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Patrick Moore: a Review of 'Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom'

Analyzing the initial four chapters of Patrick Moore's recent climate-change denial book, Notes from the Road delivers a scathing critique, systematically debunking each chapter as a compilation of misinformation and pseudoscience.

I

received a copy of Patrick Moore's book, Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom from a friend who went down the anti-climate change denialist rabbithole. In this concise work, Moore uses internet news headlines to propagate a series of misleading assertions and flat-out disinformation concerning climate change and related environmental matters. His content is tailored for easy consumption but contains inaccurate information that aims to undermine established scientific principles, particularly when reaching an audience with limited exposure to sound scientific education.

Before we review the book itself, let's look at the author of this self-published book, and ask ourselves: is this the character of someone who is out to honestly report on complex science subjects?

Patrick Moore Credibility
Chapter 1 Fact-check: Baobab Trees
Chapter 2 Fact-check: Coral Bleaching

Chapter 3 Fact-check: Carbon Dioxide
Chapter 4 Fact-check: Polar Bears

Who is Patrick Moore?

Patrick Moore and his new book

Patrick Moore's new book, "Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom' is laced with misinformation, and features lines of argument that are incompatible with modern science.

Patrick Moore was born on January 15, 1947, in Winter Harbour, British Columbia, Canada. He obtained a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of British Columbia in 1974 and became one of the early members of Greenpeace in the early 1970s. He played a significant role in the organization's early years, particularly in campaigns against nuclear testing and the protection of marine life.

Over the course of his evolution, Moore shifted towards increasingly radical positions, embracing far-right ideologies and propagating unsubstantiated assertions concerning well-established environmental matters. This transformation coincided with his transition into a consultancy role for various industries, including nuclear energy, logging, plastics, and GMO companies. Under the banner of his company, Greenspirit Enterprises, he offered greenwashing services through the deployment of public relations tactics aimed at alleviating concerns or diverting public attention from underlying issues.

Throughout his career, from Greenpeace to Greenspirit, Moore’s skills have been as a communicator; simplifying ideas; distilling them down to a pedestrian level. 

Patrick Moore’s many dubious claims, adherence to pseudoscience and to extremist, far-right views should be a sign to anybody who may take his claims seriously. Here are some examples:

Encouraging Others to Drink Roundup

Patrick Moore's televised request for others to drink Roundup was a highly controversial and widely criticized incident that occurred when he was promoting the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, on a popular talk show in France. During the interview, Moore challenged the safety concerns surrounding the herbicide and went to great lengths to prove his point by saying on-air that it was harmless enough to consume. But when the host surprised Moore by offering to give him a glass of Roundup to drink, Moore was cornered and said, “I’m not an idiot.”

Moore's recklessness with advocating the safety of known poisons was met with strong backlash from environmentalists, scientists, and health experts who pointed out the potential dangers of glyphosate exposure.

Video Shows Patrick Moore Refusing Glass of Roundup

Attacks on Greta Thunberg

Patrick Moore's repeated verbal attacks on Greta Thunberg should be a sign that he is not qualified to discuss serious climate change science ideas. Greta Thunberg is a young climate activist who has gained worldwide recognition for her passionate advocacy for addressing climate change. Moore, on the other hand, is a former environmentalist who became associated with industries and individuals known for their opposition to climate action. Attacking a young activist who is genuinely concerned about the planet's future and advocating for a more sustainable world is not a good look.

Moore's criticisms of Thunberg - claiming she was too young to have an opinion, and too autistic, lacked substance and were laced with personal attacks, rather than addressing the issues at hand. Engaging in ad hominem attacks rather than engaging in a constructive debate is a sign of a lack of interest in scientific discourse.

Greta Thunberg looking resilient while being verbally attacked by Patrick Moore

Greta Thunberg is a world-renowned advocate for climate activism. Instead of attacking her age for her aspergers diagnosis or her age, Patrick Moore should communicate his disagreements with the consensus science.

Greta Thunberg's messages are rooted in scientific consensus and are backed by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. Her message is basically: follow the science. Attacking her for her stance on climate change disregards the body of scientific evidence that supports her concerns. 

If people under the age of 21 can’t have their own voices or help change history, then what do we think of Joan of Arc, who led the French army at age 13? What do we think of Bob Weir, who helped found the Grateful Dead at age 16? What about James Monroe, who signed the declaration of independence at age 18? What about Malala Yousafzai, who at age 17 won the nobel prize? Or Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein at age 18? Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world at age 18? Or Mozart, who wrote his first symphony at age 8?

Greta Thunberg, like anyone else, has the right to communicate her views on climate science and advocate for addressing climate change. Her diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome should not be a basis for denying her that right. Thunberg's ability to speak on climate science is not determined by her neurodiversity but rather by her knowledge, research, and understanding of the subject. She has effectively conveyed the urgency of climate action and has become a prominent figure in the global climate movement.

It is important to judge individuals on the substance of their arguments, their knowledge, and their dedication to the cause, rather than their personal characteristics. Discriminating against or silencing someone based on their neurodiversity is counterproductive to fostering informed dialogue. Thunberg's advocacy, despite her Asperger's diagnosis, has contributed to the broader conversation on climate science and the urgent need for action.

