Hey UCS, Maybe It’s Time We Stopped Wasting Money Studying a Problem And Spent That Money Adapting to It

The Washington Post published an article today titled When sea levels rise, high tides will spill into communities far more often, study says.

What a revelation! It’s almost as foolish as the studies that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to tell us that heat waves will occur more often (and cold spells less often) in a warming world. A grade schooler could figure those things out.

The Washington Post article was about a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. See the UCS webpage Encroaching Tides for links to the full report, executive summary and technical appendix. There’s lots of pretty pictures and graphs and stuff.

But it turns out the webpage is nothing more than an advertisement. If you scroll down to the bottom of the Encroaching Tides webpage, the UCS is asking for donations:

We Need Your Support to Make Change Happen

Your contribution puts rigorous scientific analysis to work to advance clean, renewable energy and so much more. With the support of people like you, we are developing and implementing practical solutions to build a healthier environment and a safer world.

So the UCS tries to scare the pants off of their adoring public in an effort to raise some more money for their coffers. What a surprise!!


This post is not about whether the sea level report by the Union of Concerned Scientists agrees with the IPCC. It’s not about whether the Union of Concerned Scientists have exploited a naturally occurring upswing in sea level rise that’s part of the multidecadal variations in the North Atlantic ocean temperatures known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. I’m not going to waste my time downloading tide gauge data from dozens of locations up and down the eastern seaboard.

For decades now, we’ve been told that sea levels are going to rise. Why do they keep telling us? Why don’t we stop wasting money on their foolish studies about what we already know and start spending money on preparing for the inevitable?

This is going to require a different mindset, one geared toward adapting.

Is renewable energy going to stop the rise in sea level? No. To combat rising sea levels, do we need more windmills? No. Do we need more solar cell arrays? No. So why in God’s name would anyone in their right mind send money to the Union of Concerned Scientists to “work to advance clean, renewable energy” when we need them to do “so much more” other stuff?

Here’s a couple of paragraphs and an illustration from the Introduction to my upcoming book.

[Start quote.]

Sea levels, on the other hand, present an altogether different problem. Again, even if we could turn back CO2 levels to preindustrial values, sea levels would continue to rise. Sea levels have been rising since the end of the last ice age, and they will continue to do so until Earth heads toward another ice age and the globe starts to cool once again. Further, the rate at which global sea levels might possibly change in the future, in response to the hypothetical effects of manmade greenhouse gases, is still the subject of wide ranges of uncertainty and open debate…and the subject of even more alarmism from activists and the media, if that’s possible. One thing is certain: the oceans and seas will continue to assault Earth’s land masses. Adding solar arrays and windmills to power grids is not going to stop the oceans from invading our shorelines. We can only adapt to rising sea levels…and we have been doing exactly that since the end of the last ice age.

We can no longer travel by land between Asia and North America via the Bering Land “Bridge”. Similarly, we can no longer migrate on land between Tasmania, New Guinea and Australia, which were all interconnected landmasses not too many millennia ago. We can no longer hunt and gather in Doggerland, which was the former landmass that once connected Britain to mainland Europe during and after the last ice age. Doggerland disappeared only 6000 to 6500 years ago, swallowed by the rising North Sea. All around the globe, since the last glacial maximum, we’ve lost valuable low-lying lands and their resources to rising sea levels, and we’ll lose more of them in the future. That’s an unfortunate and unavoidable fact of life on this planet.

Maybe it’s easier to fathom if we look at the rise and fall in sea levels in paleoclimatological timeframes. We won’t have to think in those terms often in this book, because most of the discussions are about the past 3 to 4 decades. But for a moment, let’s think in tens and hundreds of thousands of years. Then the 100 to 125 meter (330 to 410 foot) variations in sea levels could simply be thought of as a form of ice age-dependent “tides”, washing ashore when the Earth warms between ice ages and receding when the earth cools toward the glacial maximums. See Figure Intro-5.

