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Finding Nemo Suffocated?

One hardly knows where to begin in assessing the sanity of the recent claim that “climate change” (aka dangerous manmade global warming renamed to hide the fact that far less warming is happening than predicted) could suffocate—yes, suffocate!—sea creatures by reducing ocean oxygen levels.

The scary story comes mainly from popular reports.

Take, for example, how blogger Cat DiStasio (“a writer, storyteller, and community architect” who “holds a B.A. in Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies”) at Inhabitat (“a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future”) reported it. Her headline proclaimed, “Climate change could suffocate the Pacific Ocean in less than 20 years.”

DiStasio’s source, perennial Green alarmist Chris Mooney (who “writes about energy and the environment at The Washington Post” and “previously worked at Mother Jones“), writing in the Post, got a headline only slightly less panicky: “Global warming could deplete the oceans’ oxygen—with severe consequences.”

Mooney’s source, a study by three modelers with the National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research stopped a little—well, more than a little—short of such panic in the title of the NCAR/UCAR press release: “Widespread loss of ocean oxygen to become noticeable in 2030s.”

And the title of the academic study published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, on which the press release was based, was about as calm as could be: “Finding forced trends in oceanic oxygen.”

Like most people, my blood oxygen levels rise and fall through every 24-hour cycle, and the differences are “noticeable.” But to go from “noticeable” to “suffocate” is something of a stretch.

DiStasio leads her story: “A new study suggests that human activity is having a devastating effect on oxygen levels in the world’s oceans, and could cause parts of the Pacific Ocean to essentially suffocate in as little as 15 years.” Well, no, the underlying study doesn’t say the effect is (that’s a present-tense verb) having a “devastating” effect. It says it’s “noticeable.”

Mooney’s report is considerably less alarmist than its headline (a common occurrence on these subjects), and he makes explicit something DiStasio and others don’t: the study depends on “a high-powered climate model.”

Therein lies the catch. The study was of model output, not of the oceans themselves. That’s something the press release revealed, though one has to read carefully to recognize just how comprehensive the substitution of model for reality was. The emphases added here (by italics) are the telltale signs:

Using the [model] simulations to study dissolved oxygen gave the researchers guidance on how much concentrations may have varied naturally in the past. With this information, they could determine when ocean deoxygenation due to climate change is likely to become more severe than at any point in the modeled historic range.

The research team found that deoxygenation caused by climate change could already be detected in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins. They also determined that more widespread detection…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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