Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Scientific Dishonesty on Climate Change by the Australian Antarctic Division

The Australian Antarctic Division of the federal government's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has engaged in what I can only describe as scientific dishonesty on the anthropogenic climate change issue. In a media statement headed "Key Antarctic species under threat from ocean acidification", lead Division researcher Dr So Kawaguchi claims that his new research 'indicates serious challenges facing Antarctic krill - the primary food source for whales, seals and penguins - due to acidification in the Southern Ocean.' He states that 'A substantial decline in krill numbers would have disastrous implications not only for the health of the ocean environment but also on the future survival of the mammals and sea birds that rely on them.'

Fortunately for the world at large and for the Antarctic in particular, these claims are so grossly excessive as to be misleadingly dishonest. There are two reasons for saying this.

First, as stated near the bottom of the media release, the research is a prediction of what the world will be like in 'the year 2300 if CO2 emissions continue to be released at the current rate'. That's 287 years from now and Dr Kawaguchi would have to be the greatest fortune teller or crystal ball gazer the world has ever known to be confident in stating what the world will be like three centuries from now.

Second, and this is a far more serious accusation, the basis of Dr Kawaguchi's research is deeply flawed. To understand why, you must click on the 'Data Centre website' and, once there, you must click on the link under the 'Experimental set-up' heading to find out what levels of CO2 the researchers used to assess the impact on krill. Only then do you discover that 'For eight batches of eggs, the embryos were incubated at: 380 ╬╝atm (control), 1000, 1250, 1500, 1750, and 2000 micro-atm pCO2.'

What this means is as follows:
* the researchers bubbled air through jars containing krill eggs and
* the level of CO2 in the air was increased from today's CO2 levels of 380 parts per million or milligrams per litre to a maximum of 2000 ppm - five times today's level of CO2.

The actual results are not yet publicly available so we have to accept Dr Kawaguchi's claim that the krill eggs did not develop well at these elevated levels of CO2. But how realistic are these projected levels of 1000 to 2000 ppm of CO2 in a future global atmosphere? Well, in my view, not realistic at all. They represent the extreme worst case scenario and the researchers make no attempt to estimate the most likely or the best case scenarios - just the worst possible case.

In 1955, atmospheric CO2 levels were about 315 ppm. Today, 60 years later, they stand at about 390 ppm. This gives a per century increase of about 130 ppm. So let's assume no changes to the rate of increase of global CO2 emissions so that CO2 levels by 2100 will be 520 ppm; by 2200 they will be 650 ppm; and by 2300 they will reach 780 ppm. But at what CO2 level has Dr Kawaguchi started his experiment? At 1000 ppm, a level not likely to occur based on current CO2 increases until after 2400. And his 2000 ppm of atmospheric CO2 levels won't occur until the year 3100 or thereabouts - over 1000 years from now! To not state these exaggerated CO2 levels in the media release is poor science and, in my view, dishonest.

In my discussions with anthropogenic climate change skeptics (most of whom are geologists, by the way), I have been repeatedly told that the federal government's funding of climate change alarmists is so overwhelming that to be even a mild skeptic is to place funding for your research and hence your job at risk. Dr Kawaguchi appears to have acknowledged this threat to his research future and has grossly exaggerated the level of CO2 likely in the atmosphere 300 years from now, presumably in order to curry favour with his employers and their funding sources, thereby encouraging further research dollars into the future.

Of course, Dr Kawaguchi's defense may well be that there are positive feedback loops within the atmosphere and biosphere that may cause global CO2 levels to spiral upwards much faster than the present rate of about 130 ppm per century - by the release of CO2 currently trapped as carbon-rich organic matter within the northern hemisphere's tunda, for example. While such a scenario is possible, the media release makes no attempt to explain the science on which he based his 1000 to 2000 ppm CO2 levels in this  experiment nor did it explain the likelihood of these CO2 levels being reached by the year 2300.

This research is based on poor science and the results have been used for alarmist political purposes. The media release should be withdrawn, the results of the experiment should be made publicly available and the justification for using such high global CO2 levels needs to be explained.


Marco said...

This seems to me one of the few reasonable article about the climate change I ever read. Good to know that there still are intelligent people out there.

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