By Patrick Moore, PhD – WUWT
Some time ago it struck me that the majority of alleged environmental catastrophes and threats are invisible or very remote, thus making it virtually impossible for the average person to validate them through observation. Observations, along with replications of those observations, are the very foundation of the scientific method. Seeing is believing, and seeing the same result again and again under similar circumstances reinforces the belief. Is it possible that activist groups and the media choose to cite supposed catastrophes and threats that are invisible, very remote or both because the majority of people cannot verify them in person and therefore must rely on the activists, the media, and other third parties to tell them the truth? At the conclusion of this essay, the reader may judge. Here’s a list of some of the alleged invisible catastrophes and threats of doom, beginning with one of the former.
Coral reefs around the world are dying
This is only one of the many supposed catastrophes blamed on invisible human CO2 emissions and human-caused climate change. In April 2016 most major media outlets ran a story implying that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest in the world, was “dead”, “nearly dead”, or “dying”.1 This was all based on a report that 93% of reefs in the northern section had “some bleaching”. “Some” could be only 1 percent. And bleaching is not death or even dying. It is a normal occurrence during periods of high heat and the coral usually recovers. Of course, as with all species, some are dying and others are being born at any given time.
It is well known that the world’s warmest oceans are in the region of Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Solomon Islands. This area is called the Coral Triangle and it harbors the world’s largest number of coral species and the largest number of reef fish and other reef dwellers.2 Surely this puts to rest the assertion that the world’s seas are “too hot” for coral reefs due to climate change.
How is the average person in Europe or North America supposed to “see for themselves” what is really occurring? Not only is the reef thousands of miles away from most people and far offshore, it is below the surface of the sea. Hundreds of millions of people were told the reef was doomed when we now know much of the bleached coral has already recovered. But that fact was barely reported in major media outlets. Fake news flies, the real story never gets off the ground.
Polar bears will become extinct
Again, climate change is the culprit. Melting Arctic ice, thinner ice, and not enough seals to eat are said to be a threat to the bear’s very existence.3 How many people can go to the Arctic and get a good look at the polar bear population? The truth is the polar bear population has increased from about 6,000 – 8,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 – 28,000 today.4This is due mainly to a treaty signed by all the Arctic nations in 1973 that ended the unregulated hunting of polar bears.5 There is no real reason to fear for their demise. We know polar bears survived the last interglacial period, the
Eocene Eemian, 120,000 years ago, which was warmer than the current Holocene interglacial period. But photos of old starving bears, bears supposedly “trapped” on ice floes, and bears that are thin after a long hibernation, are effectively employed to perpetuate the myth that they are threatened with extinction.
Climate catastrophe is inevitable due an increase in atmospheric CO2 if we don’t end the use of fossil fuels
Not only is CO2 invisible, is also odorless and tasteless so cannot be sensed without sophisticated equipment. Yet we are told it is causing a catastrophe of global proportions. The facts that CO2 is lower in the atmosphere today than it has been through nearly all the history of life and that global temperature during the ongoing 2.5 million-year long Pleistocene Ice Age is colder than it has been for the past 250 million years are simply ignored.6 Never mind the fact that CO2 is the basis for all life on Earth. CO2 in the atmosphere and in the oceans is where the carbon in carbon-based life originates. At least some attention is now given to the fact that the increase in our CO2 emissions is causing a greening of the Earth and the spreading of trees to areas that were too dry for them under low-CO2 conditions. During the past 150 million years CO2 had steadily declined to such a low level that plants were seriously threatened with starvation during the peak of the last few glacial cycles. Thankfully, our CO2 emissions have inadvertently reversed that trend, bringing some balance back to the global carbon cycle. All of this can be verified yet the narrative of “climate catastrophe”, which has no basis in science, is hollered from rooftops around the world.
Pesticide residues in our food causes cancer, birth defects, autism, and brain damage
One “health food” website claims pesticide residues in food cause nine diseases. It’s unfortunate that we can’t see, smell, or taste these “residues”. They cannot be observed which makes it easy to invent stories about an “invisible poison”.
