IPCC on acid – if they are virtually certain about ocean acidification, why does X-prize offer a reward for designing a proper ocean pH meter?

The IPCC writes in the “leaked” SPM

It is very likely that oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 results in acidification of the ocean. The pH 44 (see 7) of seawater has decreased by 0.1 since the beginning of the industrial era, corresponding to a 45 26% increase in hydrogen ion concentration. {3.8.2; Box 3.2; FAQ 3.2}

later they say:

Earth System Models project a worldwide increase in ocean acidification for all RCP scenarios. The 1 corresponding decrease in surface ocean pH by the end of 21st century is 0.065 (0.06 to 0.07)12 for 2 RCP2.6, 0.145 (0.14 to 0.15) for RCP4.5, 0.203 (0.20 to 0.21) for RCP6.0, and 0.31 (0.30 to 0.32) for 3 RCP8.5 (see Figures SPM.6 and SPM.7). {6.4.4}

Here are the figures cited, SPM6C and SPM7D:



Gosh, just look at all that scary, red, burning, “acid”. What they fail to note is that the oceans still haven’t turned acidic at the end of their model projections. The pH has to be below 7.0, and a drop to 7.75 by 2100 still doesn’t qualify by the way the pH scale works. Note also, like the Richter earthquake scale, the pH scale is logarithmic, not linear, a drop of 1 unit in pH equals a ten-fold increase in acidity. So, there would have to be an acceleration for their model scenarios to become true. Note the normal ranges of for rainwater and streamwater flowing into the oceans are far lower than the model projections:


Meanwhile, while the IPCC is “virtually certain” a call goes out via the X-prize to design a pH meter actually capable of monitoring the projected change. The X Prize Foundation announced a $2 million competition September 9th to spur innovation in the equipment used to measure “ocean acidification”. Here is the announcement. Note what I highlighted in red.



The Challenge: Improve Our Understanding of Ocean Acidification

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a $2 million global competition that challenges teams of engineers, scientists and innovators from all over the world to create pH sensor technology that will affordably, accurately and efficiently measure ocean chemistry from its shallowest waters… to its deepest depths.

There are two prize purses available (teams may compete for, and win, both purses):

A. $1,000,000 Accuracy award – Performance focused ($750,000 First Place, $250,000 Second Place): To the teams that navigate the entire competition to produce the most accurate, stable and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.

B. $1,000,000 Affordability award – Cost and Use focused ($750,000 First Place, $250,000 Second Place): To the teams that produce the least expensive, easy-to-use, accurate, stable, and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.

The Need for the Prize


Our oceans are currently in the midst of a silent crisis. Rising levels of atmospheric carbon are resulting in higher levels of acidity. The potential biological, ecological, biogeochemical and societal implications are staggering. The absorption of human CO2 emissions is already having a profound impact on ocean chemistry, impacting the health of shellfish, fisheries, coral reefs, other ecosystems and our very survival.

The Market Failure

While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.


Breakthrough sensors are urgently needed for scientists, managers and industry to turn the tide on ocean acidification and begin healing our oceans. A competition to incentivize the creation of these sensors for the study and monitoring of ocean acidification’s impact on marine ecosystems and ocean health will drive industry forward by providing the data needed to take action and produce results.


Making a broad impact—one that reaches far beyond new sensing technologies—is critical to the success of the prize. It begins with a breakthrough pH sensor that will catalyze our ability to measure—and thus respond to—ocean acidification.

Source: http://oceanhealth.xprize.org/competition-details/overview


In the NBC News story I cited about the announcement there was this:

“It is only in the last decade where scientists have begun to study ocean acidification, so our knowledge is really limited still,” Paul Bunje, a senior director with the X Prize Foundation who is the lead scientist behind the ocean health competition, told NBC News.

“But we do know that we don’t know enough, and we don’t have the tools needed to even begin to measure it sufficiently — much less to begin to respond, to adapt to it, to implement local policies that might allow ocean acidification to be less harmful,” he said.

