduce alkalinity’. This is a strangely worded statement; carbon dioxide IS an acid. It’s also not necessarily inappropriate to use strong acids like hydrochloric acid in experiments: the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event involved substantial ocean acidification, attributed to the release of sulfuric acid by a meteor impact. (Caldeira 2007) If nothing else, the use of strong acids may help understand this historical acidification scenario.

Having dismissed the empirical basis for the negative effects of ocean acification, Dr Everett writes, ‘With no laboratory or observational evidence of biological disruption, I see no economic disruption of commercial and recreational fisheries, nor harm to marine mammals, sea turtles or any other protected species. ’ But since his dismissal of available evidence is baseless, his conclusion depends upon a false premise.

In a single brief sentence, he acknowledges the ecological importance of rates of change, but dismisses it by appealing to the concept of genetic plasticity:

‘The memory of these [geological] events is built into the genetic plasticity of the species on this planet. IPCC forecasts are for changes to occur faster than evolution is considered to occur, so impacts will be determined by this plasticity from past experiences and the resiliency of affected organisms to find suitable habitats. [...] Adaptation will be swift, if needed.’

While genetic plasticity is very cool and very sexxy, the claims above are unsupported assertions, and would seem to contradict reality: genetic plasticity hasn’t yet sent corals, trees, or sticklebacks into the warp-speed adaptation necessary to cope with environmental changes of this magnitude. Why should we expect it to do so under future environmental changes?

Dr. Everett questions observations of anthropogenic ocean acidification:

‘If there are reports of increases in ocean acidification in a region, the likely causes are upwelling, pollution, and rainfall (or runoff) and these all need to be addressed.’

Based upon the theoretical chemical behavior of CO2 and the observation of rising CO2 due to human emissions, neither of which are especially controversial, as well as well-studied datasets showing the correlation between pH, oceanic carbon dioxide, and atmospheric carbon dioxide, it would seem that ocean acidification would be the default assumption. You’d need to have a pretty good reason to think that it isn’t happening. Dr. Everett doesn’t give us a pretty good reason, or any other kind of reason for that matter, except for his say-so.

‘…in the ocean, I believe natural climatological variation has greater amplitude and speed [than anthropogenic acidification], making projected changes less significant.’

Dr. Everett is entitled to believe whatever he wants, but he has presented no evidence to support this assertion, given us no particular reason to trust his beliefs, and is flatly contradicting existing records of ocean pH.

‘Natural, clean rainwater is over 100 times more acidic than ocean surface water and upwelling seawater is about the same as modeled climate scenarios (IPCC: 7.76-7.86)’
It’s hard to tell what his point is here. Does he think that the existence of more acidic rainwater and deep ocean water makes the pH of the ocean’s surface irrelevant? Although he repeatedly emphasizes the productivity of high-CO2, low-pH upwelling, he neglects to mention that climate change may disrupt upwelling patterns.

Then there is this, which looks to me like an oblique reference to the ’global warming stopped in 1998‘ meme:

‘I do not know whether the earth is going to continue to warm, or that having reached a peak several years ago, we are at the start of a cooling cycle that will last several decades or more. I think the odds are close to even.’

The idea that global warming has stopped in recent years is generally based, like Dr. Everett’s discussion of CO2 accumulation rates, on extrapolation of spurious trends. His description of a multidecade ‘cooling cycle’ as a realistic scenario is left without any justification or supporting evidence.

Finally:
‘Our research should focus on those ecosystem linkages we need to understand in order to wisely manage our fisheries, and conserve our protected species. Our research should focus on understanding those ecosystem linkages needed to wisely manage our fisheries, and conserve our protected species. [sic] This includes research to explore further the possible acidification effects, as wisely envisioned with the funds recently made available to NOAA.’
I completely agree; but Dr. Everett has shown that he actually has no interest in doing any of this.

~~~

Fabry, V., Seibel, B., Feely, R., & Orr, J. (2008). Impacts of ocean acidification on marine fauna and ecosystem processes ICES Journal of Marine Science, 65 (3), 414-432 DOI: 10.1093/icesjms/fsn048

Ken Caldeira (2007). What Corals are Dying to Tell Us About CO2 and Ocean Acidification Oceanography, 20 (2), 188-195

ESRL – Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

NOAA Paleoclimatology – Data Access & Data Contribution