Global Warming: Bangladesh Land Gains/Losses

OK, so maybe I’ll start looking at some of the issues relating to global warming, with three caveats. One is that I have little time to devote to it (I’ll not bore you with a list of my current projects and responsibilities, but obviously we all have limited time and attention, and I really don’t understand the implication, as I see it, that there’s something wrong with my not devoting some of that limited time and attention to “Issue X”). The second is that I’m actually more interested in the way the debate conducted (by both sides) in a manner that is fairly classically described by the science policy literature, so I will continue to look at that as well as discussing the substantive issues. The third is that I’ll address whatever particular element of the issue interests me at any particular moment (I am open to suggestions about which elements to look at). I won’t claim expertise at any particular point; I hope that Michael Heath and Lance will bring their best arguments to bear on the particular element of each post, but keep the focus on that element instead of wandering far afield into “whether it’s happening or not.” I’ll state what I believe to be facts, but if I make a factual error–or you think I do–correct me, with appropriate citations, not claims.

So the first issue I’m touching on is loss/gain of land in Bangladesh, because Lance rebutted my comment about Bangladesh losing land.

Bangladesh is generally expected to lose land because of sea level rise. Global warming can cause sea level rise in two ways: thermal expansion and land-ice melting. Loss of land is a serious threat to Bangladesh because so much of their land is low-lying (being river-formed delta), and because it is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. They’re too poor to simply adapt, and the “escape route” is through India, which has very little interest in allowing potentially millions of Muslim refugees to come on in. Technorati.com reports that a populated island in the Bay of Bengal is disappearing, with the coast is rising between 4 and almost 8 millimeters per year, depending on where one measures it. (That’s a bit confusing–I assume they don’t mean the coastline is actually rising in altitude, but that the sea is encroaching that far inland.

But what if Bangladesh as a whole is not losing land? That’s a pretty significant issue. And apparently Lance is right. I say “apparently” because I can’t find a peer-reviewed article, only a news article. But I don’t (yet) see anyone disputing the factual claim, although the article is two years old. Here is the source from which I take the information.

The claim is that Bangladesh’s landmass has increased by 20 square kilometers annually, with an increase of 1,000 square kilometres since 1973 or so. The sources of the land are the Ganges and Brahamaputra, rivers flowing down from the Himalayas and bringing sediment down to the southern coast (surely some from the mountains–which have plenty to spare–but presumably mostly from below the mountains where the soils are less consolidated). The report agrees that rising ocean levels are taking land from Bangladesh, but that the sedimentation is more than compensating for that. This would mean that rising sea levels are harming Bangladesh, but far less severely–only reducing the rate of landmass growth rather than causing landmass loss. (I’d much rather have someone limit my rate of wealth growth, as opposed to taking wealth from me.)

A scienceblogger disdains the significance of the finding, saying;

Regardless of the extent of the Bangladeshi delta, obviously the only thing that will determine if it is submerged or not in future sea level rise scenarios will be its altitude. 640 square km of new land is great, but if it is all below one metre of sea level rise then it may not last til the end of the century. Approximately 50% of existing Bangladesh would be submerged as a direct result of 1 metre of sea level rise, more would be vulnerable to increased erosion. I dare say that most if not all of the new land being created from silt deposits is both very low altitude and very vulnerable to erosion and will join the unfortunate half destined to be continental shelf sooner or later.

I do know a little about geography, and about simple math, and this is a load of thoughtless BS. Delta silting effects altitude–anyone who doesn’t think so needs to explain how land can accumulate without increasing altitude, and might want to explain to me how the bed of the Mississippi River came to be twenty feet above sea level.* What determines whether Bangladesh (ahem, some of it, not all of it as he careless suggests) is underwater is a combination of a) delta-building, b) delta subsidence (being made of unconsolidated soils, deltas compress over time), and c) sea-level rise. If a) outstrips b) and c), then you’ll get land-gain, not land-loss. As to vulnerability to increased erosion, yes the most seaward extents of the delta are most vulnerable to erosion, but the extension of the delta’s seaward extent protects the prior, more landward, depositions of sediment. That should be obvious to anyone who’s paid any attention to Louisiana’s loss of delta–i.e., anyone who kept half an eye on the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

Finally, this scienceblogger didn’t read the whole article, which notes that ”

Dams built along the country’s southern coast in the 1950s and 1960s had helped reclaim a lot of land and he believed with the use of new technology, Bangladesh could speed up the accretion process, he said…Bangladesh, a country of 140 million people, has built a series of dykes to prevent flooding.

“If we build more dams using superior technology, we may be able to reclaim 4,000 to 5,000 square kilometres in the near future,” Rahman said.

I’ve never before heard that Bangladesh had built dams and dykes to help hold onto sediment and prevent flooding. There’s another very low lying country–in fact one that is already lower lying than Bangladesh, with much of it being below sea level–that has also used dykes to reclaim land: the Netherlands. It’s possible. It’s costly, of course, and rising sea levels will increase that cost (although I have no idea by how much). But they’re already doing it–they’ve already determined it’s a net benefit.

So does Bangladesh’s apparent landmass increase either disprove global warming or mean it doesn’t have significant impacts? The first claim would be wildly irresponsible, and the second would be marginally less so. But two important conclusions do come from it. One is that the strong predictions of catastrophe for Bangladesh are, at the least, far less certain than claimed. The second is that the error comes from a failure to incorporate all the relevant facts into the analysis. That’s a charge frequently directed at AGW adherents, and one that seems to me to be more often dismissed somewhat angrily than satisfactorily rebutted.

******
A comment on the linked article’s reference to James Hansen, whom I have critiqued and Michael Heath has defended. The article reads,

The [IPCC] has predicted that impoverished Bangladesh…will lose 17 per cent of its land by 2050 because of rising sea levels due to global warming.
…Director of the US-based NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, professor James Hansen, paints an even grimmer picture, predicting the entire country could be under water by the end of the century.

Well, given that Bangladesh has a number of mountains near to or over 1,000 meters, this seems to be an amazing claim. But it’s not certain that Hansen ever said any such thing. The article does not quote a source. The source appears to be a British newspaper article, which has the following:

I turned to Professor James Hansen… He believes the melting of the Greenland ice cap …suggests we are facing a 25-metre rise in sea levels this century – which would drown Bangladesh entirely.

So it’s not Hansen who’s claiming Bangladesh would be wholly drowned, but a British reporter who misunderestimates the heights of Bangladesh’s northern portions. Does Hansen suggest a 25 meter rise in sea level? Well, sort of, and there he does note that “practically the entire nation of Bangladesh” lives within 25 meters of sea level. That’s probably true, since the Himalayas are far more sparsely populated than the deltas. So Hansen does suggest a threat to the nation (i.e., the populace), which the reporter carelessly transmutes into an inundation of the country.

______________________________________________________________
*According to John McPhee in Control of Nature, and my geologist friend who is from Louisiana.

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About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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27 Responses to Global Warming: Bangladesh Land Gains/Losses

  1. Michael Heath says:

    James – informative post. I learned something.

    James Hanley stated:

    So does Bangladesh’s apparent landmass increase either disprove global warming or mean it doesn’t have significant impacts? The first claim would be wildly irresponsible, and the second would be marginally less so. But two important conclusions do come from it. One is that the strong predictions of catastrophe for Bangladesh are, at the least, far less certain than claimed.

    This could be a reading comprehension failure on my part James, but what is your citation that the risk of Bangladesh flooding is “far less certain than claimed”? I read through your post up to what I quote here and could find no cites at all. I also read your embedded links but again, could find no cites either which claims to reduce the probability of future Bangladesh flooding from the effects of global warming (which is normally framed in terms of this century, especially the latter part, and the following centuries when it comes specifically to flooding). [I read the GIS development article twice as well.]