Figure Intro-5

Out of need and without the slightest thought of future “tides”, our ancestors built villages, towns and cities along those retreating shorelines, and we continue to build homes and businesses there. Now, with a new-found awareness of those future advances in the “tides”, we are adapting, and future generations will continue to adapt, because our villages, towns and cities lie within the “glacial-interglacial tidal range”. Trying to hold back the “tides” of naturally rising sea levels by limiting greenhouse gas emissions is a fool’s errand.

[End quote.]



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Great post Bob.
The only thing I can add is we have been told for a long time that the sea will rise and drown us, but I have seen no evidence of that. Well, no evidence without the usual “adjusting” to the data. There is a place on the eastern shore of Florida that I have been going to since the late 60s that shows no sea level rise at all. When should the residents start moving inland?


When and if the sea rises . I have looked at spot on pacific shore fifty years and see no reason to flee.

James Bradley

When Al Gore, David Suzuki and Tim Flannery sell their multi million dollar waterfront mansions.


Alarum! Alarum! Quick, give me money and I’ll save you!
The various CAGW money grabs are only a little more scientificky sounding than the psychics that will rid your house of evil spirits… for a fee.


At least the psychics are still (mostly) following the laws of thermodynamics and physics and they’re not blaming the increasing ghost problems on fictional properties of an atmospheric trace gas.

michael hart

I think they’re still working on a script for Ghostbusters III.

John L.

The Dutch figured out how to handle high water centuries ago. In an ironic
twist, part of their ” fix” did involve windmills.


Only because they didn’t have internal combustion engines.

Larry Geiger

Well maybe not. Actually, one of the few things that windmills are often good at is pumping water, IMHO. They just pump when the wind is blowing and pump it back out to sea or pump it into the tank or reservoir. For instance it’s easier to just pop up a windmill than to run miles and miles of electric wire way out in the pasture to pump water for the cattle.

According to NOAA mean sea level data from their tidal gauges, sea level has been flat for 15-20 years.

Thanks Bob, for an article full of good old common sense, facts and clear thinking. It is so refreshing amid the avalanche of Warmista Alarmism and Rent-Seeking.

Colin Porter

This is an excellent article which puts into perspective what sea level rise is all about in terms of ice ages minimums and maximums. I don’t think that the Dutch will be very pleased to know that they will ultimately have to top their dykes with up to a further 4 to 8m of concrete or that the palm islands developments of Dubai will have to be flattened in a couple of thousand years in order to ship in billions of more tons of sand from the desert before rebuilding the luxury holiday complexes. Perhaps these communities might prefer the onset of the next ice age, though in the case of the Dutch, it could be a toss up as to which is worse, the risk of over topping surge tides or an advancing ice sheet.


You don’t think the people in Dubai are capable of building some 4m high dunes along the shore line then, or that the maintenance of the dykes by adding a few metres of concrete is a truly overwhelming feat of engineering? Holding back water is something that mankind is actually rather good at.


“Stupid is as stupid does!”

So even if AGW is a load of cobblers we are still doomed.


So let me get this right…
Sea level, on average, is rising 1mm, maybe 2mm (to be charitable) per year?
Anyone so slow that they can’t step away from that deserves to drown.

Anyone so slow that they can’t step away from that deserves to drown.
As my daddy used to say, “The stupid shall be punished”


Except today it appears that we need to alter that to “The stupid will be given grants which reinforce their stupidity.”

Mark Luhman

nielszoo you forgot they are also sent on fools errands. Like trying to get the world temperature, figure if the sea is rising or the land is sinking oh wait rising. In more agrarian time they were just sent out to milk the bull. Now about all they do is produce bull fecal matter and they think we should be impressed. I do have to admit though they play the con game well, they line their pockets from what they steal from us!

