Scroll To Top

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Bob Tisdale has no empathy for millions of Americans affected by rising seas

Sou | 12:09 PM Go to the first of 16 comments. Add a comment

Three years ago I wrote about how fake sceptics see things differently from most people. When most people see up, deniers see down. Today Bob Tisdale wrote about how he and the "rest of us" (ie climate conspiracy theorists) look at potential disaster with different eyes to those of most people (archived here, latest here).  Unlike the "most of us", Bob enjoyed reading how 4.2 million people in the USA could be affected if sea level rises by 3 feet (almost a metre) by the end of this century. Instead of empathising with the 4.2 million people, Bob, with a hint of sadism, turned it into a small number. He wrote:

What did I see?

Less than 1% of Forecast U.S. Population by 2100 Might Be, Or Might Not Be, Displaced by Projected Sea Level Rise of 3 Feet That Might, Or Might Not, Happen. The Other 99% of U.S. Residents Couldn’t Give a Rat’s…  Some Optimistically Looking Forward to Their Inland Properties Becoming Oceanfront.

As Gavin Schmidt once wrote:
Changing a unit to have a small sounding number doesn’t actually change anything; neither the significance nor the accuracy. .... – gavin
Does Bob's enjoyment mean he has no empathy or does it mean that he cannot face the thought that 4.2 million of Americans might be in real strife by the end of the century. I don't know. Does it mean that he thinks that Americans are not generous, socially aware, or empathetic? It looks like it. Does it mean that Bob thinks that Americans are rather stupid and can't figure out the consequences to the nation or the economy of 4.2 million people having to deal with flooding and rising sea level? That's a reasonable conclusion. I expect when Katrina and Sandy hit, Bob just shrugged, or enjoyed the suffering of those affected, before returning to writing one of his climate conspiracy tomes.

US communities and population numbers affected by rising sea level

The article that Bob "enjoyed" was in Business Insider. It was about a paper published in Nature Climate Change last month by Mathew E. Hauer, Jason M. Evans & Deepak R. Mishra from the University of Georgia and Stetson University in Florida. Parts of Florida in particular are already feeling the effect of rising seas. What the researchers did was use estimates of population growth coupled with estimates of the effect of sea level rise around the US coastline to work out how many people would be affected by the end of the century. The population projections they made allowed for dynamic interactions between population change and sea level rise, but there was no assumption that everyone will just pack up and leave at the first sign of wet. Communities may try to adapt - Venice-style.

Hauer et al found that a 6-foot (approx 2 metre) rise would result in more than 13 million people being exposed to flooding and other effects of rising sea level. Half that increase would result in 4.2 million people affected. The paper and supplementary information lists the "at-risk" populations by state and county. They provided maps as well. The maps are what Bob enjoyed so much that he wrote his article effectively saying "who cares!"

Bob gave no indication that he read the paper or even the press release. The article he saw was on Business Insider. The article includes a good video showing how different coastal areas would be affected.

Blinded by confirmation bias

Bob's demonstrated in the past that he's not able to see a situation for what it is. Back in 2013, this is how Bob Tisdale said he saw the global mean surface temperature trend. He thought the warming since the late 1990s hadn't happened, even though his own chart showed that the surface temperature was much higher this century than any previous time in the record. Bob wrote above the chart below:
If you’re not aware, persons see the following three periods in that graph.
Figure 1 | Bob Tisdale's chart from WUWT. I've animated and annotated it to show the bit that Bob couldn't see. Source: WUWT plus HW annotations.

