In 2011, this comment disputing it was published:
The paper was discussed on HN earlier, as part of the discussion of
I have a comment there pointing out that if you actually look at the data in the paper, there is really no evidence of a decline.
>This work builds upon an earlier analysis (Boyce et al., 2010) by taking published criticisms into account, and by using recalibrated data, and novel analysis methods.
Having looked at both papers now, I think that the 2014 followup confirmed the direction of the trend (downward), but it looks like it also significantly reduced the magnitude of the trend.
Look at figure 2b in the 2010 paper and figure 1a in the 2014 paper. They both show "Rate of Chl change (mg m–3 yr–1)" on a grid of cells covering the world's oceans. But the scale in the 2010 paper went from -0.40 to 0.40. In the 2014 paper the extremes of the scale are only -0.10 and 0.10. It looks like re-analysis indicated less dramatic rates of change both in the cells showing increase and those showing decrease.
I knew we had fucked up the oceans with plastics and overfishing, but I didn't know that phytoplankton was down as well, at such a scale. Per TFA, it provided 50% of the Earth's photosynthesis (in 2010). If it kept on dwindling that fast, that share is even lower now (down ~45%, with a half-life of 81 years, assuming the decline was constant between 1950 and 2010). This is also freaky knowing that it is the base of the food chain in the oceans...
I don't have any idea of the amount of oxygen that's cycled each year vs the total amount in the atmosphere... I suppose there's no immediate danger on that end, even if it were to drop to an even lower point before recovering, otherwise we'd have heard of this more often...
Sorry but what a silly idea that is.
... Oh wait.
The elephant in the room (whale in the fish pond?) is ocean acidification which will continue to increase for at least a century or so even if we stop using any and all fossil fuels immediately (and how likely does that look?)
Make no mistake, everything is interconnected. The recent uptick in gray whales dying off with signs that look like starvation is absolutely connected to the loss of coral reefs worldwide.
We need an all-front defense of the oceans, and I don't think we should pick winners or ignore major, major problems as somehow "solved" in our imaginations.
Unfortunately, steadily declining populations of oceanic microorganisms don't pack the same kind of viral social media star power Brazilian forest fires do.
We should of course do everything we can to stop emitting carbon. But projects like these may an important part in our future.
I imagine it's other chemicals like herbicides making their way into the oceans and killing the tiny plants.
So does this mean there's been a significant drop in oxygen (produced)? And if so, how much?
If 100% of phytoplankton produces 50% of the oxygen and 100% is now 60% that mean 50% of oxygen is down to 30%. In other words, sans a drop in non phytoplankton, total oxygen that was 100% is not 80%?
Wouldn't we feel that?
From a different paper-
> Oxygen concentrations are currently declining at roughly 19 per meg per year, or about 4 ppm per year. One "per meg" indicates one molecule out of 1,000,000 oxygen molecules, or roughly one molecule in 4.8 million molecules of air.
You would need huge resources and deploy a really fine "mesh" of stations for a very long time to study that.
Is the job of oceanographers, and do this all the time at local small scale. But extrapolating to a global scale is a really ambitious project, prone to came with the wrong answers.
Not to mention that aren't even doing plankton taxonomy. Is a collection of secchi disks data. To point to just one of the major problems with the study, Secchi disks aren't used at night normally. Let suppose that we would visit google headquarters at 4am for example, we could wrongly assume that is a mostly deserted area. Is the same problem.
Read or listen to David Wallace-Wells' Uninhabitable Earth and/or Jem Bendell's Deep Adaptation
and decide for yourself. Both a couple of years old, neither will leave you the slightest bit optimistic.
Whether or not his tactic is ethical is worth debate perhaps, but whether his picture is reflective of what climate scientists believe is an answered question (its not). The situation is bad, but we need not become defeatist, lest we give up entirely.
> "It is clear in his response to being called too alarmist that he chooses to stretch the truth"
I think you misrepresent. He's made it clear he's a journalist who made effort to understand and present the science. There were a few mistakes as notably pointed out by Mann. Hardly "choosing to stretch the truth".
Given the IPCC's consistently conservative view, that encourages a too little, too late response, I would rather an excessively pessimistic view pushed us to respond "too soon". After all if some tipping points are passed, bringing it back from the brink will be just about impossible... If we overreact we get clean energy sooner.
Events in the two years since seem to reinforce the pessimistic view. Sea level rise tracks the worst case IPCC estimates. Etc.
I've never heard of any of his material, but is it really possibly to be too alarmist in our current state? I mean honestly, most of the world doesn't understands the magnitude and gravity of the events taking place and the runaway train that we're on.
Edit: downvoted for technology optimism on this site?? Please explain.
Which is neither here nor there. We care for the part where its habitable and we're on it, not for the part when it was molten lava...