    James:

    So it’s not Hansen who’s claiming Bangladesh would be wholly drowned, but a British reporter who misunderestimates the heights of Bangladesh’s northern portions. Does Hansen suggest a 25 meter rise in sea level? Well, sort of . . .

    Actually he does not. This is precisely what Dr. Hansen predicts for sea-level rise in this century which the Independent reported, it was not 25 meters but instead a meter to several where I quote from your Hansen 2007 link James:

    The main uncertainty about future sea level is the rate at which ice sheets melt. This is a “nonlinear” problem in which positive feedbacks allow the possibility of sudden ice sheet collapse and rapid sea level rise. Initial ice sheet response to global warming is necessarily slow, and it is inherently difficult to predict when rapid change would begin. I have argued (Hansen, 2005, 2007a) that a “business-as-usual” growth of greenhouse gases would yield a sea level rise this century of more than a meter, probably several meters, because practically the entire West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets would be bathed in meltwater during an extended summer melt season.
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) calculated a sea level rise of only 21-51 cm by 2095 for “business-as-usual” scenarios A2 and A1B, but their calculation included only thermal expansion of the ocean and melting of alpine glaciers, thus omitting the most critical component of sea level change, that from ice sheets. IPCC noted the omission of this component in its sea level projections, because it was unable to reach a consensus on the magnitude of likely ice sheet disintegration. However, much of the media failed to note this caveat in the IPCC report. [emphasis mine – MH]

    Please also note this is his BAU prediction, where we are seeing some movement in reducing emissions by some major emitters.

    As I stated in the last relevant blog post regarding Dr. Hansen, he argues policy makers rely too much on the models to the detriment of paleoclimate findings. It’s not that he’s not a fan of the models, but that the climate science community has not incorporated what it understands regarding physics, findings from the past, and current observations into the models which makes their predictions too modest – primarily because the stuff left out is not confidently held at tight margins of error. Then when people quote the models they fail to include the caveats which the climate science community understands causes the models to be overly conservative in their predictions.

    One compelling part of Dr. Hansen’s general argument, repeated in his Iowa testimony, is to look at paleoclimate findings regarding sea level rise and extinction rates with a similar energy budget to what we’re creating where climate change occurred at far slower rates than ours is currently changing but still led to higher extinction rates and higher sea levels than currently predicted by the models. His argument resonates among many climate scientists but not all (I’ve never encountered a survey to parse the two groups.) And while some uncertainty exists amongst the missing elements that could or even would reduce future risk (1), those missing factors appear to keep the models’ predictions at a high level of certainty with modest margin of error but ultimately too modest. The latter reason is why we keep encountering more aggressive predictions as time marches forward, such as temp. predictions for this century increasing significantly.

    In the testimony Dr. Hansen presents I observed him once again relating to paleoclimate findings to frame his point. Over the past couple of years I’ve encountered a plethora of climate scientists do the same in spite of how much we’ve advanced the models. The quality is generally gauged by the models ability to predict observations from the recent past to help validate the quality of their predictions about the future.

    1) http://goo.gl/PGyyR (An example of a recent article which illustrates the uncertainty in predicting the rate of Greenland ice melt in a warming world.)

  2. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I said he “sort of” predicts a 25 meter rise. Read the piece again–he uses that number from the past as a guide, and doesn’t actually rebut it. He even mentions the potential of a 70 meter rise if the ice sheets melt completely. He’s emphasizing that the expected temperature rise puts us into the range of temperatures present in the past when a) sea level was 25 meters higher, and b) there were no ice sheets.

    Then he argues that because the melting of icecaps is a non-linear process, it could begin slowly, then happen very suddenly. Then he emphasizes that the IPCC’s estimate of 21-51 centimeters by the end of the century is too conservative because it doesn’t include the melting of ice sheets.

    Within all that he does say that he’s predicted a sea level rise under the business as usual conditions of 1 to several meters by the end of the century. But he’s painted a horror story of a 25-70 meter rise that he never says can’t happen, and he explicitly explains why it could happen (non-linear process of ice-sheet melting).

    So, yes, he did “sort of” predict it. Because he didn’t actually say, “I think this will happen,” I kept it qualified. To say he “did” predict it would have been truly worthy of criticism.

    [Haven’t had time to read your whole comment carefully yet. I’ll get back to it later. Also, I fixed my html fail. And I learned something, too. As a (not very good) amateur geologist, I’m fascinated by this kind of thing. And if you’ve never read McPhee’s Control of Nature, I highly recommend it.]

  3. Michael Heath says:

    James,

    But your description of what Hansen noted is perfectly framed and consistent with the physics and paleoclimate findings for a global temp. we’re now slated to exceed prior to the end of this century. So he’s obligated to frame what’s happened in the past given a certain temp. rise. It’s imperative to understand that given the earth’s climate sensitivity, we should expect such an increase over the long-run if we breach the 2 – 3 degree anomaly given it both happened before and where marginal additions to the energy budget back then occurred at much slower rates than we’re currently observing.

    What’s imperative to understand in this case is that we are not predicting such a dramatic rise for this century given such an increase would require significant melting of the Greenland and Antarctica ice shelfs. But we should expect such increases at some point in subsequent centuries (though not necessarily attendant to this one) given those conditions will melt this ice. We can’t now for certain when because previous climate change for this anomaly occurred at a much slower rate than what we’re experiencing now so those past paleo observations don’t make good prediction models in terms of timing, only for results.

    James – you appear to be claiming that Dr. Hansen is disingenuously misinforming people, but from my perspective he’s perfectly framing what we should expect, why, and what we should ultimately expect long-term with past observations validating science’s predictions. His point here is not provocative in the climate science community but instead well known. Greenland holds enough ice to raise sea levels 7 meters with Antarctica @ 57 meters where the earth has experienced sea levels up to 65 meters higher than today as ice retreated. (Cite: Archer, Rahmstorf, The Climate Crisis, page 139).

  4. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    Nowhere did I suggest Hansen was “disingenuously misinforming” people on sea level rise. I noted that it was not he, but the reporter, who claimed Bangladesh would be completely under water. I.e., I was clarifying who said what, and clearly you agree with me that Hansen did say sea levels could rise that much, so a) I’m not sure why you’re criticizing me, and b) I’m not sure why in your first comment you disputed what he said. I’m particularly puzzled on this point–first you object he does not claim the possibility of a 25 meter sea level rise, then you follow that up by objecting that he’s just following the logic. I agree with the latter, which is why I didn’t criticize him, but you have contradicted yourself–in fact you moved the goalposts (even though I wasn’t even trying to score. Just because I’ve criticized him for other things doesn’t mean I’m criticizing him here. There are no critical words about him in that discussion. When I criticize him I’ll be clear about it. If I don’t make a statement about why I think he’s wrong, then I’m not criticizing him.

    As to my statement that the conclusion is that flooding to Bangladesh could be less than predicted, that also follows logically. No citation needed because it’s a conclusion, not a fact on which the conclusion is based. If current estimates are based on sea level rise without accounting for land deposition, then they are overestimates. Q.E.D.

    [Edit: Maybe “less certain” was a poor choice of words. If there’s sea level rise there’s certain to be some flooding of Bangladesh because the sediment deposition of its rivers is local, not across the whole coast, and particularly not on its islands. I should have said “less extensive.”]

  5. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    The historical data v. models debate is one I’ll leave for a future post. It’s an interesting methodological question.