Moore's verbal attacks on Greta Thunberg are out of line and show his ignorance on climate science, because they undermine respectful discourse, attacked an individual who was simply advocating for climate action, and disregarded the scientific consensus on climate change, all of which detracted from meaningful discussions about a critical global issue.

Greenpeace Co-Founder Claim

Patrick Moore's claim of being a co-founder or founder of Greenpeace is a false assertion that has been widely dismissed by both the organization and other original members. Even in 2023, in his new book, “Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom”, Moore rehashes this false narrative, by opening the back cover with a quote that begins, “Patrick Moore, Cofounder of Greenpeace…” 

In reality, Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver, Canada, as the Don't Make a Wave Committee in 1970 by a group of dedicated activists, including Irving Stowe, Dorothy Stowe, Ben Metcalfe, Marie Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Bob Hunter, among others. Patrick Moore did join Greenpeace in its early years, around 1971, and he played a role as a member of the crew on one of their early protest voyages, but he was not one of the founding members.

Moore's insinuation that he was a co-founder or founder of Greenpeace has been viewed as an attempt to bolster his credibility. Moore's association with Greenpeace was relatively brief, and he later distanced himself from the organization, evolving into a vocal advocate for industries and positions that were often at odds with Greenpeace's original environmental mission.

In Moore's case, his involvement with Greenpeace primarily revolved around more straightforward and immediate environmental concerns, such as protesting nuclear testing in the Pacific and advocating for the preservation of whales. Climate change, being a complex and scientifically rigorous issue, requires expertise in climatology, environmental science, or related fields, which Moore did not possess. His claims and actions related to climate change have been met with skepticism, as they lack the scientific foundation that experts in the field provide. It's important for individuals to critically assess the credentials and expertise of those speaking on complex scientific topics like climate change.

Patrick Moore is a January 6 Insurrectionist Sympathizer

Patrick Moore's sympathetic views toward the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol, which involved the storming of the Capitol building by a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump, have been widely criticized as antithetical to his credibility on complex scientific topics like climate change. His support or sympathy for the insurrection is concerning for several reasons.

The January 6 insurrection was a highly dangerous, violent and unlawful event that sought to undermine the democratic processes of the United States. By expressing support for the insurrection, Moore aligns himself with actions that fundamentally undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, which are critical for addressing complex issues like climate change through proper legislative and policy mechanisms.

Second, embracing or sympathizing with actions that promote disinformation, conspiracy theories, and political extremism can erode public trust and rational discourse. The same disinformation tactics that have fueled political extremism in some contexts can be found in climate change denial, which hinders constructive dialogue on this complex and scientifically established issue.

Moore's support for the insurrection undermines his credibility when discussing climate change, as it suggests a willingness to disregard facts, evidence, and the democratic processes that underpin sound scientific and policy decisions. It can lead to doubts about his commitment to rational and evidence-based discourse, which is essential when addressing the complexities of climate science and policy.

What Expertise and Evidence does Patrick Moore Have in Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom

Patrick Moore’s book is largely a climate change denialist book. In this book, Moore responds to various sensationalist internet headlines and uses the wording chosen by the editor as a means to try to discredit various foundational aspects of modern ecology.

  • He interviews no experts or scientists
  • He has no formal education in climate science
  • He has never published peer-reviewed studies or been involved in climate research
  • His pseudoscientific statements on climate change are not supported by the scientific community

 

Chapter 1: Patrick Moore's Claims about Baobab Tree Health in Africa is False

In the first chapter of Patrick Moore’s Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom, he decries a June 2018 news cycle that was based on a study published in the journal Plant Nature, a well-respected botany journal. Such nature, science and environment stories are commonplace. They are reactions to published science reports, and thousands of them are written daily. Every day, there are articles condensing a study about the decline of a frog, or a fish, or a habitat, as it relates to climate change. This particular study would not have been all that notable, except that its subject— the largest baobabs in the world— captivated the attention of the world because…everybody loves giant and ancient baobabs. To people around the world, baobabs are a symbol of wild Africa.

It is important to note here that Patrick Moore is actually attempting to discredit the science that links the impact of climate-fueled drought on arid regions…but he relies purely on the headline as his evidence that the research must be bunk. However, he didn’t read the actual report. 


An EV Battery-powered Container Ship

Patrick Moore attempts a bait-and-switch on baobab trees. Sketched with copic markers and colored pencils.

So, let’s focus on the science.

Beginning in 2005, a group of researchers sought to better understand how the largest and oldest African Baobabs, the largest angiosperms on Earth, can reach such enormous size and age. The study was possible only because of new techniques. 

In the report that appeared in Plant Nature, they explain the purpose of their research: 

In 2005 we started an in-depth research programme to elucidate several controversial or poorly understood aspects of the architecture, growth and age of the African baobab. The research is based on our new approach, which is not limited to fallen specimens, but allows live specimens to be investigated and dated. The approach consists of accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating of small wood samples collected from inner cavities and/or from different areas of their trunk/stems.

Over a 12 year period, the team studied the largest African Baobabs. They write:

In the period 2005–2017, we investigated and dated practically all known very large and potentially old African baobab specimens (over 60 trees) from northern and southern continental Africa, the African islands and outside Africa.

