The Washington Post’s reporting on global warming has made an important step forward. Post Reporter David A. Fahrenthold’s June 8, 2009 Washington Post article about global warming and sea level rise does a surprisingly decent job of reporting on the issue.
Fahrenthold’s article notes that the predicted increase in sea level by 2100 on the East Coast may be enough to “submerge a beach chair.” The article then notes that the possibility of even a submerged “beach chair” by 2100 is only a “might.” [Editor’s Note: See below for sampling of scientific studies and scientists refuting sea level rise fears.]
The next sentence in Fahrenthold’s article should warm the hearts of journalism professors everywhere. “Scientists say the information comes from computer models, which could be wrong.” [Editor’s Note: Wow! A simple, but elegant sentence that is so often missing from many of today’s climate change fear reporting about what might, may, could happen in 90 years. This sentence is also missing from the rhetoric of political leaders. Paging Energy Sec. Chu: See: Sec. Chu’s assertions ‘quite simply being proven wrong by the latest climate data’ – Computer model predictions are not ‘evidence’ ]
Perhaps most surprising is that Fahrenthold wrote a woeful Washington Post climate article on May19, 2009 that was easily refuted on multiple levels. (See: Wash. Post rebuked for laughable climate claims) Perhaps Fahrenthold received a flood of constructive criticism and took to heart many of the suggestions for improved reporting.
In his new sea level article, Fahrenthold appears to really strive for fairness and accuracy. He noted that alarming scare scenarios of future sea level rise “would probably not happen for centuries.” And he added: “Scientists concede that these predictions could be flawed or flat wrong.”
Once again, these words appeared in a news article on global warming in the Washington Post by a reporter who just two weeks earlier embarrassed himself with so much misinformation. This is quite simply progress. [Editor’s Note: Other signs of recent media progress include: CBS Newsman Charles Osgood A Climate Skeptic? Questions Whether Quiet Sun May ‘Counteract’ Global Warming – April 21, 2009 & CNN’s Lou Dobbs is no longer convinced climate debate is settled — declared belief in global warming is ‘almost a religion’ ]
Below is selected excerpts from the June 8, 2009 Washington Post article.
East Coast May Feel Rise in Sea Levels the Most
By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 2009
While the rest of the world might see seven to 23 inches of sea-level rise by 2100, the studies show this region might get that and more — 17 to 25 inches more — for a total increase that would submerge a beach chair.
Scientists say the information comes from computer models, which could be wrong. […]
In the 20th century, global seas rose about 0.07 inches per year — a steady climb up tide gauges, even as the world debated the existence and the science of climate change. […]
Another study last month found a threat from a Texas-size ice sheet in Antarctica. If it broke off and melted, the shift of mass from pole to ocean would change both Earth’s gravitational field and its rotation. The result? Still more water would slosh to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, along with the Pacific Coast. But in this case, it would probably not happen for centuries.
Scientists concede that these predictions could be flawed or flat wrong. [End Article Excerpt]
Sampling of scientific background of the latest sea level:
‘No evidence for accelerated sea-level rise’ says Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute – December 12, 2008
Excerpt: In an op-ed piece in the December 11 issue of NRC/Handelsblad, Wilco Hazeleger, a senior scientist in the global climate research group at KNMI, writes: “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise. It is my opinion that there is no need for drastic measures. It is wise to adopt a flexible, step-by-step adaptation strategy. By all means, let us not respond precipitously.”
Excerpt: Nearly two dozen prominent scientists from around the world have denounced a recent Associated Press article promoting sea level fears in the year 2100 and beyond based on unproven computer models predictions. […] Prominent scientist Professor Nils-Axel Morner, declared “the rapid rise in sea levels predicted by computer models simply cannot happen.” […] Internationally known forecasting pioneer Scott Armstrong of the Wharton School at the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania and his colleague Kesten Green Monash University in Australia: “As shown in our analysis experts’ forecasts have no validity in situations characterized by high complexity, high uncertainty, and poor feedback. To date we are unaware of any forecasts of sea levels that adhere to proper (scientific) forecasting methodology and our quick search on Google Scholar came up short,” Armstrong and Green explained. “Media outlets should be clear when they are reporting on scientific work and when they are reporting on the opinions held by some scientists. Without scientific support for their forecasting methods, the concerns of scientists should not be used as a basis for public policy,” they concluded. […] Ivy League geologist Dr. Robert Giegengack of the University of Pennsylvania, explains that sea level is only rising up 1.8 millimeters per year (0.07 inches) — less than the thickness of one nickel. “Sea level is rising,” Giegengack said, but it’s been rising ever since warming set in 18,000 years ago, he explained. “So if for some reason this warming process that melts ice is cutting loose and accelerating, sea level doesn’t know it. And sea level, we think, is the best indicator of global warming,” he said.