  6. Michael Heath says:

    James @ February 3, 2011 at 3:50 am

    Your explanation of what Hansen presented is probably the most popular perspective of the scientific community. The geologic models aren’t equipped to predict ice sheet disintegration in a world warming at the rate we’re warming, in fact I think those models take to the year 4000 to get to 70 meters if the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melted completely which is rejected even by the modelers who claim they’re merely modeling paleoclimate data (they’re right). But hardly anybody believes it will be that long now but instead could be a couple of centuries; certainly not those scientists whose research puts them at Greenland and Antarctica (see below for an example).

    So Hansen’s point is correct and he framed it perfectly. The IPCC consensus in 2007 was underestimated, nearly all now put the rate at the lower end of Hansen’s prediction with three papers subsequent to this claiming his high-end is too high but others (IIRC Rahmstorf) claiming it’s a real possibility. The point to take home in all this is quite simple:
    A world with 450 ppm or more CO2 and a 2-3 degree C rise will eventually realize at least a 25 meter sea rise. We don’t know exactly when but I think most of the relevant scientists think in a handful of centuries and certainly not millennia. Many scientists argue that is well over a tipping point where amplifying feedbacks would cause uncontrollable warming in terms of total ice sheet disintegration.

    So the framing of this response in 2007 should be: at least a meter if not several, given 2-3 c and more 450 CO2 is likely this century if BAU, then expect 25 meters sometime in the next handful to several centuries. Of course that in hindsight, now we’re predicting a temp. increase almost double that while still not good yet at modeling ice sheet disintegration predictions yet.

    Here’s two excellent articles on this topic:
    1) This is a recent NYTs article about ice sheet disintegration studies in Greenland: http://goo.gl/UP9F5
    2) This is Hansen in 2007 not in one of his papers, but instead in full argumentative alarmist activist mode about why we need to be conservative in how we hedge for the future regarding sea level rise: http://goo.gl/GelB5

    I’ve been reading about science now for decades so I get how Hansen’s argument here varies from the norm. As does Hansen. If you understand this graph well, and it takes a couple of minutes to understand it, than perhaps you’ll understand part of his frustration and why he thinks scientists need to be more out there: http://goo.gl/P5h73

    John Christy, quoted in the NYTs article to provide “balance”, has no expertise when it comes to ice. RealClimate.org lauds this Times article as a great way to report science; I would have preferred nixing Christy given he has no business commenting on this topic, and instead sought out a renowned expert operating independently of the protagonists reported here for added perspective. I’ve had some email dialogues with the reporter, Justin Gillis, on other climate stories he’s written. I criticized this aspect of his report, i.e., the public needs added perspective beyond the researcher, but make it an expert, not a denialist/contrarian with no expertise – that just muddies the water. This one I just gave out big kudos in spite of the lack of additional expert perspective simply because of the obvious work that went into it.

  7. Lance says:

    Ten ist a leen! (Means “How is your health!” sort’a in Amharic)

    Greetings from Addis Ababa. I’m dying to chime in but I’m at a disadvantage sitting in an internet cafe with pretty much a dial up connection so it’s hard to access all the information I’d like to link to at the moment.

    I will say that The NY Times is neither a scientifically accountable nor unbiased observer when it comes to climate change.

    Over the last five years, satellite altimetry shows average sea level rising at 1.96 mm/year. This number is likely too high, but is considerably lower than the 3.1-3.3 mm/year normally claimed. It is also not dissimilar from the rate of the last century which civilization seems to have coped with quite nicely thank you.

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_noib_global.txt

    As I said I am at a distinct disadvantage in any link-foo fight because of my current global position (a very nice and tropical one I might add) so I will refrain from getting into that kind of argument.

    I believe James frames the argument quite well as far as adaptation being ignored by alarmists. And they don’t get any more alarmist than James Hansen.

    Gotta go to the Markato (open air market) with the Mysteya (dear wife) to buy some lamb and berbere (Ethiopian spice mixture that they put in damn near everything) so I’ll sign off for now.

    Ciao! (Yes, they say Ciao here in Addis. They picked it up during the Italian occupation of WWII.)

  8. James Hanley says:

    Michael,

    I wasn’t fucking arguing against Hansen’s point. Why is that so goddamed hard to understand? You’re writing polemics against a claim I’m not making.

  9. James Hanley says:

    Lance,

    I hope you keep chiming in. I’m somewhere in the middle between you and Michael, considerably less sanguine than you, but considerably more dubious than Michael.

    I envy you being in Addis Ababa. I hope you have a great time there. How long will you be there?

  10. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    I hope you keep chiming in. I’m somewhere in the middle between you and Michael, considerably less sanguine than you, but considerably more dubious than Michael.

    I’d argue this a fallacy of balance given neither of you demonstrate an understanding of the actual physics, findings, explanations, and predictions. There’s three aspects to my points here:

    1) I’m attempting to do my best to present the consensus view with respectable reticence on the more skeptical and more alarming sides in a manner that shows those views are mutated in the public square, which we know is true even in the NYTs per the study I presented earlier on how the media presents the science leaving out more than 50% of the scientists’ views who are more concerned. I’m not remotely qualified to have a position on a subject where there is a pervasively and confidently held view on such a complex scientific matter, and neither are you two.

    2) When one does a cost benefit analysis, including the benefits that having nothing to do with climate change though incorporating these isn’t critical, e.g., energy independence, less pollution, the cost to insure against the most the more alarming is no brainer even if doubt was 50% though it’s not 50%, doubt is less than 5% – 10%. I.e., 3% or so costs in GDP is easily worth avoiding sea levels of 25 meters in a couple of centuries and mass extinction rates that may begin this century where extinction rates are already increasing given the climate is moving faster poleward than migration of flora and fauna.

    3) That not being well-informed on this subject makes it extremely easy to succumb to false trails that avoid the core concerns.

    I encourage both of you to bone-up on the science. I’ve repeatedly offered Lance a reading list leveraging several types of media, yet he continues to present arguments which the laws of physics falsify and where the paleoclimate findings convincingly validates concern is warranted. Our last exchange has convinced me his political ideology will not allow him to consider the science given his policy argument we ignore climate change fails even if we had 50% or more doubt rather than our having 90% or more confidence.

    My point here is perfectly analogous to the argument public schools should teach creationism as a competing theory versus evolution. The fact is one can’t understand why creationism fails 0r adequately consider it until one first understands the scientific process and the theory of evolution. The same is true when it comes to the science behind climate change.

    Here’s a perfect example with me as the foil. When I first started encountering some geo-engineering proposals I was encouraged we could mitigate for global warming at a later date. However my subsequent education had me finding most of these projects will simply not work because they fail to address the amount of energy stored in the oceans and other non-atmospheric carbon sinks, which is where most of the marginal energy has gone, or address the acidification of the ocean and expansion of oxygen minimization zones which threatens the ocean food chain.

  11. Lance says:

    Hi James,

    I will be in Addis for about three weeks. My wife is staying on for another month. We had planned on coming in May after the semester but her mother became ill so we came early.

    If we can negotiate a good price with a guide we are going to head south to the Omo valley for four or five days. It is one of the last truly wild places in Ethiopia. The national park boasts most of the fauna you expect when you think of Africa; elephants, lions wildebeest etc. It is also the home to some of the last “primitive” tribes in Africa such as the Mursi, the Jinka and the Hamer peoples.

    The government here has embraced the whole “climate change”issue. They see it as yet another way to get money from the west. Of course they are desperately adding infrastructure that is fossil fuel dependent knowing full well that it will improve the living standards of the people here. They feel that they are “entitled” to get to a lifestyle similar to the western countries before they are required to make any sacrifices to the CO2 gods.

