Guest post by David Middleton
Real Clear Science and Real Clear Energy are great aggregators of science and energy articles. But, invariably, there is always at least one article that merits lampooning, if not outright ridicule… And today was no exception.
Tuesday, May 16
“Alarmist CO2 Headlines Create Confusion”… Yes they do. Earth has been setting CO2 records since 1809, but it never became headline news before we crossed 387 ppm.
Why you should take hyperventilating headlines about CO2 with a grain of salt — but still be quite concerned
By Tom Yulsman | May 15, 2017
Back in late April, there was a spate of hyperventilating headlines and news reports about the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
This one in particular, from Think Progress, should have made its author so light-headed that she passed out:
The Earth just reached a CO2 level not seen in 3 million years
Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide hit record concentrations.
That story and others were prompted by measurements at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory showing that the concentration of heat-trapping CO2 in the atmosphere had exceeded 410 parts per million.
Some of you might be thinking this: Since rising levels of greenhouse gases are causing global warming, and myriad climate changes like melting ice sheets and glaciers, then this really was big news story.
And the highest CO2 level in 3 million years? WOW! That certainly justifies the hyperventilating hed, right?
I don’t think so. That’s because the headline is inaccurate, and the story hypes the crossing of a purely artificial CO2 threshold.
While Mr. Yulsman is spot-on in his characterization of alarmist CO2 headlines (“hed” is journalistic shorthand), he then veers right off into alarmist prattle about sea level:
My point is not that we shouldn’t be concerned about continuing to use the atmosphere as a dumping ground for the byproducts of fossil fuel burning. Quite the opposite. We should be moving more aggressively to do something about it. If you have any doubts, check out the trend in sea level since 1880:
Moreover, sea level rise isn’t something that only future generations will have to deal with. It’s already causing significant challenges. If you doubt that, check out what’s happening in Miami right now.
So yes, we absolutely should be concerned about the rising tide of CO2 in the atmosphere, and doing something over the long run to transition away from fossil fuels.
But slapping an inaccurate, hyperventilating headline on a non-story to rile up readers is no way to do it.
I love irony. If “slapping an inaccurate, hyperventilating headline on a non-story to rile up readers is no way to do it,” what’s the point in “slapping an inaccurate, hyperventilating” comment about sea level rise? Mr. Yulsman linked to this article about “what’s happening in Miami right now”…
Miami Beach spends millions to hold back the sea
The city is installing powerful storm water pumps and raising some public streets by an average of two feet.
Sea levels in South Florida could rise up to two feet over the next four decades. That puts Miami Beach – an island three miles off the Florida coast – at risk.
The city is already experiencing sunny day flooding – days when there’s no rain, but high tides push water up through storm drains and flood city streets.
“Sea levels in South Florida could rise up to two feet over the next four decades”… No they can’t and this is not happening right now.
For sea level to rise “two feet over the next four decades,” it would have to accelerate to the pace of the Holocene Transgression:
It would take an average rate of sea level rise nearly twice that of the Holocene Transgression for sea level to rise more than 1.5 meters (~5 feet) over the remainder of this century.
Sea level isn’t behaving any differently than it has throughout the Holocene.
Sea level was 1-2 meters higher than it currently is during the Holocene Highstand. All of the sea level rise since 1700 is insignificant relative to the natural variability of Holocene sea levels.
Sea level rise in the Miami area is not accelerating and it is rising at a rate of about 1 foot per century.
The satellite data indicate virtually no statistically significant sea level rise in the Miami area:
I intentionally retained the “seasonal terms and mean” and did not smooth the data because the seasonal variability is real and at least 10 times the magnitude of any secular trends in sea level.
To the extent that there is a trend (R² = 0.0945), the rate of sea level rise in the Miami area is about 3 mm/yr. This would lead to about 5.5 inches of sea level rise over the next four decades.
A review of USGS topographic maps reveals very little in the way of inundation by rising seas:
Kudos to Mr. Yulsman for raising the alarm about alarmist CO2 headlines and ironically including alarmist prattle about sea level rise in his article. I’ve been looking for a reason to break out the Miami Beach topo maps and profile and use them in a WUWT post.
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