Claim: Aboriginals Torched the Australian Landscape Because of Sea Level Rise

Sadly the "Spirit of Mawson II" was no more successful than the original "ship of fools"

Sadly the “Spirit of Mawson II” was no more successful than the original ship of fools

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Ship of Fools expedition leader Chris Turney shares more of his climate wisdom.

Australia’s coastal living is at risk from sea level rise, but it’s happened before

January 16, 2018 6.06am AEDT

With global sea levels expected to rise by up to a metre by 2100 we can learn much from archaeology about how people coped in the past with changes in sea level.

In a study published this week in Quaternary Science Reviews, we looked at how changes in sea level affected different parts of Australia and the impact on people living around the coast.

The study casts new light on how people adapt to rising sea levels of the scale projected to happen in our near future.

A shrinking landmass

With the onset of the massive inundation after the end of the last ice age people evacuated the coasts causing markedly increased population densities across Australia (from around 1 person for every 355 square km 20,000 years ago, to 1 person every 147 square km 10,000 years ago).

Rising sea levels had such a profound impact on societies that Aboriginal oral histories from around the length of the Australian coastline preserve details of coastal flooding and the migration of populations.

We argue that this squeezing of people into a landmass 22% smaller – into inland areas that were already occupied – required people to adopt new social, settlement and subsistence strategies. This may have been an important element in the development of the complex geographical and religious landscape that European explorers observed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Following the stabilisation of the sea level after 8,000 years ago, we start to see the onset of intensive technological investment and manipulation of the landscape (such as fish traps and landscape burning).

We also see the formation of territories (evident by marking of place through rock art) that continues to propagate up until the present time. All signs of more people trying to survive in less space.

In today’s world with substantially higher population densities, managing the relocation of people inland and outside Australia, potentially across national boundaries, may provide to be one of the great social challenges of the 21st century.

The abstract of the study;

Sea-level change and demography during the last glacial termination and early Holocene across the Australian continent

Alan N. Williams, Sean Ulmc, Tom Sapienza, Stephen Lewise, Chris S.M. Turneya

Future changes in sea-level are projected to have significant environmental and social impacts, but we have limited understanding of comparable rates of change in the past. Using comprehensive palaeoenvironmental and archaeological datasets, we report the first quantitative model of the timing, spatial extent and pace of sea-level change in the Sahul region between 35-8 ka, and explore its effects on hunter-gatherer populations. Results show that the continental landmass (excluding New Guinea) increased to 9.80 million km2 during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), before a reduction of 2.12 million km2 (or ∼21.6%) to the early Holocene (8 ka). Almost 90% of this inundation occurs during and immediately following Meltwater Pulse (MWP) 1a between 14.6 and 8 ka. The location of coastlines changed on average by 139 km between the LGM and early Holocene, with some areas >300 km, and at a rate of up to 23.7 m per year (∼0.6 km land lost every 25-year generation). Spatially, inundation was highly variable, with greatest impacts across the northern half of Australia, while large parts of the east, south and west coastal margins were relatively unaffected. Hunter-gatherer populations remained low throughout (<30,000), but following MWP1a, increasing archaeological use of the landscape, comparable to a four-fold increase in populations, and indicative of large-scale migration away from inundated regions (notably the Bass Strait) are evident. Increasing population density resulting from MWP1a (from 1/655 km2 to 1/71 km2) may be implicated in the development of large and complex societies later in the Holocene. Our data support the hypothesis that late Pleistocene coastal populations were low, with use of coastal resources embedded in broad-ranging foraging strategies, and which would have been severely disrupted in some regions and at some time periods by sea-level change outpacing tolerances of mangals and other near-shore ecological communities.

Read more:

What can I say? Even in as talented a field as the study of Climate Science, Chris Turney is kindof special.

In 2013 Chris Turney demonstrated by example that if pack ice is closing in on your ship, you shouldn’t hang around.