Bob didn't say which persons can't see that it's warmed in the past several years, though he added:
Just thought you’d be interested. That’s what I see, and I suspect many other persons see the same three periods in the graph. And that means no matter what you’ve written in the rest of that report, what people will see and take away from your report is that global surface temperatures warmed for a couple of decades, starting around the mid-1970s. Then surface temperatures stopped warming a decade and a half ago.
Here is what has happened plotted as decadal trends. I've marked the warming that Bob Tisdale said he couldn't see - at least till the end of 2012. I expect he wouldn't have seen it till 2015 either, so I've shown that too:

Figure 2 | Decadal global mean surface temperature. Data source: GISS NASA

Personality types, cultural values and climate science

Research suggests that "belief in climate change is lower the more people adopt hierarchical and individualistic cultural values" (Hornsey et al 2016). I'm guessing that such people don't value social well-being and have little social empathy. They value individual well-being and self-sufficiency rather than social well-being and social sustainability. The world could collapse around them and they would barely feel a twinge of emotion, unless they themselves were affected. To such people, social justice are two dirty words. The interesting thing is that for some people at least, it means they can't see the world for what it is. They are afflicted with confirmation bias, such as expecting that scientists are perpetrating a hoax on humankind therefore no science is trusted. And their own view of the world is distorted. So, for example, Bob Tisdale sees a much warmer century as "no warming", and he has to change 4.2 million people into a tiny number (1%) before he can accept it into his brain.

From the WUWT comments

The comments were almost as bad as Bob Tisdale's article. I don't know what was going through gnome's head:
April 11, 2016 at 2:51 am
Yeah sure- like you’d need to read a Businessinsider article to work out if you live near sea-level. “Panic sweeps 4.2 million Americans” “Your risk of drowning when sea level rises”. Clickbait for the intellectually very seriously challenged.

Was CaligulaJones talking about Bob Tisdale or is he saying that the population estimates are way off?
April 11, 2016 at 6:26 am
Its rather interesting, isn’t it, that illiteracy is seen as a terrible social and economic disadvantage, and we work toward eliminating it. People volunteer to help people learn to read and celebrities make commercials endorsing reading.
Innumeracy, however, is pretty much ignored, and is even a joke. People will laugh about how bad their math skills are.
Explains lotteries, though. 

There were a lot of very silly comments. In my experience, silly jokes can indicate nervousness.  CodeTech got a lot of replies to this comment:
April 11, 2016 at 2:59 am
I’m at 3500 feet. I’m worried. Am I at risk? 

In a fit of illogic so common to deniers, Eric Worrall says how it can't happen because it didn't happen to him in the past. The new owner was apparently more concerned than Eric was:
April 11, 2016 at 3:00 am
The SLR thing is just so ridiculous.
I lived on a tidal riverfront for several years, my back porch literally overhung the river. Once every couple of years the sea rose above the back door jam. There was always plenty of warning, a bit of repair tape and plumber’s mate non-setting putty (normally used to waterproof toilet outlets) kept the door waterproof.
The new owner had some money to splash – he raised the floor level a few feet.

Terry doesn't care if we mess things up. He seems to think it's time we had some serious instability:
April 11, 2016 at 4:03 am
There seems to be a belief that the world as it is now has achieved (for some reason) a stability and permanence unmatched in even recent geologic history.
Homo sapiens first appeared around 200,000 years ago. The more recent evolution into stable farming communities rather than hunter gatherers occurred 10 – 20000 year ago. In this very brief flash of geologic time sea levels, rainfall, temperature etc have changed markedly.
The solution to these changes is of course to do what our ancestors did – adapt. Even King Canute realised he could not control the tides! 

Bruce Cobb doesn't "believe in" scientific research and thinks it's all a pack of lies. He's probably an evolution and AIDS denier and thinks that NASA faked the moon landing:
April 11, 2016 at 4:57 am
What ever would the Climate Liars do without that one word, “could”? It allows them to lie so cleverly, couching their lies within further, far bigger lies. 

tadchem has a distorted view of science. He or she thinks that the research assumes no-one will adapt. Most people will view it as information that will allow communities to adapt (since mitigation probably won't be enough to stop it altogether).
April 11, 2016 at 6:47 am
The lowest point in New Orleans (founded in 1718) is 8 feet below sea level (average rate 8 mm/yr). They have learned to cope to a limited degree with land subsidence/rising sea level. The lowest point in the Netherlands is 23 feet below sea level (average rate 7 mm/yr), but they have been developing and refining flood control techniques for over 1000 years. The simplest and best adaptation is to move your assets to higher ground.
The alarmists insult everyone by assuming nobody is smart enough to adapt. 