    This of course means they will never feel the need to sacrifice in the name of CO2 mitigation while spouting the party line about the third world being “severely” effected by climate change, despite no real evidence of any such thing happening, thus obligating the west to send them oodles of cash.

    Pretty good scam really.

  12. Lance says:

    Michael Heath,

    I’m not remotely qualified to have a position on a subject where there is a pervasively and confidently held view on such a complex scientific matter, and neither are you two.

    I’ve repeatedly offered Lance a reading list leveraging several types of media, yet he continues to present arguments which the laws of physics falsify and where the paleoclimate findings convincingly validates concern is warranted. Our last exchange has convinced me his political ideology will not allow him to consider the science…

    Pardon me but, fuck you! The basic “physics” of radiative heat transfer are fairly simple thank you and I have spent the better part of my adult life learning and teaching physics and mathematics. The real question is whether climate models are accurate and given that they are pre-biased to implement a positive feedback that hugely amplifies the radiative effects of CO2 by an appeal to water vapor and other knock-on effects there are ample reasons to doubt that they are accurate when making predictions thirty and even one hundred years in the future.

    When one does a cost benefit analysis, including the benefits that having nothing to do with climate change…

    If you’re done with your usual condescending and insult ridden drivel and actually want to discuss the relative merits of these policies count me in.

    …though incorporating these isn’t critical, e.g., energy independence, less pollution, the cost to insure against the most the more alarming is no brainer even if doubt was 50% though it’s not 50%, doubt is less than 5% – 10%. I.e., 3% or so costs in GDP is easily worth avoiding sea levels of 25 meters in a couple of centuries and mass extinction rates that may begin this century where extinction rates are already increasing given the climate is moving faster poleward than migration of flora and fauna.

    To quote your alleged former hero “There you go again”. There is so much BS in that one paragraph that it would take several posts to point them all out. You claim to be taking a “middle ground” and yet you casually spout claims like “mass extinction” and “25 meter seal level rise” as if they are accepted realities.

    That is pure and simple nonsense and when you mix in your usual personal insults it is more than I have the patience for to be honest.

    It’s a beautiful day here in Ethiopia and damn if I’m going to waste it talking to you when you have shown no evidence of wanting to engage in anything approaching an honest, respectful discussion of the topic.

  13. Michael Heath says:

    Lance:

    The basic “physics” of radiative heat transfer are fairly simple thank you and I have spent the better part of my adult life learning and teaching physics and mathematics.

    Lance, do you really want me to pull out past links and quote you demonstrating your repeated near-total ignorance regarding the physics of climate change? Like the claim that climate change isn’t worrisome because of the relative change in temp. is small as if that is the only thing that matters, not CO2 levels, not the rate of change in temp. in the past couple of decades to the late-19th century, the existence of paleoclimate data for such changes, the measurements in carbon sinks, the anomaly to the energy budget and its future effects based on past observations, our climate sensitivity, or your avoiding current observations like the decline in Arctic sea ice volume? Along with your falling for non-scientific arguments like non-scientific denialists’ conflating Arctic and Antarctica sea ice extent which you actually presented as a rebuttal to the Arctic sea ice volume decline, or your near-total reliance on your own assertions or non-scientific denialist links while avoiding peer-reviewed findings which no competent physicist would do? I’ve saved every one of those links given how astonishing your claims which had you simultaneously arguing from authority as you do here while promoting stuff having little to do with what actual practicing publishing climate scientists understand. It’s analogous to my mom claiming she can dissect the weaknesses in L.A. Laker coach Phil Jackson’s approach to coaching and why he’s a lousy coach. [She doesn’t, but I have no real-life analogies as absurd as you simultaneously claiming you’re an expert while continuously demonstrating you are both uninformed and misinformed to a degree I’ve never encountered in someone who argues with such certainty.]

    Lance:

    The real question is whether climate models are accurate and given that they are pre-biased to implement a positive feedback that hugely amplifies the radiative effects of CO2 by an appeal to water vapor and other knock-on effects there are ample reasons to doubt that they are accurate when making predictions thirty and even one hundred years in the future.

    As best as I now all the models currently used, including those for land, ocean, and atomosphere are able to accurately hindcast back to 1900.

    I would be most interested in seeing a recent paper on your CO2 / water paper point. I haven’t encountered anyone making that argument since the late-90s when a coal mining safety engineer was busy popularizing it. In fact that was my introduction to the existence of conservative viral emails.

    Here’s a recent example of a paper on clouds which have been difficult to incorporate into the models though that hasn’t hampered the ability to successfully model past observations for future predictions:

    The regional model, developed at the IPRC, successfully simulates key features of the region’s present-day cloud fields, including the observed response of clouds to El Nino. Having evaluated the model’s simulation of present-day conditions, the researchers examined the response of simulated clouds in a warmer climate such as it might be in 100 years from now. The tendency for clouds to thin and cloud cover to reduce was more pronounced in this model than in any of the current global models.
    Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, “If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see.”

    Cite: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101122172010.htm

    And Lance, why do you continually present the peer-consensus as a scam? Is it because that if you were merely doubtful rather than rejecting their predictions outright they hold with high confidence you’d still need to advocate for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when in fact you advocate business as usual?

    I can respect a well-informed contrarian, which you clearly are not, arguing that the effects we’re currently observing will happen more slowly than what is predicted in spite of temp. predictions now in the 5 degree centigrade range for this century. However such a well-informed person could not deny the near-certain outcome happening in the next century or two given both the paleoclimate findings and current observations which validate those findings are happening even faster than they did in the past. From this perspective the only rational course, yes the only rational course, would still be mitigation given the cost of mitigation is so inexpensive relative to the costs of global warming. From this perspective your rejection of any mitigation efforts remains perfectly irrational while perfectly conforming to your politics.

    Me earlier:

    …though incorporating these isn’t critical, e.g., energy independence, less pollution, the cost to insure against the most the more alarming is no brainer even if doubt was 50% though it’s not 50%, doubt is less than 5% – 10%. I.e., 3% or so costs in GDP is easily worth avoiding sea levels of 25 meters in a couple of centuries and mass extinction rates that may begin this century where extinction rates are already increasing given the climate is moving faster poleward than migration of flora and fauna.

    Lance:

    To quote your alleged former hero “There you go again”. There is so much BS in that one paragraph that it would take several posts to point them all out. You claim to be taking a “middle ground” and yet you casually spout claims like “mass extinction” and “25 meter seal level rise” as if they are accepted realities.

    Given my point here is reflective of both the scientific and economic consensus coupled to some very simple logic; what we encounter here by claiming this is bullshit is once again an outright rejection of what the experts say completely with no quarter. I think you continuously do this in order to avoid having to deal with implications. If you conceded the reality these consensus positions exist as a legitimate product of scientific methodology while harboring less confidence than that of the climate science community, the only rational course would still be to favor mitigation. In order to avoid supporting mitigation you’re left having to argue the consensus position, in spite of it being held with high confidence and reconciling with past climate events, must be rejected altogether as a hoax in order to hold the position we should continue on a business as usual path as you’ve repeatedly argued.

    Lance – it would be interesting to hear you argue from this obvious framework to justify your position we do nothing policy-wise. How can you as an individual claim we should not mitigate for climate warming given what the climate science community presents to the public? Your current argument only makes sense if you are certain they are 100% wrong. At what point of certainty do we begin to mitigate? They’re at the 90% range which therefore argues for mitigation unless one is a total idiot. You act as if 0% is your position given your advocacy we ignore their warnings completely when it comes to current policy modifications. Is it? At what point does Lance change to supporting mitigation? 1% confidence in their findings? 5%?, 10%? 50% confidence in the peer-consensus position?

