There was a breathtakingly beautiful BBC series on the Great Barrier Reef recently which my son pronounced himself almost too depressed to watch. ‘What’s the point?’ said Boy. ‘By the time I get to Australia to see it the whole bloody lot will have dissolved.’
The menace Boy was describing is ‘ocean acidification’. It’s no wonder he should find it worrying, for it has been assiduously promoted by environmentalists for more than a decade now as ‘global warming’s evil twin’. Last year, no fewer than 600 academic papers were published on the subject, so it must be serious, right?
First referenced in a peer-reviewed study in Nature in 2003, it has since been endorsed by scientists from numerous learned institutions including the Royal Society, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the IPCC. Even the great David Attenborough — presenter of the Great Barrier Reef series — has vouched for its authenticity: ‘If the temperature rises up by two degrees and the acidity by a measurable amount, lots of species of coral will die out. Quite what happens then is anybody’s guess. But it won’t be good.’
No indeed. Ocean acidification is the terrifying threat whereby all that man-made CO2 we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere may react with the sea to form a sort of giant acid bath. First it will kill off all the calcified marine life, such as shellfish, corals and plankton. Then it will destroy all the species that depend on it — causing an almighty mass extinction which will wipe out the fishing industry and turn our oceans into a barren zone of death.
Or so runs the scaremongering theory. The reality may be rather more prosaic. Ocean acidification — the evidence increasingly suggests — is a trivial, misleadingly named, and not remotely worrying phenomenon which has been hyped up beyond all measure for political, ideological and financial reasons.
Some of us have suspected this for some time. According to Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, long one of ocean acidification theory’s fiercest critics, the term is ‘just short of propaganda’. The pH of the world’s oceans ranges between 7.5 and 8.3 — well above the acid zone (which starts below ‘neutral’ pH7) — so more correctly it should be stated that the seas are becoming slightly less alkaline. ‘Acid’ was chosen, Moore believes, because it has ‘strong negative connotations for most people’.
Matt Ridley, too, has been scathing on the topic. In The Rational Optimist he wrote, ‘Ocean acidification looks suspiciously like a back-up plan by the environmental pressure groups in case the climate fails to warm.’ I agree. That’s why I like to call it the alarmists’ Siegfried Line — their last redoubt should it prove, as looks increasingly to be the case, that the man-made global warming theory is a busted flush.
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