Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WUWT readers are too scared to read about rising sea levels in National Geographic

Sou | 12:03 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

I've added an update in the body of this article.

I don't have much time today, so this item is short.  Which is a shame, because there have been a few articles lately at WUWT that are worthy of HotWhopper.  Hopefully I'll get to some of them later - like Pat 'n Chip's latest tripe (archived here).  But not right now.

Today I'll just make an observation.  I do find it interesting how often Anthony Watts and his readers say they are scared of being scared.  Quite a few of Anthony's readers say they have unsubscribed from National Geographic because they find it too hard to accept (and probably too difficult to read) articles about climate change.  That seems to be in line with research that shows that the conservative brain is hyper-sensitive to fear.  Who wants to be living in perpetual fear?  It's debilitating.  That's one of the main reasons why sites like WUWT are so popular.  It exists as a placebo for people who are scared; telling fearful people not to worry because "all the science is wrong".

Some of you might remember how back in August 2013, Anthony Watts protested an article in National Geographic about rising sea levels.  Anthony seemed to believe that ice doesn't melt as it warms.

Now Anthony Watts has posted another article on his blog (archived here) about another article in National Geographic about sea level rise.  He and his readers cannot cope with the thought that Miami may well not survive much longer than a few more decades.

Actually, in his normal fashion, the article isn't by Anthony himself.  He just added a couple of charts at the bottom.  It's an article about an article by Bjørn Lomborg about an article in National Geographic.  So I suppose this is an article about an article about an article about an article in National Geographic:)

The WUWT-ers took particular offense at the interactive graphic in National Geographic, which showed how coastlines would change if all the ice on earth were to melt.  The graphic is interesting.  I don't know how accurate it is, but it's fairly clear that cities will have to shift inland over the coming decades to centuries to millenia.  And that's all down to us pouring waste CO2 into the air now.  I expect that's what WUWT readers cannot cope with.  The idea that what we are doing today will have such a strong influence on future societies.


In the comments, Ryan suggested looking at the work of Jerry Mitrovica on the unevenness of sea level rise.  Click here to read Mitrovica et al (2009) "The Sea-Level Fingerprint of West Antarctic Collapse" in Science (subs req'd), or here for an article in Harvard Magazine, and here for a discussion in SkepticalScience and there's a good article by Michael Lemonick at Yale e360 - or use Google, or better yet, Google Scholar.

One of these days I'll do an analysis of WUWT to see what aspects of global warming scare fake sceptics the most.  I'd say rising seas are fairly high up the list.  Maybe a big proportion live in Florida or on the east coast of the USA.

If you're interested, here again is a graphic showing the time frames involved in the different parts of the carbon cycle.  It shows the time period relating to ice sheets as multiples of thousands of years, which is longer than the ocean component (click for larger view):

Source: RealClimate.Org

The Emissions Gap Report 2013 says we have to do much better

According to the newly released The Emissions Gap Report 2013, we've got to change our energy sources more quickly if we're to stay safe:
Total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010, the last year for which data are available, already stood at 50.1 GtCO2e, highlighting the scale of the task ahead....
... In order to be on track to stay within the 2° C target and head off the negative impacts outlined above, the report says that emissions should be a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020 to set the stage for further cuts needed-to 40 GtCO2e by 2025, 35 GtCO2e by 2030 and 22 GtCO2e by 2050. As this target was based on scenarios of action beginning in 2010, the report finds that it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet this goal.

From the WUWT comments

Here is a small sample of the protest comments from the illiterati at WUWT.  There are heaps more archived here.

omnologos isn't the only WUWT commenter who said:
November 5, 2013 at 10:58 am
When I discovered about the stupid issue with the statue of liberty, I have sent a letter personally to the Editor via snail-mail.

Zeke says "it's a nefarious plot!" (excerpt):
November 5, 2013 at 11:29 am
In many sea girt countries a majority of the people live near the coast. When these unscrupulous scientsists threaten the coasts, they are bidding for increased legislation, regulation, and control of the habitable land.

Bob Diaz seems to be unaware of the step-wise nature of the melting of ice sheets and says - let our descendant's deal with it:
November 5, 2013 at 11:31 am
Let’s do the math, they said a rise of 216 feet over 5,000 years. That comes to about 1/2 an inch per year or 4 feet 4 inches per 100 years. Even if we accept the number and there’s no reason to believe it, the rise is so slow that people have more than enough time to adjust to it.

Doug says global warming has caused the decline of National Geographic.  (Is that a variation on the creed of the Pastafarians?):
November 5, 2013 at 11:57 am
I grew up in a house where Science, Scientific American, and National Geographic were treasured. Their decline is a true catastrophe from AWG.

Andyj is wrong.  Earth won't be getting colder probably for at least 50,000 years.  He says:
November 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm
Haha. The title says “in 5,000 years”.. That will be right in the middle of the next ice age.
How uneducated are these politically motivated media types?