In 2016, Chris Turney explained to us that Antarctic penguins are incapable of dealing with adverse ice conditions.

Now Turney has shown us that climate change and sea level rise created overcrowding which drove Australian Aboriginals to burn large tracts of their homeland.

One can only speculate what Turney’s next climate insight will be.


132 thoughts on “Claim: Aboriginals Torched the Australian Landscape Because of Sea Level Rise

    • “Sea levels are expected to rise by a meter by 2100”

      In fact, they’re likely to rise by 2 or 3 centimeters. At which time the alarmists of the day will say “See? We were right, it went up, we were just a little bit off on the numbers!!!”

      • Do the math … 1,000 mm over the next 82 years = 12.2 mm per year. Lets revisit this prediction in 6 months time and see mif sea level has risen 6.1mm in that time.

      • Do the math … 1,000 mm over the next 82 years = 12.2 mm per year. Lets revisit this prediction in 6 months time and see mif sea level has risen 6.1mm in that time.

      • Well you are a little short…just take a straight line from today’s 3,, and you have 24cm. Still I grant you not 1m but hey ….don’t get all sciencey on us…we are activists and our lives are lived in hipobole! There have been well written arguments here regarding the fuzziness around sealevel which would appear to be deliberately maintained to suit the alarmist argument. Exactly what is being measured and compared at coastal stations (mean, median, high….well what) This is most definitely a dataset which needs normalizing to remove external factors ( Yes there are several from ground water extraction to isostatic readjustment to tectonics) yet incredibly they are left in for the likes of NY or Miami or the Mekong Delta to become poster children for the sage like nodders of the alarmist camp who seem oblivious to the fact that IF apparent sealevel rise is higher at one place than others then the cause is NOT sea level rise. That such poster children are so frequently promoted in the media is shocking and should prompt anyone with the intelligence of a 7 year old or greate to question a trillion dollar industry which relies on such feeble claims to support it.

    • MODS–long running script issues again as well as invalid security certificates are compromising the website.

      • We second that . . .
        Some days we just give up.
        We’re in high-tech manufacturing so we visit many sites daily in numerous countries (many in China and USA) and NONE have the WUWT ‘script’ and ‘security certificate’ issues!!
        Some weeks nothing then weeks of painful ‘reopening’ WUWT.
        Is this a conspiracy?

        [Not a conspiracy at all. Just a secret plot amongst us mods to keep certain people from posting. :) -mod]

      • Not a conspiracy at all….. just all us mods conspiring to …. . That is what conspiracy means ! It does not mean something which is untrue.

    • Yes George, and bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! In the geologic record it is very obvious when the Aborigines turned up as the layer of burned material caused by them begins then. From about 100,000 years ago, I don’t know the exact timeline because its not of particular interest to me, also this is when all the mega fauna was killed off…well before the bloody Holocene!
      And since 8,000 years ago we have actually cooled greatly from the optimum high , and then warmed to another much warmer period than now, and then cooled again and then heated again and then cooled again, and then warmed again during the Egyptian optimum, then cooled back to the beginnings of glaciation again and then warmed up again during the Roman warm period, then cooled again, more ice, then warmed again for the Medieval warm period, then cooled again for the Little Ice Age…and now here we are at about the Holocene average and intelligent non hysterical prognostications are that we will now go back into another cooling period.
      Maybe even back into a proper ice age as that is completely inevitable and the time frame is…now!
      I hate the warmist scum, are you with me?

    • Spot on George, Gobble, Gobble, Gobble up those ‘research’ funds. Just like a Turkey .. whoops I mean Turney.

    • If people were uniformly distributed, a density of one person per 150 square km would pretty much guarantee that young fertile people would never get together to breed. :-)

    • Yep, apparently over a period of 2 or more Millenia, as the world came out of an Ice Age.

      But I’m sure a warming world had nothing to do with the population increase. After all, the Climate Faithful has told us that it is settled science that warmer is worse.


