Below is a screencap of the “walkback” story headline in the LATimes posted late today.
This morning, about 5:30AM, I sent a short but succinct letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times (reproduced below) regarding the statements made yesterday by California Governor Jerry Brown saying that the LAX and SFO airports would “have to be moved” due to effects from posited sea level rise caused by melting of portions of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, some 200-800 years in the future. The claim by Governor Brown, was patently ridiculous and I wrote about it here: Governor ‘Moonbeam’ beclowns himself over sea level rise at LAX airport.
Brown’s statement on LAX and SFO airports really didn’t surprise me though, because at AGU 2013, I sat just a few feet away from him during a presentation by Dr. Richard Alley, who made some of the wildest claims on sea level rise I’ve ever seen. I took a photo then and wrote about the experience:
I wrote then:
I saw Penn State’s Richard Alley speak, and let me tell you, if you think Michael Mann is annoying, Alley’s certainly a close second. His presentation was simultaneously grating (he shouted a lot) and ridiculous, using bizarre metaphors like this one:
Worse, California governor Jerry Brown was in the audience and seemed to be quite taken with Alley’s brand of science and alarmism, particularly Alley’s depictions of San Francisco under water.
I shudder to think what sort of influence Alley’s rantings might have on the people of California via Brown.
Well, we found out yesterday.
Today, we get the walkback to sanity. The LATimes now says:
An aide to Jerry Brown confirmed Wednesday that the governor was wrong when he said global warming would eventually cause rising seawater to inundate Los Angeles International Airport.
But various sources say that the nation’s third-busiest airport — bordered by the Pacific Ocean — has elevations ranging from 108 feet to 126 feet and is protected by higher coastal bluffs on the west side.
“The governor misspoke about LAX,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the Brown administration.
Environmental officials for Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX, said the airport has an elevation of more than 120 feet. “A 4-foot rise in sea level,” they said, “should have minimal impact on airport operations.”
One of those “various sources” was me, not only from my blog post yesterday, but also from this letter I sent early this morning:
A Times story on Governor Brown’s new budget had this title “Brown says rising sea levels could force costly move of LAX” with Brown citing two recent science papers on Antarctic melt saying “If that happens, the Los Angeles airport’s going to be underwater,”.
The science says otherwise. LAX airport elevation is 125 feet, the NOAA Los Angeles tide gauge rate of sea level rise 0.83 millimeter/year suggests that it will take over 40,000 years to reach the runways.
On the Amundsen Sea ice sheets in Antarctica melting, NASA in their press release on the paper said: “The region contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by 4 feet (1.2 meters).” They offer a worst case scenario of the entire West Antarctic sheet melting, stating 16 feet (5 meters). Neither scenario affects LAX.
Governor Brown would better serve the public by checking facts before offering baseless alarm.
NOT PART OF THE ARTICLE – REFERENCES FOR THE EDITOR:
Elevation of LAX runways: http://www.airnav.com/airport/KLAX
NASA Press release on Antarctic Ice shelf melt http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/news/antarctic-ice-sheet-20140512/
I didn’t get an acknowledgement from the editor, and given their “no denier” publication policy, I doubt my letter will run, even though it was entirely factual, because it made both the Governor and the LATimes look bad for not doing basic fact checking.
However, mid-day I did get a nice email from somebody on the other side of the climate debate, editor Douglas Fischer of the Daily Climate, thanking me for the “good catch” and telling me that I had the LA Times newsroom “scrambling…trying to explain how they let this slip through unchallenged”. He said they were going to put my story on the Daily Climate right next to the LATimes story, and they did (thanks Doug):
So, at least I have that satisfaction. I urge others to follow my lead: when ridiculous claims are made in the media, challenge them with supportable facts. You may not get an acknowledgment, but the desire to not look stupid is pretty strong, and will have an effect.