Sea Level Rise? Check Your Science Before Hyperventilating Please

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The sea level rise has been highly exaggerated over the years; only rising very modestly, far from the rate fear-mongering Al Gore predicted.

“Sea level has been overall rising since the last ice age, with some ups and downs. Sea level has been rising for the past 200 years….Humans are not going to stop sea level rise on the time scale of a few centuries by ceasing emissions of CO2.”

– Judith Curry, “The Blame Game.” Climate Etc. August 14, 2017.

Judith Curry is the personification of “one plus the truth equals a majority.” This esteemed climate scientist and erstwhile professor changed her views from climate alarmism and (government) forced energy transformation, a story told elsewhere.

Climate realism, respecting the science rather than getting ahead of it, is her forte. Curry is a leading foe of (faulty) science emanating from groupthink, false certainty, bad incentives, and half-truths. And amid great physical-science uncertainty where subtle assumptions can drive the result, particularly in a politicized environment like with climate change, the ends should not justify the means.

Her transformation to climate optimism, relatively speaking, has produced a middle view of the climate debate that can be summarized in four major points:

  • Climate is changing and has an anthropogenic (man-made) component, with the enhanced greenhouse effect (other things equal) resulting in a warmer, wetter world with higher sea level.
  • The human influence is modest, not pronounced, with climate models overpredicting warming.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions and rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have ecological and economic benefits, not only costs.
  • Government mitigation policies will have negligible impacts on climate.

Sea Level Fright

Human-caused sea level rise has been implicated in the destruction wrought by Hurricane Harvey in a variety of post mortems. But pre-Harvey, sea level was the scare of the climate lobby to make “climate change” real in ordinary people’s lives.

This seems to be the mantra at Yale Climate Connections, which had these features on their homepage: “Yes. Your Streets are Flooding More ” (August 10), “The Rising Seas of Climate Change ” (August 7), and “Waters Rise, and So Do the Costs of Coastal Insurance ” (August 10).

The same group sent this communication in conjunction with the solar eclipse:

In the hours before and after the eclipse, extra-high tides will occur as a result of the alignment between the sun, Earth, and moon. Those enhanced tides will give us a glimpse of how sea-level rise will affect us – and we want your help to document those tides. The high tides will be visible in many coastal communities, so you can participate even if the eclipse won’t be visible in your region.

Exaggerated sea-level rise was codified with Al Gore’s 2006 prediction of a possible 20-foot increase with the melting or breakoff of Greenland or Antarctica (An Inconvenient Truth: p. 196). Twelve pages follow (pp. 198–209) with glossy photographs showing major areas under water: from southern Florida to San Francisco to Manhattan.

Before/after pictures of The Netherlands is accompanied with the message (p. 203) about how Dutch engineers were designing floating homes.

Sea level riseEnter Judith Curry

A recent blog post by Judith Curry, “The Blame Game,” put the science back into sea level, at least the best research we have now. Yes, sea level is rising, but such is also the natural state of things coming out of the Little Ice Age that ended in the mid-19th century.

Sea level has been rising since the last ice age, with some ups and downs. Sea level has been rising for the past 200 years. The rate of sea level rise during the period ~1925-1960 is as large as the rate of sea level rise the past few decades. Human emissions of CO2 mostly grew after 1950; so, humans don’t seem to be to blame for the early 20th century sea level rise, nor for the sea level rise in the 19th and late 18th centuries. Humans are not going to stop sea level rise on the time scale of a few centuries by ceasing emissions of CO2.

Always meticulous, Curry refers to previous posts at her site Climate Etc. that summarize the peer-reviewed, data-driven literature:

“We need to learn to live with continuing and possibly accelerating sea level rise,” she concluded her post. “The solutions lie in land-use policy and engineering/technology.”


The good news is that sea level rise is much more modest than false prognosticators have led us to believe. Al Gore’s worst case scenario fooled some for a time, but no more.

“I thought sea levels would have risen 20 feet by now thanks to the melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland,” wrote Jasmin Guenette at HuffPost.

sea level rise

“What the hysterical New York Times said could happen to NYC and Long Island with a ludicrous 25 feet of sea level rise”

Al Gore claimed that this would happen in the ‘near future,’ but thankfully, we’ve been spared so far. In fact, sea levels seem to be rising at maybe three millimetres per year. Twenty feet is over six thousand millimetres, so at this rate, we wouldn’t even be halfway by the year 3017.

Rather than attempt to shave fractions of an inch off of future sea level rise in the distant future, policymakers should keep fossil fuels affordable, plentiful, and reliable to deal with climate and weather events of all kinds. Free-market adaptation, not a futile crusade to ‘stabilize’ climate, is the obvious choice for a free, prosperous world.

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6 thoughts on “Sea Level Rise? Check Your Science Before Hyperventilating Please

  1. Congratulations to IER for getting Mr. Shepstone to post their little commerical for coal, freemarkets and Judith curry here. Maybe IER finds it too hard to write something specific about natural gas as they are too busy doing promotion for all the fossil fuels at once?