  14. Michael Heath says:

    James Hanley,

    In case you didn’t follow the very long debates between Lance and I at Ed Brayton’s blog, along with several others, please consider the following summary from my perspective. Those debates occurred on only a handful of blog post threads.

    I responded to Lance given his claim that he advocated Congress do nothing to mitigate for climate change, a position he held strongly enough he expressed that to one of his Congressmen in a written communication (forgot if it was letter or email).

    Given the state of the theory of AGW in terms of acceptance and confidence, I challenged him on how he could be so certain they were so wrong we should do nothing. His response was primarily and continuously with few exceptions one of personal incredulity (see above for one exception which surprised me – the water vapor point). His objection was primarily focused on the total change in annual global temperature from 1880 to recently while arguing we should ignore all other findings and that trends on the recent rate are irrelevant. I can easily provide cites of Lance’s comments validating this description. This includes a challenge I consider the current temp. that day at my home where I responded with the fact the temp. trend at my home since the late-70s has our climate warming at a rate significantly faster than the global average.

    I attempted to challenge him to respond within the context of the science, repeatedly offering up citation after citation, of both synthesis reports along with peer-reviewed articles from singular research group’s findings. His response was normally more personal incredulity with few (if any, I don’t recall any) peer-reviewed publications which falsifies the consensus view. I don’t recall any peer-reviewed work which even challenged the consensus view though my memory could be faulty on that point. I do remember links to groups outside the climate science community making arguments that didn’t directly address our points but instead attempted to seed doubt on the margins, e.g., Lance’s response to Arctic sea ice volume loss which is extremely concerning to the climate science community was to present an Accuweather graph which conflated sea ice extent from the Arctic and Antarctica in spite of the fact no relevant scientific discipline studies conflates and then studies the results in this manner, they break them out.

    Re James Hansen since James Hanley brought him up twice and Lance perceives I have an obsession regarding him. Here’s an example of how one of his more recent articles on climate sensitivity falls within those of several others: http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity.htm [2nd graph down] .

    It should be noted that Hansen’s predictions in the late-2000s regarding sensitivity is beginning to gain traction regarding end-of-century results as more recent findings come in pushing up the expected temp. anomaly like the MIT findings I’ve reported here recently which comes in at 5.1 deg. C: http://goo.gl/PI8jR

    The MIT paper also reveals what climate scientists repeatedly note which is the opposite of Lance’s claim, that the models most likely underestimate future findings in spite of their fitting hindcast results. Note how the models predict 2.4 degrees C while scientists who study climate sensitivity repeatedly note what’s missing in those models whose net effect will be more rapid warming. It’s my understanding the models work for hindcast results while climate scientists think their predictions underestimate future results because of the nature of climate change where not all effects from increased energy have taken hold in any measurable result yet, e.g.,
    a) Greenland ice sheet disintegration,
    b) feedback from the loss of Arctic sea ice since while extent has gone down, we still get coverage though future extent will be significantly decreased as we go down to multi-year sea ice level in the low- to mid-teens percentage-wise and the ocean absorbs more heat than reflecting it back (the albedo effect), or
    c) in the case of the MIT paper where I quote the abstract, “the inclusion in this model of the carbon–nitrogen interaction in the terrestrial ecosystem.“.

  15. James Hanley says:

    Michael, I have qualms about how strongly you interpret findings when the authors clearly say “if” the model is accurate. Overinterpretation is a serious methodological risk when people become too committed to anticipating a particular outcome. and Lance is right about a continual condescension in your posts on this subject. As I noted previously, I think you do your cause more harm than good by arguing that way. (Think of my arguments with Raging Bee–the nastier and more condescending I get, the less effective I become.)

    Lance, Michael’s right that you don’t really support your claims. You make a general statement, then don’t follow it through with either a reference to peer-reviewed literature supporting it, or explaining just how it rebuts specific claims. There’s an appearance of hand-waving that makes it difficult for me to place much reliance on your claims.

    And -2 points to each of your for blockquote fails. *grin*

  16. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    I have qualms about how strongly you interpret findings when the authors clearly say “if” the model is accurate. Overinterpretation is a serious methodological risk when people become too committed to anticipating a particular outcome.

    Exactly, which is precisely why climate scientists hedge their bets on the models by also pointing toward the paleoclimate results. This is a point I’ve repeatedly pointed out and Dr. Hansen and many others have repeatedly promoted.

    I don’t begrudge your misrepresenting my conclusions within that framework since 100% reading comprehension on a new subject is impossible even for the brightest amongst us. I certainly learn new things when I revisit papers I first read years ago.

    In defense of the models there are several and after Spencer/Christy fixed their defective observations of atmospheric temps via satellite the models are now in congruence and have been for years in terms of validating the primary factors of the global warming explanatory model. The fact they’re all making different types of observations, get their data from several different sources, can explain hindcasts, and all validate each other is very compelling. Where we know we need to go beyond the models in our predictions is that they don’t capture all the results of warming which we know exist given paleoclimate findings.

    James:

    Lance is right about a continual condescension in your posts on this subject.

    But he earns that condescending attitude with his repeated character attacks. Yes I’ve become condescending to him, but consider the context of our entire exchange. Lance is in continual character assassination mode against public officials who concede science’s findings and climate scientists using misrepresentations of them right from the very beginning. In addition Lance has continually claimed that those who accept a scientific theory are the gullible ones getting scammed in spite of his inability to present findings which falsify or even sufficiently challenge the consensus view. We see that same behavior in this blog post thread where I quote him from an earlier post of his:

    The government here has embraced the whole “climate change”issue. They see it as yet another way to get money from the west. Of course they are desperately adding infrastructure that is fossil fuel dependent knowing full well that it will improve the living standards of the people here. They feel that they are “entitled” to get to a lifestyle similar to the western countries before they are required to make any sacrifices to the CO2 gods.

    This of course means they will never feel the need to sacrifice in the name of CO2 mitigation while spouting the party line about the third world being “severely” effected by climate change, despite no real evidence of any such thing happening, thus obligating the west to send them oodles of cash.

    Pretty good scam really.

    James – if you are going to make a judgment let’s be sure we put it in appropriate context, in this case I’m defending people Lance attacks with empirical facts while Lance continues to attack and misrepresent them supported primarily by his own persona incredulity. It’s pretty frickin’ frustrating to engage with someone who makes claims they are a scientist who avoids the actual science and instead focuses on attacking others, presenting non-scientist arguments which the science actually falsifies, and insults others who have not earned those insults.

    I readily concede that I’m an anti-bully. If someone is going to misrepresent another person and then attack them, I’m inclined to let them have it. Even if they’re attacking someone whose positions I abhor. We don’t slander or libel our family, friends, or those we support; in a debate about public policy it’s an even more important we don’t misrepresent others if participants are going to end up with a better understanding of a subject than prior to that debate.

    James:

    And -2 points to each of your for blockquote fails. *grin*

    Does WordPress have some method for doing previews? I’ll do a better job of proofing that aspect of my comments regardless. I noticed some other paragraphs I wrote which were less than coherent as well, sorry for that. I think I’ll type in Word from now and then paste here to better insure my work is comprehensible.

    I’ve found the Asian carp threat to the Great Lakes a very interesting issue to consider in light of the the debate on global warming. Precisely, in terms of how people pick sides and how they attempt to both market their position and recruit others to the cause. The only difference when comparing the two that makes it less than perfectly analogous is the science is less certain on the carp threat to the Great Lakes than it is for global warming though it is compelling.

