Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reefgate: More Greenie dishonesty about coral reefs -- including secret data again (of course)

Following is a letter from Walter Starck [] to an academic journal about a recent article they published which violates many canons of science. Walter Starck is one of the pioneers in the scientific investigation of coral reefs.

The article Starck criticises advocates banning fishermen from as much of Australia's Great Barrier reef as possible and gives as one of the reasons: "Given the major threat posed by climate change, the expanded network of marine reserves provides a critical and cost-effective contribution to enhancing the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef"

Re: McCook, L.J., et al. 2010. "Marine Reserves Special Feature: Adaptive management of the Great Barrier Reef". PNAS 2010: 0909335107v1-200909335.

The above referenced study presents a number of concerns:

The most serious concern is a major conflict of interest involving all of the 21 authors. It should be noted that the lead author is employed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and all of the 20 additional authors are either employed by them or are recipients of substantial funding from them.

It is incongruous in the extreme that all these employees and repeated recipients of generous GBRMPA funding, could, “…declare no conflict of interest.” when they are in fact assessing the benefits of their own work and that of the organisation which supports them.

Combined with the rather unrestrained positive spin on the benefits and cost effectiveness achieved by GBRMPA management, the appearance of this report is that of a promotion piece which the most productive and respected beneficiaries of their research funding have been invited to endorse.

In such case, it would have been very difficult for them to decline or to offer much objection to the claims made. At the same time, their names and status would provide credibility and deterrence of criticism while greatly increasing the prospect of acceptance for publication in a prestigious journal such as PNAS.

In addition, PNAS, “Authors must acknowledge all funding sources supporting the work.” There appears to be no such disclosure in this study.

PNAS must also, “…make materials, data, and associated protocols available to readers.”

McCook et al. state that, “Another important observation emerging from this review is the extent of relevant data that are not published or readily accessible. A full picture of the effects and effectiveness of zoning on the GBR has required extensive use of gray literature, previously unpublished data, and collation of separate data sources.”

GBRMPA has been the sponsor of most of the research cited and, through the permit system, they exercise control over the terms of all other research conducted there. They are also a major publisher of GBR literature, both scientific and non-technical. The extent to which relevant data is not published or readily accessible is their direct responsibility. As the data referred to for this review has obviously been assembled, why has it not been made available?

The major claim of a doubling of fish on protected reefs appears to rest on a single example. This is inconsistent with abundant other evidence including that which is presented in the report itself. Only one reef area of the 8 featured in the report showed a 2-fold increase and that area had the lowest level to begin and lowest difference between fished and unfished reefs.

In 5 of the 8 areas featured in the report the protected reefs actually showed a decline in coral trout numbers. On fished reefs, three areas showed increases in biomass while 5 showed declines. This is hardly the “extraordinary” 2-fold increase in protected areas being bannered.

McCook et al. state, "The economic value of a healthy GBR to Australia is enormous, currently estimated to be about A$5.5 billion annually...." "Relative to the revenue generated by reef tourism, current expenditure on protection is minor." "Tourism accounts for the vast majority of reef-based income and employment. ...income from tourism is estimated to be about 36 times greater than commercial fishing."

These claims are highly misleading. The economic value cited includes the total value for all tourism in the region when half of all tourists do not even visit the reef. For those who do, the reef component of the large majority is a one day, one time participation in a reef tour and the value of reef tours is similar to the value of commercial fishing.

If one also considers the economic value of recreational fishing, retail fish sales and seafood meals in restaurants, the total value of fishing is closer to twice that of reef tours. In addition, the reef tour industry regularly uses only about 2 dozen out of the 2500 reefs of the GBR and, on those which are used, the actual area visited would only be about 1% of the area of even those reefs.

Unfished reefs to optimize scenic value for tourism could easily coexist with an order of magnitude greater fishing effort, and no detriment at all to tourism. The attribution of total tourism value to the reef is no more justifiable than attributing it to the similar numbers who visit the rainforest or who eat seafood meals while visiting the region.

Such claims have been repeatedly made by GBRMPA and would, if used by a business, constitute violations of advertising and corporate law. To see it done repeatedly and included in a report in a leading scientific journal is a sad indictment of GBRMPA sponsored science as well as basic honesty.

Babcock et al., 2010 (in another study published in PNAS on the same day as McCook et al.) also examined the ecological effects of marine protected areas. However, this report is much more widely based geographically and longer term. Although the observed effects were generally positive, they were decidedly less large, rapid, extensive, and uniformly positive than those reported for the GBR. All of them also involved areas subject to much greater fishing pressure than the GBR.

