Amazing AP article on sea level rise

sea-rise.jpgThe AP just released the following story:

Global warming — through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding — is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation.

Wow! The first amazing thing is the confidence with which AP makes a statement beyond the IPCC’s scientific consensus. This is what most of the experts I spoke to for my book said, and I’m glad to see it in print (kudos to AP reporter Seth Borenstein):

Few of the more than two dozen climate experts interviewed disagree with the one-meter projection. Some believe it could happen in 50 years, others say 100, and still others say 150.

The second amazing thing is this quote:

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.

Looks like Christy needs to straighten Lomborg out.

The third amazing thing — and the one I (and I think Hansen) would take some exception with is “It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases.” Still, Borenstein gets a stunning quote here:

“We’re going to get a meter and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, a lead author of the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris. “It’s going to happen no matter what–the question is when.”

My point — and I think Hansen’s point — is that the “when” (i.e. the rate of change) matters a lot! One meter by mid-century would be an unmitigated catastrophe. Sea level rise would have to average 9 inches a decade from now to 2050, implying seas rising over a foot a decade by then — which could continue for centuries. Who could adapt to that?

Strong actions to limit further emissions starting today — what Hansen calls the alternative scenario — can limit total warming from preindustrial levels to about 2°C, which should keep sea level rise below one meter per century. That’s a disaster, but a slow-moving one, leaving time for some adaptation. And if we were lucky, the rate might be well below a meter per century.

We have only a few years to get on the alternative path, or the one meter of sea level rise is almost sure to come this century.

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5 Responses to Amazing AP article on sea level rise

  1. Uh huh. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s why shutting down coal plants is so urgent…compare the costs with the cost of adapting our cities and highways and populations and irrigation systems and ecosystems to SLR of 3 (and then probably more) feet. Not that I think most politicians are brave enough or smart enough to do that. At least some of the scientists are now confident enough to say what I think they’ve been thinking on this topic.

    We have a major challenge in group psychology how to get the electorate to demand urgent action on what they and the politicians still believe is a contentious issue. Obviously Gore’s movie hasn’t done it. Nor has “The Day After Tomorrow.” Next batter?

    “It’s like sticking your finger in a pot of water on a burner and you turn the heat on, Williams said. “You kind of get used to it.” That why my blog’s called Climate Frog.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    There is about 500 Gt of carbon anthropogenically added to the active carbon cycle, with about 8 Gt more added each year. So the long-range goals are clear:

    (1) Stopping adding, or else sequester permanently, 8 Gt of carbon per year. (Via biocoal would be nice, but probably cannot make enough of it.)

    (2) In addition, begin permanently sequestering some portion of the already existing 500 Gt.

  3. Ron says:


    Don’t those people know there’s a consensus?

  4. paul magnus says:

    I have been trying to find a graph of sea level rise vs temperature for the earth and just cant find one anywhere on the Internet much less one which one I could have confidence in its source.

    I think this is an essential graph that should be included in the debate of whats happening with global climate change and sea level rise impact.

    Can anyone supply this data or a link to a source?