Newty demonstrates the (questionable) value and purpose of WUWT.  It's to allay fears of those who can't hack the facts about the warming world.  He says:
November 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Seriously though I was terrified before I first started coming here. I’ve recently become a father and we did question bringing children into the world when the threat of global warming seemed so certain and so imminent. I work with children and many of them are seriously anxious as a result of just this kind of article that sits in the school library. It reminds me of how I worried about nuclear war years ago. Fear is damaging our young who should grow up with optimism and hope.
Update: to prove my point that Newty's comment demonstrates the purpose of WUWT as giving false comfort to scaredy cats, Anthony Watts has since elevated his comment to an entire article - and made it Quote of the Week.  The comments show that it's not the children who are being scared, it's the parents who can't hack the facts. (Archived here.)

charles nelson says:
November 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm
One often wonders if the entire staff and contributors of publications like National Geographic believe this crap or is it just a handful of people in key positions pushing their own agenda.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of people associated with NG are quietly cringing in shame at the hijacking of their once prized brand.

Harry van Loon is succinct in his dismissal and says:
November 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm
What absolute BS

J Martin is quite ignorant about atmospheric CO2, writing that "there is only 3Gt of CO2 in the atmosphere".  I'll let someone else do the arithmetic.  Suffice to say J Martin is out by at least two orders of magnitude; and if Crispin in Waterloo were correct (I haven't checked), the 23 Gt only equates to what we toss into the air in a matter of months:
November 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm
Crispin in Waterloo said that if all the ice melts then it can absorb 23 GT of co2 but there is only 3 GT of co2 in the atmosphere. So does that mean when the planet enters the next hot house period all life becomes extinct ? But equally the warmer temperatures should mean that the oceans will hold less co2 so maybe life survives. As the world would have to heat up before the ice melted that would release extra co2 which would then be reabsorbed by the melting ice. Could make for an interesting graph.

Stephen Skinner isn't familiar with the carbon cycle and says:
November 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm
If it takes more than 5,000 years to melt all the worlds land ice, if we carry on as we are, then that assumes we have 5,000 years worth of oil, coal and gas? I thought we are about half way through or somewhere near peak oil or is that not the case?

jono1066 says:
November 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm
looks ok to me,
looking at the maps I see a very small and acceptable percentage change in land area,
especially as the new land of the antarctic and greenalnd etc would be `new land` and you cant suggest that just because some inland areas would be below see level they would automatically be filled with water, and why would there be less vegetation with all that heated water around ?
I dont see the big problem (apart from who would believe that we could influence the earth to do something it wasnt going to do anyway)

Billy Liar says:
November 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm
I don’t believe that earth can possibly lose its ice as long as there is land at the South Pole.
Wake me up in a 100 million years time when Antarctica has drifted away from the geographic pole.

Antonia says:
November 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm
I’ll believe this crap when I see prestige waterfront properties in Sydney going for a song.
I cancelled my son-in-law’s gift subscription a few years ago. You’d think the head honchos at NG would wake up to themselves with all the cancellations. The fools probably blame the internet.

sophocles fakes being bored (yawn) then proceeds to write a very long post, which belies the yawn and says "it can't happen" (excerpt):
November 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm
So what? It can’t happen. As others have pointed out, there isn’t enough
sequestered FF (Fossil Fuel) to create enough CO2 to melt all the ice.
If we tried, the plants would just love it and all the little beasties in the seas
which created all the lime-stones and chalks would soon soak it all up.
But no, won’t happen. We’re not in control despite what the Witch Hunters
think. We’re in an Ice Age. To be a wee bit more precise, we’re in the
Holocene Interstadial (about the 17th or 18th Interstadial) of the Quaternary
or Pleistocene Ice Age.
The Ice Age is about 2.5 MegaYears old, It’s very young, as Ice Ages go.
It’s got another 60 or more MegaYears to run before this planet returns to
ice-free conditions.

papiertigre says:
November 5, 2013 at 2:14 pm
In all seriousness though, lets ask the question “what if…?”
First thing to observe is water is heavier than ice. So if all this extra water is compressing the Pacific basin, the land around the edges (Oregon California Peru Chile Japan Russia) is going to be pushed up. Spectacular earthquakes and eruptions will occur as the ocean plate is subducted by the coastal plates, but the net effect will be slim to no change in apparent sea level.  On the bright side: San Francisco’s death grip on California politics will be shaken up.


  1. As ridiculous as the WUWT take on the map is, there are legitimate reasons to basically ignore it. Look up the sea level fingerprint work of Mitrovica from a year or so back. When ice melts, it doesn't just raise sea level evenly. It drops it at the poles and raises it a large amount at the tropics and other places. The maps that include the SLF are much more frightening.

  2. Although, Ryan, doesn't that effect get at least somewhat mitigated (eventually) by post-glacial rebound?

  3. Hi Sou. As well as your great articles, I come here for your excellent blog roll. I can see all the blogs in one place and who has new articles. You may be interested in these as well. (So many great climate blogs and so little time but these are local and excellent).


  4. I see that the NG article has a different graphic page that discusses the effect Ryan mentions, although it's not obvious how that was reflected in the interactive graphic.

  5. Newty @ WUWT: " It reminds me of how I worried about nuclear war years ago. Fear is damaging our young who should grow up with optimism and hope."

    The great irony here is that a nuclear war would actually be a bad thing. Some people might even call it "catastrophic".

  6. Off topic but I think our ex-PM just qualified for WUWT membership:


    Sad pathetic little man.


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