>It’s only technology that allows us to live where we are (unless you live in the great Rift Valley)
Not really, we've lived in most of the places we live now and had civilizations 2000 and 5000 and 10000 years ago. And animals more or less like us lived there far more.
Technology like fire, stone and iron tools helped made things more palatable, but it's not "only technology" that allows us to live in Africa (heck, tons of tribes lived there even 50-100 years ago with little/no technology), Asia, Europe, etc, and in no way it's only modern technology.
>Edit: downvoted for technology optimism on this site?? Please explain.
Perhaps people care more for scientific claims and concrete technologies, and less for magic thinking and faith, which "technological optimism" is, as if we have some certain contract with the universe to find just the right technologies, in the right time, to save us...
Imagine you were standing on the sidelines watching Notre Dame burning down and made a similar statement. Meanwhile a fire hydrant and fire hose were nearby, unused. And twenty bystanders like you were standing there facing the other way, unaware, chatting about trivia while (unknowingly) leaking gasoline out their butts right onto it. Your comment would be massively misplaced and probably overall harmful in the grand scheme of things.
We need to fight this.
The explanations in the doomsday articles here assume no technological progress.
We’ve only put minimal effort into geo-engineering solutions, but even with that minimal effort there’s been some good ideas, such as planting 130 trees per person , olovine rocks on beaches , and basalt dusting of farmland .
If part of your house is on fire, it will burn completely in, say, 5 hours, and you don't have the technology to stop the fire, assuming that "all will be OK" because you'll invent something in the meantime is idiotic.
It's also not science (science is actively working on a problem). Optimism of this kind is just wishful thinking that happens to concern scientific breakthroughs.
- We might not find the necessary breakthroughs in time, same way we still don't have AI, human-like robot servants, flying cars, cold fusion, miracle drugs, and all kinds of other stuff we'd "surely have" or that's always "20 years in the future".
- If we find some breakthrough, it might need too much time, energy, resources to put into action. There's no guarantee from the universe that any technology we find is also immediately (or timely) applicable.
- A solution might have downsides (e.g social, economic, etc) for which there might be no consensus, political will, easy way to sell to masses or easy way to convince elites...
- A solution might require coordination across nations, which might be the inverse of what we will get (every country for itself, wars over diminishing resources, and so on). In fact already we see rifts into global coordination (from the China trade war, to Brexit and so on).
All of those are real concerns, it's not just "technology will save us", as if it owes us...
>there’s been some good ideas, such as planting 130 trees per person , olovine rocks on beaches , and basalt dusting of farmland .
You may laugh but let’s tslk again in 30 years. When avg temps rise more than the 1 degree they have so far, political attitudes will change.
Overpopulation prophesy from 50 years ago. At the time 1 in 4 people globally were in famine and author prophecized it would only get worse. Instead global population has doubled while worldwide hunger reduced to 1 in 10, due to creativity and technology.
Well, when discussing practical solutions to problems, creativity/technology is more or less same thing.
>You may laugh but let’s tslk again in 30 years. When avg temps rise more than the 1 degree they have so far, political attitudes will change.
They could very well change for the inverse: people/countries being more selfish, fiercely fighting to save their own (and why not? In a world of fewer resources / access to good stuff / areas with declining climate, that could be a wining move).
"Human creativity" didn't save the huge Babylonian empire from being reduced to dust, the huge Roman empire from declining (and entering centuries of "dark ages"), and so on. And those were just political issues, not political + environmental, like today.
And of course there's also the inverse argument: we haven't signed any contract that something that worked in the past (e.g. creativity solving some problem) will work in the future too.
And the world war's combined impact on global populations was only a couple of percentage points.
Neither remotely qualifies as being on the brink of annihilation.
The British government on the brink of capitulating to Hitler:
The Allies and not Hitler getting the atomic bomb. Examples abound just in the past few generations.
Now, thirty years later, the ability to measure and predict is much greater, such that science literature can put a finer point on things. Yet the overall pollution activity (minus the success of the ozone layer repletion, worse with single-use plastics) continues.
Like the therapist says, you own your reaction to this.. hard to dismiss...
I really wish I never had to even think of that question, but it is a serious one.
Capitalism certainly has it's drawbacks...
I fear this too, but it won't be so dramatic. On geologic and evolutionary timescales, it will be like a flash. On human timescales, it might be a decade or a century. From our perspective it will look a lot more like a ratcheting-down of the food web, as loss of biodiversity will lead to pancaking of layers down. There will be booms and busts, as the ecological niche filled by one organism is vacated by its sudden collapse and a temporary resurgence of some aggressive species fills that gap, until that poorly adapted monoculture succumbs to something else. In a sense, the whole thing is going to come down in spasms, and we'll be arguing the whole way into the grave, because it's so complicated that gaslighters and deniers will always be able to point to something that looks like recovery, but really isn't.
I am long past accepting this. The question in my mind is really, how big is the crater left by humanity going to be?