    On the other hand it looks like some people are focusing on natural gas and pipelines this week.

    By the way, as evidenced in this post both IER and Curry dont say climate change isn’t real, a concern nor do they deny the man made aspect and co2 factors right? So considering that natural gas is available and does release less co2 than coal what’s the debate about again between choosing between these two fossil fuels for electricity generation?


        Well I would say that ier post isnt about natural gas per se and one of the biggest problems on both sides of the fracking and natural gas debate is that the people on both opposing sides seem to lump all the fossil fuels together as one. Clearly they are different, have different uses even and qualities though.

        There is an article about a carbon capture bill in the news . The Sierra club is not on board and the article makes it seems as those with a free market focus might be opposed as well . (You can take that to mean that it just might be that the Sierra club and free market folks might be in agreement on that bill) I have no idea what Judith curry might think about that bill. I certainly would think that carbon capture as well as fracking would fall into the technology category she seems to have mentioned and I don’t see her saying climate change isn’t real , a risk or something that doesn’t need to be discussed or part of policy.

        I get that you are for “free markets”. I also seem to see that r&d is needed for these new technologies and funding as far as I know has not historically come just from the free market for that. Even fracking benefited from doe money right?

  2. I did not hear about the claim by the Yale Climate Connections that there would be unusually high tides during the recent solar eclipse; but anyone with any common sense, should realize the stupidity of this claim. The sun is much to far away to have any appreciable effect upon the tides and the moon was not going to be any closer than normal, so there should be no unusual tides. Did anyone actually report higher tides during the eclipse?

    It is common knowledge in the geological community that the sea level waxes and wanes over geologic time and that the sea level has been rising for thousands of years. The earth has been warming since the last ice age without any input from man made causes. Man made warming will have some influence on the environment and maybe sea level rise will accelerate; but not likely to the extent the Al Goreish extremists claim. If we assume a constant sea level rise of 3mm/year and round that up a little to 0.12 inches/year, a 20 feet rise in sea level will be attained in 4017, 20 centuries in the future. Surely, we will have time to adjust to this very slow change.

    In addition to sea level rise, land subsidence has to be taken into account. Mankind’s effect upon landmass subsidence is much more pronounced than mankind’s effect upon sea level rise; but we hear very little discussion of this fact by the environmental alarmists.

  3. Please see excerpt from American Association
    Advancement Science [AAAS] Peer Review Publication – discussion Ice Sheet Melt

    Science 17 Jun 2016:
    Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1377
    DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6292.1377

    As Arctic temperatures have crept upward over the last 3 decades, prodigious surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet has removed hundreds of billions of tons of ice. But last summer a peculiar pattern of melting captivated Marco Tedesco, a climate scientist at Columbia University. Although the northern parts of the ice sheet experienced record melting as summer temperatures rose as high as 19°C (66°F), southern Greenland was unusually cold, with just average melting. To Tedesco, the contrast suggested that the Greenland melt was being shaped by another Arctic phenomenon: the retreat of floating sea ice across the Arctic Ocean.

    Last week Tedesco published a paper that blamed the melt pattern on a 500-kilometer-wide, high-pressure vortex, known as a block, that loitered north of the island during June and July 2015, wreaking weather havoc. “How the atmosphere is behaving is driving new records of melting on Greenland,” he says. Such atmospheric blocks are just what you’d expect in a world of retreating sea ice, Tedesco says—a claim that has added fuel to a contentious dispute over the global influence of the warming Arctic.

    Researchers at the federal government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California state that even if the United States implements all current and proposed policies, it would miss its 2025 target by as much as 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—roughly 20% of the nation’s total emissions, published in Nature Climate Change. The 2025 target is to cut greenhouse gases 26% to 28% below 2005 levels—down to between 4.5 billion and 5.5 billion metric tons.

    Per peer reviewed article [Shepherd, T.G.; “Effects of a warming Arctic”; Science AAAS, Sept. 2, 2016], “Given the current model projections and the impossibility of ruling out natural variability as the the explanation for the observed behavior in recent decades, the null hypothesis [i.e. climate change is dominated by its thermodynamic aspects] is certainly a scientifically defensible position.” Thermodynamic null hypothesis focuses on atmospheric temperature vortexes e.g. Arctic, Meridional Overturning Circulation rather than CO2 and CH4. Why base an USA energy policy when Climate Change Issues are being debated in the peer review scientific community?

    Richard W. Goodwin West Palm Beach FL 9/18/17

  4. History lesson, everyone: Plus I doubt the folks at Woods Hole are part of some pro petroleum conspiracy. Climate changes do happen, some are relatively extreme and quick on the geological scale of time. It obvious that the fractivists skipped out on their Earth Science classes. The Finger Lakes of NY were formed by numerous advances and retreats of glacial movement thousands upon thousands of years ago, way long before the invention of the internal combustion engine. Science is cool, but turning it into a Religion is not!!


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