Excerpt: We’ve been waiting for the UC web page to be updated with the most recent sea level data. It finally has been updated for 2008. It looks like the steady upward trend of sea level as measured by satellite has stumbled since 2005. The 60 day line in blue tells the story. From the University of Colorado web page: “Long-term mean sea level change is a variable of considerable interest in the studies of global climate change. The measurement of long-term changes in global mean sea level can provide an important corroboration of predictions by climate models of global warming. Long term sea level variations are primarily determined with two different methods.” – Yes, I would agree, it is indeed a variable of considerable interest. The question now is, how is it linked to global climate change (aka global warming) if CO2 continues to increase, and sea level does not?
Global warming may not affect sea levels, study finds – January 11, 2008
Excerpt: Excerpt: The most pessimistic predictions of sea level rises as ice sheets are melted by global warming may have to be scaled back as a result of an extraordinary discovery that ice persisted when the Earth was much hotter than today.
Excerpt: Dr. Nils-Axel Moerner has pointed out, sea-level rise caused by anthropogenic “global warming” is a non-issue. Dr. Moerner, who has written 520 peer-reviewed papers on sea level in his 35-year career devoted solely to studying the issue, has concluded that sea level will rise in the 21st century by about 8 inches. Since 1993, when satellites first began to measure sea-level rise, the rate of increase has been about 1 ft/century, though there has been no statistically-significant sea-level rise during the past three years. Sea level is scarcely rising: The average rise in sea level over the past 10,000 years was 4 feet/century. During the 20th century it was 8 inches. In the past three years, sea level has scarcely risen at all. […] Even the 2007 report of the UN’s climate panel only predicts a sea-level rise of 1 ft 5 in this century (or 2 feet at most, reduced from a maximum of 3 feet in earlier reports), compared with an observed rise of just 8 inches in the 20th century. During the past 10,000 years, the mean centennial sea-level rise has been 4 feet/century. Therefore, on any view, even the UN’s high-end estimate of sea-level rise is well within natural variability. Dr. Moerner is right to say that sea-level rise is a non-issue.
AP Media Shocker: Sea level threat revised: Scientific data challenge fears of sunken islands – May 22, 2009
Scientists have long warned that the Maldives, an archipelago nation of nearly 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, will be wiped out by rising sea levels in the coming decades. President Mohamed Nasheed is so convinced of his nation’s demise he has proposed relocating all 350,000 inhabitants to other countries. On average, the islands are 7 feet above sea level, making them the lowest-lying nation on Earth. Most experts agree the Maldives have plenty to worry about: In the worst-case scenario, if global sea levels rise higher and faster than expected, the islands may indeed be swallowed up. But some recent data challenge the widespread belief that the islands are destined to disappear – and a few mainstream scientists are even cautiously optimistic about their chances for surviving relatively intact beyond the next century.
August 2, 2008: UN IPCC Scientist Richard Courtney: “There has been no significant alteration to the rate of sea level rise for about 10,000 years.”
Sea Level Rising Slower – May 6, 2009
Excerpt: We see a rise in sea level that is below the estimate of the IPCC and we see no acceleration through the past five decades. Basically, nothing seems to be happening with sea level that is remotely out of the ordinary. IPCC certainly seems to be exaggerating the best estimate of sea level rise, and it make us wonder what else they might be exaggerating. […] “The present study indicates that the estimates for the north Indian Ocean are consistent with global estimates, though somewhat lower.” Imagine that — once someone collects data in their part of the world, they seem to conclude that sea level is rising at a rate slower than the rate reported by the IPCC. […] As we have covered many times in the past, sea level is certainly rising – of course, it has been rising for the past 10,000 years. During the last glacial period, sea level dropped 400 feet as water was tied up in ice, and as we have moved out of the cold glacial period, sea level has recovered. The question for climate change experts is not “Is sea level rising” but rather “Is sea level rise accelerating?”
MIT Scientist’s study finds: Data may be ‘insufficient to compute mean sea level trends’ – Decadal Trends in Sea Level Patterns: 1993-2004 – By Dr. Carl Wunsch, MIT et al. in Journal of Climate – October 12, 2008
Excerpt: Conclusion: At best, the determination and attribution of global mean sea level change lies at the very edge of knowledge and technology. The most urgent job would appear to be the accurate determination of the smallest temperature and salinity changes that can be determined with statistical significance, given the realities of both the observation base and modeling approximations. Both systematic and random errors are of concern, the former particularly, because of the changes in technology and sampling methods over the many decades, the latter from the very great spatial and temporal variability. It remains possible that the database is insufficient to compute mean sea level trends with the accuracy necessary to discuss the impact of global warming – as disappointing as this conclusion may be. The priority has to be to make such calculations possible in the future.
Excerpt: New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin publicly chastised NASA warming scientist James Hansen for promoting sea level claims that are at the upper boundary of what is “even physically possible.” “[Hansen’s] views are clearly at the upper boundary of what many glaciologists and oceanographers together see as realistic, or even physically possible, in a warming world,” Revkin wrote on January 5, 2009.
‘Sea level rise has been taking place almost monotonically over the past 8,000 years’ – January 4, 2008
Excerpt: Sea level rise has been taking place almost monotonically over the past 8,000 years, with substantial decadal variability embedded in the trend. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected.” In 2007, IPCC notes “Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.” A key question is not whether sea level is rising, but rather, has there been any acceleration in the rise – the jury is still very much out on that issue.
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