29 Aug (FORBES BLOGS) – I was listening to NPR the other day when I heard the New York Times’ Justin Gillis blithely mention that “experts” say sea level could rise three to six feet this century!
by Patrick J. Michaels
He’s right. That would be two outlier scientists who are beyond even the new projections made by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which likes to bill itself as the “consensus of scientists.” (More completely, that would be the consensus of scientists who built their careers on the global warming gravy plane and really don’t want to go back to coach.)
Gillis has taken over the Times’ global warming beat from the much more careful Andy Revkin, and he isn’t shy about pushing lurid warming stories. He’s not, because Gillis wants action, which, in its latest incarnation, would be a tax on everything we do that in some way is powered by fossil fuels. That would mean pretty much everything we do.
He first bloomed on my radar two years ago, when he wrote a breathless piece entitled, “A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself.”
Really? Well, the surface temperature is a bit warmer than it was in 1900—about 1.4°F worth. Since then, U.S. corn yields more than quintupled. Wheat yields tripled. After World War II, world crop production began an upward march at a remarkably constant rate, thanks to the way that science, technology and markets conspire to feed us all.
Hint: Mountains of satellite data show the planet is a greener place, thanks to longer growing seasons and the fact that carbon dioxide itself—the result of what some call pernicious economic activity—is plant food and also makes them use less water for the same growth.
That’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s high school science.
High school math also has a few problems with a sea level rise of even three feet.
The experts Gillis referred to are looking at the period 1990-2100. According to satellite data (to which some dodgy upwards adjustments have been added), we’ve seen a rise of 2.9 inches since 1990. The latest published estimates of direct loss from Greenland by 2100 max out at around four inches, and the current IPCC climate compendium has Antarctica actually gaining ice from increased snowfall in the slightly warmer air. We’ll be charitable and say it actually raises sea level an inch, and add a couple more per the IPCC’s estimates of ice loss elsewhere on the planet.
Totaled up, that’s 9.9 inches of rise, including what has happened since 1990 and what melting ice should contribute by 2100. Where’s the other 26.1 inches required to get to Gillis’ minimum of three feet?
The answer is that the 26.1 inches must be the amount that the ocean will expand as it warms. Using the UN’s own numbers, that requires a surface temperature rise of 18°F between now and the end of the century.
My guess is that more careful people at the Times know this is impossible.
Further, the planet ought to get cracking on this, pronto, as we’re about to finish 17 straight years with no statistically significant warming in any of the annual global surface temperature records. In other words, we’re going to have to go from no significant warming to 2.1 degrees per decade, a figure that, to my knowledge, has never been measured in any of our geological histories of past climate. And that has to start tomorrow.
Getting to six feet of sea level rise requires a massive melting of Greenland. But that was ash-canned earlier this year when Dorthe Dahl-Jensen and her team at Copenhagen University literally got to the bottom of things, meaning the bottom of the 8,000-foot-thick Greenland ice cap. Using generally accepted chemistry, she determined that around 100,000 years ago it was several degrees warmer for 6,000 years than people think is possible in Greenland by 2100. Other chemistry showed that the altitude of the ice was maybe about 1,000 feet lower than today (it actually could have been higher, she noted), meaning 7,000 feet remained unfrozen.
That’s what happened after a period 60 times longer than what Gillis is talking about.
However, environmental exaggeration in the pursuit of a carbon tax is no vice. People spot it and write about it online, others check and find out that the critics really are correct, which gives the public no stomach for a new tax on everything.