As my title suggests, this is a morass of stupidity, of interest only to the navel-gazers within the incestuous world of climate blogs. Anyone with an interest in the actual science should steer clear. Metaphorically: if you’re starting from one side of the Sargasso Sea and wish to reach clear water on the other side, you’re better off going round rather than pushing through and clearing an endless buildup of weed off your rudder.
The motive for this was, now that I have a moment from the rowing to pause to think, me thinking “hmm, I haven’t written about science much recently”. That is partly an inevitable, and predicted, consequence of me not doing science any more. But also, it seems to me, because there isn’t that much going on. So since James and Eli are on hols, and not much was showing up elsewhere, I thought I’d range off into Curry-land, to see what she had found. And it was looking pretty thin to me: weekend discussion threads and stuff. But then I found Ocean acidification discussion thread, and took a look. On the surface, its yet another of those rubbish posts that JC does which boil down to “I haven’t got a clue about subject X, but here are two people who disagree, errrm, well that didn’t teach anyone anything did it, never mind I got a pile of page hits”. But there is far more wrong with it than that.
Lets do the surface stuff first. Actually lets not. Lets first notice that she attempts to use her “Italian flag method” to reason about the situation. That method is drivel, as many people have pointed out. Set that aside, and return to the surface.
JC complains about
Today the surface ocean is almost 30% more acidic than it was in pre-industrial times
on the grounds that the speaker, Doney, provided “no evidence or reference”. But this is dishonest of her because she’s clipped the preceeding sentence:
Over the past two centuries, human activities have resulted in dramatic and well documented increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and acidification of the upper ocean
That is a hint that he isn’t bothering to docuemnt the bleedin’ obvious. Anyone less clueless that JC, or the legions of fools who form the majority of her commentators, could simply look it up. And furthermore Doney (who I don’t know, but is a “Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution”, and even JC pretends to respect his expertise) just isn’t going to lie about basic, easily-checked facts to the US Senate. There’s a basic dumb America fallacy to this, as to so much of the denialist tripe. But anyway.
Then we need to clear away some confusion: a change in pH from 8.25 to 8.14, which is what has happened, is indeed a change in H+ [*] ion concentration by ~30% (covered in some detail here, wot I got via DA, thanks). That little mathematical transformation ties up people for quite a long time over on the Dork Side.
She then complains that Doney isn’t providing enough expressions of uncertainty. However, since we’re actually certain of this particular factoid, expressions of uncertainty would be wrong. But there seems to be no place in JC’s science-is-a-social-construct type worldview for this; expressions of scientific information have a strengthened credibility if they contain uncertainty.
And here we come to the nub of it all: JC is clueless, and is (if we pretend for a moment to believe what she says) attempting to evaluate these two competing views as texts to try and determine credibility. She needs to use this method, because she lacks the ability, or the time, to understand or verify what is being said. But the problem is that her method is worthless. The only way to evaluate such texts accurately is to read, understand and verify them. Or a useful shortcut is to depend on the authority of the speaker – this is, inevitably, what most of the populace are obliged to do, since “read and understand” simply isn’t open to them.
But the last (and to me worst) part of all this is that JC is just spraying disinformation around. If she finds this issue interesting, and finds this very basic fact to be beyond her ability to verify, then she can f*ck*ng well talk to some of her colleagues (assuming she hasn’t managed to cut all her ties to people of any quality). She’s at a university, no? She can talk to the prof of Chemistry. Or of Oceans. Or something. But one way or another, she can f*ck*ng well find out the truth, first. Then she could have written a post that might have been informative, and might have reduced people’s confusion on this issue. Instead she’s made the world a little bit worse.
[Update: hello, Watties! Are any of you brave enough to leave your walled garden and click through? How about being brave enough to comment. Not much hope there I suspect, you talk big in your little world but you’re not so brave in the Real World. You might be wondering why I’m not making sarky comments over at the Dork Side. The answer is that AW the gutless coward banned me for exposing his fantasies.
And to add a pic from a pdf suggested by NS]
[*] There’s a subtlety here that I hadn’t at first appreciated: pH is -log_10(a_H+), whereas the original p[H] is -log_10(H+). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH for details. For our purposes, the difference doesn’t matter.