Louis Hooffstetter


Mr Green Genes

“Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won’t drown”.
– Arthur Ransome: Swallows And Amazons, 1930


The Washington Post published an article today titled When sea levels rise, high tides will spill into communities far more often, study says.
What a revelation! It’s almost as foolish as the studies that cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to tell us that heat waves will occur more often (and cold spells less often) in a warming world.
Actually, ARE these two things true? Why would the sea level being a few Millimeters (or even whole Meters) higher in a hundred years cause more floodings? Are we going to forget how to build dikes? Are there going to be more king tides and storm surges? Holland has been keeping the sea out for centuries and it’s further below current sea level then Manhattan Island will be in millennia.
And the same goes for Heat Waves & Cold Spells. Hot and Cold are relative. Do Heat Waves happen more often in South Carolina then in New York? Sure, a Heat Wave in Wilmington may have a Max temp a few degrees higher then one in Manhattan, but you’ll never convince a New Yorker they’re better off because of it.
The simple truth is, even if the alarmists were right about future warming (ha), none of their scare stories about things getting worse or happening more often are true.

Ian W

Actually, ARE these two things true? Why would the sea level being a few Millimeters (or even whole Meters) higher in a hundred years cause more floodings? Are we going to forget how to build dikes? Are there going to be more king tides and storm surges? Holland has been keeping the sea out for centuries and it’s further below current sea level then Manhattan Island will be in millennia.

New York and New Orleans were both warned decades before they were flooded that they would need sea defenses. But they did “forget how to build dikes” or rather busied themselves with such things as sizes of sodas instead and getting taxes from homes they allowed builders to create on low lying flood prone land. Unfortunately, our politicians are nowhere near as sensible as you seem to believe.

Berényi Péter

New York and New Orleans were both warned decades before they were flooded that they would need sea defenses. But they did “forget how to build dikes”

No, they did not. At least in case of New Orleans it was an environmental group named “Save Our Wetlands” who’d dun it.
It was intentional, wetlands were oversaved, restoring most of New Orleans into its original wet land status. A green success story.
see: The Lawsuit That Sank New Orleans

Steve P

NYC’s lack of preparation was laid bare during Sandy, but I think the story is a little more complicated with New Orleans. As I understand it, the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers is required by law to prevent the Mississippi River from changing course through its delta.

For thousands of years, the Mississippi River has naturally writhed back and forth like a water hose, spewing muddy sediment loads first one place then another along several hundred miles of coast. These movements built up a number of major deltas along the southern Louisiana coast.
This shifting geography has gradually reoriented the course of the river. Now the river is running about as far east as it can possibly go, and it wants to writhe back west, away from New Orleans and down the Atchafalaya River Basin instead.
But in the late 1950’s, Congress passed a bill to save the port of New Orleans by making it illegal for more than a third of the Mississippi to flow down the Atchafalaya River basin. This is akin to passing a bill to hold back the tide.



No, he “attacks” this report as you say, because they want money to develop clean energy which won’t help the communities you listed one damn bit.


“Bob attacks this report on the basis that it ignores adaptation to SLR.”
Funny, I had a different impression. Wait, let the UCS do the talking
“We Need Your Support to Make Change Happen
Your contribution puts rigorous scientific analysis to work to advance clean, renewable energy and so much more.”
You see, they want your money, and they will not use it for anything sea level related, as they told you.

The Washington Post article was about a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
I hope you’ve canceled Kenji’s membership in the UCS.
I’d hate to think any intelligent animal’s concerns would be used to spread lies.
Although, I’m pretty sure Kenji is still very concerned.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

I feel that thanks should go to the North Sea. Here in Britain, we should have a recognition-day, celebrating the fact that we’re no longer land-locked to Europe! History would be a whole lot different if it weren’t for that stretch of sea!


The report says Washington DC will be experiencing nearly 400 Tidal floodings a year… so more then once a day? I guess it’s best to assume permanently under water.
It also says that it’s having between 40 and 50 a year RIGHT NOW. Is this true? It’s hard to believe. Maybe time for the Engineering Corps to update their flood control network.


The Washington Naval Yard has 704 high tides per year. About 48 of those are “spring tides” that are higher due to lunar and solar alignments. Nothing to see here… been going on for a very, very long time. One also needs to remember that most of Washington D.C. was built on swamp land and it remains a moral and ethical swamp, but I digress.

If you walk along Constitution Ave. between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument you can see the paved over canal that used to be there. At the corner if Constitution and 17th Street there is still standing the “Old Lock Keepers House”. Down stream in Alexandria at the foot of King Street it was flooding in the spring all the time in the 1950ies. I rowed crew and we walked the boats through the water almost daily.


