I have recently been engaged in an absurd Twitter spat over ocean acidification, following my commendation of James Delingpole’s magnificent and forensic deconstruction of the scare.
What does the phrase “ocean acidification” suggest to you? I think to most people it would imply that the oceans are acidic, and becoming more acidic. So it may come as a surprise to know that they’re not acidic at all. They’re slightly alkaline.
Scientists measure acidity and alkalinity on the same pH scale. There is one spectrum from extremely acid to extremely alkaline. Unlike other scales (say temperature) this scale has a left, a right and a (neutral) mid-point. Perhaps confusingly, the mid-point is defined as pH=7, so pH>7 means alkaline, and pH<7 means acidic. And the pH of the oceans? According to National Geographic, they have historically averaged pH=8.2, but in recent years that’s fallen all the way to pH=8.1. So the oceans have been slightly alkaline since forever, and continue to be so – with a slight change.
The alarmists insist that the oceans are becoming “more acidic”, and in the obscure sense that less alkaline might be interpreted as more acidic, maybe they’re sort of right. It’s like saying that a blast furnace that was at 900oC and is now 890oC has become “colder”. But “more acidic” clearly and strongly suggests “acidic to start with”, which is clearly not the case.
This is not a statement about science: it’s a statement about semantics. About the meaning of words, and how people understand them. If I say I’m going to make my cup of tea sweeter by adding sugar, I clearly imply it was sweet already. So when Warmists to use the phrase “more acid” and “ocean acidification” it’s a clear and mendacious attempt to suggest that the oceans are alarmingly acidic, when in fact they’re not acidic at all.
Why do they do it? Because acid gets a bad press. Acid is scary. Stomach acids. Corrosion. An acidic ocean will dissolve the shells of crustacea (they say), undermining the marine food chain and threatening life on the planet (despite the fact that crustacea have thrived through very varied and adverse conditions for 550 million years). So “ocean acidification” serves the alarmist cause, as a propaganda term, not a scientific term.
They tell me that as a politician, I should not have the temerity to question the views of scientists (despite the fact that politicians need to take policy decisions based on their understanding of the facts). But surely it is incumbent on the experts and the scientists to avoid deliberately misleading language designed to alarm the average punter.