This article is written out of concern. A senior geology professor in Miami, who also chairs the science committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force, has views on future sea level rise that are way more extreme than the available evidence. As a result, Southeast Florida Regional Plans could have been affected, with public money wasted, unnecessary stress caused to home owners, and land devalued.
The claim by Professor Wanless at the Conversation that sea levels could rise by 1.25 to 2m by 2100 is way too extreme it is based on top-slicing the estimates on a NOAA 2012 report. The top-end estimates were not included by the UNIPCC in its AR5 Sept 2013 report. In fact, the UNIPCC report stated it had low-confidence in estimates of sea level rise above its top-end 0.82m. The source of NOAA’s higher estimate might be from extrapolating from a 2011 paper on 1992-2010 ice-melt . The two leading authors of this paper also contributed to a much less extreme paper that formed the basis of the UNIPCC report. High estimates of ice melt have been effectively been repudiated by their authors. Further, even the UNIPCC’s estimates for 2100 could be extreme, as they are based on climate models. These climate models have all over-estimated the actual surface temperature rise of the last thirty years. On the basis of the warm bias, the projected consequential sea level rise is most likely much too high.
Professor Wanless has slightly moderated his views from 2008, but still maintains the same reasons for disagreeing with scientific consensus. A consequence of this sea level rise extremism might have been to influence the projected sea level rise in a Southeast Florida Regional Plan of 2012.
At “The Conversation” Geology Professor Harold R. Wanless has posted an article “Rising sea levels will be too much, too fast for Florida“. The article is way too extreme on a number of levels. These views are similar to, but slightly moderated from views held in 2008. The consequences on this extremism might have been to adversely affect Southeast Florida Regional Planning.
An extreme Misquote
Professor Wanless says
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its assessment of sea level rise in 2012 as part of the
National Climate Assessment. Including estimates based on limited and maximum melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, it anticipated a raise of 4.1 to 6.6ft (1.25 to 2m) by 2100, reaching 2ft (0.6m) by around 2050 and 3ft (0.9m) by around 2075.
Follow the link and the introduction says
Global sea level rise has been a persistent trend for decades. It is expected to continue beyond the end of this century, which will cause significant impacts in the United States. Scientists have very high confidence (greater than 90% chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meter) and no more than 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by 2100.
Professor Wanless relies upon the more extreme range of estimates, failing to mention that they require some very unlikely scenarios.
A quote from an extreme paper
A more authoritative and recent source than the NOAA report is the UNIPCC AR5 Working Group II (the Physical Science Basis) Summary for Policymakers. Page 23 has the following diagram
The likely range of sea level rise based on four climate models is 0.26 to 0.82 metres.
Extreme through looking at scientifically weak and unsupported data
But maybe there are factors that the UNIPCC did not take into account? On page 26 there is the following comment:-
The basis for higher projections of global mean sea level rise in the 21st century has been considered and it has been concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to evaluate the probability of specific levels above the assessed likely range. Many semi-empirical model projections of global mean sea level rise are higher than process-based model projections (up to about twice as large), but there is no consensus in the scientific community about their reliability and there is thus low confidence in their projections.
In the coded language of the UNIPCC, to have low confidence in something that would support the alarmist cause means they think it is a load of rubbish.
The extreme estimates of ice melt acceleration
The reason Professor Wanless uses NOAAs top end estimate is due to believing in a much accelerated disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. By looking at recent data a different picture could emerge from the consensus view.
The following from the UNIPCC gives some estimates of the rate of polar ice melt. In page 9
• The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992 to 2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.
• The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has likely increased from 30 [–37 to 97] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 147 [72 to 221] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011. There is very high confidence that these losses are mainly from the northern Antarctic Peninsula and the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica.
Further, on page 11 is stated
Over the period 1993 to 2010, global mean sea level rise is, with high confidence, consistent with the sum of the observed contributions from ocean thermal expansion due to warming (1.1 [0.8 to 1.4] mm yr–1), from changes in glaciers (0.76 [0.39 to 1.13] mm yr–1), Greenland ice sheet (0.33 [0.25 to 0.41] mm yr–1), Antarctic ice sheet (0.27 [0.16 to 0.38] mm yr–1), and land water storage (0.38 [0.26 to 0.49] mm yr–1). The sum of these contributions is 2.8 [2.3 to 3.4] mm yr–1.
These estimates are much lower than previous estimates, particularly on the implied acceleration. For instance Rignot et al 2011 looking at the period calculated polar ice melt contribution to sea levels of 0.91 mm yr–1, 50% higher than the UNIPCC. Further the acceleration on this paper from polar ice melt was 0.1 mm yr–21 mm yr–2and 0. 133 mm yr–2 including non-polar ice melt. Even at this rate of acceleration ice melt would only contribute 6 inches (150mm) to sea level rise. The upper NOAA estimates seem to be based upon taking this extreme figures and doubling them.
But less than two years later lead authors Eric Rignot and Isabella Velicogna were also amongst the 50 who wrote Sheppard et al 2012, which seems to have formed the basis for the UNIPCC report, as the figures are pretty much the same. Professor Wanless appears to be backing out of date science that the authors have effectively repudiated.
The climate models are extreme
The climate models that the UNIPCC relies upon for temperature and sea rise levels are themselves extreme. Last year Dr Roy Spencer charted 73 climate model predictions of temperature rise against the actual data for over the last 30 years.
Every single one of the climate models is running too hot.
On that basis, the even the mid-point predicted temperature rise of the weakest of the above models – the 1.0 degree of warming from RCP2.6 – appears too extreme. As a consequence the predicted 40cm mid-point range for sea-level rise to 2100 as a consequence of this temperature rise also appears extreme.
Possible consequences of the extremism
Professor Wanless is chairs the science committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force. At the website is a 2008 presentation from him on expected sea level rise. Here Professor Wanless used the 2007 UNIPCC projection of 20cm to 50cm sea level rise by 2100, and then said (due to unaccounted for ice melt) he expected that rise to be at least 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5m) and possibly 7-9 feet (2.1-2.7m). Six years later he has moderated his views, but still believes sea levels will rise by at least twice the scientific consensus. The 2012 “Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Action Plan” appears to reflect these views extremist views. Figure 1 on page 7 has projections for sea level rise.
Above the UNIPCC estimated sea levels rises of 17cm to 38cm by 2046-65 compared with 1986-2005. Eye-balling to the graph shows a range of 18-38 cm in 2045 and 28-75cm by 2065. It appears to be way out of line. Please note that the caption is for “Regional Planning Purposes”.
I do not believe that the responsibility for extreme views gaining currency lies with individuals who promote them, but with the abandonment of pluralism in favour of institutionalised dogma. The view that human-caused catastrophic global warming is either extremely likely or certain is accepted without question. Any questioning of the scientific authority has been treated as equivalent to denial of established fact, and with a manufactured moralistic contempt akin to that meted out to those who question the truth of the holocaust. As a result, the extremist and ill-supported pronouncements of scientific “experts” are not questioned. Instead they made headlines throughout the world. The solution is to actively promote pluralism and questioning in science.
Finally, all first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact. If you request for it not to be published, I will not do so provided it is not openly abusive.
I work hard to be accurate. If you can demonstrate that any of the above is inaccurate, I will correct it. If you disagree, I will publish the comment, though I reserve the right to edit out abuse and may respond. It is important that others can compare and contrast the arguments.
Kevin VS Marshall