The open ocean is acidifying at about .02 pH units per decade, according to according to Richard Feeley, a marine scientist and leading researcher on ocean acidification at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. “That means that you have to have an instrument that you can rely on to be both precise and accurate for a very, very long period of time, so that you can actually see that signal,” he told NBC News.

So, are the IPCC models based on uncertain measurements and an assumed trend? It sure seems so.

It’s like a bad acid trip.


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More gravy train money

Shifting the goalposts again. “Well, gosh, we were wrong about CO2 causing global warming. But CO2 does cause ocean acidification. So we still need to tax carbon and de-industrialize the world.” This is part of step-down from AGW while at the same time maintaining the same goals.
Notice the same imprecise scare language: “silent crisis”, “profound impact”, “healing our oceans”.


I find their logic fun. To use it in a slightly different example, when a cup of water changes in temperature from 90 degrees to 85 degrees, it is freezing. It is not frozen (as the deniers would point out), but it is freezing.
I love it!

lemiere jacques

Just as the are sure heat went in deep ocean even it is very frustrating they can t mesasurere it yet.
I am not certain we agree on the meaning of being certain.

“Earth System Models project…” Doesn’t that say it all? The tiny decrease in alkalinity is …modeled. Are there
Even if the Ph decrease was real isn’t there a big difference, since it’s a log scale, between 0.065 and 0.1?
“While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters,…” Is it? Where? And is the measurement a real signal or buried in noise and they hope it’s real?

MIke (UK)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s not Acidification it’s Neutralization, its go to go past ph7 first!

Pamela Gray

So I take it Arctic Ice research fund spigots got frozen in the ice?


Another hoax by manipulation of emotions and exaggeration. Frankly it is dangerous because it detracts from very real problems caused by runoff, chemical bleaching, erosion and herbicides.


i’ve gotten into arguments on other science sites about the ‘acidification’ terminology. i was taught that a base can be more or less alkaline and an acid more or less acidic. for some reason, the science community has decided that everything will be described in terms of acidity…even bases. imo, its because it sounds more dramatic than saying the oceans are slightly less alkaline

Rud Istvan

Feely is the Hansen of ocean acidification, and has published some seriously misleading stuff. A post will be up sometime over at Judy’s. Been accepted. For him to make this admission is huge.
And surface pH is not the whole story, not is PMEL’s site north of Mauna Loa necessarily representative. It was chosen because it is relatively biologically barren, so has little seasonal variation. By contrast, NOAA and the Nation Park service report the pH in thriving Florida Bay ( between the mouth of the Everglades and Key West) ranges from a low of 5.8 in winter to a high of 9.8 on sunny summer days. Estuaries vary seasonally by a pH of 1 from around 7.4 to 8.4 ( specifically citing the Elkhorn Slough on Monterey Bay, California. The IPCC 7.8 projection is a linear extrapolation from Henry’s law. But ocean pH doesn’t only follow Henry’s law. There are major biological nonlinear feedbacks, as Florida Bay and Elkhorn Slough illustrate.


Well, to be fair, it’s REALLY hard to get people to give you 2 million dollars if you tell them you’re just curious and it’d really help you finish your thesis.


It’s another hoax, quite frankly they’re just playing games, this isn’t science.


This is one of my greatest bugbears. When will somebody stand up and say that slightly less alkalinity does not in any way, shape or form equate to acidification?


What you measure in PH in on part of the ocean maybe different from one a few miles away. Some parts of the world have co2 bubbling through coral with fish swimming around in a rather blasé fashion.

David L.

Which theory of acids/bases does the IPCC prefer? The Arrhenius theory, the Bronsted-Lowry theory, or the Lewis theory?

Richard Day

I’m submitting a computer model to the X Prize Foundation. I will accept a cashier’s cheque, money order, bitcoin or cash.

