Jim Steele struck again at Judy’s: after walrus science and coral bleaching, he audited Gaia herself. In the walrus episode, I made around 50 comments; Brandon Gates spent 75 in the bleaching one. The Gaia episode features 20 or so, most shorter and more expedient than the ones in the first two episodes.
The key to the reduction was to focus – my previous experience with Jim made me expect that he’d contradict everything I’d say over and over again. Since Jim’s obduracy creates some kind of fixed point, it helps when one’s commitments are both minimal and amusing. There’s no downside to follow this ClimateBall ™ advice as a general principle. Everything you say can (and will) be never endingly challenged, so you might as well limit your commitments and enjoy defending them.
My first comment thus consisted in quoting Jim’s
There is also ample evidence that lower pH does not inhibit photosynthesis or lower ocean productivity (Mackey 2015). On the contrary, rising CO2 makes photosynthesis less costly.
and to quote Mackey 2015’s abstract, with an emphasis on the following sentence: This could suggest that the photosynthetic benefits of high CO2 are minor relative to the cell’s overall energy and material balances, or that the benefit to photosynthesis is counteracted by other negative effects, such as possible respiratory costs from low pH.
Mackey 2015 fails to support Jim’s claim about CO2 and photosynthesis. (Besides, citing a lone paper fails to prove an inexistence, and positing linear relationships clashes with Gaia theories.) Instead of acknowledging that his hypothesis went beyond Mackey 2015, Jim (a) told me to read the paper, (b) accused me of cherrypicking one sentence, and (c) challenged me to provide a list where Mackey says rising CO2 has been detrimental to photosynthesis.
None of these attacks counter my point, i.e. the very mundane observation that the first sentence quoted doesn’t substantiate the thesis Jim puts forward in the second. Many players may (and will) try to challenge things you haven’t said or done. This can be done by trying to turn the discussion about you, e.g. (a); making baseless accusations, e.g. (b); burdening you with commitments you don’t have, e.g. (c). Jim follows a long ClimateBall tradition, and his playstyle shares affinities with Brave Brandon’s. Incidentally, both rather enjoy lulzing.
It costs very little to sidestep these overburdening attempts. A boss may ignore them all. However, returning monkey wrenches back can also be rewarding. I chose to follow through “you cherrypicked,” because it could help clarify my commitment, but also because it’s kinda silly. So I quoted the relevant paragraph from Mackey 2015’s conclusion, this time with no emphasis:
Photosynthetic responses to enhanced CO2 under OA are remarkably diverse, and variability exists both between and within taxonomic groups (Figure 2). As the substrate for photosynthesis, elevated CO2 would be expected to increase photosynthetic rates either directly by relieving carbon limitation or indirectly by lowering the energy required to concentrate CO2 against a smaller concentration gradient. Nevertheless, despite the growing body of literature on the topic, clear trends in the photosynthetic responses of phytoplankton to elevated CO2 have not emerged, and the positive effects, if any, are small (Figure 2). Additionally, many studies finding “no effect” of OA are likely not published, resulting in a bias in the literature. That no significant difference is apparent even in light of this bias suggests the net effects of OA on photosynthesis are minor for a large proportion of phytoplankton species. The small effect could indicate that the benefits afforded by high CO2 are small relative to the cell’s overall energy and material balances. Alternatively, the small effect of OA could indicate that its expected benefit to photosynthesis is counteracted by other negative effects, such as possible respiratory costs from low pH. Moving forward in OA research, experiments should encompass a broader suite of measurements to probe how different physiological processes in addition to photosynthesis respond to OA.
I also tweeted the Figure 2 into the thread:
The cherrypicking accusation can’t hold – I’m not distorting what the authors are saying. It doesn’t parry the simple point that one does not simply cite a paper that says CO2 doesn’t make photosynthesis less costly in any significant manner and then claim that CO2 makes photosynthesis less costly. At least insofar as one would like to make that thesis significant.
Jim’s only response in that sub-thread was to misread a comment that wasn’t directed at him. Of course he persisted in perpetrating (a)-(c) above elsewhere in the comments, not without trying to mitigate his own well poisoning by echoing the chamber’s sentiments and by throwing some other squirrels.
The most expedient way to meet my point would have been for Jim to own his thesis. All he had to do, then, was to amend his text to clarify that, in contrast to Mackey 2015, he himself argues that CO2 makes photosynthesis less costly. Then would follow some arguments to that effect, preferably not mere handwaving toward Gaia.
That would have met the criticism like a boss.
There are three other exchanges between me and Jim in that episode. They more or less follow the same pattern. Let’s end this note with my second contribution, which underlined that Jim’s
It has been estimated that without the biological pump, pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 would have out gassed and raised atmospheric CO2 to 500 ppm, instead of the observed 280 ppm.
cites what I believe is a preprint to an encyclopedic entry, which itself cites Maier-Reimer 1996. Citing a secondary source for something like an estimate is suboptimal. I don’t know why Jim did this, nor do I care to know. Jim’s motivations are none of my concerns.
Here again, instead of taking that criticism like a boss, Jim accused me of dishonesty. To meet that criticism like a boss, all Jim needed to do was to correct one single URL.
Nevertheless, hours of frenzied ClimateBall can save minutes editing.