The National Academy of Sciences Loses The Plot

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

A man who has a daughter is a pretty pathetic specimen, ruled by the vicissitudes of hormones and hairspray. So when my daughter told me this morning “Hey, Dad, I put the newspaper on your desk, you’re gonna like it a lot!”, I knew my blood pressure was in deep trouble.

When I finished my shower and got to my desk I saw that the very first story, above the fold, had the headline:

In 20 years, sea level off state to rise up to 1 foot

I figured that it was some rogue alarmist making the usual warnings of impending doom … but no, it was a report from the National Academy of Sciences.

Now, I’ve spent a good chunk of my life at sea, and living in California the sea level rise is of great interest to me, so I knew immediately that the report was unmitigated nonsense. To see why, first let me show you the actual sea level record from San Francisco:

Figure 1. 160 years of sea level observations in San Francisco, California. Source: PSMSL

San Francisco has one of the longest continuous sea level records in the US. As you can see, there’s nothing too remarkable about the record. It is worth noting, however, that over the last 160 years the sea level in San Francisco has gone up by about 8 inches (20 cm) … and there are 12 inches in a foot (30 cm). It is also worth noting that during the last couple of decades it has hardly risen at all.

So what does the National Academy of Sciences projection of a one foot rise by 2030 look like?

Well … it looks like this:

Figure 2. High end projection of the National Academy of Sciences for the 2030 sea level in San Francisco.

Now, people are always saying to me things like “Willis, why don’t you believe in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming? After all, the National Academy of Sciences says it is real and about to happen.”

And indeed, there is a whole cottage industry these days dedicated to figuring out why the American public doesn’t believe what the climate scientists and people like the NAS folks are saying. Some people studying the question say it’s because the scientists aren’t getting the message across. Others say it’s because the public doesn’t understand science. Another group ascribes it to political affiliation. And there’s even a group that says it is a psychological pathology.

I hold a different view. I say that both I and a large sample of the American public doesn’t believe what the folks in the white lab coats at the National Academy of Science are saying because far too often it is a joke. Not only is it a joke, it’s a joke that doesn’t pass the laugh test. It is risible, unbelievable, way outside the boundaries of the historical record, beyond anything that common sense would say is possible, ludicrous, out of this world. I mean seriously, folks … is there anyone out there who actually believes that the sea level rise shown in Figure 2 will actually happen by 2030? Well, they believe it over at the National Academy of Sciences.

So the next time someone trots out the pathetic claim that catastrophic AGW must be real because the most prestigious and highly respected National Academy of Sciences says so … point them to this post.

The NAS press release, with a link to the actual paper, is here.


PS—While this is a comedy, it is also a tragedy. It is a measure of how blinded and blinkered the climate science establishment has become. It is a tragedy because in an uncertain time, science should be our pole star, the one fixed thing in a spinning sky … but instead, it has become a joke, and that is a tragedy indeed.


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Well, they believe it over at the National Academy of Sciences.
What isn’t so clear is how is it possible they have got to this, Willis?

Splendid again, Willis. Your restraint thunders to greater effect than the shrill shouts of the alarmists.


It actually says “that global sea level will rise 8 to 23 centimeters by 2030”
How does the full range look on your graph?

Rob Boyd

How on earth is the sea level supposed to rise off the California coast exclusively? Has water decided to congregate there to the exclusion of the rest of the planet? the only way this makes any sense at all is if California is going to sink a foot in the next twenty years, and that doesn’t make much sense either. Is there any such thing as localized permanent sea level rises?


Opps thats global.
California’s range is 4 to 30 centimeters, How does that look?

Willis, You could easily get a graph like the NAS projection. Think what the sea level graphs for Sumatra or NE Japan look like….


I was only 19 years old when I challenged a nutrition professor over the amount of protein needed for athletes back in 1995. Eventually, I was right. The nutrition science is a complete mess, even to this day, they still got it wrong over cholesterol and saturated fat consumption causing heart disease. There’s a lot more I can come up with.
Good luck. It’s a long rough road to get things straightened out no matter what. As long as Liberal/Democrats-complex academia are in control, we just have to keep on fighting. Believe me, there are A LOT of people out there not believing anything they teach in colleges. They mostly stay quiet unfortunately.