Pamela Gray

An infant fresh from the womb is becoming geriatric by age 5. An apple freshly picked from the tree is becoming rotten seconds later. Both true. And both utterly stupid statements to make. Yet we give scientists a pass on this kind of semantic crap?

chris y

I think the X prize announcement is cheering news. Every time sensor spatial-temporal coverage is improved, the concomitant climate catastrophe seems to vanish in a cloud of blue steam. Argo is a perfect example.
If a low cost, stable, accurate, reliable pH sensor for ocean water can be developed that requires little or no maintenance (I think this highly unlikely, given the extreme environment of the ocean), then the ocean pH scare will drop off the climateer’s list of talking points.

nutso fasst

It should be fairly easy to design an inexpensive meter with internal clock/calendar and non-volatile memory that allows us to “see that signal” of precisely .02 pH units per decade.


As our oceans become more neutral due I propose the term “Oceanic Swissification.”

Oceanographers that I have talked with have great difficulty getting stable pH readings largely because there are so many transient factors that affect pH from hour to hour, season to season. H ions can come from many sources and different molecules act as buffers. Changes in productivity, evaporation, rainfall and river outflow change the H+ concentrations. There is a sharp pH gradient in the vertical profile. Changes in upwelling of deep waters dramatically alter local pH in many ways in addition to mixing the vertical concentrations. Upwelling brings nutrients to the surface allow burst of productivity and photosynthesis that absorbs CO2, followed by zooplankton respiration increases that release CO2. Upwelling brings up ancient carbon. UPwelling is greatly affected by cycles such as El Nino and Pacific Decadal Oscillation There are so many confounding factors affecting pH, reliable estimates will be far more difficult than measuring temperature.

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE says

Breakthrough sensors are urgently needed for scientists, managers and industry to turn the tide on ocean acidification and begin healing our oceans.

OK. So which is it
(a) Do we know “our oceans” need “healing”?
(b) Do we lack instruments to discern if the oceans need to be “healed”?
It cannot be both.

Been hearing about that alarming “30% increase in ocean acidity” for several years now. Maybe this new meter will finally help them come up with a more alarming number.

Dr K.A. Rodgers

“This is one of my greatest bugbears” also. Do these clowns understand buffers? Clearly they don’t. Buffers are part of hard science and seawater is a massive, complex and naturally buffered system. I suspect I also referred them to the opening chapters of K.B. Krauskopf’s “Principles of Geochemistry”.


the pH has not changed….
Biological processes that make the ocean work….create millions of magnitudes more acid

Mike Smith

Hey, this is great. I’m going to create a new trillion dollar market in hydrogen ion offsets. The income will be more than sufficient to feed the world’s poor, cure cancer, and save the universe.


As seawater is a complex buffer system, it’s pH is quite difficult to alter, particularly by a weak acid such as the carbonic acid produced when CO2 dissolves in water.
The Earth has had much higher CO2 during most of its history of life on Earth and life thrived during this entire time.
This is more BS and propaganda. Ocean pH has done nothing unusual and remains inside its normal range.


Yes indeed, the science of propanda is well developed these days.Who were the masters of that in recent times? Well Goebells is up there for an award – that’s right, the Nazis. But they got defeated, right? Yeah, right.


It must be hard for the IPCC to come with new scary scenarios resulting from too much atmospheric CO2. I can come with one though as their last resort. Here is just the heading, it is up to the IPCC staff to fill in the rest: Scientists Found Correlation Between Man-made Co2 and SIDS.
– SIDS = Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
– In other words, man-made CO2 kills babies
– It is the last resort for the IPCC

Jay Davis

Just out of curiosity, has anyone measured the pH of the ocean waters in the vicinity of volcanic vents?

lurker, passing through laughing

The so-called noble cause corruption is prevalent now that it will not be surprising if the sensor is actually not working, but is accepted because it yields the ‘right’ results.