In 1997, the Cancer Research Institutes of the United States and Canada published a multi-year study of all scientific publications reporting on any connection between cancer in humans and pesticide residues in food. They did not find a single piece of credible evidence connecting the two. And yet they concluded that 30 percent of human cancers are caused by tobacco consumption, from a natural plant, and that 35% of cancers are caused by poor diet, mainly too much fat and cholesterol, also natural substances.8
“Africa’s Oldest Baobab Trees are Dying at an Unprecedented Rate, and Climate Change may be to Blame.”
This is the actual headline from a USA Today article on June 11, 2018. Nearly every major news outlet ran with the story as if it were a harbinger of global doom.9 Even the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica gave credence to the story. No dead trees were depicted in any of the many articles I searched on the Internet. My first rule of critical thinking is never to trust a report that begins with the words “may”, “might’ or “could”. It should read, “may or may not”, might or might not, etc.
Many readers may or may not have stopped to think that it is perfectly natural for the oldest individuals of any species to die before the younger ones eventually pass away as they too grow old. It might be worth worrying if the youngest baobab trees were dying at an unprecedented rate if such a rate could be established with credible data. On the other hand the natural survival rate of the young of many species is very low.
As for an “unprecedented rate” of older trees dying, the only data provided in the source paper is from a Romanian chemistry professor who claims, “Eight of the 13 oldest trees in Africa have died over the past decade.” 10
Baobabs have a wide distribution in Africa, across the sub-Saharan belt and down the east coast as far as South Africa. My research produced no estimate of the total number of Baobab trees in Africa but one could hazard a guess that there are tens if not hundreds of thousands. Without a doubt it would not be unprecedented for eight of the oldest trees to die in a ten-year period. This is less than one tree per year. This might or might not be the silliest story to be taken seriously by the worldwide media lately. Even Fox News covered it.
GMOs will harm us and damage the environment.
A cob of conventional corn looks identical to a cob of GM corn. The GM corn may actually look better because it was better protected from insect damage due to the modification of its genes.
The USFDA says they are “substantially equivalent”, in other words not different from each other in any meaningful way. Yet hundreds of activist groups insist there is something in the GM corn, obviously something invisible, that will do evil things to the planet and us.11
Monsanto, basically a seed and crop protection company, is vilified as if it were producing weapons of mass destruction and using them on civilians. Every credible food, health, and science organization says GM food is perfectly safe 12 But the propaganda about an invisible poison is effective, and because people can’t “see for themselves” they worry a lot about themselves and their children.
Farmed salmon are full of poisons and they are destroying the wild salmon.
Of course the “poisons” are invisible and the salmon are below the surface of the sea where only a diver could inspect them. The anti-salmon farm activists contend that farmed salmon are spreading disease and sea-lice to wild salmon stocks.13 In fact the farmed salmon are raised in land-based hatcheries and are disease-free and lice-free when they are placed into pens in the sea. It is the wild salmon that give diseases and lice to the farmed fish. But the activists get away with their “story” and the media goes along because it sells papers and their readers and viewers can’t go down in the ocean to check out the truth for themselves. Farming salmon and the many other species raised in aquaculture is a sustainable development. It takes fishing pressure off wild stocks, many of which are seriously depleted. It produces one of the healthiest sources of protein and contains beneficial omega-3 oils. And aquaculture provides employment for tens of millions of people worldwide, often in remote coastal and inland communities.14
Nuclear energy is too dangerous and radiation will kill you15
Have you ever seen any nuclear radiation? No, because it is invisible – you need a Geiger counter to detect it, which most homes are not equipped with. The fact is in terms of fatalities per unit of energy produced; nuclear is the safest technology of them all. There has been only one nuclear accident that caused death to civilians, Chernobyl, and according to the World Health Organization it was responsible for 56 deaths.16 More than that were killed in a single hydroelectric dam accident in Russia in 2009. 17 In the Fukushima incident in 2011 no one died from radiation and according the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, there will be no discernable health effects in the future.18 Yet activist groups have so scared the public with this invisible “threat” that Germany has decided to shut all its nuclear plants and many countries have decided not to build any more. Meanwhile China, India, and Russia have surpassed the West in nuclear technology and are building scores of new nuclear plants because they know it is the future of electricity production.