    In this case we have conservatives in the state who were public officials, such as Attorney General Mike Cox, fighting hard to shut-down the linkage between the source of Asian Carp and Lake Michigan to eradicate this threat. He supported such in spite of the fact it would certainly harm the regional economy, at least in the short-term, in hopes of staving of a risk to the Great Lakes already suffering fish population, where a $7 billion fishing industry is in place.

    The problem with Cox’s arguments is that there is no convincing evidence the Asian carp can get through current screens or even thrive in the Great Lakes. The evidence is interesting but not even close to convincing, and yet most Michigan conservatives and all Michigan liberals are eager to band together and create fear against this threat. The conservatives are also employing the politics of tribalism by pointing to the President’s reticence to shut down the canals which they perceive as “Chicago style politics” which aim to support Illinois’ interests at the expense of Michigan’s.

    So in this case we have conservatives in our state taking a very firm position similar to that which I take on global warming, though with even less evidence to support their position and less evidence the benefit will outweigh the cost. (Once an article gets posted on-line which has the Army Corp of Engineers defending their position we don’t shut down the canals I’ll post it.)

    My conclusion is that people’s delusions aren’t always deployed but conveniently deployed. If rationalism will help their debate they’ll use it, where Cox’s argument is certainly worthy of serious consideration and where I tend to side with him but aren’t firmly established on either side yet simply because I’m not well enough informed and where I perceive one can be rational and end up on either side (which I can’t conclude on pushing for mitigation of global warming). However we also see cases where rationalism would falsify a strongly-held position a person doesn’t want to discard, in that case we encounter all sorts of really bad thinking skills. The fact both can exist in the same person for two different issues is of course a very interesting phenomena.

  17. James Hanley says:

    Re: Preview. I’m a bit of a luddite, so I’m not always clear on these types of issues. But it appears that to enable preview I’d have to download WordPress software, then add a plugin. Since I work directly online instead of having the software installed on my computer, it seems that I have no way to enable a preview feature. I’d like to be able to do so, but not at the cost of having to install more software then figure out what to do with it.

    As far as the tone of the discussion, it reinforces the main reason I don’t like to get involved in the climate debate; nobody seems to be able to conduct it with any grace. It’s no good blaming the other side. As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango. I’m going to continue calling you both on it, not because I’m going to insist on perfect civility on this blog, but because I want light on this issue, and when discussions take that turn (and you know, of course, how regrettably susceptible I am to taking that turn myself), we’ll get more heat than light. So if the debate can’t proceed in a fashion that suits me, I’ll just discontinue it and move back to focusing on other issues. My blog, my rules.

  18. Michael Heath says:

    James:

    I’m going to continue calling you both on it, not because I’m going to insist on perfect civility on this blog, but because I want light on this issue.

    How about yourself as well? Your first blog post on this topic had you quote-mining James Hansen and falsely accusing him of lying where there’s no evidence of that, all in order to compare what the Koch brothers do to what he does when in fact their respective behavior is not comparable.

    I’m perfectly comfortable and agreeable to being civil. In fact as Lance knows my motivation has been to help him where my occasional nastieness was the equivalent of a football coach knocking you on your helmet to wake-up.

    The only qualification I would ask for is that we back up our provocative assertions with citations, preferably peer-reviewed when relevant or available, and don’t unfairly misrepresent others, including the better known names in this subject area. That doesn’t mean we don’t call out bad behavior, that’s a required aspect of this specific debate in the public square, but that we don’t misrepresent others with no disregard for slanders and libels we generate against them simply because we neither know them or they aren’t on “our side”. While you might find my tone against Lance objectionable coming into it at the end without considering what came previously, I’d argue it’s far better behavior than promoting an argument that misrepresents a major player’s work and character since it’s the latter which pollutes the public square and makes it more difficult for all of us to better approach objective truth.

  19. Lance says:

    Lance, Michael’s right that you don’t really support your claims. You make a general statement, then don’t follow it through with either a reference to peer-reviewed literature supporting it, or explaining just how it rebuts specific claims. There’s an appearance of hand-waving that makes it difficult for me to place much reliance on your claims.

    Well, at the moment I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in that I’m sitting in a tin shack in front of a 5 to 8 year old Dell with about a 100kbs internet connection. I’m all too happy to provide evidence for any claim I make, as I did the sea level satellite altimetry, but general statements rebutting Michael’s over the top doomsday claims don’t really require evidence on my part. He is the one making the outrageous claims, such as “mass extinctions” and “25 meter sea level rises”. As they say extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and I’m afraid climate models that haven’t shown any verifiable level of predictive “skill” don’t count.

    As you point out he often appeals to bombastic personal attacks. His latest post is filled with slanders and out of context “cut and pastes” to some of our previous interactions. He then concludes each of these little jeremiads with a triumphal declaration of his superiority and my shameful betrayal of my scientific and personal integrity.

    His latest excuse, that he is a well meaning “football coach”, is a sad attempt to excuse his bad behavior. I actually like discussing things with him when he stays on topic and restricts his barbs to wry sarcasm, but I’m afraid he crosses that border quite frequently as can be seen above.

    I have repeatedly asked him to make short, direct on topic posts that can be answered without wading through pages of off topic side tracks and personal insult. I actually think we could find some common ground if he would do this but it seems he is intent on smearing me rather than interacting with me.

    As for the -2 points for the blockquote fails, guilty as charged although I second Michael’s appeal for a preview feature.

  20. James Hanley says:

    Gentlemen, I was just joking about the blockquote fails. I was just amused you both managed to do it. (I do it, too, I just have the advantage of being able to retroactively fix my errors.)

    Michael–as to Hansen. I came down a ways on that, but I still stand by the claim that he’s careless when speaking publicly. As I said, I’m going to make some more critiques of him in a post. Perhaps he should stick to his research and otherwise just STFU. He hands his critics fodder like a Christian holding out his hand to a lion. Anyway, it’s my blog, and I have no intention of being any fairer than I feel like being at the moment. As I tell my students, I’m the rulemaker, so by definition I cannot be bound by the rules. Welcome to the world of authoritarianism.

    Lance–Michael can refer to refereed journal articles talking of mass extinctions and 25 meter sea level rises, so a general mocking of them doesn’t cut it. Help a poor physics idiot like me understand. Tell me why it can’t happen.

  21. James Hanley says:

    Lance,

    Disadvantage noted. I meant to say so in my first comment asking for more detailed responses. Enjoy your time there without high-speed access, and I’ll only hold your feet to the fire when you return.

  22. Lance says:

    [Note: This one got stuck in the spam filter for a couple of days because of the number of links.–JH]

    Hi James,

    As to Hansen’s and Michael’s 25 meter sea level predictions here is a pretty good, and easily accessible for the physics challenged, rebuttal I found at “Answers.com” under the heading, “Is Hansesn right to predict 25 meter sea level rise?”

    Perhaps he meant centimeters instead of meters? A mere two orders of magnitude error ;-) It’s entirely irresponsible (and ridiculous!) to make a prediction of 25 meters. Sea level rise is occurring at between 1.8 to 2.8 mm per year. If we take an average figure of 2.3 mm/year, and assuming a linear trend, some simple math would show us sea level could rise by 207 mm by the end of the century, or just over 8 inches. Both the linear trend and total rise are consistent with history. We can see on this chart that current sea level is approximately 20 cm (8 inches) higher than a century ago.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/co…

    Even if we use the extreme value of 2.8 mm/year, sea level at the end of the century would be only 252 mm (approximately 10 inches) higher than today.