There are only so many baobabs that are enormous and ancient. But something happened during their research that was worth writing about in a research paper— although it was not the purpose of their 12 year study. Of these 60 trees that they were able to identify by their girth, height and volume, and by their radiocarbon age as the largest and oldest, they directly observed that 8 of the 13 oldest trees and 5 of the 6 largest trees had died, or that at least the largest parts of their stems had died.

They explain:

The deaths of the majority of the oldest and largest African bao-babs over the past 12 years is an event of an unprecedented magnitude. These deaths were not caused by an epidemic and there has also been a rapid increase in the apparently natural deaths of many other mature baobabs. We suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular. However, further research is necessary to support or refute this supposition.

Now, Patrick Moore, who did not read the actual research, claims “The story is so fake that it does not take a genius to see through it."

To him, it is completely natural that the majority of these very large and ancient trees all died within 12 years of each other, claiming that if there were 10,000 of these trees, that the population would be stable. He then cites the estimated age of the oldest tree— 2500 years— and claims that these trees must have died simply because of old age. As a climate change denier, Moore will do anything to use headlines to make climate science sound fake.

While Moore assumed all the fallen trees were 2500 years old, the average radiocarbon dated age of this group was 1,533 years, with some of them being under 1000 years old. For African baobabs, that would mean they were old, but not at the end of their natural lifespans. 

If 8 of the 13 most famous actors over age 50 all died within a month in areas all over the world, Patrick Moore would say they died of old age. But the rest of us would presume there was more than coincidence to the statistical anomaly. and want further investigation.

But, it should be noted that the researchers were not studying climate, they were studying tree ages and attempting to learn the secrets of their longevity. They only hypothesized that climate played a role in the demise of these large and ancient trees, since disease was not present in any of the die-offs. This was the sole sentence in the study about climate change: We suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular.

This sort of hypothesis invites further study, but to Patrick Moore, this study, and the dozens of mainstream publications that reported on the study, it was all fake!

What does the Science Say?

In the sixth 2023 6th IPCC Assessment, the working group reports on the changing temperatures in Southern Africa, where all of the largest and oldest baobabs live:

Mean annual temperatures over the region increased by between 1.04°C and 1.44°C over the period 1961–2015 depending on the observational dataset and, in northern Botswana and Zimbabwe, they have increased by 1.6°C–1.8°C between 1961–2010. The annual number of hot days have increased in southern Africa over the last four decades and there is increasing evidence of increased heat stress impacting agriculture and human health.

The IPCC reports have highlighted the impacts of climate change on plants and trees in arid regions as well as specifically in Africa. So, broadly, we understand several things about climate change and the botany of arid regions like those suitable for the African Baobab.

Arid regions, as we know, are characterized by low and irregular rainfall. Climate change is exacerbating these conditions, leading to increased drought stress on plants and trees. This can result in reduced growth, lower reproductive success, and increased mortality in these species.

Climate change can lead to shifts in the distribution of plant and tree species in arid regions. Some species may be unable to adapt or migrate quickly enough to survive in changing conditions, while others may expand their ranges into areas that were previously unsuitable.

Changes in the abundance and distribution of plant species can have cascading effects on arid ecosystems. This can impact the availability of food and habitat for wildlife, including herbivores that rely on these plants.

Climate change can make plants and trees in arid regions more susceptible to pests and diseases, which can further stress these species and lead to population declines.

Climate change can alter the availability of water in arid regions, affecting the ability of plants and trees to survive and reproduce. Changes in precipitation patterns, as well as increased evaporation due to higher temperatures, can impact water availability for these species.

The cumulative effects of climate change on plants and trees in arid regions can lead to a loss of biodiversity in these ecosystems, as some species may struggle to adapt or survive. So, hypothesizing that climate may be behind the death of these giant baobabs is the right place to start.

Respected science journalist John R.Platt interviewed the lead researcher from the baobab team, and in Scientific American, explained the link between climate change the future of baobabs

It turns out that rainfall patterns in Africa, where all baobab trees can be found, have completely changed as a result of global warming. Since towering baobab trees require and often store enormous amounts of water, this has put them into a dangerous situation at critical times of their annual cycle. As lead researcher Adrian Patrut told Ed Yong at The Atlantic, “If they don’t have enough rain when they flush their leaves or produce their flowers, they die.”

This isn’t the only climate-related threat to baobabs. Research published in 2013 revealed that global warming will soon make many current baobab habitats unsuitable for many of the big trees, and not just the gigantic elders. Not only that, the research also showed that rapid human development has already restricted where baobab trees can grow, leaving them with nowhere to go once their last-remaining habitats can no longer support them. As a result, at least one of the eight baobab species could be pushed into extinction.


Is Patrick Moore correct that the Media Exaggerated the Brief?

Patrick Moore claims that the media exaggerated this story as an environmental scare tactic. That the media wrote exaggerated doom and gloom headlines because there is a conspiracy between, ‘the activists, the media, the politicians, and the scientists, all of whom have a huge financial and/or political interest in (fake doom and gloom).” 

He then stated that many of the articles showed baobab trees without leaves, because they wanted to falsely illustrate that they were ‘dead or dying.’ In fact, baobabs only display leaves in late summer, and are considered by some to be leafless trees because they are so often bare. And even when they do have leaves, visually, it’s difficult to see the leaves in a photo until they have fully leafed out. Showing a leafless baobab is not an editorial strategy to deceive an audience. Rather, that’s how baobab’s actually look!

