THE SHELL GAME

By Bob Halstead

According to Wikipedia “The Shell Game is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud”.

The shell game has been of particular interest to me after reading a scientific letter “Volcanic carbon dioxide vents show ecosystem effects of ocean acidification” published in Nature a couple of years ago. Since then there has been a deluge of alarmist warnings on “Ocean Acidification” – including one in the Feb/March issue of Dive Pacific from an organization called the “International Union for the Conservation of Nature” – but no actual reefs destroyed by it, of course.

The letter was illustrated by photographs of eroded shells and predictably concluded that this was due to ocean acidification, caused by too much atmospheric CO2 which Al Gore tells us is caused by bad humans burning fossil fuels to survive and prosper (as he did), instead of buying carbon credits from him and becoming poor.

The reason for my scepticism was my own well-publicised underwater observations at Dobu Island in Milne Bay where CO2 vents bubble through a thriving coral reef. Just maybe, I thought, these people do not a have a clue what they are writing about. So when they approached me to see if they could dive Dobu I said of course, but that I was not interested in cherry picking data to conform to any conspiracy to promote Anthropogenic Global Warming. Interestingly I never heard back from them.

Now we have the astonishing “Climategate” scandal revealing a huge scientific fraud producing the dodgy evidence used by the IPCC and environmental activists to predict Global Apocalypse, and a Copenhagen Treaty more designed to foster World Government than combat pollution. I originally wrote this before the Copenhagen conference so had no idea what a total fiasco and lie-fest it turned out to be.

But I have real news!!

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute has, on 1st December 2009, issued a press release titled “In CO2-rich Environment, Some Ocean Dwellers Increase Shell Production”. Here is some of what it says:-

“In a striking finding that raises new questions about carbon dioxide’s (CO2) impact on marine life, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists report that some shell-building creatures—such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters—unexpectedly build more shell when exposed to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

Because excess CO2 dissolves in the ocean—causing it to “acidify” —researchers have been concerned about the ability of certain organisms to maintain the strength of their shells. Carbon dioxide is known to trigger a process that reduces the abundance of carbonate ions in seawater—one of the primary materials that marine organisms use to build their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.

The concern is that this process will trigger a weakening and decline in the shells of some species and, in the long term, upset the balance of the ocean ecosystem.

But in a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Geology, a team led by former WHOI postdoctoral researcher Justin B. Ries found that seven of the 18 shelled species they observed actually built more shell when exposed to varying levels of increased acidification. This may be because the total amount of dissolved inorganic carbon available to them is actually increased when the ocean becomes more acidic, even though the concentration of carbonate ions is decreased.

“Most likely the organisms that responded positively were somehow able to manipulate…dissolved inorganic carbon in the fluid from which they precipitated their skeleton in a way that was beneficial to them,” said Ries, now an assistant professor in marine sciences at the University of North Carolina. “They were somehow able to manipulate CO2…to build their skeletons.”

“We were surprised that some organisms didn’t behave in the way we expected under elevated CO2,” said Anne L. Cohen, a research specialist at WHOI and one of the study’s co-authors. “What was really interesting was that some of the creatures, the coral, the hard clam and the lobster, for example, didn’t seem to care about CO2 until it was higher than about 1,000 parts per million [ppm].” Current atmospheric CO2 levels are about 380 ppm, she said.”

NOTE “the coral” in the previous paragraph. There is more to the news release, and it ends up by saying:-

Since the industrial revolution, Ries noted, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased from 280 to nearly 400 ppm. Climate models predict levels of 600 ppm in 100 years, and 900 ppm in 200 years.

“The oceans absorb much of the CO2 that we release to the atmosphere,” Ries says.  However, he warns that this natural buffer may ultimately come at a great cost.

“It’s hard to predict the overall net effect on benthic marine ecosystems,” he says. “In the short term, I would guess that the net effect will be negative. In the long term, ecosystems could re-stabilize at a new steady state.

“The bottom line is that we really need to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere.”

Having studied Climategate it is not difficult to work out how this amazing and welcome press release actually got published instead of being censored or trivialised, as so many other inconvenient anti-AGW scientific papers and observations have been.

The last line is the key (…we really need to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere.”). This inclusion was designed to appease the alarmist fanatics, and enable the paper – which is a staggering departure from the usual AGW propaganda – to be published. Brilliant.

Look out! Woods Hole has found a way of beating the Shell Game.

Feb 2010

 

 

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