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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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New Scientist's errors

An attack on my book that gets it wrong

Update: now that I have seen the five scientists' comments, I find that remarkably they support and vindicate each one of my factual statements. I have posted a detailed analysis in  a separate blog post.

Here's a letter I just sent to New Scientist:

In her misleading article about my book, among other errors Liz Else wrongly states that I `failed to recognize that there is more to the health of corals than the amount of bicarbonate in the sea'. Yet I clearly state in my book: `take coral reefs, which are suffering horribly from pollution, silt, nutrient runoff and fishing'. After doing the interview, Else asked me for proof of a statement in my book that `Even with tripled bicarbonate concentrations, corals show a continuing increase in both photosynthesis and calcification.' Presumably this was because her unnamed `experts' had challenged this statement. I was happy to supply her with the following extract from Craig Idso's book (`CO2, global warming and coral reefs'), which I cited in my book, and with the reference it cites (Herfort et al 2008. Journal of Phycology 44: 91-98): `This work reveals that additions of HCO3- to synthetic seawater continue to increase the calcification rate of Porites porites until the bicarbonate concentration exceeded three times that of seawater…Similar experiments on Acropora species showed that calcification and photosynthetic rates in these corals were enhanced to an even greater extent, with calcification continuing to increase above a quadrupling of the HCO3- concentration and photosynthesis saturating at triple the concentration of seawater'. I am sorry that instead of quoting this exchange between us, Else chose to fall back on unsubstantiated accusations of `misconceptions, selective reporting and failure to see the significance of historical changes in ocean acidity'. I took the trouble to back up my claims; she should have done so for her accusations.

I will write more about ocean acidity soon. It's shocking how few people realise that raising seawater acidity with carbonic acid has very different effects from raising it with hydrochloric acid.