So, to put a nail in the coffin, I am going to show you the most read headlines about this brief, and whether the photo(s) were of a leaved or leaveless baobab. Clearly, these headlines (and the articles themselves) accurately reported on the contents of the brief.

The original brief headline in Nature Plants:
The demise of the largest and oldest African baobabs

CNN:
Ancient Baobab trees in Southern Africa are dying. Scientists suspect climate change
Images:
Actual images of the fallen trees. Leaves and no leaves.

Phys.org:
'Shocking' die-off of Africa's oldest baobabs: study
Image: No leaves

The Atlantic:
Trees That Have Lived for Millennia Are Suddenly Dying
Image:
leaves

Popular Mechanics:
The World's Ancient Baobab Trees Are Dying, And We Don't Know Why
Image:
Small leaves

Earth.com:
Famously resilient baobab trees have been dying off
Image:
leaves

USA Today: Africa's oldest baobab trees are dying at an unprecedented rate, and climate change may be to blame
Image: Leaves

National Geographic: Africa’s Oldest Trees are Dying, and Scientists are Stumped
Image: Leaves

BBC:
Scientists shocked by mysterious deaths of ancient trees
Images:
Leaves

New York Times:
Scientists shocked by mysterious deaths of ancient trees
Images: Multiple photos of leaved and non-leaved baobabs taken by New York Times photojournalists. Bravo!

Did Patrick Moore bamboozle his readers in Chapter 1 of his book? You bet he did! Sign up for the newsletter and we'll address chapter 2 soon.

Chapter 2: Patrick Moore’s Suspicions about Coral Bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef are False

Patrick Moore’s second chapter of Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom focuses on the coral bleaching that occurred in the Great Barrier Reef in 2016. He says that because coral reefs are underwater, they are invisible to us, and so they are a perfect example of how the media can fabricate catastrophes by hiding them in places we cannot see.

Patrick Moore’s claims, falsehoods and straight out glaring mistakes speak to his complete ineptitude on these subjects, and are a reminder that it’s better to rely on mainstream science journalism from credible publications over these dubious, discredited prophets.

Patrick Moore on the Great Barrier Reef

Patrick Moore tries to pull the wool over your eyes on the state of the Great Barrier Reef.

What is Coral Bleaching?

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that occurs when coral reefs lose their vibrant colors and turn white or pale due to the expulsion of the symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, that live within the tissues of the animals that construct corals - polyps. 

These algae provide corals with a significant portion of their energy through photosynthesis. The relationship between corals and zooxanthellae is mutually beneficial; corals offer a protected environment and compounds necessary for photosynthesis, while zooxanthellae provide sugars and oxygen to the corals.

Coral bleaching can be triggered by various environmental stressors, with the primary factor being elevated sea temperatures. When water temperatures become too high (typically just a few degrees above the normal summer maximum), corals become stressed, causing them to expel their zooxanthellae. Without these algae, the corals lose their color and a vital source of nutrients.

I spent years reporting on coral bleaching during the period in which we were still learning about the effects of coral bleaching to coral reefs around the globe. During this time, I was focused on writing about the other stressors that can contribute to coral bleaching, like runoff and land pollutants from overdevelopment, ocean acidification, disease and overfishing. But the reality is that elevated sea temperatures caused by anthropogenic climate change is the primary culprit of the global phenomenon, including at the Great Barrier Reef. There is no disagreement on this among scientists.

Coral bleaching is a significant concern for the health of coral reefs worldwide, as it can lead to coral mortality if the stress is prolonged. While some corals may recover if conditions return to normal, severe and repeated bleaching events can have long-lasting impacts on the overall health and biodiversity of coral reefs.

This explanation of the threats posed by coral bleaching is a great summary.

What Percentage of the Great Barrier Reef is Dead?

There is a big difference between a coral bleaching event, and dead corals, and even dead coral reefs. I have witnessed coral bleaching events in the northern Bahamas during warm summers in the late 2000’s. These affected corals, which tended to be individual corals rather than an entire reef, turned a color that is almost translucent white. It is honestly truly a scary sight. But those corals were able to bounce back from coral bleaching events, which was welcome news at the time, because nobody really knew what would happen. Now, we know that corals can bounce back sometimes, but that repeated, severe warming events are a death sentence to any reef.

So, you can have coral bleaching, which does not immediately mean the death of corals. You can have dead corals, from coral bleaching, but that does not necessarily mean the coral reef ecosystem has died. For our purposes here, a dead coral reef means the coral reefs are dead, most of the biodiversity is gone, and the limestone structures created by corals that have existed for thousands of years are covered in macroalgaes that make any comeback impossible any time soon.

Many corals do not recover from coral bleaching, and that is exactly what happened to the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 when 30% of the corals of the Great Barrier Reef died.

According to The Smithsonian Magazine, 

Nine months (after the bleaching event, scientists) assessed the reef again via satellite and in the water to see how many of the corals had survived and regained their color after the heatwave. According to a press release, what they found is that 29 percent of the 3,863 reefs that make up the GBR lost two-thirds of their coral, mostly in the north of the reef. Averaged over the entire 1,400 mile-long GBR, about 30 percent of the corals died off in the 2016 event.