    • I love the concept of “1 person every 147 square km” being called squeezed that is probably 3 days walk to your nearest neighbour. The reality was then as now the populations congregated around specific areas hence the term tribal living. The real spacing would be the distance between tribal communities :-)

      • Yes. People on every continent are concentrated on the coasts—which makes sea level rise a great boogyman for global warming. No mention of the intense crowding on the coasts: New York City versus Minot, ND. Why is it okay for there to be millions in NYC but if MInot were to triple in size, that would horrible? The craziness is mind-boggling.

      • According to Wikipedia, which is usually OK for things like this, the US State of Montana (nicknamed “Big Sky Country”) has a population density of 2.73 / sq. km. Anybody who thinks Montana’s population is “squeezed” has a funny definition of the word.

      • Coming late to the thread, I looked at the ‘squeezed population of one person per 147 square Km.
        I assume that this related to Australia’s present land area [more or less] of 7.6 million square Km.
        Very roughly, that gives an estimated population [for “10,000 years ago”] of 5000 people.
        Today, Proserpine, Queensland, Queensland, has a population of 3500 [per Wiki and Wiki maps; we all know about the reliability . . .]
        I had heard of Proserpine – not sure when.

        A couple of town’s worth – across Australia. And an estimate . . .


    • It appears the guys and gals got along a lot better when they lost their coastlines. Rising sea level breeds consent, apparently.

    • So it took 10,000 years for the population to double. Whats that got to do with sea level????????????

    • Climate ‘science’ uses sort of quantummy mathematics in all its medelling process didn’t yer know Kerry?

      (‘medelling’ was a typo , should have been ‘modelling’ but some clever spirit must have guided my fingers….)

  1. Let’s see, a 20% decrease in land mass over 10K years caused a 100%+ increase in population density.

    The desperation of the AGW’ers is getting cosmic.

  2. With the onset of the interglacial, sea levels rose about 120 m. link It makes a 1 m rise by 2100 pale by comparison.

    There are many places where humans used to live which are now submerged. link Studying such places is obviously difficult.

    • Actually I was surprised he only went for a realistic maximum of 1m which is definitely in the ignore it range. I don’t know anywhere in Australia that a sea level rise of 1m would cause any serious problem that couldn’t be dealt with.

    • CommieB

      Ah, but you overlook the ease with which sub-sea societies can be studied on a desktop using a computer simulation like Sim-Sub-Sea-City or other well-proven software.

      In fact such modeling can yield more predictable results than messing around in a dusty hole with a square sieve when one is likely to turn up inconvenient gorilla teeth and 100m year old cast iron pots. In an Oklahoma coal mine, diggers came across a cinder block wall bisecting the coal seam, twice. We will have none of that ‘inconvenient’ archaeology in a well designed computer simulation of past civilisations.

      The Ship of Fools might even be renamed Ship of Tools in honour of their virtual reconstructions.

      • … cinder block wall …

        ??? link The story tells of blocks filled with concrete. The first thing that comes to mind is that the blocks may have been some kind of concretion.

        I’m surprised that nobody has found this sufficiently interesting to investigate further.

      • It matters not if it is a “cut” stone block wall or a 2 foot length of petrified tree trunk that is found incased in a seam of coal, …… the fact is that both could be the result of an “increase in sea level” or the formation of a shallow lake or an “inland sea” prior to or during the early part of the Carboniferous Period about 363 to 290 million years ago.

        No one actually knows how old the Sphynx or the Great Pyramid of Giza actually is ….. or who constructed them ….. or for what purpose they were constructed. The same goes for Machu Picchu and other archeological sites in SA.

    • If the “fire hawk” story is validated (and I expect it will be) then it very well may be that birds, who have existed and evolved millennia before humans, probably were the ones to demonstrate fire usage to the early humans. We probably learned as well from the birds how to break open the shells of clams, mussels and snails with stones.

      • sure, they may have used fire and tools, but their economic policies were hopelessly wrongheaded. And don’t even get me started on how badly they handled manufacturing.

