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  • 21-Mar-09 The latest alarmist concerns about sea level rise
  • SEPP Science Editorial #10-2009
    (in TWTW Mar 21, 2009)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    The latest alarmist concerns about sea level rise

    Mar 21, 2009

    Apparently the IPCC-4 (2007) estimate for sea level rise by the year 2100 are now considered to be not catastrophic enough. As reported by the BBC , the preferred estimate seems to be 200 cm, about five times the median IPCC value and ten times the observed rate of rise over the last few centuries;321/5894/1340

    The only justification given, in a paper published in Science, is a more rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets from Greenland and Antarctic - all this in spite of the fact that no such events occurred during the Medieval Warm Period about 1000 years ago. One member of this group, Shad O'Neel from the US Geological Survey, warns that even 18 cm/century might turn out to be catastrophic. He's apparently unaware of the fact that 18 cm/century is the ongoing rate of rise -- which implies no additional rise in sea level. In other words, the human influence is essentially zero.

    Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth has received much criticism, and so has James Hansen, for implying that a rise of 20ft (6m) was possible in the near future. Their fond hopes have been dashed by recent publications on the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Apparently, it will slowly melt away in a few millennia - unless a new ice age intervenes. (But we have known this for more than a decade.)

    Andrew Revkin (NYT) reports on two new papers in the journal Nature focusing on the WAIS. The paper by David Pollard at Penn State and Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst provides an estimated time frame for the loss of ice that its authors say should be of some comfort. (If the entire WAIS melted, sea levels worldwide would rise more than 15 feet.) They ran a five-million-year computer simulation, using data on past actual climate and ocean conditions gleaned from seabed samples (the subject of the other paper) to validate the resulting patterns. The bottom line? In this simulation, the ice sheet does collapse when waters beneath fringing ice shelves warm 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit or so, but the process at its fastest takes thousands of years. Overall, the pace of sea-level rise from the resulting ice loss doesn't go beyond about 1.5 feet per century, Dr. Pollard said in an interview, a far cry from what was thought possible a couple of decades ago.

    View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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