Corals can potentially recover from coral bleaching events, but the likelihood of recovery depends on several factors, including the severity and duration of the bleaching, the health of the affected coral colonies, and the environmental conditions. If the bleaching is short-lived and mild, some corals can recover. But longer exposure to above-normal temperatures kills the corals, and most importantly, continued exposure to severe or prolonged bleaching events can have more damaging effects. Corals that remain in a bleached state for an extended period will ultimately die. This can lead to a decline in coral cover and biodiversity on the reef, and, ultimately, the long-term death of the coral reef itself.

The panic around the world, among scientists and the general population, when a third of the corals of a reef (technically, many reefs) the size of Italy all died in a single year.

In 2017, a similar sea temperature warming caused a further twenty-percent of Great Barrier Reef to die off, meaning that 50% of the Great Barier Reef was...dead.

Some good news came in the early 2020’s, when scientists began to see fast-growing coral recovery on the Great Barrier Reef. The problem, however, is that the diverse, slow-growing corals were being replaced by a monoculture of fragile, small corals. This is akin to a healthy forest being chopped down, and then recovers with a monoculture of eucalyptus or acacia - not a recovery of the forest at all.

And so, despite this good news of a partial recovery, the Great Barrier Reef is still under severe threat from coral bleaching events, including another severe one in 2022, and at least one-third of the reef, one of the largest and most important sectors of biodiversity on Earth, remains dead, and the multiplying factors of reef death will continue with successive coral bleaching events.

Moore’s Claim that 93% of Great Barrier Reef is Affected by Coral Bleaching Study Does Not Exist is False

Patrick Moore Claims that the study which triggered the 2016  headlines about 93% of the Great Barrier Reef being affected by coral bleaching, which is the foundation for his Chapter 2 argument, did not exist. 

He claims that these 2016 headlines are a false narrative, without any report to back up the the following typical headlines from that news cycle: 

National Geographic: 93 Percent of the Great Barrier Reef is Suffering

Scientific American: Bleaching Hits 94 Percent of the Great Barrier Reef

CNN:
Coral bleaching affects over 90% of Great Barrier Reef

Time Magazine:
A New Survey Says 93% of the Great Barrier Reef Has Undergone Bleaching

British Columbia journalism professor Sean Holman fact-checked Patrick Moore’s claim in this excellent summary published shortly after Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom was self-published by Moore. Holman found that many of the articles that reported on the news did indeed reference the source. He found the work of Terry Hughes and the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, an Australian government entity which exists to coordinate research around Australia’s coral bleaching events, to be responsible for the report.

Holman writes:

When I emailed Hughes, the distinguished professor who leads Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, about Moore’s allegation, he forwarded me a news release distributed on April 20, 2016. The release, available to anyone searching his research centre’s website, announced the “results of extensive aerial and underwater surveys reveal that 93% of the reef has been affected” by the coral bleaching that was then unfolding on the Great Barrier Reef. Hughes was even quoted as saying only seven per cent of the reef had escaped that bleaching, a condition that corals can recover or die from. The complete survey findings were later published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

Patrick Moore’s Claim that Warming in our Ancient History Shows that Coral Reefs will be Resilient Today is False

Patrick Moore writes that coral reefs are not under threat, because, he claims, “they have survived three ice ages…and many other cataclysms far more extreme than anything happening in the present era. The modern corals have evolved from their ancestors 225 million years ago when the climate was far warmer than it is.”

The research and evidence that coral reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef, are under extreme threats from climate change and other human-caused stressors, are not disputed by marine scientists. 

Patrick Moore on Coral Reef History

In 2022, I photographed the coral reefs of Tikehau, French Polynesia. These healthy reefs are among the most magical places on Earth, but they are also vital to the planet's health and to human economies.

Patrick Moore's statement that current coral reef die-offs and coral bleaching are not of concern because corals have existed for 225 million years is laughable, and not a scientifically valid argument to dismiss the current threats to coral reefs. While it is true that corals have a long evolutionary history and have survived various environmental changes over millions of years, the current challenges they face are largely a result of human-induced factors.

225 million years ago is a time-scale unfathomable to us, and irrelevant to the time scale that impacts human civilization today. Back then, the air was not breathable to us, and the world was alternatively too hot, or too cold, for our species to have survived. There were times that Earth fell into extreme extinction events. 

During the Ordovician-Silurian Extinction, 443 million years ago, the planet underwent a major ice age, causing a drop in sea levels and a loss of around 85% of marine species.  

360 million years ago, during the Late Devonian Extinction, about 70% of species on Earth, including many marine and terrestrial organisms, disappeared. 

252 million years ago, during the End-Permian Extinction, 96% of all marine species died out, and so did about 70% of terrestrial species. 

During the End-Triassic Extinction, about 201 million years ago, massive volcanic eruptions, climate changes, and the loss of about 50% of marine species was among the most transformative moments in the arc of life on Earth.

During the End-Cretaceous Extinction, 66 million years ago, the Earth was covered in massive fires, tsunamis, and a nuclear winter effect, resulting in the loss of around 75% of Earth's species. The Late Triassic Extinction, 201 million years ago, saw the loss of about 80% of marine species. 

During many global catastrophes, almost all of which were related at least in part to climate change, coral species survived and eventually adapted. In fact, most ancient cataclysms happened slowly, sometimes over millions of years. Just because individual corals survived global catastrophes hundreds of millions of years ago doesn't mean the Great Barrier Reef has not lost about 30% of its corals in events that have occurred in the past decade.