  3. He’s an idiot. There are many generations between these times. People live and expand as the land allows. The climate change at that time allowed more people per acre, not because they were squished. If the land resources allowed more there would be more, if not they would starve. Perhaps the people added land resources through technology, a better spear or dog breeding, or perhaps it rained more just because.

    • They were not deficient in technology , according to this report from an archaeological website:
      11 November 2016
      Australia holds earliest evidence of ground-edge axe technology

      Earlier this year, a team of Australian researchers published new findings about a fragment of a ground-edge axe discovered in the Kimberly region of Australia. The flake had been excavated in the early 1990s but hadn’t been discovered among the rest of the excavated material until 2014.
      Between 44,000 and 49,000 years old, it is the earliest evidence of ground-edge axe technology anywhere in the world, closely coinciding with the first arrival of modern humans on the continent, which archaeological evidence suggests occurred between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago. According to the research, the fragment represents the independent invention of this technology by the first Australians. The process involves grinding and abrading the stone – uncommon outside of the region until around 10,000 years ago, and unique within it.
      To understand its significance we need to look at underlying assumptions about where and when human complexity developed and what form it took. ‘Human complexity’ generally refers to the range of behaviors that help define what it is to be “human” – for example the development of increasingly sophisticated tools and social structures.
      Historically, archaeological evidence from Australia and most of Southeast Asia has not aligned well with conceptual models of the development of human complexity based almost exclusively on the archaeological records of Europe and Africa.
      There is continued unease with the early stone artifact record from Australia, the simplicity of which is often still construed as evidence of a deficiency in early Australian cultures. The ground-edge axe flake discovered in the Kimberley region challenges these assumptions.
      The fragment fits into a growing body of evidence including that of rock art in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and highly skilled deep-sea fishing off the coast of East Timor demonstrating that the first colonizers of Australia and Southeast Asia were developing expressions of human flexibility and creativity earlier than previously assumed. The archaeological evidence from this region also shows expressions of complex human behaviors that are unique for the time period.

      Edited from Sapiens (13 September 2016)

      • One flake of stone! One flake! Are you kidding? They build a whole theory on one flake which (without a photo to confirm) may be nothing but a fluke of Nature. With trillions of rock flakes in Australia, at least one is sure to look man-made.
        But, if it is true, why did they not continue and make many more and become more complex and evolved? Why did they stay stuck in the Paleolithic and not even move into the Neolithic?

    • I would posit that that’s being unkind to idiots. To paraphrase Mr Delingpole, Mr Turney (he doesn’t deserve the Dr Title) is a cocksprocket.

  4. “This squeezing of people”…took place over a 10,000 year period!! The horror!

    Chris, darling, during that 10,000 years, the aboriginals were also squeezing out babies that in turn affected the population densities of their tribes. Technically speaking, one male and one female adult can “double” their population density in less than two years. Quadruple it in 4.

    So, over a 10,000 year period, which one had more impact on “population density” rates? Water encroachment in specific, isolated regions, or the survival rate of children born in warmer climates with more diversity of DNA combinations??

  5. Hey, don’t try to argue facts with this Chris guy. He’s got Angry Birds (or something) on his side! Facts don’t matter, and 10,000 years is a mere blip on the clock face to him…

    Oh, wait, he doesn’t use clocks. He’s got a phone that tells him everything… and access to an online dictionary for spelling and stuff like that.

    Are these people grasping at straws or does it just seem that way to me?

    • I think we are way past that Sara.

      Its like they are telling you that they have straws, and that those straws MUST be grasped at, but no one else can see any straws at all. And heaven help you if you ask to see the nebulous data that they insist PROVES that the straws are really there, clutched tightly in their chubby-baby, Earth saving fingers. They’ll sue your arse off for that!

    • It is where Climate Science has taken itself to the point of stupidity, now they are dragging in science and social fields they don’t even understand. Aboriginal people had tribes and territories the same as the American Indians. You name an area of Australia you can associate a traditional tribe of that area.