One might reasonably expect that increased protection for the least impacted areas would result in a less marked beneficial effect rather than the much more widespread rapid and dramatic benefits claimed by McCook et al. For example, Babcock et al., “…found that the time to initial detection of direct effects on target species … was 5.13 ± 1.9 years….”

Note that this was the time to initial detection, not the even longer time required to reach a doubling of population. When compared to the much greater effects claimed for the GBR over two years, the latter do indeed appear to be “extraordinary”.

Various key claims are contradicted by other more extensive work by the same researchers with no acknowledgement or discussion of this.

In reading over McCook et al., some 40 such discrepancies were noted and more detailed examination would surely reveal more. However, without going further it should be clear that PNAS has been badly used. The serious and obvious conflict of interest alone can neither be ignored nor credibly explained away. If not addressed, it makes a farce of the declaration of no conflict. It alone must surely be more than sufficient grounds to retract this study. Although doing this may be unpleasant it would be far less damaging than to try to examine and defend all of the sad and disreputable details.

Coming at a time when public credibility in science is being seriously eroded by ongoing revelations of malpractice in what the public was assured was inrrefutable fact and settled science regarding climate change, these “extraordinary” (their own description) claims regarding the GBR are well positioned to become a “Reefgate”. This is especially so in that a key claim in this report and widely made elsewhere, is that a major benefit of protected areas on reefs is the increased resilience they provide against climate change.

Although controversy regarding the management of the GBR may appear of minor public interest from a U.S. perspective, it will be national news here in Australia and PNAS could find itself very much involved in a most difficult to defend position should prompt and decisive action not be taken.

A public release on all this will be made here in the near future. Whatever the decision of PNAS, it would be better made sooner than later.

The Next Big Thing: In environmental politics, it'll be 'ocean acidification'

Remember you read it here first: The Next Big Thing in environmental politics will be “ocean acidification.” That was assured this month when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency caved in to to the bullying tactics of enviro pressure groups, and proclaimed that EPA regulators will use the Clean Water Act to remedy a problem that doesn’t exist.

The EPA’s decision came in response to a lawsuit alleging the agency should have required the state of Washington to designate its marine waters as impaired by rising acidity. But in doing so, the EPA ignored sound science and did a disservice to Washington citizens.

Faced with the inconvenient truths that global temperatures have not been rising during the past decade, and that most of the warming of the twentieth century occurred before 1945 (when human greenhouse gas emissions were minimal), global warming alarmists are pushing ocean acidification as their new justification for restricting oil, coal, and natural gas production. They claim that as the world’s oceans absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, ocean water becomes harmfully acidic to marine life.

The real-world evidence for an ocean acidification crisis, however, is even less persuasive than the real-world evidence for a global warming crisis.

The world’s oceans are not acidic and are in no danger of becoming so. Acidity and alkalinity are measured by pH balance, on a scale of 1 to 14. Water with a pH of 7 is neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic, and above 7 is alkaline. The pH of the world’s oceans is slightly higher than 8.1—safely alkaline.

Regardless of human carbon dioxide emissions, the world’s oceans are in no danger of becoming acidic any time in the foreseeable future. A 2005 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature reports ocean pH was between 8.1 and 8.2 at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution—before humans began emitting significant amounts of carbon dioxide—and remains between 8.1 and 8.2 today. The past 250 years of carbon dioxide emissions have had no significant effect on ocean pH, and there is little reason to believe that will suddenly, catastrophically change.

On the contrary, peer-reviewed scientific studies confirm higher carbon dioxide content will benefit rather than harm marine life.

A 2009 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, for example, found sea star growth rates increased, rather than decreased, in water with double the carbon dioxide of current oceanic conditions. The study was particularly noteworthy because alarmists claim ocean acidification will take its greatest toll on marine invertebrates such as sea stars, which will allegedly have more difficulty calcifying their external skeletons in water with more carbon dioxide. A full doubling of carbon dioxide content, however, actually helped the sea stars.

In a 2007 study published in Global Change Biology, scientists observed higher carbon dioxide levels correlated with better growth conditions for oceanic life, producing higher growth rates and biomass yields than lower CO2 conditions.

A 2005 study in Journal of Geophysical Research reported rising oceanic carbon dioxide concentrations in the prior two decades correlate with a 22 percent increase in oceanic chlorophyll concentrations. Chlorophyll concentrations are the building blocks of marine life.

And in a 2008 study published in Biogeosciences, scientists subjected marine organisms to varying and often-abrupt changes in carbon dioxide concentrations. The study found marine ecosystems were “surprisingly resilient” to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and “the ecosystem composition, bacterial, and phytoplankton abundances and productivity, grazing rates and total grazer abundance and reproduction were not significantly affected by CO2-induced effects.”