There is a host of self-centred and greedy ulterior motives different people have for supporting the AGW paradigm.
1- For researchers, once a paradigm becomes popular and dominant, it is career limiting to oppose it.
2- If the climate is presented as something about which governments can make policies, then government money will flow for research. If climate is something that we cannot affect, funding is not going to be as forthcoming.
3- Plus of course it gives researchers a good feeling to imagine that they’re working to save the world instead of, say, developing a new scent for feminine hygiene products.
4- Environmentalists see carbon emission control as a means to reduce real pollutants like NOx, SO2, Hg, etc. as a side effect.
5- Luddites see carbon strangulation as a way of dismantling the industrial economies to force everyone to a much reduced subsistence.
6- ‘Personal isolationists’ try to use AGW as a way to eliminate big utility companies, with power generated at home from wind, solar, or even car batteries, and even sold to the local grid at retail (or higher) rates.
7- EU trade isolationists see carbon regulation as a way of increasing the energy cost, and thus decreasing the competitiveness, of North American economies _vis a vis_ EU ones.
8- Opportunities to use carbon emissions as pretexts to block or heavily tariff imports abound, thus degrading international trade even further.
9- Local trade isolationists like the idea of overseas products becoming more expensive, and if they can’t do that by punitive tariffs and quotas, they hope to do so by artificially driving up shipping costs.
10- Various people see Kyoto-type agreements as a way of transferring wealth from developed economies to lesser ones, as our one-time Liberal cabinet minister Stewart once claimed.
11- Some also envision carbon strangulation as a pretext for involving governments deeply into the economy, via direct and indirect subsidies for energy alternatives that can claim to be ‘green’. Naturally, those who are involved and invested in such industries have their own greed factor.
12- Believers in Big Government also love the idea of sending governments even more of our money under any pretext, and use carbon taxes as a way to transfer even more money to people in lower income levels.
13- Some politicians see taking ‘the west’ off oil as a means of removing the dependence the US in particular has on politically uncertain sources.
14- Other politicans see ‘cap & trade’ or other quota management as a way to direct corruption to their buddies and relatives.
15- Nuclear energy proponents see carbon strangulation as a way to promote nuclear power.
16- Some people imagine that energy cost reductions will magically pay for, and even squeeze profit from, expensive carbon control technologies whose payback times are actually measured (when they aren’t just dead costs) in decades.
17- Opportunistic “businessmen” see the panic of the masses as an opportunity to solicit donations to so-called “non-profit” organizations or to operate carbon credit companies in order to enrich themselves financially.
18- Financial trading corporations like Goldman Sachs see carbon trading as an opportunity to generate a new financial bubble out of an inexistant commodity (carbon credits) with which to justify huge profits and staggering executive bonuses.
19- In politics it is generally held far more important to be consistent than it is to be right. Lies and errors about warming are thus propagated further, instead of being squelched, in order to bolster the political optics.
20- Some people propose deliberately crushing economic growth to be an improvement over what they think will happen if we let growth proceed naturally.
21- And there are some who are actually sincere, who desperately want to believe that they can by sacrificing (or by forcing the rest of us to sacrifice) contribute to saving the world. But just because you make a sacrifice to superstition doesn’t mean that your AGW deity is going to come through for you.


Nationally, A Comedy of Sciences

Curious George

Every voodoo scientist hopes that his (her) paper will get forgotten in 20 years.

gary murphy

pe murph
you know, some years ago i briefed nas on a methodology, and felt real puffed up at the time. Now i get sick and want to throw-up whenever i see this kind of blindness, and so i remain silent and embarrassed about my past experience.


At first I thought the projection was ridiculous, but then I noticed some of the peak years. It looks like around 1915 there was a peak, another around 1943, and another around 1984. Their high end projection looks right in line with those three peaks, and thus seems plausible for at least a temporary sea level rise. If global warming accelerates, it could be even higher.

Willis agree with you. By the way did you ever look at my reply to your comment about methane and the article (Kasting et al -Photochemistry of methane in earth’s early atmosphere) for which you appear not to have your BS meter switch on. Click my name and go to replies.

