Calamities Oversold

The overselling of calamities in environmental sciences has reached unseemly proportions…so much so in one field that in 2014 a team of marine researchers exposed the problems in a journal article. The paper is Duarte et al. (2014) Reconsidering Ocean Calamities. The abstract reads (my boldface):

The proliferation of a number of pressures affecting the ocean is leading to a growing concern that the state of the ocean is compromised, which is driving society into pessimism. Ocean calamities are disruptive changes to ocean ecosystems that have profound impacts and that are widespread or global in scope. However, scrutiny of ocean calamities to ensure that they can be confidently attributed to human drivers, operate at widespread or global scales, and cause severe disruptions of marine social-ecosystems shows that some of the problems fail to meet these requirements or that the evidence is equivocal. A number of biases internal and external to the scientific community contribute to perpetuating the perception of ocean calamities in the absence of robust evidence. An organized auditing of ocean calamities may deliver a more precise diagnosis of the status of the oceans, which may help to identify the most pressing problems that need be addressed to conserve a healthy ocean.

Also see the Nature editorial Ocean ‘calamities’ oversold, say researchers about Duarte et al. It begins:

The state of the world’s seas is often painted as verging on catastrophe. But although some challenges are very real, others have been vastly overstated, researchers claim in a review paper. The team writes that scientists, journals and the media have fallen into a mode of groupthink that can damage the credibility of the ocean sciences. The controversial study exposes fault lines in the marine-science community.

Carlos Duarte, a marine biologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, and his colleagues say that gloomy media reports about ocean issues such as invasive species and coral die-offs are not always based on actual observations. It is not just journalists who are to blame, they maintain: the marine research community “may not have remained sufficiently sceptical” on the topic.

These problems run rampant in climate science.

NYTimes Headline

NYTimes Headline

A brand new example of attempted overselling of calamities is the article in The New York Times Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says. The article is based on the McCauley et al (2015) paper Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean.

[Thanks to Ruth Dixon for introducing us to Duarte et al. (2014) in a comment here at WUWT.]


About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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3 Responses to Calamities Oversold

  1. Thanks, Bob.
    Yes, calamities are offered everywhere, for free. But there really is no free lunch, or calamity.
    Calamities are used by governments to demand more taxes and more power.

  2. fhhaynie says:

    Talking about being oversold, the latest NOAA press releases about “record global sea surface temperatures” sounds a lot like a snake oil salesman with control of anthropogenic emissions being the snake oil.

  3. Simon Peter Gough says:

    I have been reading your stuff with interest. Thank you.
    Other reasons for calamities. You may remember your comments on WUWT “Data Reveal Florida Keys Sea Surface Temperatures Haven’t Warmed in 80+ Years” on . Not open to commenting anymore. But I think that Kuffner et al. (2014) A Century of Ocean Warming on Florida Keys Coral Reefs: Historic In Situ Observations Fig 3 shows a very clear temperature increase which would bleach the coral despite your arguments to the contrary. Not unexpectedly as the Turkey Point nuclear reactor (opened in 1972 ) is nearby. It seems a strange place to observe increase in water temperatures and coral bleaching. Nuclear plant hot water run-off is a classical cause of coral bleaching;jsessionid=DC40E4359807F5588F0FA68D2AB7F986.f03t04

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