These scientific studies show quite clearly that higher carbon dioxide levels substantially benefit marine life. This is similar to the effect of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on terrestrial life, where plants convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into more biomass and higher growth rates.

Study after study shows most marine creatures, from phytoplankton on up the food chain, thrive and flourish when more carbon dioxide is added to the environment. It defies reason for environmental activists to assert a need to designate marine waters as impaired due to higher concentrations of life-assisting carbon dioxide.


Forecasters at odds about warming threat

Is climate change a serious threat to humanity or a scam trumped up by agenda-minded activists? Even the nation's TV weathercasters can't agree on that scientific dilemma, according to the largest survey of the profession to date released Monday by George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication.

The majority — 63 percent — say global warming is caused "mostly by natural changes in the environment" compared with 31 percent who blamed the phenomenon on "human activities." More than a quarter said they agreed that the phenomenon is "a scam."

Another 48 percent said global warming should be a "low" priority for President Obama and Congress; one out of three felt is should be given "medium" priority; 23 percent felt is was of "high" importance.

The group is well aware of dissent in the research community as well: Sixty-one percent said there is "a lot of disagreement among scientists" about the issue.

But should climate change and global warming be a subject for their own broadcast coverage? Two-thirds said yes — though three-fourths also felt the subject was better suited for online discussions, "as many report concern about audience 'backlash,'" the survey said.

Some prominent weathermen, however, are not buying into the theory. John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel and a forecaster on KUSI in San Diego, has called global warming a "hoax" and "bad science" — a case that garnered public attention after some scientists were caught manipulating data to suit and environmental agenda.

"We are already suffering from this CO2 silliness in many ways," Mr. Coleman said. "Our energy policy has been strictly hobbled by no drilling and no new refineries for decades. We pay for the shortage this has created every time we buy gas.

"On top of that, the whole thing about corn-based ethanol costs us millions of tax dollars in subsidies. That also has driven up food prices. And, all of this is a long way from over."

AccuWeather senior forecaster Joe Bastardi is another high-profile skeptic. "Common sense dictates that a trace gas needed for life on the planet would not be the cause for destroying life on the planet. Common sense dictates that what has happened before without man can happen again with man," Mr. Bastardi said. "Common sense would dictate that you not believe me, or any one else, but go look for yourself."

AccuWeather — which provides local forecasts for the entire nation and more than 2 million locations worldwide — stands behind a lively, reasonable discourse.

"We urge all scientists and members of the public to engage in the global warming discussion, including's experts. We encourage our scientists to express their personal views without the constraint of a corporate position they must follow," the company says in a position statement.

The audience appears to be waiting. "Our surveys of the public have shown that many Americans are looking to their local TV weathercaster for information about global warming," says Edward Maibach, director of the climate center at George Mason and lead investigator for the new survey.

"The findings of this latest survey show that TV weathercasters play — or can play — an important role as informal climate change educators."

The survey found that 87 percent discussed climate change at community speaking events or in on-air banter with news anchors; only 37 percent addressed the topic during their forecast — mostly due to time constraints. The TV weathercasters also want to be fair: Seventy-nine percent said global warming broadcast segments must reflect "a balance of viewpoints." Personal opinions are still a work in progress.

The survey also found that 54 percent of the forecasters agreed that "global warming is happening," though 25 percent disagreed with the idea and 21 percent were unsure. Almost half said they needed a lot more information before forming "a firm opinion."

The survey of 1,373 TV weathercasters was conducted throughout January and February; the study was funded by the National Science Foundation. The findings can be seen here


Esquire Mag. Falsely Claims Climate Depot's Morano made an 'obvious mistake' about sea levels --- Reality Check: Morano Cited Data Accurately

Sea levels have been rising slowly since the last ice age -- but have they been rising faster lately? The Warmists say yes. Marc Morano and the data say no. But Esquire magazine was too dumb to understand the question

The April 2010 issue of Esquire Magazine features a more than 6500 word feature article on Climate Depot's Executive Editor Marc Morano. The article makes the false claim that Morano told a “howler” and an “obvious mistake” about sea level during a live Sky News TV Debate in December 2009.

The article by Esquire writer John Richardson contends that the following assertion by Morano in the December 12, 2009 TV debate with Professor Mark Maslin, is incorrect:

Esquire Magazine's Spin: "Morano says, sea levels are not rising. To prove it [Morano] quotes a study by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute that actually says sea levels rose nearly eight inches in the last century. This obvious mistake leads Maslin into his fatal error, which is patronizing Marc Morano...Despite his own howler about the sea levels, he hammers away.”

Reality Check: Morano's citation about sea level was that it was “not showing the acceleration.” Morano never said it was not rising. Esquire's Richardson simply made a mistake in trying to claim Morano said sea level was "not rising."