There is a “sea of plastic” the size of Texas in the North Pacific Gyre north of Hawaii
First question: have you ever seen an aerial or satellite photograph of the “sea of plastic”? Probably not, because it doesn’t really exist. But it makes a good word- picture and after all plastic is full of deadly poisons and is killing seabirds and marine mammals by the thousands.
This is also fake news and gives rise to calls for bans on plastic and other drastic measures. Silly people are banning plastic straws as if they were a dire threat to the environment. The fact is a piece of plastic floating in the ocean is no more toxic than a piece of wood. Wood has been entering the sea in vast quantities for millions of years. And in the same way that floating woody debris provides habitat for barnacles, seaweeds, crabs, and many other species of marine life, so does floating plastic. That’s why seabirds and fish eat the bits of plastic, to get the food that is growing on them. While it is true that some individual birds and animals are harmed by plastic debris, discarded fishnets in particular, this is far outweighed by the additional food supply it provides. Plastic is not poison or pollution, it is litter.
“There are a possible 3,000,000 undersea volcanoes doing something unobserved.”
This is a direct quote from a Science Daily article on February 15, 2015.19 The article refers to “a new study” attributed to the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which speculates that millions of undersea volcanoes are spewing millions of tons of CO2 into the ocean. No mention is made of the fact that the US Geological Service estimates that volcanic activity produces less than one percent of the CO2 emissions produced from human use of fossil fuels,20 or that there is really no direct evidence that CO2 causes global warming as claimed by so many activist scientists, media and politicians. The only proven effect of CO2 is to increase the growth of trees and food crops and to make plants more efficient with water. This has resulted in a “greening of the Earth” and the spread of trees into areas that were previously too dry for them. For a discussion on the important role of CO2 as the basis of all life on Earth you can download my paper on the subject here.21
Ocean “Acidification” will kill all the coral reefs and shellfish in the world
Once again, invisible CO2 will wreck havoc by so drastically lowering the pH of the oceans it will make it impossible for the out-of-sight corals and shellfish to produce their calcareous shells, thus undermining the entire food chain in the sea and destroying fisheries worldwide. This story was invented around 2004; co-incident with the beginning of the 20-year “pause” in global warming that began around 1998. The fact is coral reefs evolved when CO2 was at least 10 times higher than today and corals have survived and thrived for hundreds of millions of years since then. It is also a fact that the Humboldt Current off Peru, which has the highest CO2 and lowest pH in the world’s oceans, produces 20 percent of the world’s fish catch. In other words more CO2 is good for growth in the sea in the same way it is on land. It doesn’t take much research to conclude that ocean “acidification” is one big fabrication. For an in-depth discussion my paper on the subject can be downloaded here. 22
“Climate Change is Killing the Cedars of Lebanon”
A July 18, 2018 article in The New York Times reports that rising temperatures are driving the Cedars of Lebanon to extinction.23 All the numerous photos in the article are of healthy living trees with the exception of one lonely sawed-off stump that is claimed to have died from an insect infestation. In flowery language the anguish of impending doom is expressed with appropriate references to Jesus and God. In fact the range of the Cedars of Lebanon has been drastically reduced over the centuries by cutting the trees for timber and converting the land to other uses – a classic case of deforestation as opposed to reforestation. Grazing land for goats, sheep and cattle have replaced the forests over wide areas and the grazers ensure that no new trees can establish themselves. Most of the remaining cedars are in protected reserves where there is no evidence of impending extinction or mass die-off. A careful reader will detect that all the dire predictions are just that; unsupported speculation into the future. Very few people have the ability to go to Lebanon and make a thorough investigation into the state of the cedar forests. No doubt if a knowledgeable person reported that the existing trees were in a state of good health the New York Times would not print it.
Is it just a coincidence that 12 of the most publicized alleged environmental catastrophes and threats of doom happen to be invisible or very remote, or both? Or is it just so much easier to create a fake “narrative” when the public can’t check it out for themselves? I will leave that judgement to the reader.