Bang Bang, FOI shot the NY Times Down

Using the Sonny Bono’s song title seems right because the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI) revealed the New York Times’ the manipulation efforts to get a really scary story about “Acidification of the Oceans”. And the FOI has shot it down.

Late last year, the Times posted an Op-Ed “Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas” timed to appear prior to the Second Ocean Conference where “ocean acidification (OA)” would be discussed. The authors of the piece were Richard W. Spinrad, a chief scientist of the U.S. NOAA and Ian Boyd, a chief scientific adviser to the British government.

The cartoon image accompanying the NY Times posting, shown below, is not too subtle.


(Art work by Alex Doherty)

After it was posted, Steve Milloy, proprietor of, wanted to know more. This is what he did in his words:

Curious, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to NOAA for the e-mail related to the development and publication of the op-ed. I received 443 pages of e-mail in return.

First, the op-ed was actually written by NOAA staff Madelyn Applebaum, not Spinrad or Boyd. The purpose was to tout NOAA not inform the public about ocean acidification.”

As things progressed, the NY Times thinks Applebaum’s work is too bland and asked her to provide examples of the damage it was causing. Applebaum asks for help from Dr Shallin Busch, who is a co-leader of a team of scientists at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center studying ocean acidification.

Dr Busch responds:

I think it is really important to resist the NYT editor’s impulse to say that OA is wreaking all sorts of havoc RIGHT NOW, because for ecological systems, we don’t yet have the evidence to say that. OA is a problem today because it is changing ocean chemistry so quickly. The vast majority of the biological impacts of OA will only occur under projected future chemistry conditions. Also, the study of the biological impacts of OA is so young that we don’t have any data sets that show a direct effect of OA on population health or trajectory. Best, Shallin. “

The NYT posting discusses a number of issues. First were the shellfish industry’s concerns about losses if the OA happens. Specifically they say that the West Coast shellfish industry nearly collapsed 10 years ago from OA. NYT also cited laboratory work that found toxic growths could happen if the ocean becomes acidic and their potential danger to humans.

In her comments to Applebaum, Dr Busch said this:

” In fact, production in the Washington oyster industry is higher now than at the start of the crisis because the oyster industry has made changes to its hatcheries in response to OA events.” …..”Just as a FYI, we can’t yet attribute any large patterns in shellfish yield to OA”


While not part of the FOI material obtained by Steve Milloy, the following seems to be a apt rebuttal to the NOAA hysteria regarding OA and shellfish. From Heartlander posting “Experts Can’t Confirm Current Ocean Acidification Damage” we get this:

” If one needs further proof OA can’t be linked to shellfish damage, one needs look no further than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since EPA issued its endangerment finding, asserting human greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and the environment, it has taken every opportunity it could to flex its regulatory muscle to limit emissions. Yet when a lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, opening the door for EPA to impose upon the Pacific Coast stricter Clean Water Act protections due to the supposed harms caused by OA to shellfish in the region, EPA demurred, saying there was insufficient evidence of harm to shellfish to warrant using CWS to further restrict greenhouse gas emissions.”

The NYT next deals with coral.   The Great Barrier Reef has been cut in half in the past three decades according to the posting.   It appears that the source of much of this was Chris Sabine, director of NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.

Dr Busch had commented on the Applebaum draft as:

”I’m not sure that I agree with Chris’s statement about the impact of OA on the Great Barrier Reef, [namely] ‘but underlying all of those factors is the fact that the corals are so stressed from ocean acidification that they can’t recover from those other impacts the way they used to be able to recover.’ Given my knowledge of the literature, OA is more of a future problem than a problem right now for the Great Barrier Reef. “

Not part of the Molloy FOI data but the Great Barrier Reef comments were based upon a 2012 study that points out that the loss of Reef was not due to OA. (It is highly likely that Dr Busch knew this and it caused her to make her comment.) Here is what The Heartlander Magazine posted regarding the loss experienced at the Great Barrier Reef saying:

“NOAA’s claim stems from a 2012 paper that analyzed 27 years of data, finding the Barrier Reef’s coral cover was down from 28% to 13.8% by area, meaning half the initial coral cover had been lost. That paper concluded the losses occurred due to cyclones (48%), crown-of-thorns starfish (42%), and coral bleaching (10%). The paper attributed no part of the decline to OA. Parts of the northern reef not affected by any of those factors suffered no decline in coral cover. The researchers determined the coral overall would have grown by nearly 3% a year absent cyclones, starfish, and bleaching.”

The NYT deals next with the effect of OA on sea life.

”We cannot yet predict exactly how ocean acidification will affect connections among the world’s many different marine organisms, but we do know the consequences will be profound.” (Warmers do this a lot. They admit they don’t know but then tell you they do know.) Continuing with the NYT’s posting:” Research already points to the unnatural behavior of coral clownfish in an acidified environment. These fish wander farther from their natural protection, making them more vulnerable to predators.

From the FOI we find that Dr Chris Sabine wrote to Applebaum and said:

” I have asked everyone I can reach and nobody is aware of a study that suggests that Nemo’s hearing would be impaired by ocean acidification. I did find one article on the web that suggested the opposite. I am aware of studies indicating that Nemo would lose sense of smell or ability to detect predators and therefore would be more likely to be eaten. Perhaps you can ask the UK people to check on that sentence. Chris”

The draft did take some advice regarding toning down the drama when the part about the Clown fish losing it’s hearing was removed from the draft.

Writing to Applebaum, Dr Busch said:

”Unfortunately, I can’t provide this information to you because it doesn’t exist. As I said in my last email, currently there are NO areas of the world that are severely degraded because of OA or even areas that we know are definitely affected by OA right now. If you want to use this type of language, you could write about the CO2 vent sites in Italy or Polynesia as examples of things to come. Sorry that I can’t be more helpful on this!”

I think she clarifies the scientific value of the NY Times posting of “Our Deadened, Carbon-Soaked Seas”.

There is a lot of additional information in the linked postings. Perhaps the most informative is The Fishy “Science” of Ocean Acidification”.
















One response to “Bang Bang, FOI shot the NY Times Down

  1. Pingback: Warmer Proof For Ocean Acidification Is Invalid | Climate Change Sanity

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