In my previous post, I promised to discuss two scientific frauds that have recently come to light. The first had to do with research related to vaccines. The second one is the topic of this post, and it has to do with an environmental issue. The environmental issue is a real one, but unfortunately, it has been exaggerated to such an extent that many will pass it off as just another environmental extremist scare now that the science related to it is better understood. To get an idea of the exaggeration, you can click on the YouTube video and see how Good Morning America reported on it.
The man being interviewed in the video is oceanographer Charles J. Moore. He is generally credited for discovering the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is a real environmental problem. Oceans have constant circular currents called gyres. When a bit of plastic gets caught in such a current, the current tends to trap it there. Over time, this leads to a large concentration of plastic in that area of the ocean.
In general, most ocean travelers avoid the gyres, as they are a nuisance to navigate through and do not hold a wealth of the kind of ocean life people typically want to see or harvest. However, he and his team decided to travel through the gyre that exists in the North Pacific. He calls it a “subtropical high,” and here is his description as found in the journal Natural History1
Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.
This is what was eventually named “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” In his article, Moore says that another marine researcher, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, estimates the size of the garbage patch to be roughly that of the state of Texas. He and some colleagues also published a paper that supposedly measured the mass of plastic found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and found that it is six times the mass of the plankton found there.2
Now all this seems incredibly dire. However, it is nothing more than a fraud.