Bob attacks this report on the basis that it is a waste of money and that it asks for more money for ” rigorous scientific analysis to work to advance clean, renewable energy “.
We have been told, and know that sea levels are rising. Spending money on reports to tell us what we already know is stupid. Might as well spend money on a report that tells us there are more hours of daylight in summer than in winter.
And since we have been told that the glaciers are melting and the ocean water is expanding due to be hotter, the sea level will naturally continue to rise even if we switched all current energy sources to renewables today. So donating money for the causes the UCS asks for is useless in the context of adapting to sea level rise.
The fact that you couldn’t understand Bob’s article, or more likely that you intentionally misrepresented Bob’s article just shows your bias. Your sad pathetic bias.

Has the Corp of Engineers developed and published a plan to save America from rising sea levels?


I’m sure it’s raising taxes.

WaPo – leader in the mostly obvious, deniers of the really obvious.
We can always do a dutch treat and build dykes around the world. That should only cost around $225 trillion


The obvious solution is to reduce the tide levels. Nuke the moon and tear off a chunk. Not as stupid as putting up wind mills and solar panels.


So, is North Redington Beach, FL any less suseptible to sea level rise than Miami?……because I have been going to that beach for the last 35 years and the Redington Long Pier has the exact same high water marks as it did when I was a kid. Nothing has changed. In fact, shouldn’t the houses on the intra-coastal all be flooded during high tides as a result of all of this sea level rise?…..at least the water (and barnacles) should be on the top of the sea wall….shouldn’t they be?
They are not.

You are perceptive. The ruse that sea level is rising is the most successful of all the fabrications of the alarmists and has duped a very considerable number of skeptics. Bob Tisdale seems to be one of those. NOAA tidal gauges show no sea level rise in recent decades (see NOAA mean sea level).

Ben Of Houston

Gaelan, the difference is that over 35 years is 7 cm, less than 3 inches. You won’t see the effect of these changes even during your lifetime because daily variation greatly ovewhelms anything that you can see. Plus, in many areas, land subsidence or rising happens on a faster scale, so it’s quite possible to see a net decrease in ocean level because your beach is rising 3-10 mm annually versus the ocean’s 2mm. There’s a difference between a hoax and something that’s just so slow that it’s unimportant on the scale of a single lifetime.

Ben of Houston:
Actually gaelansclark is likely right. There is no NOAA gauge at Redington Beach but at St. Petersburg the NOAA mean sea level shows a flat trend since the mid-eighties. All Gulf coast gauges show a level trend, except where there is subsidence.


This refers to Figure Intro-5. Since we’re on the back end of the current interglacial, isn’t it more likely that maximum sea levels in the next few millennia will fall short of those of the last interglacial?

Louis Hooffstetter

Yes, it appears that melting of continental ice sheets has ceased. If continental ice sheets were still melting, we would be witnessing the same kind of gradual, relatively uniform, worldwide rise in sea levels that occurred as the last ice age ended. The minor variations in tide gauge readings we see today are due to differences in crustal motion at different locations. If sea levels were still rising, these variations would be masked; the faster the rate of sea level rise, the less pronounced the variations. The fact that minor variations dominate tide gauge data today is clear and unequivocal evidence that very little additional water is currently being added to the oceans. This tells us two things: 1) the melting of continental glaciers has virtually ended, and 2) global warming is simply not occurring as predicted.


I read the so-called report and it wasn’t THAT bad. I did seem to focus more on adaptation that attribution. My main complaints are threefold:
1) It used the National Climate Assessment midrange SLR predictions which include a nonlinearity for “collapsing” of the WAIS” , which has recently collapsed to zero acceleration.
2) Their methodology was not explained very well, and it seemed to rely on local definitions of “flooding”, which could well be exaggerated for funding purposes.
3) It has no estimation of uncertainties, which says a lot about how scientific UCS actually is.
I would like to see how their frequency numbers change if one assumes 3mm/year until 2100 , and will probably work through this later today, in preparation for an op-ed piece.


