The political battle over climate change has clearly taken a dramatic turn for the worse this month, for it now seems media are actually competing to see which outlet can present the most hysterical report concerning imminent planetary doom at the hands of manmade global warming.
*****Critical updates at end of post.
After ABC News published a disgraceful photo essay featuring computer generated pictures of drowned American cities at its website last Friday, followed by NBC News reporting Monday that Greenland's ice sheets are melting so quickly that it "could ignite worldwide disaster," the Associated Press on Saturday cautioned that "In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased."
Seems almost like they're playing a game of "Can You Top This" doesn't it?
Sadly, as demonstrated by some of the following lowlights from this truly irresponsible piece of detritus, media are clearly putting on a full-court press to scare Americans into believing the world will quickly come to an end if we don't start doing exactly what soon-to-be-Dr. Al Gore tells us (emphasis added throughout):
Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Va., as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.
In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.
Nice way to start an article, wouldn't you agree? Sadly, that was just the beginning:
Rising waters will lap at the foundations of old money Wall Street and the new money towers of Silicon Valley. They will swamp the locations of big city airports and major interstate highways.
Excuse me, but Silicon Valley -- which this author lives just north of -- is nowhere near the Pacific Ocean, hence the term "valley." As such, this warning is absurd, and completely lacking any factual basis. But I digress:
Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians-the Bushes' Kennebunkport and John Edwards' place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.
This past summer's flooding of subways in New York could become far more regular, even an everyday occurrence, with the projected sea rise, other scientists said. And New Orleans' Katrina experience and the daily loss of Louisiana wetlands-which serve as a barrier that weakens hurricanes-are previews of what's to come there.
Florida faces a serious public health risk from rising salt water tainting drinking water wells, said Joel Scheraga, the EPA's director of global change research. And the farm-rich San Joaquin Delta in California faces serious salt water flooding problems, other experts said.
Honestly, this level of fear-mongering by the world's leading wire service is totally inexcusable, and author Seth Borenstein should be required by his bosses to share views held by the hundreds and likely thousands of scientists around the world who completely contest the hysterical projections he has offered in this abomination.
After all, it is one thing for press outlets to only present one side of this debate. That's was media bias is all about.
However, when they begin to offhandedly paint such dire and vivid pictures of imminent disaster, it is certainly incumbent upon them to also offer the views of experts who in no way agree with these alarmist prognostications.
Yet, nowhere in this piece, or in the aforementioned reports by ABC and NBC, was one contrary analysis presented. As a result, this isn't close to journalism. This is alarmist propaganda that all involved in the news media should deplore rather than emulate.
It is indeed a sad commentary that three years after CBS News intentionally presented a fraudulent Air National Guard memo during an installment of "60 Minutes," the professionalism and ethics in this industry have actually deteriorated even further.
This raises an important question: Just how much worse can this situation get?
*****Update: Richard S. Courtney e-mailed me the following concerning this abomination with permission to reprint (emphasis his throughout):
Rarely have I read such a collection of unsubstantiated and scare-mongering twaddle.
Global sea level has been rising for the 10,000 years since the last ice age, and no significant change to the rate of sea level rise has been observed recently. Real studies and model studies of sea level change deny the untrue assertions in the article. And there are far, far too many such studies for me to cite them all. So, I provide the following as examples.
Church, J.A., White, N.J., Coleman, R., Lambeck, K. and Mitrovica, J.X. 2004. Estimates of the regional distribution of sea level rise over the 1950-2000 period. Journal of Climate 17: 2609-2625.
Cazenave, A. and Nerem, R.S. 2004. Present-day sea level change: observations and causes. Reviews of Geophysics 42: 10.1029/2003RG000139.
Lombard, A., Cazenave, A., Le Traon, P.-Y. and Ishii, M. 2005. Contribution of thermal expansion to present-day sea-level change revisited. Global and Planetary Change 47: 1-16.
Jevrejeva, S., Grinsted, A., Moore, J.C. and Holgate, S. 2006. Nonlinear trends and multiyear cycles in sea level records. Journal of Geophysical Research 111: 10.1029/2005JC003229.
In the above references, Church et al. say their "best estimate" of the rate of globally-averaged sea level rise over the last half of the 20th century was 1.8 ± 0.3 mm/year. In addition, they noted that "decadal variability in sea level is observed, but to date there is no detectable secular increase in the rate of sea level rise over the period 1950-2000." What is more, they reported that no increase in the rate of sea level rise has been detected for the entire 20th century, citing the work of Woodworth (1990) and Douglas (1992).