David L. Hagen

You show very clearly the claimed consequences of “acceleration” in global warming.
As a reality check on the NRC, I see Roy Spencer finds:

The U.S. lower-48 surface temperature anomaly from my population density-adjusted (PDAT) dataset was 1.26 deg. C above the 1973-2012 average for May 2012, with a 1973-2012 linear warming trend of +0.14 deg. C/decade

Lucia Lilijgren shows similar results of 0.138 C/decade with a +2 sigma/ – 2 sigma range of [0.082, 0.193]:

Note: The linear trend is distinctly positive with “no warming” rejected using any of the three statistical models shown in the figure. Meanwhile 0.2 C /decade since 1980 remains rejected if one “likes” the red noise model and uses 2-σ as your criteria for significance. (Recall 1.96 σ is the 95% confidence intervals for Guassian residuals). But it’s inside the uncertainty intervals if one “likes” the best fit ARIMA with coefficients based on the data since 1990. Note also: 0.2C/decade is for the surface and other caveats apply.

Eyeballing Roy Spencer’s 4th order polynomial fit to ALL the satellite data since 1979, I would estimate that we are about to head down into a cooling period rather than accelerated warming. Other natural cycle dominated models with similar reduced warming or cooling trends are given by: Don Easterbrook, Nicola Scafetta, ; and Syun-Ichi Akasofu e.g. DOI: 10.4236/ns.2010.211149
From such evidence and pragmatic understanding of natural cycles, I’ll say the NRC’s “acceleration” is “Not Proven”, nor validated.

Ed Barbar

The right way to deal with this is to demonstrate there is a one-sided “catastrophic” projection, that isn’t occurring. It would be interesting to obtain all the projections from the IPCC, compare them to the actuality (which too is a problem), and then “adjust” the anomalies of the models. The cool thing is one can use the published works no matter what year the current year is. Provided, of course, there is a good thermometer recording today’s temps.


HR says:
June 23, 2012 at 5:53 pm
“Opps thats global.
California’s range is 4 to 30 centimeters, How does that look?”
Like a fifty percent chance of rain.

Once again though, now that it has been published, it will become another “fact” used by the warmistas.


HR, from looking at the graph, a 4 cm rise would fit in just fine. But to include a 30 cm rise in an estimation is ridiculous — as Willis’s graph so nicely shows. Well done Willis!
I wonder if anyone has any sound theories on why there seemed to be a steep rise in the 1870s and 1930s, why there was an actual significant drop from 1885 to 1905 and why the rise from 1995ish to 2012 has been almost nonexistent. It could be “natural random variation” but the general uniformity between 1940 and 2000 argues against such variations.


Pathetic. A veritable trenbersty.

spangled drongo

Willis, thanks for those pertinent comments.
From your side of the NE Pacific to my side of the SW Pacific, I, too have kicked around the water front since messing about in boats as a kid during WW2 and still a water front resident today.
During the war I had to stay with a relative who lived on Moreton Bay at Cleveland Point and in those days the king tides used to completely cover their land and their well needed a levy to keep out the salt water. That relative’s brother who was at the war then, is still alive and told me the other day that the current king tides are not as high nowadays and do not completely cover that land.
I have many benchmarks for king tides over long periods like this and I have yet to see evidence of visible sea level rise.


Another NAS epic fail. The devil is in the details. They have mistaken sea level rise for land subsidence. Were it me I’d quit my job in embarrassment, but it is San Francisco.

The committee’s projections for the California coast south of Cape Mendocino are slightly higher than its global projections because much of the coastline is subsiding.


Are you sure that it isn’t 1.2 inches and the notoriously bad-at-numbers lamestream media didn’t just hose the reporting? HR (not me, H.R.) above found 4cm to 30cm posited, …hmmm.. which is very roughly 1.2 to 12 inches.
Looks like that gives the NAS plausible deniability and they can lay the alarmism on the reporters, knowing they will choose the sensational number over the boring, most likely number.


San Francisco has one of the longest continuous sea level records in the US. As you can see, there’s nothing too remarkable about the record.

What is “remarkable” is the flattening during the recent global warming cycle. “THE HOTTEST DECADE ON THE RECORD” blah, blah. Thermal expansion, blah, blah.
Jokes aside, is there thermal expansion in the works? Pipeline?
[Formatting fixed. -w]

Occasionally some credulous fool will post a comment here claiming that ‘all of our professional societies [like the NAS] can’t be wrong’ about “carbon”, or climate change, or sea level rise.
They can and they are. The NAS and other professional organizations have been co-opted by dishonest activists. They have ulterior, self-serving motives for making these outrageous, anti-science statements.
The NAS knows damn well sea levels will not rise like they predicted here. They know it, and yet they lie through their teeth to the public. Apparently lying is now acceptable as long as it puts unearned money in their pockets, or advances their narrative, or sends them on all expense paid jaunts to conferences around the world.
The NAS made this bogus prediction with a straight face in order to get their fingers into our wallets. Remember this article the next time some fool says that all these professional organizations can’t be wrong. They are lying to the public to advance their agenda. It may not be an organized conspiracy, but it is a conspiracy with a wink and a nod, and an elbow to the ribs. They are lying to fleece the taxpaying public.