lurker, passing through laughing

richard courtney nails it:
The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE says
Breakthrough sensors are urgently needed for scientists, managers and industry to turn the tide on ocean acidification and begin healing our oceans.
OK. So which is it
*(a) Do we know “our oceans” need “healing”?*
*(b) Do we lack instruments to discern if the oceans need to be “healed”?*
*It cannot be both.*

The Monterey Bay aquarium in Northern California uses an ocean intake pipe instead of biological filters to provide fresh sea water. Over the past 18 years, the ocean pH has been measured at the intake as the water enters the aquarium. The deviation is far less than the intra-day change in ocean pH. In other words, the pH change between 6 am and 6 pm is far greater than any year to year changes, which naturally fluctuate over time.
Furthermore, there are no reliable ocean pH measurements that go back more than a few decades, and those measurements are only taken at a few seleccted spots. Global ocean pH may have been much different in the past — we just don’t know, except within very wide error bands.
Ocean pH is another of Dr Iving Langmuir’s Laws of Bad Science; bad science which, upon scrutiny, cannot be verified. Dr Langmuir identifies bad science:
1. The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, [eg: tiny changes in ocean pH], and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause. [CO2 = 0.038% of the atmosphere — which is now being claimed to cause measurable, testable changes in ocean pH]
2. The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability; or, many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results. [In fact, pH measurements have not exceeded their error bands. The noise overcomes any reliable signal.]
3. Claims of great accuracy. [Claiming to know the planet’s pH a thousand years ago, then comparing it with the past couple of decades, and then assigning blame to only one possible cause: human CO2 emissions.]
4. Fantastic theories contrary to experience. [Past ocean pH is not reliably known, but the assumption is made that the very small rise in atmospheric CO2 attributable to human emissions is the certain cause of un-measurable changes in pH]
5. Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment. Get ready for the “Say Anything” crowd to come up with instant, ad-hoc excuses to explain something they cannot even reliably measure.
6. Ratio of supporters to critics rises up to somewhere near 50%, and then falls gradually to oblivion. [The pH scare will run its course, but not before the pseudo-science becomes the entrenched Narrative, and $billions more are wasted trying to prove that Dr Langmuir was wrong about their Bad pH Science.]


But aren’t the oceans getting warmer, and doesn’t warmer water hold less CO2?

Jim Clarke

There was a time when man looked at the world and didn’t understand what was happening. He didn’t understand why some years the rains were timely and the temperatures mild, leading to a great harvest. Other years brought cold, wet weather or a long, hot dry spell. The crops would fail and people would go hungry and fall ill. Man felt helpless against such power and change. He reasoned that there must be powerful beings that controlled these things, so he created stories of such beings and called them gods. He created them to explain all things; seen and unseen, known and unknown. His gods had dominion over all lands, the great oceans and the turbulent atmosphere. While man was still powerless in reality and ignorant in the extreme, he developed his own illusion of control by praying to his gods, offering sacrifices and building great shrines that blighted the landscape.
He gave his gods such names as Carbon Mitigation and Renewable Energy.
Same story. Different millennium.


So … Having no real Ocean pH data for 2013, we can always make it up … all the way back to pre-industrial times. After all we can guestimate SST back then, we can then ‘homogenise’ surface station data to match, we can ‘disappear’ energy into the deep Ocean conveniently just beyond sensor range and the Mann made cherry trees will always sing any tune we ask of them.
Err … Is there some kind of doom laden report, lacking actual physical evidence, due out soon? Are the faithful getting so desperate that they are already trying to figure out what might work next? Well we can always SWAG Ocean pH in 1860 – it will be ‘good’ pH and now we have ‘bad’ pH and in the future we will have ‘doom’ pH.
Much as I love computers, some people should be legally barred from operating them.


“…it’s a travesty that we cannot account for the current lack of pH….”