    Wikipedia, which has a decided pro-AGW bias, thinks 2 meters by the end of the century is extreme, and 0.8 meters (31 inches) more likely.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Current_sea…

    The IPCC also revised their prediction downward in AR4, realizing that the data trends would not support these extreme predictions in excess of 1 meter.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data…

    EDIT: The journal “Nature Geoscience” has also retracted a paper claiming these extreme sea level rise predictions, as reported in the left-leaning Guardian, although they leave the door open for any change in any direction.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/20…

    If Michael wants to go toe to toe with some physics as to the millions of cubic kilometers of ice this would require and the tens of billions of kilowatts of energy required for such a melt I await in my corner.

  23. Michael Heath says:

    Footnotes below in brackets [x] are mine even when embedded in other’s quotes.

    Here’s Lance’s response to my pointing out that Dr. Hansen’s valid point that the threat of 25 meter sea level rises at some point in the future is the correct framing when considering future sea level rises in a world warming 2 – 3 degrees centigrade (which is in fact now predicted to increase 5.1 degrees by 2100 by some researchers [1]):

    He is the one making the outrageous claims, such as “mass extinctions” and “25 meter sea level rises”.

    Early in this thread and prior to Lance’s quote here I linked to an argument from James Hansen where he provides cites for noting a prediction we’ll eventually encounter this level of sea rise if we continue down a BAU path: http://goo.gl/GelB5. I also want to point out that these claims which Lance objects to are not outrageous in the climate science community which is why I recommend everyone read ScienceDaily.com as papers are published to understand how scientists are communicating with one another through their peer-reviewed work.

    The linked article above did use citations regarding why many climate scientists continually point out the need to go beyond the models and also consider paleoclimate findings rather than just the models. Dr. Hansen reports in the argument above:

    The global mean temperature three million years ago was only 2–3 ◦ C warmer than today (Crowley 1996, Dowsett et al 1996), while the sea level was 25 ± 10 m higher (Wardlaw and Quinn 1991 [2], Barrett et al 1992 [3], Dowsett et al 1994[4]).

    Beyond these cites, here’s paleoclimatologist Stefan Rahmstorf[5] in his famous written debate with Richard Lindzen:

    CO2 levels associated with
    substantially warmer climates have been documented.27 During the Middle Pliocene about 3 million years ago, temperatures were 2–3°C warmer than at present, and sea level (due to smaller ice sheets) was 25–35 meters higher.[6 ]

    Dowsett 1994:

    This reconstruction, developed primarily from paleontological data, includes middle Pliocene sea level, vegetation, land—ice distribution, sea—ice distribution, and sea-surface temperature (SST), all of which contribute to our conceptual understanding of this climate system. These data indicate middle Pliocene sea level was at least 25 m higher than present, presumably due in large part to a reduction in the size of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Sea surface temperatures were essentially equivalent to modern temperatures in tropical regions but were significantly warmer at higher latitudes. Due to increased heat flux to high latitudes, both the Arctic and Antarctic appear to have been seasonally ice free during the middle Pliocene with greatly reduced sea ice extent relative to today during winter.

    Let’s move on to Lance’s rebuttal.

    Lance states:

    As to Hansen’s and Michael’s 25 meter sea level predictions here is a pretty good, and easily accessible for the physics challenged, rebuttal I found at “Answers.com” under the heading, “Is Hansesn right to predict 25 meter sea level rise?”

    Lance, Answers.com may be a nice place to link to in order to avoid blogger moderation for multi-links, but it’s not a scientific source. In addition the link below for your Answers.com quote comes back with an error message, “.404 error: File not found.” But let’s given this person a shot, here’s what they stated:

    Perhaps [James Hansen] meant centimeters instead of meters? A mere two orders of magnitude error ;-) It’s entirely irresponsible (and ridiculous!) to make a prediction of 25 meters. Sea level rise is occurring at between 1.8 to 2.8 mm per year. If we take an average figure of 2.3 mm/year, and assuming a linear trend, some simple math would show us sea level could rise by 207 mm by the end of the century, or just over 8 inches. Both the linear trend and total rise are consistent with history. We can see on this chart that current sea level is approximately 20 cm (8 inches) higher than a century ago.

    Scientists are fully conversant with recent increase rates of sea level. They are also conversant that these rates will increase given the marginal increase in our energy budget. Current increases to sea level IIRC are mostly from thermal expansion and Alpine glacier melts. The climate science community is predicting increasing rates of increase of sea level based on ice sheet distintegration which has already started (one example finding Greenland’s melt rate faster than previously thought: http://goo.gl/REyHh [7] ). This is so well known I assume I don’t have to provide a cite but of course will to specific points made here.

    I think this is Lance writing next:

    Wikipedia, which has a decided pro-AGW bias, thinks 2 meters by the end of the century is extreme, and 0.8 meters (31 inches) more likely.

    If you read what James reports from Dr. Hansen and what I’ve asserted you’ll note no one here or anywhere as far as I know ever predicted 25 meter sea level rise by the end of this century. So I’m not sure how this is in any way relevant to rebutting my point. In addition I suggest sticking to what the peer-reviewed or synthesis publications assert rather than what a Wikipedia contributor reports.

    Lance states:

    The IPCC also revised their prediction downward in AR4, realizing that the data trends would not support these extreme predictions in excess of 1 meter.

    Please provide a citation that validates a change in the sea level rise and explains it. Your link below this quote is also broke with a Google error message stating “Oops! This link appears to be broken”.

    My understanding is that the last report had not top-end prediction for the very reasons Hansen brings up in this letter. Here’s Vermeer and Rahmstorf on a part of this topic in their 2009 paper:

    The last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report did not include rapid ice flow changes in its projected sea-level ranges, arguing that they could not yet be modeled, and consequently did not present an upper limit of the expected rise.[8]

    The last synthesis report, the 2009 Copenhagen Diagnosis reports the following in its executive summary, which is consistent with my understanding of the models:

    Sea-level predictions revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4; for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as ~ 2 meters sea level rise by 2100. Sea level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperatures have been stabilized, and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.[9 ]

    It’s important to note here what Lance avoids. Dr. Hansen and many other climate scientists are pointing out that the models do not incorporate all the elements that contribute to sea level rise. That’s the entire reason to provide some paleoclimate findings as context supplemental to the models which is what Dr. Hansen was doing and which I pointed to James that it was he who was in error on the quality of Dr. Hansen’s communication, not Hansen. Another motivation to frame sea level rise predictions around paleoclimate findings is that the models which are used in synthesis reports usually only go out until the end of the century where the biggest impact on sea level rise is subsequent centuries as the Pliocene data shows. And again the Pliocene era levels of CO2 have already been breached in our time and we also now predict a temperature increase significantly greater than the Pliocene anomaly of 2 – 3 degrees C that led to a 25 meter rise during that period where again, where the Pliocene’s rate of change was far slower than what is now occurring.

    Lance:

    If Michael wants to go toe to toe with some physics as to the millions of cubic kilometers of ice this would require and the tens of billions of kilowatts of energy required for such a melt I await in my corner.

    Actually I’ve already reported what climate scientists understand to be the volume of ice on Greenland and Antarctica, it’s 70 meters. In addition as I’ve always noted, I am not qualified to make my own arguments regarding climate science. I instead do my best to understand it, the legitimate controversies within that community, and occasionally how it’s misrepresented, and report that with the people with whom I interact as best as I can.

    In summary: What Dr. Hansen is pointing out that’s important to understand is that increasing rates of sea level rises will continue to occur like we’ve seen in the past and we’ll also see upward predictions to the models as we begin, hopefully, to incorporate contributions to sea level rise which are not in the models, e.g., the IPCC AR4 to the 2009 Copenhagen Diagnosis Report encountering an increase in the expected target). Because those models do not include all the components that impact sea level rise, such as Greenland ice sheet disintegration which as I cited earlier from Mernild 2009, is already contributing 0.7 – 1.4 mm per year at increasing rates.

