Thursday, August 12, 2010

Straker's Comment

Following is my response to Straker's comment to Pogy. I hope maybe it will help to answer questions other people may have but not bother to ask. His comments are in black - my reply is blue.

"I finally concluded that something in the atmosphere (I still don't know exactly what combination) is the ONLY explanation that fits the empirical facts."

That's what I'm talking about. You've already decided, and so your entire blog is designed to back up your theory, right up its name which seems to express your exasperation that nobody is paying attention. The question you ask "WHAT is killing trees?" is entirely rhetorical since you've already answered it in your own mind.

Not really - I would be perfectly happy if someone offered an alternative explanation that fits the facts. So far, NO ONE HAS, including you. What do YOU think is killing trees - ALL the trees EVERYWHERE?

Would I be at all surprised to find out that your theory is correct? No. So I am not being critical because I want to put forward a "don't worry be happy" mentality.

However, I don't think I could possibly connect the dots in the anecdotal way that you're doing. There are too many leaps of logic. To properly correlate what you're seeing to "ozone" would require a whole different method of research besides driving around snapping photos.

You are ignoring all the well-established scientific research that has already been published, which I have amassed over the last 2 years of search, which can be found via the link at the top of this blog. Do you dispute any of it? If so, with which citation do you take exception?

You first have to establish a baseline of what constitutes normal growth and decay cycles to know whether there is even a problem.

That is a luxury we can't afford. It's obvious that those trees (the vast majority at this point) with thin, bare branches once upon a time had leaves or needles on those branches - otherwise, the branches wouldn't be there in the first place. The question is, what caused the leaves/needles to fall off?

Then you have to start ruling out other causes.

That is exactly what I've done! Logical deduction works. Any other possible explanation for vegetative decline (although certainly real) such as drought, insects, disease, fungus, less precipitation, extreme wind, DOES NOT EXPLAIN ALL THE EVIDENCE. Only something in the atmosphere is universal enough to explain UNIVERSAL symptoms of foliar damage!

This is nothing that can be solved purely through superficial analysis. It's a bigger-picture thing. This sort of research can't really be conducted properly at anything other than an institutional level.

I guess you haven't noticed that I started out writing letters (HUNDREDS of them) to every scientist I could find even tangentially involved in researching this issue, begging them to investigate! I would be DELIGHTED to see proper research conducted at the institutional level. There actually has been quite a bit, in the past (see links) but it appears to have, err, lost funding (been suppressed?), sometime around the late '90's.

Kind of like how the science of global warming used to be just science, until it was politicized - because it dawned on the fuel industry what the implications of accepting the science would be for their profits. Likewise, ozone and pollution used to be non-partisan issues. See Stephen Schneider's posthumous article.

One response I did receive early on from the American Phenological Society, suggested I stake out a plot, and then over a decade or so record the changes. This reminded me of when my oldest daughter had cancer, and her oncologist gave us a list of disclaimers about the side effect of chemotherapy, one of which is sterility. At the behest of my ex-husband, I asked if perhaps we should harvest and freeze some of her eggs. Her doctor looked at me like I was a clueless idiot and intoned, "There's no time for that."

For instance, I read a news article a while back talking about how some trees on the eastern seabord are growing at twice their normal rate, which is attributed to higher CO2 concentrations.

I guess you missed this post.

Does that mean we have nothing to worry about from global warming? No. But you have to be careful not to filter out stories like this in order to put forward a uniformly doomy narrative. It's just not that cut and dried. I wish it were, as stories like the above just give ammo to the denialists.

Oh gee, can you give me ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where a denialist has used my blog or my opinions as ammo? I would be thrilled frankly if anyone even bothered to pay attention to this topic. So far, the closest I've gotten to a denialist is you! You really don't like the idea that we're screwed because we've put so much toxic garbage in the atmosphere that plants can't grow properly anymore, do you?

Neither do I.

YOU are using typical denialist tactics. Instead of refuting the legitimacy of a single specific fact or link or photo I have posted, you attack me personally for various transgressions, including for not being "scientific" enough. Well, I'm NOT a scientist, duh! I'm just a concerned (terrified) citizen. What do you want me to do, just shut up because what I'm saying is scary?


  1. No, what I think you're doing is the equivalent of opening up a medical book and looking at symptoms and then coming to the conclusion that you've got a terminal disease because you have various symptoms which could point to a whole host of things.

    I'm not saying your theories are wrong. I'm saying that your methodology is flawed. There's no amount of anecdotal visual evidence of individual plants that would provide a smoking gun.

    Correlation != causation. Sick trees are not necessarily abnormal unless you go over a certain percentage of all trees, and there may have been periods of sick trees in the past that later recovered. So you have to make various leaps of logic to go from a closeup of a 'chlorosis' leaf to "all the trees are dying because of ozone poisoning".

    So your emphasis on posting reams of images and expecting that to be the only thing you need to do to prove your case is flawed, as there are many causes of sick plants, and overall plant health is something that is measured (like climate) over longer timeframes and measured against all significant factors (climate, moisture, pathogens, etc...).

  2. Don't panic


  3. Or maybe when CO2 gets above 385 ppm (a few years ago) it acts synergistically with ozone above say 30 ppb levels and causes the effects you document. Some thresholds have been crossed somewhere and now plants are dying from the air they try to breathe. Science finds the proportions of the contributing factors, not magic bullets.

  4. Haha Catman, I never saw that, it's great! post will have embed!

    Anon...that occurred to me as a possibility too since the obvious, biggest change that is most uniform all around the world has been rising CO2 - but I asked several experts, including those at Real Climate, and the absolutely insisted CO2 could have nothing directly to do with plants expiring.

    I still wonder, personally, but there is no scientific basis other than more of my logic, which is comparing excess CO2 for plants, to excess calories for humans, and we all know how that obesity thing works out.

    But absent any research to confirm that, I have pretty much abandoned that theory, since there ARE, after all, reams of published research that DO say ozone is extremely toxic to plants, so why look much further? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.


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