Richard T. Fowler

They can make the one-foot rise “happen”, Willis. All they have to do is:
1) do several “adjustments” to the 160 years of data, revising upward for the post-2000 data and, if they feel like it, downward for the pre-1980 data (just for good measure).
2) After producing a good “adjusted” data set, throw away the old data set and manufacture a big brouhaha so they can make it look like they lost it by accident. Put on a public display of crocodile tears to show how “devastated” they are that the old, raw data were lost. Simultaneously, dispatch a small army of commentators to repeatedly tell skeptical members of the public that there was no substantial difference between the two, so there’s “nothing to see here”.
3) as 2030 approaches, say: “Look at this chart! Our prediction came true. Our critics are saying we missed it, but they are only counting from 2012, when it is quite clear that our prediction applied retroactively to the period 2000-2030. That our critics cannot see this is further evidence of their unfitness to participate in a discussion about AGW.”
What do you think of the feasibility of this idea?
I’m sorry to say, with the current state of human incompetence, I think it stands a good chance of working.

Larry Hamlin

The University Colorado at Boulder satellite derived global sea level data shows that since measurements began in 1993 there has been no acceleration in the rate of global sea level increase, that since 2002 the of rate of sea level increase has declined and that the total sea level increase to the year 2100 lies in the range of 7 to 16 inches. This empirical data is what should be relied upon by society not the pure conjecture provided by climate alarmists models.


The Netherlands has a long history of concern about the sea level. One of the things I noticed while visiting there several years ago were markers on canals and walls and such things showing high-water marks at various times stretching back hundreds of years. Some of those marks were a fair number of feet above where the waters ranged in recent decades.

Richard Sharpe

Hockey Stick on viagra!

Lanks anger is rising too

No Willis it is not a joke. The authors of this alarmist pseudoscience garbage should be held to account. They must be outed as the ‘camera grabbers’ that they are and shunned by all academic organisations that claim to be scientific.
General public who falsely claim they have committed a serious crime are punished and often go to prison for wasting law inforcement time…. these pseudoscience criminals should also be punished.


The San Francisco tide gauge is probably reflecting, in part, subsidence or other factors, not climatic sea level changes. Nearby:
Alameda doesn’t show nearly as much change over their common period, as far as I can tell.


I can tell you right now that in 2030 the sea rise will be about 4 cm. However, CO2 levels will increase faster than expected. The warmists will take the rising CO2 as evidence of climate change and ignore that the ocean rise is smaller than what they predicted such a “devastating” rise in CO2 would do.
Hey, the same thing happened with Hansen and his paper.

Mark and two Cats

algore better sell his $4M waterfront condo in San Francisco.
Reply: I wish this false factoid would die. Gore’s condo is not on the waterfront. It’s in SOMA, (South of Market), near The Financial District in a high rise building, the base of which is about 75 feet above sea level. ~ctm

Neil Jordan

Willis: To further confuse the issue, relative sea level is falling at Crescent City, CA:
Minus 0.65 +/- 0.36 mm/year (minus 0.03 inch/year).
On the other hand, the California Ocean Protection Council at
adopted by resolution on March 11, 2011
a table of future sea levels based on Vermeer & Rahmstorf*:
Year Average of models
2030 18 cm 7 inch
2050 36 cm 14 inch
2070 Low 59 cm 23 inch
2070 Medium 62 cm 24 inch
2070 High 69 cm 27 inch
2100 Low 101 cm 40 inch
2100 Medium 121 cm 47 inch
2100 High 140 cm 55 inch
If you dig deeper, you will find even more “projections” and inconsistencies. The ensemble of projections added to your figure would look like a bicycle handlebar tassel.
(*) Martin Vermeer and Stefan Rahmstorf, “Global sea level linked to global temperature”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print December 7, 2009; doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907765106.