      Sydney = Gadigal people
      Melbourne = Kulin people made up of Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Taungurong, Dja Dja Wurrung
      Perth = Wadjuk Noongar people

      Any normal study on the impact of a shrinking landmass would look at the tribal level first and foremost. Not in the weird and whacky Climate Science you just make up stuff as you go.

    • Thank you, Aphan. It’s a relief to know that I no longer have to save the Earth. The They will do it for me. I can watch it on TV.

      Oh, wait – I don’t have a TV.

    • I’m not sure about pile dwellings. But it’s clear that there was no wheel, no writing system, no agriculture, no metallurgy. Some of these people lived well into their 30’s, but unfortunately our civilisation has not passed on their message for our lifestyle.

      • My guess is that once they got the high tech ground axe that was all that was needed. Apparently the Amish and quakers thought that they needed just a little more.

      • Intelligence and objectivity are two entirely different things. It’s the latter you’ll find missing in fools up and down the intelligence scale

  6. It is hard to believe that 1 person per 147 km² is crowding…..(for the US, that is one person every 56 square miles….a square area 7.5 miles on a side.)

    • The population density is a specious misleading value when spread over vast expanses of not-easily-inhabited land.
      Yes, one could put the entire population of the US into west Texas, but what would they eat or drink. It’s essentially non-sustainable even with todays technological levels.

      • Placing nearly 400 million of us in to the space of west Texas, food and drink wouldn’t bother me.
        I’m sure in our high rise dwellings we’d have modern conveniences brought to us some how.
        My concern would be dealing with all the people induced methane which would be near constant.

    • Our county’s population density is roughly 1.8 people per sq mile, and that’s pretty sparse, even for the far western UP.

  7. Fish traps leave behind rather compelling artifacts whose technological sophistication indicates obvious intent (to catch fish for sustenance).

    What paleological evidence supports the theory of deliberate landscape burning? How can one delineate between intentional fire setting and accidental fires from merely looking at paleologic ash fields? That’s one heck of an arson investigation!
    I am no expert, but I do not believe the Australian aboriginal culture practiced agriculture, the primary reason for clearing land. They probably practiced opportunistic scavenging behaviors near natural fires similar to the birds they were learning from.
    More likely would be the congestion of peoples merely increased the accidental release of fires into the environment.

    • You don’t have to spend much time in south-Eastern Australia in the height of summer, to realise that late-spring burning is a defence-mechanism.

      Imagine living in a landscape that is an endless expanse of flammable material, on a scorching day, knowing that there are no firefighters , no refuge areas and no method of “getting out of Dodge” quicker than your own two feet.

      Plus there are the obvious advantages to those for whom dinner means finding small animals that hide more easily in thick undergrowth, safety means being able to see snakes before you step on them, and comfort means not having your pubic tassel full of speagrass seeds.

    • Here in Australia Aborigines are lauded (at least by some) for their bush burning practices, which are seen to limit the damage from natural bushfires. Perversely, the Greens, who see aborigines as Noble Savages who can do no wrong and are wise and sagacious, oppose this practice.
      However, this practice, however it may have started, has created a situation where it is now a necessity. Over millennia, they burnt down the rainforests which covered much of eastern Australia, most likely to make it easier to hunt game species. That vegetation was replaced with quicker-growing sclerophyll species which are fire-prone, necessitating even more burning, which encouraged even more colonisation by these species, which etc etc.

  8. It seems Turney still hasn’t acquired the rudiments of wisdom.
    The definitive explanation is in “The Biggest Estate on Earth” by Bill Gammage ISBN 9781743311325.
    “Grass-forest associations varied by belts, clumps and clearings marked out a continent deliberately and usefully arranged. But people did not stop there. They integrated these associations into a brilliantly efficient land use system. They made templates.”
    “People today think of what animals need. In 1788 people thought of what animals prefer.”