Patrick Moore’s argument that coral reefs are not under threat simply because the order survived millions of years is not a logical argument, because, were those cataclysms to take place today, the planet would not be conducive to human civilization or to the richness of global biodiversity we have today - and that is the point - not that some deepwater species of coral, hiding in the dark underbelly of the oceans, will emerge as the future of corals a million years from now - a time scale which is not important to health and productivity of the planet today.

Patrick Moore seems to be arguing about whether coral species will survive, not whether coral reef ecosystems will die off. Of course some coral polyp species will survive! But the death of coral reefs is something different. It is about the collapse of massive ecosystems, that includes coral extinctions, fish extinctions and invertebrate extinctions.

When coral reefs die, it is very difficult for them to bounce back in a time scale relevant to human civilization. I have seen these dead reefs. They become home to weedy macroalgaes that turn the reefs into ghost towns. Most life vanishes.

Scientists estimate that about 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years. Patrick Moore does not dispute this fact. What Patrick Moore is stating is that he thinks they will bounce back in the future, because they can evolve. Yes, species evolve, but evolution takes thousands or millions of years.

Coral reefs are indeed resilient and have adapted to changing conditions over geological time scales. However, the rate at which environmental changes, such as ocean warming and ocean acidification, are occurring due to human activities is unprecedented in the history of coral reefs. This rapid change exceeds the ability of corals to adapt and recover.

My Experience with Coral Scientists, Coral Reef Activists and Marine Science Journalists is a Direct Rebuke to Patrick Moore’s False Narrative

Without bothering to supply evidence or make a case for it, Patrick Moore explains why he thinks scientists lie about the threats that climate change and other manmade influences exact on coral reefs. He says, “Unfortunately, the answer is: for academic status and money.”

I have been grateful to have a life of professional experiences that discounts this insane claim.

Coral Reefs around the World

I have had the opportunity to dive and snorkel in coral reefs in Mexico, Panama, Florida, the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, the Society Islands and the Tuamotus for over forty years of my life. I have seen unimaginably vibrant coral reefs, healthy coral reefs, dying coral reefs, and dead coral reefs.

Patrick Moore says that pedestrians like you and I can utilize direct experience to counter scientific claims. That we can just read headlines as a way to counter scientific theories. 

Our direct experiences, like my 40 years of seeing coral reef declines, coral bleaching and efforts to protect reefs, is extremely insightful, but it is not the same as the scientific method, and peer-reviewed research. Direct observation and direct experience are a part of the scientific method.

Work with Coral Scientists

Without evidence, Patrick Moore claims that the thousands of peer-reviewed research papers around the world are to be dismissed because he thinks scientists are after status and money.

I am grateful to have worked with coral ecologists and marine scientists on coral reef issues for over 10 years of my life. I worked with scientists associated with the United Nations, the US Department of the Interior, the Sierra Club, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and some of the most respected individual coral reef scientists in the world.

This idea that these scientists are scheming to concoct fake research in the interest of money and fame falls completely contradictory to my experience. The scientists I worked with loved their profession, and they were deep thinkers who placed their profession above short-sighted self-interest.

Of course there have been instances of scientific misconduct, including faked research, plagiarism, and other unethical behaviors. But these cases represent a tiny minority of scientists and research studies. The overwhelming majority of scientists adhere to high ethical standards and are committed to the principles of honesty, integrity, and the pursuit of knowledge.

The scientific community has developed robust mechanisms to ensure the credibility and reliability of research, such as peer review, replication studies, and rigorous scrutiny of research methods and results. Scientific journals and institutions also have ethical guidelines and codes of conduct in place to deter and address misconduct. Every field of science has embedded mechanisms to continue to improve their own field’s ethics and reliability.

Most scientists are motivated by a genuine desire to contribute to their field, expand knowledge, and address important questions. They pursue their research out of curiosity and a passion for discovery rather than primarily seeking fame or money. Scientific research often requires years of dedication, hard work, and collaboration with peers, making it less likely for someone to engage in misconduct for personal gain.

When scientific misconduct does occur, it is typically exposed and addressed through the scientific community's self-correcting mechanisms. Misconduct undermines the credibility of the entire field, and scientists and institutions have a strong incentive to maintain the integrity of their work.

Patrick Moore’s anti-science blanket statements about scientists is sad, and completely baseless.

Coral Reef Activists

In addition to working with coral scientists, I have had the opportunity to work with the same coral reef activists who were part of the task force that worked with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on the creation of Papahānaumokuākea, the vast and remote marine national monument located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These activists worked with the Obama Administration to quadruple the size of Papahānaumokuākea, the largest protected space on Earth. 

During my many years of working closely with these champions of conservation, I learned that their demeanors and professionalism was exactly opposite of the unfounded claims made by Patrick Moore. 

Science Journalists

As a life-long media consultant, I work with journalists, editors, publishers and owners of media empires every day of my life. In particular, I have had the opportunity to work directly with science journalists. Rather than finding them to be involved in a money-making conspiracy, in bed with politicians and scientists, as claimed by Patrick Moore, I have found most science journalists to have a common love for knowledge and education and the subjects they cover. Science journalists don’t enter such a field to make millions, they do it because they love that profession. Science journalism, like science, has mechanisms that encourage the highest levels of integrity - and in my experience of working with thousands of journalists, including hundreds of science journalists throughout my career, I have found no evidence of Patrick Moore’s fallacious claims.