Even with the fairly small tides we get on Florida’s Atlantic coast that 3mm/yr over 86 years is still only about the difference between the neap and spring tides this month. Not sure where we are in orbital periods which changes that but certainly not the catastrophe they imply. Besides I think flooding DC might be a good thing… as long as it happens when everything is in session.


I went to the “EyesOnTheRise” event today at Miami Beach. Some observations are:
– Some news crews and local politicians standing around the lowest point on MB waiting for photo-op. The King tide was a real dud – two feet below the sea wall.
– I think the local politicos are using climate change as an excuse to get federal money to revamp their under-engineered sewer system.
– The irony is inescapable. Imagine unemployed coal miners in KY, subsidizing bay front condominiums in FL.


I discovered another bit of trickery in the numbers created by UCS.
Instead of publishing a mean or a range of values, their SLR estimates are based on the higher value in the 90-percent confidence interval. If one predicts a range, the lower values for floods/year are about half of the values in their table.

Vince Causey

Perhaps Kenji Watts wrote the WaPo article as well 🙂


Totally agree Bob,
If “the science” is so settled why do they keep studying the same things ALL the time?

Um, there are very long cycle periods to tides ( circa 1800 years) and sometimes to overall rise / fall. In many places, oceans were HIGHER in the past and have dropped to ‘now’. Just because our recent couple of hundred years have been a low rise doesn’t mean the last few thousand have not been a drop:
There is NO reason to think that recent rise will continue into the future. None. We don’t know where we are on the mesh of cycles and the whole thing could have turned back into dropping again a decade ago.

Mike Smith

Our children wont know what land looks like. Send money.


Since when has UCS and “… rigorous scientific analysis ” been related to each other?

Jeff Alberts

Typo “Here’s a couple of paragraphs…”

Thanks, Bob. Your upcoming book looks interesting. Please keep on writing it.
I just sent a link to this article and a couple of quotes from it to a friend who asked my opinion on this Washington Post article.


Notice that quote:
“Sea levels were 4 to 8 meters (About 13 to 26 feet) higher today than during the last interglacial, according to Dahl-Jensen et al. (2013).”
It surprised me a bit since Dahl-Jensen et al. is concerned with the NEEM ice-core and temperatures and the thickness and extent of the Greenland Ice-sheet (GIS) during the last interglacial, not with sea-levels.
So I checked. Guess what it actually says? That if sea-levels were 4 to 8 meters higher during the last interglacial, then a lot of the water must have come from Antarctica since the GIS did not melt nearly enough to raise the sea-level that much, despite temperatures being 8 ±4 degrees warmer than today.


See also….

Abstract – 23 February 2011
Sea-level acceleration based on US tide gauges and extensions of previous global-gauge analyses
It is essential that investigations continue to address why this worldwide-temperature increase has not produced acceleration of global sea level over the past 100 years, and indeed why global sea level has possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.
Abstract – July 2013
Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts?
………..The reconstructions account for the observation that the rate of GMSLR was not much larger during the last 50 years than during the twentieth century as a whole, despite the increasing anthropogenic forcing. Semiempirical methods for projecting GMSLR depend on the existence of a relationship between global climate change and the rate of GMSLR, but the implication of the authors’ closure of the budget is that such a relationship is weak or absent during the twentieth century.
American Meteorological Society – Volume 26, Issue 13
Abstract – January 2014
Global sea level trend during 1993–2012
GMSL started decelerated rising since 2004 with rising rate 1.8 ± 0.9 mm/yr in 2012.
Deceleration is due to slowdown of ocean thermal expansion during last decade.
• Recent ENSO events introduce large uncertainty of long-term trend estimation.]
… It is found that the GMSL rises with the rate of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr during 1993–2003 and started decelerating since 2004 to a rate of 1.8 ± 0.9 mm/yr in 2012. This deceleration is mainly due to the slowdown of ocean thermal expansion in the Pacific during the last decade, as a part of the Pacific decadal-scale variability, while the land-ice melting is accelerating the rise of the global ocean mass-equivalent sea level….