@Rich: “But aren’t the oceans getting warmer, and doesn’t warmer water hold less CO2?”
That is true, Rich, and in fact, according to Jim Hansen, the oceans must be almost boiling by now.


If a new, widely used, widely dispersed, accurate measurement tool becomes available – then something new will be learned. Just as the “increase in tornadoes” is a result of being able to record events that previously went unnoticed, such measurement technology would lead to a skewed and false perception. Especially in light of the fact that this is an answer in search of a proof – not a question in search of an answer.

David L.

Rich says:
September 25, 2013 at 10:31 am
But aren’t the oceans getting warmer, and doesn’t warmer water hold less CO2?
Yes, according to Henry’s Law.


Seawater has been much less alkaline than now in the past. Also more so. But the oceans, like the atmosphere, is homeostatic.
If CACA activists really believe that rising CO2 will create a stormier world, then the almost unmeasurable reduction in alkalinity they claim is occurring will be solved by more alkaline materials washing into the seas.


David L. says:
September 25, 2013 at 10:47 am
If I understand alarmists’ faith correctly, which I might not, their belief is that even if CO2 is coming out of solution in human-warmed oceans (according to them a very minor source compared to man-made “pollutants”), the gas lost comes from deeper levels. It’s the near-surface waters which concern them, where supposedly higher concentrations of CO2 from the air mix with these upper levels.
But a CACA cultist should explain how this is supposed to work, not I.


“…Making a broad impact—one that reaches far beyond* new sensing technologies—is critical to the success** of the prize. It begins with a breakthrough pH sensor that will catalyze*** our ability to measure****—and thus respond***** to—ocean acidification.
* We don’t want sensing technology; we want something far beyond it, hint-hint.
** If you want to win the prize, you’d better give us something that will let us make that “broad impact”, get it? Wink-Wink, nudge-nudge.
*** “Catalyzing” is what we’re after, not measurement. Are you with us?
**** In other words, you’d jolly well better give us the ability to get the measurements we want.
***** Read our lips: If your bloody instrument doesn’t give us a cudgel to let us pretend we need to respond to something, you might as well stuff it.

…why does X-prize offer a reward for designing a proper ocean pH meter?
They should STFU – the science is settled!

Bernie McCune

Even if the XPrize competition produces a very good and cheap pH meter, dbstealey notes that we have very little good historical data to compare it to. Climate and thus environmental effects require many decades of data to resolve the issues.
The oceans are biological habitats. As Jim Steele notes and the Monterey Aquarium data confirms, the variations are probably going to be very large and it will take us a while to figure out what all that means – even with a meter than can be dispersed all over the globe and that produces solid results. Say on the next generation of Argo buoys?

Wait, So the acid we can’t measure is missing?

Robert W Turner

The cultists fail at physics, geology, meteorology, and history so it is no surprise that they fail miserably at chemistry.

F. Ross

It is very likely that oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 results in acidification of the ocean.

Let’s see, we are told that anthro CO2 amounts to about 3% of all annual CO2 yet somehow the oceans of the world are able to determine which CO2 is anthro and which is “natural” and, presumably, only use the 3% anthro CO2 to nudge the pH scale towards very slightly less basic? How’s that work?
/sarc? Oh yeah!


I think I’ve found the instrument they’re looking for:
Directions: (1) Attach cable, (2) drop in ocean, (3) pretend to take readings. They can put down any numbers they want, without all the usual nouveau statistical methods crap.

lurker, passing through laughing

Argo was touted by the AGW believers to be the gold standard for ocean temperatures and heat content measurements.
Then, when the ARGO data failed to support the AGW apoclayptic scenario, ARGO was shuffled offstage and ignored in favor of ‘missing heat’ and more models and scenarios.
The same thing will happen with the great ocean acidification scare: For the AGw believer, a lack of supporting evidence has never been a cause to reconsider. as with the IPCC and the unexpected ‘pause’ in world temperatures, the lack of evidence is reason to yell louder and insult the skeptics all the more.