  9. All over the planet, every day, people and families are moving to different climates; sometimes dramatically different. They usually adapt to the extreme climate change in a matter of weeks, even less if it is from colder to warmer. Why do we even entertain the idea that a 2 to 3 degree warming over 100 years is a problem?

    To all you fear-mongers out there…don’t worry! We got this!

  10. Leader of the “Fools” pops up now and again after perhaps the most idiotic and negligent Global warming expedition ever – taking friends, family including children, tourists and press in a Russian ship not certified for polar waters to “chronicle” the terrible advance of a warming world and finding themselves in freezing blizzards and getting frozen into sea ice that two icebreakers also got stuck in trying to rescue them!

    The terrified passengers had to be lifted off the expedition ship by a Chinese helicopter from one of the stuck icebreakers. The French and Ozzie research teams relying on an Ozzie icebreaker to supply their camps were stranded while this icebreaker got stuck after its diversion. The polar teams lost a seasons research and the guy with the conical hat and his uni got sued for several million. He should have been jailed for his negligence in dangerous waters with tourists and children on board. But, as is the fashion these days, he got an award from the ARC Centre of Excremence in Climate Science!!!

    His penguin gaff was a couple of years into his rehabilititation in apparent semi retirement after the Fool’s misadventure. He reported himself close to tears when he saw the thousands of dead Adelie penguins littered over the polar landscape. A real polar expert had to advise him that the bodies were hundreds of years old. You see, with no predators or carrion species, the bodi3s simply accumulate- thank goodness the poor chap didn’t see the millions of bodies now covered over in snow and ice.

    Bad enough you say? It’s worse. John Coleman was radioed by the Russian Ship to give them up to date weather info, because the Oz polar meteorology seemed to be wrong! John contacted Anthony Watts and Joe d’Aleo to communicate with the ship and send them localized meteo info. They forecast a wind change that would open up the ice somewhat in two days advising on a direction out 9f their predicament. Wow!! Any awards for these gentlemen? Not a chance

    Just wanted to make sure we preserve the story for posterity, sure to be in written history of this dark age.

    • Please remember that the Master of the vessel ordered the “scientists” who were on the ice, by radio, to return to the vessel forthwith because of the worsening conditions and they refused. If they had obeyed him the vessel would almost certainly have escaped being caught by the encroaching ice.
      I am still uncertain what I would have done, but probably the Master should have left a cache of food, tents, fuel and radio batteries on the ice, sufficient for a week, and taken his vessel to safety.
      But I wasn’t there and it is easy to pontificate after the event. Just keep remembering it wasn’t the “Old Man’s” fault.

      • I certainly do remember that and I felt furious for the ship’s Master that everyone had been placed in danger because of the arrogance of a so-called scientist.

  11. “Almost 90% of this inundation occurs during and immediately following Meltwater Pulse (MWP) 1a between 14.6 and 8 ka.”

    So the “inundation” occurred over a period of about 7,000 years! Just how is that a problem?

    • It is a problem if you happened to live at/near the 120m lower beach coastal zone at the time. Given 390′ sea level rise over the time span of 7000 years, you would see a constant increase of 5′ per century. Sufficient that you would need to relocate your house and belongings around 1/2K inland every generation (25 years) just to remain at/near the beach (fish food source).

      • At 5 ft/century the aboriginals would only see about 1.5 ft in their entire lifetime. I doubt there was a mass exodus or even a land rush away from the coast. Lean-tos and banana leaf huts don’t require much construction effort, and I might suspect that communities would be periodically relocated due to local environmental impacts (sanitation and resource depletion) long before seal level rise forced their hands.