Like any field, there are surely exceptions, and not all science journalists may consistently meet high ethical standards. More likely, bad science journalism most often happens when general media report on subjects they are unqualified to write about.

Here in the United States, the concept of a free press and journalists operating in a Marketplace of Ideas is deeply ingrained in the principles of democracy and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In this system, it is up to the public to consume and evaluate media to make informed decisions. The diversity of voices and ideas in the media landscape is seen as a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. In a free marketplace of ideas, there is always the assumption that bad journalism will exist, but it is up to us as the public to understand that we should pursue most of our news through the highest-quality, and least biased media.

It should be no surprise that the media that promoted Patrick Moore’s are the ones most associated with low credibility, pseudoscience and antiscience. The Interactive Media Bias Chart is a great way to think about where we should consume most of our media. Even if we disagree about what media rest at the top, it should be self-evident that pursuing unbiased, highly reputable media is the best path towards sound knowledge and understanding of the world we live in.

It should be no surprise that the publication that promoted Patrick Moore's book the most, the Epoch Times, lacks reliability, professionalism and has the lowest reputation among the scientifically literate. The Epoch Times is a bees nest of scientific misinformation, and has been central to Qanon conspiracies, anti-vaccine misinformation, anti-climate change pseudoscience. The Epoch Times is considered one of the primary spreaders of COVID misinformation in North America.

Patrick Moore and Media Reliability

Patrick Moore's book was promoted almost exclusively by low quality, hyper-partisan news media known universally for the lowest quality misinformation.

Patrick Moore's Chapter 3: Climate of Fear and Guilt is Ridden with Falsehoods, Factual Mistakes, Misuse of Data and Myths

Chapter 3 is a good place to remind ourselves about the difference between science and pseudoscience.

Let’s first talk about Patrick Moore’s central theme in Chapter 3. Moore claims that the idea that carbon dioxide causes climate change is just an unsubstantiated hypothesis, because there have been times in Earth’s deep history when there was more carbon dioxide than today. 

This is quite a wild statement, even though it’s a common recycled internet denialist trope. Moore is essentially claiming that anthropogenic climate change does not exist, and that the central theory about climate change on Earth is false because past carbon dioxide levels were higher during different epochs.

But this is a gross misunderstanding of the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate change in our deep history. This relationship is a well-established scientific theory, not merely a hypothesis. It is supported by a substantial body of scientific evidence, including laboratory experiments and observations of the Earth's climate over time.

Debunking Patrick Moore's claims about Carbon Dioxide

Patrick Moore's book makes factual errors in trying to discredit the well-known relationship between carbon dioxide and global temperature.

Carbon dioxide levels are their highest in over a million years, and are on their way to being at the same level as during the Pilocene, about 3 million years ago, when giant camels roamed the Earth and sea levels were 30 feet higher than they are today. 

There is an undeniable correlation between carbon dioxide and climate change today and in other eras, but to understand the relationship between global temperatures and CO2 in the distant past, you have to learn about paleoclimatology, and what other factors contributed to temperatures during those times.

This article from Skeptical Science provides answers about high levels of CO2 in the past, written by real climate scientists, with actual research cited.

This speech by Richard Alley explains how Earth’s climate changed in the past, including the role of CO2.

It’s important to understand that Patrick Moore’s downplaying of the role of CO2 in controlling temperature is contrary with the scientific consensus. It's essential to rely on the collective expertise of the scientific community and the body of peer-reviewed research when assessing the impact of carbon dioxide on global temperature. The prevailing scientific evidence supports the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant driver of global temperature changes, and today it is the undeniable primary driver of global temperatures.

Chapter 3 is an Example of Patrick Moore’s Adherance to Pseudoscience

Patrick Moore is not a credible source when it comes to climate change science, and his attempts to discredit it are a form of pseudoscience.

Lack of Expertise

Patrick Moore is not a climate scientist. He is a former Greenpeace activist who has since become a prominent critic of environmentalism and climate science. While individuals from various backgrounds can contribute to scientific discussions, Moore lacks the relevant expertise to be considered an authority on climate science.

Cherry-Picking Data

Moore engages in cherry-picking data in this chapter, where he selectively highlights specific data points or studies that seem to support his arguments while ignoring the vast body of evidence that supports the reality of climate change. This selective use of data is a hallmark of pseudoscience.

Misrepresentation of Consensus

One of the key aspects of climate change pseudoscience is the misrepresentation of the scientific consensus. The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that climate change is primarily driven by C02, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels. Moore's attempts to cast doubt on this consensus without credible evidence is a tactic commonly used by pseudoscientists.

Unsupported Claims

In this chapter, Moore makes claims that are not supported by the scientific literature. He relies on anecdotal evidence, logical fallacies, and unverified assertions to make his case, rather than presenting peer-reviewed research or conducting valid scientific experiments.

Lack of Peer Review

Climate science is subject to rigorous peer review processes, where research must meet high standards of methodology and data quality before publication in reputable scientific journals. Moore's arguments are in the form of a self-published book littered with errors and dubious claims that do not go through the same scientific scrutiny as climate science, and they lack the scientific rigor that characterizes legitimate research.

