Angelicque “Angel” White, an assistant professor of oceanography at Oregon State has found that the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t “Great” after all:
…claims that the “Great Garbage Patch” between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated….
Further claims that the oceans are filled with more plastic than plankton, and that the patch has been growing tenfold each decade since the 1950s are equally misleading….
“There is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists,” White said. “We have data that allow us to make reasonable estimates; we don’t need the hyperbole. Given the observed concentration of plastic in the North Pacific, it is simply inaccurate to state that plastic outweighs plankton, or that we have observed an exponential increase in plastic.”
White has pored over published literature and participated in one of the few expeditions solely aimed at understanding the abundance of plastic debris and the associated impact of plastic on microbial communities. That expedition was part of research funded by the National Science Foundation through C-MORE, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.
The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically “cohesive” plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas.
“The amount of plastic out there isn’t trivial,” White said. “But using the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size.”
“Are we doing a better job of preventing plastics from getting into the ocean?” White said. “Is more plastic sinking out of the surface waters? Or is it being more efficiently broken down? We just don’t know. But the data on hand simply do not suggest that ‘plastic patches’ have increased in size. This is certainly an unexpected conclusion, but it may in part reflect the high spatial and temporal variability of plastic concentrations in the ocean and the limited number of samples that have been collected.”
The hyperbole about plastic patches saturating the media rankles White, who says such exaggeration can drive a wedge between the public and the scientific community. One recent claim that the garbage patch is as deep as the Golden Gate Bridge is tall is completely unfounded, she said.
Kudos to Professor White, who will no doubt now be labeled a Great Pacific Garbage Patch denier, for having the cojones to call BS on her fellow scientists chronic doom peddlers.
Scientists exaggerating? I’m shocked, SHOCKED! In 2009 The New York Times even dared say that The Great Pacific Garbage Patch “doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas”. Doing the math, if that had actually been true, the so-called garbage patch would have been the same size as then entire US Lower 48 states in about 35 years.
I’m picturing two environmentalists after having read the OSU report one saying to the other with typical enviro-twisted logic, “Well, I hope the polar bears really are dying.”
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