Slipstick asked some questions that proved too challenging for the little conspiratorial minds to cope with:
April 11, 2016 at 9:00 am
So, how much does it cost to relocate 4.2 million people and the infrastructure that supports them, as well as the seaside industries and ports, or, instead, to reconstruct the coastlines in response to the sea level rise to obviate the need for relocation? These are real questions that must be considered. Failing to plan for these contingencies, or blithely pretending that they won’t happen, is foolish. 

Matt Bergin's solution is to wait till after the damage has been done before taking any action. He's got a lot of closed stable doors but an empty horse-less stable:
April 11, 2016 at 9:34 am
The sea would actually have to rise before anyone has to worry about any of it. The rate of sea level rise has not changed recently over the last 150 years 

hunter is finding that even his reliable business news sources have gone to the dogs. Will the penny drop eventually? (I doubt it.)
April 11, 2016 at 9:11 am
Business news as a category was once well known for objective and hard hitting, critical takes on news. Even on NPR, the US version of the BBC, the business news was reliable.
That is changing rapidly, as this article shows.

Tom in Florida
April 11, 2016 at 9:13 am
I am one mile as the crow flies from the Gulf of Mexico and at 15 ft elevation. I am one of the 99% that couldn’t give a rat’s …… 

References and further reading

Mathew E. Hauer, Jason M. Evans, Deepak R. Mishra. "Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States." Nature Climate Change, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2961
Rising seas could displace more Americans than the Great Migration - article by Puneet Kollipara in ScienceMag; Mar. 14, 2016

Rising Sea Levels May Disrupt Lives of Millions, Study Says - article by Tatiana Schlossberg in the New York Times, 14 March 2016

Hornsey, Matthew J., Emily A. Harris, Paul G. Bain, and Kelly S. Fielding. "Meta-analyses of the determinants and outcomes of belief in climate change." Nature Climate Change (2016). doi:10.1038/nclimate2943

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. We always talk about sea level in 2100 or thereabouts. What doesn't get communicated very well is sea level rise doesn't stop there. Even if we take drastic action to reduce CO2 emissions I don't think we'll see less than 20-30 feet (6-10 meters) of sea level rise in the 300-500 year time frame and it could be more. The last time CO2 levels were 400 ppm sea level was over 60 feet (20 meters) higher than now.

    1. Agree. Nor do we see too much about when and by how much sea level will rise by decades. It's too hard to estimate. The one thing that there does seem to be agreement on is that it won't be gradual. We could, for example, have a rise of a metre over a decade or two later this century, then a "pause" and then another big hit. That will make it very hard for some countries.

    2. +2.

      It's one of my perpetual bugbears. What we really need to be getting across to people is the damage to which we;re already committed, and to which we commit ourselve even more with every year of continued carbon emissions. Sea level rise, ecosystem shifts, species extinctions, loss of ecosystem functions, heat and water stressors - the lot.

      Pwople simply don't know the size of the freight train that's rushing in slow motion to meet them and their grandkids.

    3. Bernard, perhaps you recall this old Far Side cartoon?

      "Say, Thag... wall of ice closer today?"

    4. Maggma, I do recall that cartoon although I'd forgotten it as it's been years since I saw it - it has a particular poignancy now.

      As they say, climate change happens too slowly for politicians to act, but too fast for species to adapt. What a shame that we're effectively tackling cliamte change with the caveman parts of our brains...

  2. I would assume that a significant proportion of the 4.2 million people in the USA likely to be first affected by SLR are part of "the 1%" given that they can afford prime waterfront properties.


