Climate Denial Doofus of the Week: Jonah Goldberg

April 25, 2014

Right wing expert-on-everything (“Foxpert”) Jonah Goldberg called for more research on ‘real problems” like ocean acidification, not that crazy global warming stuff.
Hilarity ensued.

Media Matters:

Jonah Goldberg criticized environmental reporters for focusing on climate change, saying that they were missing “serious problems, such as ocean acidification.” However, ocean acidification is caused by the same carbon pollution driving climate change.

In his syndicated column on April 23, National Review Online editor-at-large Goldberg wrote that Republican politicians “still care about the environment,” suggesting that they pay attention to environmental problems “such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat” rather than climate change:

Contrary to what you may have heard, GOP politicians still care about the environment, but they take their cues from public opinion, not from the green lobby.


Important work is being done on serious problems, such as ocean acidification, overfishing, elephant and rhino poaching, and loss of habitat. None of these issues get a fraction of the coverage they deserve. That’s because many environmental reporters think their beat begins and ends with climate change.

Ocean acidification is sometimes known as the “evil twin” of climate change as it is also driven by carbon dioxide emissions, making the ocean more acidic — surface ocean waters are now about 30 percent more acidic than they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as carbon dioxide builds up in the atmosphere and is increasingly absorbed by the ocean. Goldberg is correct that ocean acidification does not get the attention it deserves, as it threatens coral reefs that provide coastal protection from storms and tourism, and shellfish that make up a large part of the fishing industry.

Climate change also exacerbates species loss further threatened by overfishing, poaching and habitat destruction — the other issues Goldberg names as truly “serious.” In addition, climate change is itself emerging as one of the main drivers of habitat loss. This is why environmental groups and reporters have focused on climate change, while continuing to address environmental problems from overfishing to poaching, as it is a threat multiplier with global consequences.

While Goldberg is now calling for attention to these particular environmental topics, he has not given much attention to them himself in the past. The only time Goldberg has previously mentioned ocean acidification in his column* was to claim that we could address it by giving the ocean “some antacid” in 2009:


Is the atmosphere getting too hot? Cool it down by reflecting away more sunlight. The ocean’s getting too acidic? Give it some antacid. The technology’s not ready. But pursuing it for a couple of decades will cost pennies compared with carbon rationing.

Oyster hatcheries have indeed been resorting to putting the equivalent of Tums into hatcheries to make up for the declining numbers of oysters in the ocean, but dumping huge amounts of antacid into the ocean at large is considered impractical by scientific groups such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The only time that Goldberg mentioned overfishing** was in 2005. In that same column was the last time that Goldberg mentioned animal habitats, claiming that the United States had “added vast new habitats for animals” without ever mentioning continuing habitat loss.*** Goldberg has never before covered poaching in his column.****

UPDATE (4/25/14): In response to a Twitter post about this article, Goldberg cited an undergraduate paper to again claim that ocean acidification can be addressed through geoengineering.

The three-page paper was for a student’s Marine Science 201 class and later published in a student journal at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo in 2011. Titled “Ocean Acidification: Cause, Effect, and Potential Mitigation Approaches,” it outlines that fertilizing the ocean with iron, one of the approaches for mitigation, “could have negative feedbacks that lessen some of the carbon capture, and could negatively effect [sic] ocean ecosystem functioning,” while using powdered limestone could be useful but the negative side effects “have not been thoroughly examined” yet. Peer-reviewed studies have found that such a method would require massive mining and cost trillions of dollars per year — all while not addressing the warming of the atmosphere. Geoengineering expert Dr. Ken Caldeira added in a statement to Media Matters that “limestone would not dissolve in surface ocean waters, but rather it would sink to deeper ocean layers. Thus, this would not address surface ocean acidification in the short term.”

Over 150 of the world’s top ocean scientists signed a declaration in 2008 stating that geoengineering was not a viable solution for ocean acidification, in part because many of these strategies simply “enhance ocean acidification in some areas while reducing it in others.” The scientists agreed that we must instead reduce our carbon emissions to address it, and the twin challenge of climate change. A 2013 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service agreed that “Reducing CO2 emissions to the atmosphere and/or removing CO2 from the atmosphere (i.e., carbon sequestration) currently appear to be the only practical ways to minimize the risk of large-scale and long-term changes to the pH of marine waters.”

Caldeira expanded on the implications of large-scale geoengineering in his statement to Media Matters:

The scale of any enterprise to counteract the chemical effects of these carbon dioxide emissions would be approximately the scale of our energy system. If we are going to do something at the scale of our energy system, it would seem the most sensible thing would be to create an energy system that did not use the atmosphere and the ocean as a waste dump.

