It seems this claim comes up about once a year, now we have yet another one making the rounds in the media. Of course when you look at the data, it doesn’t look quite so terrible and or plausible. Here is the story being distributed today:
The source of this? Schnellenhuber and the PIK:
Cultural world heritage threatened by climate change
03/05/2014 – From the Statue of Liberty in New York to the Tower of London or the Sydney Opera House – sea-level rise not only affects settlement areas for large parts of the world population but also numerous sites of the UNESCO World Heritage. This is shown in a new study by Ben Marzeion from the University of Innsbruck and Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“The physical processes behind the global rise of the oceans are gradual, but they will continue for a very long time,” says climate scientist Ben Marzeion. “This will also impact the cultural world heritage.” The scientists computed the likely sea-level rise for each degree of global warming and identified regions where UNESCO World Heritage will be put at risk throughout the coming centuries. While public interest so far was focused mainly on ecological and agricultural impacts of climate change, Marzeion and Levermann in the journal Environmental Research Letters now put the focus on the cultural heritage of mankind.
136 out of 700 listed cultural monuments will be affected in the long-term
The UNESCO World Heritage List comprises a total of more than 700 cultural monuments. If global average temperature increases by just one degree Celsius, already more than 40 of these sites will directly be threatened by the water during the next 2000 years. With a temperature increase of three degrees, about one fifth of the cultural world heritage will be affected in the long term. “136 sites will be below sea-level in the long-run in that case if no protection measures are taken,” Ben Marzeion specifies. “The fact that tides and storm surges could already affect these cultural sites much earlier has not even been taken into account.” Among the world heritage sites affected are, for instance, the historical city centres of Bruges, Naples, Istanbul and St. Petersburg and a number of sites in India and China.
In order to make reliable statements, the climatologists also consider the regionally different rates of sea-level rise. “If large ice masses are melting and the water is dispersed throughout the oceans, this will also influence the Earth’s gravitational field,“ says Anders Levermann. “Sea-level rise will therefore vary between regions.” The scientists calculated future sea-level rise for all world regions and compared these projections with today’s coastal settlement areas and the sites of the cultural world heritage. “Our analysis shows how serious the long-term impacts for our cultural heritage will be if climate change is not mitigated,” says Anders Levermann. “The global average temperature has already increased by 0.8 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. If our greenhouse-gas emissions increase as they have done in the past, physical models project a global warming of up to five degrees by the end of this century.”
Currently populated regions become oceans
Apart from historical cultural monuments, regions that are currently populated by millions of people would thus be affected. With a global warming of three degrees, twelve countries around the world could lose more than half of their present land area and about 30 countries could lose one tenth of their area. “Island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean as well as the Maldives and the Seychelles are particularly threatened, but not only these,” says Anders Levermann. “A majority of their population will eventually need to leave their home islands in the long-term, so most of their culture could be entirely lost sooner or later if the warming trend is not stopped,” Ben Marzeion adds. Seven percent of the world’s population today live in regions that, without massive protection, will eventually be below sea-level if temperatures rise to three degrees. “If that sea-level rise occurred today, more than 600 million people would be affected and would have to find a new home,” Marzeion emphasizes.
In Southeast Asia, where many people are living at the coasts, sea-level rise will impact especially strong. But parts of the United States will be affected as well, as for instance the state of Florida. “These major long-term changes along our coast lines will most probably change cultural structures fundamentally,” says Marzeion. “If we do not limit climate change, the archaeologists of the future will need to search for major parts of our cultural heritage in the oceans.“
Article: Marzeion, B., Levermann, A. (2014): Loss of cultural world heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise. Environmental Research Letters [doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/034001]
Link to the paper: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/3/034001/article
Eh, Statute of Liberty underwater. Been there, done that.
Assuming that it can actually get there?
Steve Wilent said in a tip:
Have you seen the cover of the September 2013 National Geographic Magazine? Cover story: Rising Seas. Image: The statue of Liberty with water up to about Liberty’s waist — more than 200 feet above sea level.
I wondered if they told readers how long that will take to get to that level, like I did in a previous photo portraying New York underwater here:
According to the Nat Geo article “Rising Seas”, it turns out that they didn’t tell their readers about how long it would take to reach the level depicted on the cover, so I’m going to do the calculation for you. First, specs on the Statue of Liberty. I found this image with measurements:
But neither it or the article http://statueofliberty.org/Fun_Facts.html using it had the details I was seeking to be able to determine the heights above current mean sea level.
The National Park Service stats page says:
|Top of base to torch||151’1″||46.05m|
|Ground to tip of torch||305’1″||92.99m|
|Heel to top of head||111’1″||33.86m|
|Ground to pedestal||154’0″||46.94m|
Since the measurements are to ground level, I also has to determine the height of the island above MSL. A variety of measurements I discovered give different answers. Google Earth says 7 feet, while this National Park Service document says 15-20 feet were the highest elevations during its natural state before becoming a national monument. Looking at photos, etc, and considering those citations, for the sake of simplicity I’m going to call the height of Liberty Island at 10 feet above MSL. That puts the torch at 315 feet above the sea level.
I also had to estimate where the NatGeo waterline was, and based on folds in the robe, I estmated it to be 1/3 of the entire height of the statue from feet to torch, or about 50 feet above the top of the pedestal. That puts the NatGeo waterline at approximately 214 feet, or 65.2 meters above mean sea level.
So I have added these measurements, along with the estimated water line from the NatGeo cover to this image from WikiPedia:
So now that we have an estimated value for the NatGeo waterline depicted on the cover of the magazine, we can do the calculations to determine how long it will take for sea level rise to reach that height.
We will use the rate value from the tide Gauge at “The Battery”, just 1.7 miles away according to Google Earth.
How long will it take to reach the NatGeo waterline in the cover photo?
The mean sea level trend is 2.77 millimeters per year. At that rate we have:
65.2 meters = 65200 millimeters / 2.77 mm/yr = 23537.9 years
That’s right, 23 thousand 500 years!
A new ice age will likely be well underway then, dropping sea levels. The water would never get there. That’s assuming the statue still exists there at all. Ironically, Liberty Island is a remnant of the last ice age:
Liberty Island is a small 12.7-acre island in New York Harbor. As a remnant of last glacial age, it is composed of sand and small stones deposited as the glaciers retreated.
Even if we believe that sea level will accelerate to 2 or 3 times that rate (as some proponents would have us believe), we are still looking at thousands of years into the future. At a 3x rate, we are looking at 7846 years into the future.
Without explaining this basic fact to their readers, National Geographic is doing nothing but scare-mongering with that cover image. Shame on them.
It is this sort of junk science sensationalism that causes me and many others not to subscribe to National Geographic anymore. Their climate advocacy while abandoning factual geographics such as this is not worthy of a subscription.
In the PIK paper, they say 2000 years.
So assuming (and it is a big assumption) that sea level rise will continue along its historical average rate of 2.77mm/year we have:
2.77mm/yr * 2000yr = 5540 mm or 5.54meters or 18.1759 feet.
Based on the photos above, that might put the waterline at the base of the pedestal.
Of course, one has to assume that:
1. Sea level rise will be constant for 2000 years.
2. The Statue of Liberty itself will survive that long.
3. The United States will survive that long to have people who still care about the Statue of Liberty.
4. We haven’t already started into another ice age, lowering sea level, and giving us far bigger problems to worry about globally.
I just can’t get excited/worried/concerned about this anymore.