    Or am I off the mark? Is anyone aware of the socioeconomic profile of the New Jersey residents affected by SuperStorm Sandy.

    "346,000 homes in New Jersey were damaged by Sandy, of which 22,000 were rendered uninhabitable."

    Or by the flooding in Miami Beach?

    1. I don't know about the wealth distribution of Sandy-affected residents in New Jersey. What sometimes goes missed in these discussions is that the dirt itself is worth a lot of moolah. So, speaking of Miami Beach, I'm seeing lots/land going for upward of $10 million/acre.

      So maybe you can save the hotel with a seawall, but what happens as the beach starts getting smaller?

      Which it will due to erosion. This source puts it between 100-1,000 m of shore retreat for every 1 m of SLR. Or between one and 10 American Football fields for every 1 yard of rising ocean.

      No structure loss required for that to put a crimp in the economy.

    2. I should add that it doesn't even take an actual loss of real estate to cause a financial crisis. It might be a simple matter of the "smart money" getting a wake up call because, say, a large chunk of the WAIS breaks loose, and the big land owners head for the exits. Pop goes the bubble, and it's 2008 all over again.

    3. The warning flag is already flying in Miami Beach, which is experiencing salt water flooding at the year's highest tides--and yet the building of expensive properties there continues.

      The speculative developers will of course be gone with the suckers' money when those buyers wake up, see the flag and try to sell their suddenly worthless luxury condos. It will be a bust of historical rapidity as values plummet to near zero in a matter of weeks or even days.
      Adam R.

  3. "They are afflicted with confirmation bias, such as expecting that scientists are perpetrating a hoax on humankind therefore no science is trusted."

    And yet a WUWT'er such as Tisdale will employ data from these devious, lying scientists when it suits him. We see it again here in the graph he posted.

    Confirmation bias and immunity to cognitive dissonance are the essential ingredients of the denier mind.
    Adam R.

  4. although it does sound like Eric Worrall has solved the issue

    all you need is "a bit of repair tape and plumber’s mate non-setting putty (normally used to waterproof toilet outlets) kept the door waterproof."

    and "jobs a good'n" as we say in the UK

    why all the fuss!!!

  5. In Bob's chart the box marked 'warming' shows annual data and runs from 1977 to 1998 inclusive. WMO uses the average of HadCRUT, NOAA and GISS as their global surface temperature data source. Between 1977 and 1998 the rate of warming in the WMO index was 0.15 C/dec.

    Bob's second box marked 'no warming' starts in 1999 and we can now fill this out to 2015. The warming rate between 1999 and 2015 in the WMO index was 0.16 C/dec.

    Has Bob noticed that a rate he described as 'warming' is now slower than a rate he described as 'no warming' just a couple of years ago?

    No doubt another open letter to the WMO is imminent.

  6. 4.2 million people by 2100 seems like a gross underestimate to me, all things considered. The sea doesn't have to lap at your doorstep every high tide or several times a year during spring tides to make your house unlivable.

    If proportional to the post-Katrina depopulation of New Orleans, a category 4 or 5 hurricane and its storm surge turbocharged by higher and warmer seas making landfall near Houston or Miami could leave a million homeless in a stroke. Some residents would never return.

  7. I bet Tisdale would feel differently if 4.2 million Americans were killed or forced from their homes by a terrorist attack. Then 4.2 million would become a big number. Just sayin'.

  8. in the UK we have had people flooded out of their homes several times in as many years

    indeed some were flooded twice in a month - just before Christmas, ruining it

    I know in the current state of the world it can seem a "1st world problem"

    but for the people involved it is heart-breaking

    I think this type of flooding will be seen as THE aspect of AGW that hits home hardest - as a visible sign of our impact on the climate

    1. Given it was in the UK, it literally is a first-world problem. Proof that indeed, the first world has plenty to lose from climate change.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.