Financial Interests: Moore's association with industries that have a vested interest in downplaying the risks associated with climate change raises concerns about conflicts of interest. Pseudoscientists often have financial incentives to promote a particular narrative, which  compromises the objectivity of their arguments.

Professor Sean Holman’s excellent debunking of this book digs into the sources that Moore used, and discovered that Moore was using false data, incorrectly attributed to a scientist who rebutted Moore. Basically, Moore was caught recycling internet tropes rather than relying on the climate science.

Holman writes of the graph used in Chapter 3:

As for Ruddiman, he wrote in an email that his textbook, Earth’s Climate: Past and Future, isn’t the source of the graph’s data. “Someone else misquoted me as the source several years ago and Moore has repeated the error. I did not include that figure in my textbook because I did not trust the CO2/temperature data that far back.”

“If he’s saying that’s untrue, I’ll take it out,” responded Moore.

To understand CO2’s influence on climate change, it is essential to rely on credible sources and the overwhelming body of scientific evidence provided by climate scientists with the appropriate expertise and credentials.

Chapter 4: Patrick Moore Recycles a False Narrative about Polar Bears

While Patrick Moore’s anti-climate change book sets out to share headlines that he deems doom and gloom, in this self-published chapter, he forgets the premise of his book and jumps in to announce that climate change threats to polar bears are, “a real candidate for the most fake news story of all. There is absolutely no truth to the claim that polar bears are endangered by anything, including climate change.”

It’s important to note that today, most of those headlines about polar bears and climate change are actually recycled narratives drummed up by low-quality, antiscience sources like Ann Coulter, The Epoch Times, The Heartland Institute, Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller, The Las Vegas Review-Journal and far-right conspiracy websites such as Alex Jones’ InfoWars, who love the use of the polar bear as their anti-climate science mascot. The reality, however, is that there are changes, declines and threats to countless other species, many of which represent much more significant threats to the planet than polar bears. 

While polar bears are an iconic, beautiful flagship species that symbolize the Arctic as well as the threats of sea ice loss, their extinction’s impact on the globe would be much less than that of the decline of insect populations, or the plankton and coccolithophores which are responsible for so much of the regulation of our climate and marine ecosystems. Climate change is never about polar bears; it is about polar bears and the decline of thousands of other species.

Patrick Moore's claims about Polar Bears Fact-checked

Follow the science: In addition to learning why claims made by Patrick Moore about polar bears are patently false, it is important to also understand the research on polar bear's vulnerable status is just one countless scientifically documented accounts of the decline of species and entire orders of living organisms due to climate change.

The vast majority of scientific evidence indicates that polar bears are indeed facing significant threats due to climate change. The primary concern is the loss of their sea ice habitat, which they rely on for hunting seals. As the Arctic ice melts, polar bears are forced to travel longer distances to find food, leading to increased energy expenditure and potential population decline.

Patrick Moore claims that there has been a 400 percent increase in polar bear populations in the past 45 years. This is a recycled internet myth. In 1957, a Russian polar expedition reported that, based on their observations, they believed there were about 5,000 polar bears in the world. This estimate was not made by scientists, and was presented in a Russian children's book in 1958.

Scientists did not begin studying polar bear populations until the 1970s, when the estimates came in somewhere between 22,000 and 28,000, similar to the numbers we believe exist today.

Additionally, polar bear populations are challenging to study accurately due to their remote habitat, but available data suggests that many subpopulations are experiencing declines or are vulnerable. This is why the IUCN lists polar bears as ‘vulnerable’ due to “decline in area of occupancy, extent of occurrence and/or quality of habitat.”

FactCheck.org actually debunked Patrick Moore over his claims about polar bears. The fact checkers interviewed Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, who explained, "The polar bear populations in the areas with the most consistent sampling over long periods of time — the Beaufort Sea and the western and southern Hudson Bay — are all declining."

Polar bear populations may have increased in some regions because new environmental laws protect them. For example, in 2008, the U.S. began protecting polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, and the D.C. Circuit court upheld this listing in 2013, leading to reports of increased polar bears in US Arctic regions.

But polar bear numbers are believed to also have improved after 1960s and 1970s laws in Canada (most polar bears are found in Canada) enforced hunting quotas, and trapping and hunting was banned throughout much of the Arctic.

Reports of increasing populations of polar bears are a triumph of environmental laws, but unfortunately such increases will be short-lived, as polar bear populations are expected to plummet as sea ice in the Arctic continues to wane.

There are about 28,000-30,000 polar bears alive today, and they live in 19 distinct subpopulations in the Arctic. Some of these populations are known to be decreasing, some are known to be increasing, and most have insufficient data. Patrick Moore’s claim that polar bears have increased 400% has no basis in reality.

In the Fact Check article, Astrup explains, ""In the long run, it doesn't really matter what the global population size is now. When sea ice is not available for long enough, polar bears will not persist."

It's essential to rely on peer-reviewed scientific studies and assessments from reputable organizations, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Polar Bear Specialist Group, and climate science organizations, to get an accurate understanding of the status of polar bear populations and the impact of climate change on their habitat.

To learn about the threats of climate change on polar bears, don’t follow Patrick Moore’s recycled narratives — start with the science. This paper is a good summary of the relationship between climate change and polar bears.

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