    Lance, once again you did not provide one cite that challenged any assertion I made. Not one, and yet you called what I reported from the peer-reviewed articles “outrageous” and then boast you are ready to argue physics with me. The only cite you provided was to a retracted paper which per your description of it in no way even addressed the assertions I made. Since you provided no citation for that paper but instead a broken link to a Guardian article (where I assume none of the broken links are your fault), I have no idea why that paper was retracted or whether it threatens the legitimacy of other papers making similar or more aggressive short-term predictions, which again, has nothing to do with the assertions I reported which were about periods beyond this century.

    Footnotes:
    1] http://goo.gl/PI8jR Sokolov, A. P., and Coauthors, 2009: Probabilistic Forecast for Twenty-First-Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (Without Policy) and Climate Parameters. J. Climate, 22, 5175–5204.
    doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2863.1

    2] Wardlaw B R and Quinn T M 1991 The record of Pliocene sea-level
    change at Enewetak atoll Quat. Sci. Rev. 10 247–58

    3] Barrett P J, Adams C J, McIntosh W C, Swisher C C and Wilson G S
    1992 Geochronological evidence supporting Antarctic deglaciation three million years ago Nature 359 816–8

    4] Dowsett H J, Thompson R, Barron J, Cronin T, Fleming F, Ishman R,
    Poore D, Willard D and Holtz T 1994 Joint investigations of the Middle Pliocene climate Glob. Planet. Change 9 169–95

    5] http://goo.gl/ezT9C Page 41- 42 Here’s a link to the full debate: http://goo.gl/9xONC

    6] H. J. Dowsett and others, “Joint Investigations of the Middle Pliocene Climate I:PRISM Paleoenvironmental Reconstructions,” Global and Planetary Change 9, no. 3–4 (1994): 169–95.

    7] Sebastian H. Mernild, Glen E. Liston, Christopher A. Hiemstra, Konrad Steffen, Edward Hanna, Jens H. Christensen. Greenland Ice Sheet surface mass-balance modelling and freshwater flux for 2007, and in a 1995-2007 perspective. Hydrological Processes, 2009; n/a DOI: 10.1002/hyp.7354

    8] http://goo.gl/6JbOo doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907765106 PNAS December 22, 2009 vol. 106 no. 51 21527-21532

    9] http://goo.gl/MFjTD Copenhagen Diagnosis Report, Executive Summary, Page 9.

  24. Michael Heath says:

    Re multi-level meter rise beyond this century:

    As I noted previously, previous sea level rises happened over millenia in the past given rates of warming were far slower than what we’re presently encountering and predicting for this century. This is one reason it’s currently impossible for the models used for this century to incorporate predictions from events like ice disintegration into the models in spite of the fact that Greenland ice sheet disintegration is now one of a few primary contributors to the current rate of change [1,2].

    The last synthesis report I read, The Copenhagen Diagnosis which I highly recommend everyone read, uses the last WBGU report for its longest term prediction of sea-level rise. The WBGU [3] report, another highly recommend report, has an entire chapter dedicated to sea level rise, coastal threats, and hurricanes which I recommend reading in its entirety. Here is a table from that report:

    Table 3.1-1 Estimated global sea-level rise by the year 2300 with global warming limited to 3°C (explanation in text).

    Mechanism Rise in m[eters]

    Thermal expansion 0.4–0.9
    Mountain glaciers 0.2–0.4
    Greenland 0.9–1.8
    West Antarctica 1–2
    Total 2.5–5.1

    The first conclusion here is not note that the predictions are lining up to note that its possible to encounter to multi-meter increases per century in a moderately warming world warming faster than our predicted rate. So the 25 meter threat is not in millenia, but in centuries.

    A couple of items of note. Page 38 notes:

    The question arises whether these numbers are consistent with today’s observed sea-level rise rate of 3cm per decade. Due to inertia and nonlinearity, and the initial slow start-up of the rise, this cannot yet be answered. At today’s measured rate of rise, there would be an increase in sea level of only about 1m by 2300. The present rise, however, is a response to only 0.7°C global warming. At 3°C warming a pace four times faster is plausible for the rate of rise and would be consistent with the range estimated above. This rough calculation, which does not represent a worst-case scenario, underscores the potential risk posed by sea-level rise, which could emerge to be one of the most severe consequences of global warming.
    More precise and robust estimates are therefore urgently needed. Research needs arise, above all, in the areas of continental ice mass dynamics and the dynamics of the ocean (especially ocean mixing), in order to reduce the uncertainty in the estimation of thermal expansion (Section 3.5).

    Here’s another of the several papers [4] showing Hansen’s reference to 25 meter sea level rises in the Pliocene wasn’t outrageous that also shows multi-meter per century rates of sea level rises during a time when the climate was changing much slower. From the abstract:

    Yet concomitant records of sea-level fluctuations—needed to reveal rates and magnitudes of ice-volume change that provide context to projections for the future3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9—remain elusive. Reconstructions indicate fast rates of sea-level rise up to 5 cm yr-1 during glacial terminations10, and 1–2 cm yr-1 during interglacials11, 12 and within the past glacial cycle13. However, little is known about the total long-term sea-level rise in equilibration to warming.

    1) “Increased ice velocities in Greenland1 are contributing significantly to eustatic sea level rise” Nature 468, 803–806 (09 December 2010) doi:10.1038/nature09618
    Received 26 April 2010 Accepted 25 October 2010 Published online 08 December 2010

    2) “According to the European Environment Agency, ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has contributed to global sea-level rise at 0.14 to 0.28 millimetres per year between 1993 and 2003.” Cite: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208172318.htm

    3) “WGBU” is the “German Advisory Council on Global Change” Here’s that paper http://goo.gl/aLEi4 Stefan Rahmstorf is one of the key scientists contributing to this analysis. I mentioned him previously James in terms of a guy to follow since he’s a very influential scientist on sea level rise and a lead author of the last IPCC WG1 report.

    4) E. J. Rohling1, K. Grant1, M. Bolshaw1, A. P. Roberts1, M. Siddall2,4, Ch. Hemleben3 & M. Kucera3 “Antarctic temperature and global sea level closely coupled over the past five glacial cycles” Nature Geoscience Published online: 21 June 2009 | doi:10.1038/ngeo557

  25. Lance says:

    Michael,

    My wife and our driver/guide spent the last five days traveling to Awash National Park, the ancient city of Harrar and the “queen city of the desert” Dire Dawa, so playing linkie games with you hasn’t been high on my list.

    Your post is full of half-truths and BS and upon my return to civilization I’ll go about the trivial task of showing it, via links to “peer reviewed” studies and simple appeals to the laws of physics.

    I notice that now you’re not specifying a date for melt-a-geddon but 25 meters of sea level change is BS anytime in the foreseeable future.

    Oh, and if you want to drag that kook Hansen into the fight GREAT! His predictions are easy to prove laughable.

    I’ll being playing linkie with you real soon, gotta go now. The internet cafe/shack is closing for the night.

  26. Michael Heath says:

    Lance writes:

    I’ll go about the trivial task of showing it, via links to “peer reviewed” studies and simple appeals to the laws of physics.

    Your providing citations would be both highly welcomed and unprecedented compared to our previous long exchanges where it was my peer-reviewed and synthesis reported cites versus your arguments from personal incredulity.

  27. James Hanley says:

    Lance,

    Why did you put peer-reviewed in scare quotes?

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