Union of Concerned Activists:
In the mid 1980’s, Opinion Magazine sent 3000 surveys to people listed in the American “Who’s Who” of science and technology. (About 100,000 listings…most University Dept. heads, senior researchers at large companies, research MD’s, etc. are in the listing.) The survey was on energy, energy policy and nuclear power. Interesting a generic nuclear power favorability question got a 90% rating.
Now, another interesting fact was that the return rate was about 1650, or over 50%. A phenominal amount for a mailed survey! (Indicating the recipients are sharp, determined, and willing to take time for such
a survey.) One question they snuck in was: “Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Union of concerned Scientists. They got either one or two YES answers to that and concluded with a 95% confidence level that less than 300 of the 100,000 people listed were UCS members.
Now the UCS claims 50,000 “highly qualified” members. Draw your own conclusions…


Ah, but did they ask if they were dogs?

Max H,
Very good point. That was an amazing response rate.
…and my conclusions are probably the same as yours.

Louis Hooffstetter

+1 Woof!

Terry - somerset

A rather simplistic view, but adaptation seems obviously the right response to possible sea level:
– there is no certainty or even high probability that action on greenhouse gases would mitigate the rise in sea level
– the projection is for 4 to 8 metres sea level rise over several (1,2,3) thousand years. Say a max of 1m per century – more likely 25cm to 50cm.
– few modern structures have a design life in excess of 100 years or are expected to be in use beyond that time.
– if all new construction was predicated on a sea level rise during its lifetime, the additional costs of adaptation would be limited.


You want me to stop! You talk of Bob Tisdale. I want you to talk about south Florida and people wading in water. I hope I have presented you with information that is useful. Try and avoid flying off the handle and posting only newspaper articles from the hysterical Guardian. Spread your reach and expand your mind Peter.
and data.

You poor dupe. Will you never get tired of it?
Here’s the truth, Peter: atm CO2 is entirely beneficial. Sea level is not rising, and in fact it will start falling if the present cooling trend intensifies.
Peter, you will continue to make a fool of yourself as long as you serve up the rubbish off of blogs like Hot Topic.

Leo Smith

The answer is dredging. Makes the sea lower and the land higher!
I claim my Nobel peace prize!


It was claimed by the people of Miami in the min 1900s. 🙂 See my comment above and read the abstract.

Larry Geiger

Miami was a swamp. Miami is a swamp. Somewhat freshwater swamps to the west. Salt marshes to the east as far as the eye can see. The real world ends about Palm Beach or maybe parts of Ft. Lauderdale. The magical, mystery dredged up pile of sand called Miami was created by people. For some reason people will continue to create Miami for the foreseeable future. I can assure you that almost all of the people in Miami care little to nothing about sea level rise, hurricanes, high tides, ice melt (the ice is in my drink, silly!), coral reefs, or much else besides how to feather their own nests or find the next dose until the next disaster. And there are a lot of human caused disasters much more likely to cause real trouble than all the Mannian disasters imagined by “scientists” (just don’t go to that part of town, dude!).
Good grief, people live in Santorini. Have you ever seen that place? They live on the edge of a volcanoe that’s still smoking! Global warming. Pshaw. How about a place where an eruption wiped out civilizations. People live on the edge. I’ve seen pictures of much more edgy places than Norfolk, VA or Miami, FL. Look at pix of Amalfi, Italy or Oia, Santorini, Greece. On. The. Edge.
Sea level rise is going to have a lot more aggressive to bother the kind of folks that live and visit down there. Maybe tsunami like sea level rise. People like to go where the sun shines. People leave the, cold, cloudy, miserable places to go to places like Miami, Sarasota, St. Pete, Key West, Nassau, etc. for a reason. Come on down, the surf’s great! Just make sure that you come at low tide 🙂


Please inform if there is a way that I could post photocopies of p796 of each of the two NIPCC Reports.

Ricard, amazingly simple:
1. load the image to an image hosting service like http://tinypic.com/
2. Put the URL of the image you upload in a comment just as it appears in your browser address bar
3. WordPress will insert the image for you, and will appear in the comment