* According to a Nexis search of “Major Newspapers” for “jonah goldberg and (ocean w/5 acid!)”.

** According to a Nexis search of “Major Newspapers” for “jonah goldberg and overfish!”.

*** According to a Nexis search of “Major Newspapers” for “jonah goldberg and habitat”.

**** According to a Nexis search of “Major Newspapers” for “jonah goldberg and poach!”.

18 Responses to “Climate Denial Doofus of the Week: Jonah Goldberg”

  1. indy222 Says:

    … a pretty pathetic attempt by the GOP to green itself up.

  2. rayduray Says:

    I dig you Jonah. I dig you Jonah. For Jonah is the Lord’s sweet boy….

    Well, that was Lord Buckley, the original hip rapper. Now what would his contemporary Dorothy Parker think of Jonah G.? She might be resigned to the fact that Goldberg is his own golden egg at National Review and muse sardonically about how hard it is to curb his ilk….

    “Razors pain you;
    rivers are damp;
    acids stain you;
    and drugs cause cramp.
    Guns aren’t lawful;
    nooses give;
    gas smells awful;
    you might as well live.”

  3. grlcowan Says:

    Goldberg is disagreeably in agreement with some people mentioned in , section, “Accelerated Weathering”, although he may have in mind some less practical “antacid” than they do.

    Theirs is olivine, an extremely abundant mineral that increases the entropy of the universe by condensing atmospheric CO2 into solid carbonate at a rate proportional to surface area. Accelerated weathering, i.e. pulverization of the stuff in ore crushers followed by its wide dispersal, would increase this area. One of them, Schuiling, has with O. Tickell produced .

    • Interesting link.

      Lou Grinzo comments that 2°C is now in the rear-view mirror, with geoengineering dead ahead.  I’m not sanguine about any scheme which separates the combustion of FFs from carbon sequestration, because the prospects of e.g. billing China and India to mine and pulverize olivine in, say, Brazil, appear close to nil.  If the very technologies sold world-wide took olivine (or serpentine, or any other calcium or magnesium silicate) as a required feedstock and produced carbonates, this would be far less of a problem.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Do they factor in some type of PR campaign so that the public isn’t mislead into thinking the falling [CO2] is ‘natural’? Otherwise the low info voters are going to get a lot of Republican ‘told-you-so’ in the media, junk science that says the process of peak-[CO2] is natural, and that burn-everything-everywhere is still the best option.

      I’d rather they move into carbon free energy significantly or be on a well grounded path to do so before trying to scale back [CO2]; otherwise there is a certain probability that we could ride off of a resource depletion cliff unprepared (or surf down the Hubbert curve in like manner), and that could result in enough volatility, socially, internationally, economically, etc. to cause significant disruptions to the human experience. The markets are delicate, fickle things: housing derivatives and speculation were enough to put the 1st world on the brink of a large and acute correction (or over correction in the face of negative momentum).

  4. It is rather tough to believe considering all the effort to kill renewable energy. I do wonder if some members chafe under the Koch yoke, though.

  5. Kiwiiano Says:

    “Contrary to what you may have heard, GOP politicians still care about the environment, but they take their cues from public opinion, not from the green lobby.”

    I oft wonder at how come ‘Merkins accept blatant lies from their leaders without even a hint of protest. Maybe spluttered coffees over the morning paper never get a mention on Faux news.

    The other query that should always arise after a suggestion of geo-engineering is “how much diesel and bunker oil will it need to mine, crush and ship the vast quantities of limestone or olivine needed to off-set the tonnage of coal/oil we are currently blithely dumping into the biosphere? And how much limestone will it need to off-set that diesel?”

    • A lot of the really big mining machines, like the bucket-wheel excavators used for strip-mining coal, are all-electric.  I understand that there are even some electric dump trucks which use overhead wires to power themselves uphill, and go down with gravity (and maybe some batteries, I have not studied this).  Railways are easily electrified.

      I see opportunity in this.  If the diesel engine becomes a rarity in mining, and is edged out of rail (say, by offering tax abatements for wiring and noise and emissions charges for diesel locomotives), it could easily become a more general trend.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Sounds good to me—-use electricity to mine the COAL that we burn to make the electricity that powers the coal-mining machines. Tell us again how that helps the CO2 problem? What about mini-nukes? How about no more strip mining of coal?

        • Kiwiiano asked how we’d mine such volumes of minerals (for atmospheric remediation) without diesel fuel.  The answer is, it’s already being done.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I think his point was that we would generate a lot of CO2 in mining, processing, transporting, and spreading the “Planetary Tums”. No such thing is “already being done” that would significantly mitigate that impact.

