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The Good And The Bad Reporting About Rising Sea Levels

Good: “How high is the sea rising?” (March 12, in German, Sueddeutsche Zeitung), where journalist Axel Bojanowski illustrates the not-so-worrying, middle-of-the-road and worst scenarios (respectively, with a rise in sea levels by 2100 of 18-30cm, 95cm and 2m). Tellingly, Bojanowski writes: “The problem is, all scenarios are based on good arguments”.

Bad: “Sea rise ‘to exceed projections’” (March 10, in English, BBC News), where journalist David Shukman goes for big scary numbers (a metre or more by 2100, 600million people potentially affected) and a collection of adjectives in comparative form (higher, faster, hotter). There is no indication whatsoever about any scientist convinced of lower estimates.

Bad: “Copenhagen summit urges immediate action on climate change” (March 12, Nature News), where journalist Olive Heffeman reports that “sea levels could rise as much as 1 metre by 2100” and forgets to mention any scientist thinking otherwise.

What makes one of them good, and two bad? Well, if you cannot spot the difference between presenting the scientific debate as it is, and  selecting only the stuff that a journalist deems worth noticing, I am not sure I would be able to help.

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  1. George Carty
    2009/03/19 at 06:53

    Aren’t rises in sea levels (even the large rises that would happen if the Greenland icecap melted) not really a catastrophe, just a nasty inconvenience (largely because so many of our cities are on coastlines)?

    I thought the real menace posited by AGWCC believers is desertification on a global scale. Only that would seriously threaten Earth’s capacity to support human life.

    By the way, is desertification in the Sahel (for example) actually caused by global warming, or is it more directly man-made (ie through deforestation). Maybe supplying coal (or more likely coke, because I guess it would be used mostly for cooking) to impoverished Africans be a good thing, if it got them to stop cutting down trees?

  2. 2009/03/16 at 19:28

    Eric, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re Greenland – the Greenland icecaps melting is key to CAGW. Antarctica would also be, but for the fact that only a tiny corner of the continent has shown actual warming over the last few decades (Steig study notwithstanding.) Without the land ice of Greenland melting, bang goes the accelerated sea level rise, and all that would come with it. I think it is no accident that the promoters of AGW are focussing on this in the runup to December’s conference – it’s their last best chance.

  3. Eric (skeptic)
    2009/03/14 at 20:43

    Sea level catastrophe relies on Greenland being, or about to be, slush. Certainly at the bottom the ice is just a few degrees below freezing and very close to, if not, melting, due to pressure. The crack in the ice that swallowed a 2 mile wide lake was very exciting for the scientists standing next to their little motorboat (not a rowboat?) But I have found very little science to show that in between the surface water and the pressurized water that there is anything other than solid ice. That ice ought to remain solid through at least a century of warming. Seems like a simple lack of energy.
    Someone did some numbers here http://www.ex-parrot.com/~pete/greenland.html and if his or her numbers are correct we would need 2 orders of magnitude increase in melting rate or a similar increase in motion.

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