John F. Hultquist

michaeljmcfadden says:
June 23, 2012 at 6:45 pm Re: The Netherlands

And your point was what?


John, the point about the Netherlands was that there didn’t seem to be any truly significant rise in sea level over the last several hundred years or there wouldn’t have been a long history of higher “high water marks.” HOWEVER… after making the comment I realized I was falling into the trap of confusing trends with aberrations. The high water marks probably involved flooding due to local weather conditions and could easily have been orders of magnitude above any gradual rise of a hundred or two centimeters. My fault!

Rob L

Sea level graph from 19th to 21st century:
Can see recent rise is little different from 1930 to 1960 during previous heating phase of the 60 year period PDO cycle. Sea rise unsurprisingly appears to be about 15 years (90° phase) lagged to PDO driven heating cycle. I’m actually surprised recent rises weren’t greater given massive rate of agricultural ground water abstraction since 1950′s, that apparently added about 0.8mm sea level rise per year, abstract:
If that 0.8mm/year groundwater contribution is correct then it suggests satellite era underlying glacial melt + thermosteric sea level rise might actually be lower than 1930-1960 which would be a bit inconvenient for the CO2 driven AGW story.

Frederick Michael

Time out — 4 to 30 centimeters? That’s not much more useful than “predicting” that the rise will be between 0 and 100 centimeters. How is that even a prediction? It’s like “predicting” that Obama will get between 20% and 80% of the popular vote in November. Gee, thanks for filling that in for us.
Does anyone want to bet that the rise WON’T be between 4 and 30 centimeters over the next 18 years? That’s a rate of rise ranging from a low of 2.22 millimeters per year to a high of 16.67 millimeters per year. That pretty much covers it, eh?
After having been wrong on so many “predictions,” maybe they want to just be sure to get one right.


“But Major Earthquake Could Cause Sudden Rise”
As in a very minor tsunami. Big deal.

Rob MW

Are you sure that NAS didn’t just mix up their allotted column space with their review of the adjusted positive feedback pointers in the regular consumption of Government subsidised Viagra ?/sarc
Thus they would be proud of the accuracy of your chart./sarc

The NAS was paid $500,000 by the state of California for that study, so of course they will report whatever the customer wants to hear.

Paul Carter

The San Francisco Chronicle has published an incorrect graph on about the projected rises – see
Their top graph misrepresents the report’s high end global sea level rise as only 10cm by 2030, not 23 cm. A correct graph would look more like Willis’s graph above, and the ridiculousness of the top end projections that are grabbing headlines would be clear.
The NRC place a significant reliance on Climate Model projections for their estimates, see details in the report at

Luther Wu

I’m surprised that they claim an entire foot. Sure, after the flood subsides, there will be measurable rise- on the new coastline formerly known as the east bank of the San Andreas.


If you take the the high value for the global rate of sea level rise (3mm/yr), in 18 yrs you get 54 mm or a little more than 2 inches. I’m scared.


@Robert Boyd How on earth is the sea level supposed to rise off the California coast exclusively? Has water decided to congregate there to the exclusion of the rest of the planet? 
It’s all plate tectonics. You know it, I with a high school education know it, and even the NAS knows it. Might as well abandon the coast now rather than later.


It’s really “National Academy of Social Politics”?


Maybee someone wants to destroy the value of property along the coast and buy or confescate it up dirt cheap and later sell it with max profit?

Chuck Nolan

“It is also worth nothing that during the last couple of decades it has hardly risen at all.”
Should be noting?
[Thanks, fixed. w.]

Max Entropy

To translate the NAS release.: “The crisis must be studied, send grant money NOW!”

Rob Dawg

Seems everybody, even the water, wants to hang out on the California coast.

Democrat Voter Siting Next to the San Francsco Bay

OMG! Look right now, the sea level is rising!
No, wait. It’s dropping.
There it goes again, it rising even higher than before… RUN!
Oh, that was close, it’s going back down now.
There! It’s rising again!
Whew, back down.


Last time I was in San Francisco was in early 1990. They had just managed to get the city functioning after large parts of it moved, and moved more than a foot, and in more than one direction. The Oakland side of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge shifted half a foot.
I was a little worried about another earthquake, but now I find that I should have been more worried about a sudden surge in the sea level, silly me.