            It reminds me of a novel I read where AGW caused such melting of the Greenland ice sheet that the freshwater runoff caused the shutdown of the thermohaline conveyor and threatened northern Europe with another ice age. The engineer’s answer was to convert a fleet of supertankers into “salt spreaders” that would cruise the North Atlantic and “salt” the fresh water to increase its density and get it to sink. Something like a fleet of 100 with 60 on station at all times, and it wouldn’t even take a decade to “fix” the problem.

            I would be lying if I said they were going to power these tankers by long extension cords back to wind farms and solar arrays on land, or by Tesla inspired microwave energy transmission, but that makes about as much sense. Just like the “turn the sky yellow” movement that wants to put enough sulfur aerosols up there to reflect sunlight. LOL Montana will look great when if becomes “Big YELLOW Sky Country”.

          • I think his point was that we would generate a lot of CO2 in mining, processing, transporting, and spreading the “Planetary Tums”.

            It depends what the electricity comes from.  We do have carbon-free sources of electricity.  The processing might even make a good dump load, so long as the equipment is cheap enough that you can power it 10% of the time.

            No such thing is “already being done” that would significantly mitigate that impact.

            So let’s take what we know how to do, and apply it to climate remediation.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The concept of geo-engineering is one of the more insane things to come out of the global warming problem.

      I shudder to think of the mistakes the “engineers” will make as they attempt to “engineer” us into a solution of a problem that has occurred only because pf man’s “engineering” in the areas of politics, economics, and industrialization over just the past couple of hundred years.

      We are here because we weren’t smart enough to foresee what was coming, and we will NOT be smart enough to do what Mother Nature managed to do reasonably well for all that time until man arrived.

      • Geoengineering is fun. When it gets done, I want to control the thermostat. No potential for abuse. Its all good.

      • The concept of geo-engineering is one of the more insane things to come out of the global warming problem.

        More insane than repeating the PETM?

        I shudder to think of the mistakes the “engineers” will make

        If we’re going to re-achieve 350 ppm CO2 in the lifetime of anyone currently born, we’re going to need some really big carbon sinks.  I’m not sure how adding minerals to soil, which people already do for other purposes, can go “wrong”.  If the soils are mineral-deficient, they’ll be able to grow more plants and add a second (though impermanent) carbon sink to the minerals themselves.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          More insane than repeating the PETM?

          Yes actually. It would NOT be a ‘repeat”, since man did not cause the PETM. This would be a first and an original—-our very own man-made disaster, and you are thinking like a deluded “engineer” with your “fixes” like this little meander into fantasy land.

          I am glad that you do recognize that we are going to need some “really big” carbon sinks—-too bad that what you suggest is likely just wishful thinking. I myself think we should convert the CO2 to dry ice and have Elon Musk launch ships full of it into orbit, at which point solar panels would generate electricity to make heat that would vaporize the CO2 and shoot it out a nozzle. A CO2 “drive” that would slowly lift the orbit until it escaped the earth’s gravity and sailed off into space. Didn’t we want to do that with nuclear wastes at one point? No, wait—we just dumped them in the ocean.

  6. redskylite Says:

    The good news is that the Earth can deal with ocean acidification by itself, the bad news is it takes at least .5 million years for the ocean cycle to complete. I’m sceptical that any geo-engineering can help the entire ocean. Good news for the next try of life by the pool of evolution stakeholders. Dinosaurs lasted 135 million years, Man emerged around 500,000 – 200,000 years ago.

    “Rapid and sustained surface ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum”


    The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) has been associated with the release of several thousands of petagrams of carbon (Pg C) as methane and/or carbon dioxide into the ocean-atmosphere system within ~10 thousand years (ky), on the basis of the co-occurrence of a carbon isotope excursion (CIE), widespread dissolution of deep sea carbonates, and global warming. In theory, this rapid carbon release should have severely acidified the surface ocean, though no geochemical evidence has yet been presented. Using boron-based proxies for surface-ocean carbonate chemistry, we present the first observational evidence for a drop in the pH of surface and thermocline seawater during the PETM. Planktic foraminifers from a drill site in the North Pacific (ODP Site 1209) show a ~0.8‰ decrease in boron isotopic composition (δ11B) at the onset of the event, along with a 30-40% reduction in shell B/Ca. Similar trends in δ11B are present in two lower resolution records from the South Atlantic and Equatorial Pacific. These observations are consistent with significant, global acidification of the surface ocean lasting at least 70 ky and requiring sustained carbon release. The anomalies in the B records are consistent with an initial surface pH drop of ~0.3 units, at the upper range of model-based estimates of acidification.

  7. […] 2014/04/25: PSinclair: Climate Denial Doofus of the Week: Jonah Goldberg […]

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