A continuing rise of ~2 mm/year for the next 100 years would raise sea level by ~0.2 m as it did during the twentieth century. And it is hard to see any justification for Andrew Weaver's claim that "We're going to get a meter and there's nothing we can do about it," unless he is talking about the next 500 years.
Cazenave et al. estimated that "the geocentric rate of global mean sea level rise over the last decade (1993-2003) is now known to be very accurate, +2.8 ± 0.4 mm/year, as determined from TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason altimeter measurements," and "this rate is significantly larger than the historical rate of sea level change measured by tide gauges during the past decades (in the range of 1-2 mm/year)." However, they attribute this apparent recent increase to "decadal variability" (resulting from e.g. "the Pacific Decadal Oscillation") and "geographical variability" that biases the sea level gauge results that they are comparing to the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite measurements. So, they also find no significant recent increase to the rate of sea level rise of 1-2 mm/year.
The work of Lombard et al. confirms the findings of Cazenave et al.. Lombard et al. investigated the temperature-induced (i.e. thermosteric) sea-level change of the last 50 years using the global ocean temperature data of Levitus et al. (2000) and Ishii et al. (2003). They found that thermosteric sea level variations are dominated by decadal oscillations of the major ocean-atmosphere climatic perturbations (El Niño-Southern Oscillation, Pacific Decadal Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation). In terms of the global mean, as they describe it, thermosteric trends computed over 10-year windows "show large fluctuations in time, with positive values (in the range 1 to 1.5 mm/year for the decade centered on 1970) and negative values (-1 to -1.5 mm/year for the decade centered on 1980)."
Jevrejeva et al. also say that "global sea level rise is irregular and varies greatly over time,". Importantly, they say "it is apparent that rates in the 1920-1945 period are likely to be as large as today's" (emphasis added). And they say, their "global sea level trend estimate of 2.4 ± 1.0 mm/year for the period from 1993 to 2000 matches the 2.6 ± 0.7 mm/year sea level rise found from TOPEX/Poseidon altimeter data".
Not only do real studies show no increase to rate of sea level change, the article you provide gives reasons for concern that are nonsense.
Far too few glaciers are monitored for any assessment of their total loss or gain. Some are growing and others shrinking. On average they have all been shrinking (with periods of growth) since the end of the last ice age 10 thousand years ago. The additional water to the environment from melting glaciers has been increasing sea level for that 10,000 years.
There is no threat of sea level rise from "disappearing ice sheets"; none, not any, zilch.
Arctic ice sheets are floating and, therefore, their complete melting would have no effect on sea level (as anybody can test by melting an ice cube in a glass of water and noting that there is no change to the water level). Antarctic ice is accumulating and, therefore, could be expected to reduce sea level by loading the Antarctic landmass with ice that would otherwise be water in the oceans. Furthermore, Näslund et al. used data on ice sheet bed and surface topography for western Dronning Maud Land in East Antarctica to calculate volume changes for that part of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet for scenarios of as much as 10°C warming. They say their model study is applicable to the Antarctic ice as a whole, and they concluded that it would take the ice sheet some 20,000 years to stabilize, and at a volume similar to the volume it now has.
(ref. Näslund, J.O., Fastook, J.L and Holmlund, P. 2000. Numerical modeling of the ice sheet in western Dronning Maud Land, East Antarctica: impacts of present, past and future climates. Journal of Glaciology 46: 54-66)
And the "warmer waters expanding" is a situation of 'no change'. The warmer waters have been expanding for 10,000 years and - as the above references demonstrate - the warmer waters continue to expand at unchanging rates.
Simply, there is no reason to suppose that sea level rise will be more of a problem in this century than it was in the last century or each of the previous ten centuries.
I expect more responses to this pathetic excuse for journalism in the next 24 hours, and will share them as soon as possible.
*****Update II: It appears that Borenstein may have misquoted one of his sources for this piece, or, at the very least, quoted him out of context. Toward the end of the article, Borenstein wrote:
Even John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a scientist often quoted by global warming skeptics, said he figures the seas will rise at least 16 inches by the end of the century. But he tells people to prepare for a rise of about three feet just in case.
Well, I e-mailed Dr. Christy, and this was his verbatim response:
Please note that there are no quotes in the comment. In other words Bornstien [sic] is interpreting my comments because none of my quotes were evidently in concert with the them [sic] of the story. Our main discussion was about sea level rise from hurricane storm surges. I spoke about this as the real danger - not 1 inch per decade (or about 16 inches per century). My point was that since storm surges are the real problem, so being ready for 3 feet is better than nothing.
Interesting, wouldn't you agree? According to Christy, he was speaking to Borenstein about sea level rises during hurricanes. But that's NOT what Borenstein reported.
See how this game works, folks?