Here is Morano's exact quote on sea level during the debate: Morano: “Sea Level is not showing the acceleration. The Royal Netherlands Meteorology Institute said this. One scientist said if sea level is rising due to global warming, no one has bothered to tell sea level."

Further Reading on sea level:

'No evidence for accelerated sea-level rise' says Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute – December 12, 2008

Excerpt: In an op-ed piece in the December 11 issue of NRC/Handelsblad, Wilco Hazeleger, a senior scientist in the global climate research group at KNMI, writes: “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise. It is my opinion that there is no need for drastic measures. It is wise to adopt a flexible, step-by-step adaptation strategy. By all means, let us not respond precipitously.”


Lovelock bloviating again

'We can't save the planet'

Professor James Lovelock, the scientist who developed Gaia theory, has said it is too late to try and save the planet. The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change.

Interviewed by Today presenter John Humphrys, videos of which you can see below, he said that while the earth's future was utterly uncertain, mankind was not aware it had "pulled the trigger" on global warming as it built its civilizations.

What is more, he predicts, the earth's climate will not conveniently comply with the models of modern climate scientists.

As the record winter cold testifies, he says, global temperatures move in "jerks and jumps", and we cannot confidently predict what the future holds.

Prof Lovelock does not pull his punches on the politicians and scientists who are set to gain from the idea that we can predict climate change and save the planet ourselves. Scientists, he says, have moved from investigating nature as a vocation, to being caught in a career path where it makes sense to "fudge the data".

And while renewable energy technology may make good business sense, he says, it is not based on "good practical engineering".

At the age of 90, Prof Lovelock is resigned to his own fate and the fate of the planet. Whether the planet saves itself or not, he argues, all we can do is to "enjoy life while you can".


Greens versus blacks in Australia

THE Kimberley's peak indigenous body has attacked the "disgusting" tactics of green groups and out-of-town celebrities opposed to industrial development near Broome, accusing them of fundamental dishonesty and abusive, dirty politics.

The Kimberley Land Council also said the Wilderness Society and Save the Kimberley environmental groups were "pitting family groups against each other" in a bid to undermine traditional owners, who have made the tough decision to back a job-creating multi-billion-dollar gas hub at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsular, 60km north of Broome.

Declaring Aborigines the first conservationists, KLC executive director Wayne Bergmann said it was "distressing" that Aborigines were being vilified as "developers" by green groups and said opponents needed to understand the damage they were doing to local indigenous people.

"Save the Kimberley and the Wilderness Society are pretending to champion the indigenous cause in order to bolster their own position and credibility," Mr Bergmann said. "They're not helping Aboriginal people. Our future does not lie in a contrived alliance with bogus green groups; our future rests with Aboriginal people stepping up and taking control."

Celebrities such as John Butler, Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst and Missy Higgins have joined retired Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox in pushing to stop the gas hub, accusing the Barnett government of riding roughshod over the rights of local Aborigines.

The KLC says the development, which will service the offshore Browse basin gas fields, will bring jobs. "The Jabirr Jabirr people are the only people who can make this decision about their country, and their decisions need to be respected," Mr Bergmann said in a speech late last week.

"The Kimberley Land Council works for and takes instructions from traditional owners. The KLC does not make decisions for traditional owners. We support the decisions of our people and their right to make those decisions."

Aborigines needed to use their land to create wealth and jobs, as 75 per cent of the indigenous population was between 16 and 26, and unemployment, suicide and crime rates were far beyond those of white Australia, he said.

Taking exception to suggestions green groups knew more about looking after their land than Aborigines did, Mr Bergmann said the KLC was examining other conservation and job-creating initiatives, including setting up a carbon trading scheme.

"Is it too much to ask that our children have opportunities for their future, have a safe environment where they can learn about their culture, language and become well-educated, that they go to school and that they can function as active participants in our society? That we put an end to poverty and disadvantage?" he said. "The actions of Save the Kimberley and some elements of the Wilderness Society, in particular, show they have no real respect for Aboriginal traditional owners and their responsibility for their land and sea country."

Save The Kimberley refused to comment, but the Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson said divisions within indigenous groups had been caused by both state and federal governments imposing "highly destructive and risky projects on Kimberley communities and the region's unspoiled environment".

"The reason there is a rising level of tension in parts of the Kimberley is because governments, in their reckless haste to approve the project, are placing communities under enormous pressure," Mr Robertson said.

"For example, WA Premier (Colin) Barnett continues to threaten traditional owners with the compulsory acquisition of their land if they do not agree to the LNG project (and) this was publicly described by the Kimberley Land Council as `negotiating with a gun to your head'."



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