      • It has been pointed out elsewhere in this thread that the aboriginal did not practice agriculture. I suspect their “routine” was something like: occupy a place until the travel in pursuit of game became exhausting as well as foraging (berries, tubers, etc.) became scarce, then pack up and relocate to another location they likely already occupied within the memory of at least the tribal elders and possibly most of the adults in the tribe. Given the type of huts already postulated, no evidence of their previous stay would remain. But in the face of a 28 m/6.6 kyr sea level rise (I’m having to make up the numbers from memory, the abstract never mentions the total sealevel increase) eventually relocating to a seaside location may not be able to reoccuppy the exact location utilized in their previous stay. Otherwise, on a nomadic population, effect would be zero. What’s the problem?

  12. If I recall, the paleontological evidence so expertly marshaled by Tim Flannery indicated a major extinction of Australian megafauna and conversion of forests to fire resistant species occurred around 60k BP and the first millennia after initial colonisation – ie when sea level was at its lowest (see his excellent book ‘The Future Eaters’). he later strayed into areas of AGW where his expertise as a world renowned paleontologist was rather thin and he had to rely upon the IPCC!). Thus, whatever effects are postulated for the migration at the end of the glacial period, the continental fauna and flora had already been massively altered – which is to say, depleted.

  13. “Rising sea levels had such a profound impact on societies that Aboriginal oral histories from around the length of the Australian coastline preserve details of coastal flooding and the migration of populations.”


    From the link above, stories handed down from 13,000 years ago within the Aboriginal oral histories apparently are accurate enough for ‘climate science’. Yeah…. that’s really the ticket!

      • eyesonu

        The article you cite states that these flooding myths in which lands were lost were unique to Australia. Yet I can think of 4 British legends which indicate lost lands. Tristan came from the land lost to the sea of Lyoness, In mid Wales the land of Cantre’r Gwaelod was lost. The St Patricks causeway enabled people to cross from Wales on foot to Ireland. The story of Branwen has a description of the Irish Sea in ancient times as being the width of two large rivers, which would have been true during the last ice age. So we do have a folk memory of flooding but was its accuracy just coincidental or extrapolation.

        I suspect that most costal cultures have similar stories

  14. Chris Turney is just great. Whenever I see that name I’m already grinning and preparing to settle down for some very high quality comedy indeed. Chis blows publications like The Onion out of the water for pure hilarity and not only that he mixes it up with actual physical seafaring disaster malarkey too. One of the comedy greats and like all the best people he makes it look deceptively easy. It really isn’t though and Chris must expend a huge amount of effort in maintaining comedy at that sublime level and with such a high degree of consistency across the board. We have awards for science fiction like the ‘Hugo Awards’ and I think it is high time we had awards for science comedy as well. To that end I’d like to be the first to propose the ‘Turney Awards’ in honour of Chris’ indefatigable service to the genre.

  15. Sea level change sank a civilization, doggerland, but of course inundation simply caused them to move their dwellings to higher grond. No problem. 1 metre rise is nothing you claim but it exposes coastal plains to erosion, inundation of low areas etc, unfortunately we can nol9nger simply pick up our dwellings and move.
    The cost of protecting London etc is not insignificant now and an additional metre will increase this to A point where you wonder if it is worth doing.
    Doggerlandeath the southern North Sea that connected Great Britain to continental Europe during and after the last glacial period. It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500–6,200 BC. Geological surveys have suggested that it stretched from Britain’s east coast to the Netherlands and the western coasts of Germany and the peninsula of Jutland.[1] It was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the Mesolithic period,[2] although rising sea levels gradually reduced it to low-lying islands before its final submergence, possibly following a tsunami caused by the Storegga Slide.[3]

    • “unfortunately we can nol9nger simply pick up our dwellings and move.”

      There is no “we”. I can move my dwelling. Why cannot you move yours?

    • At current rates of sea level rise, it’s gonna take several thousand years to get a 1 meter rise.
      Assuming nothing stops and reverses that trend in the mean time.

  16. “…evident by marking of place through rock art … All signs of more people trying to survive in less space.”

    Nope, its just graffiti. Kilroy was here.

  17. “In 2013 Chris Turney demonstrated by example that if pack ice is closing in on your ship, you shouldn’t hang around.

    In 2016, Chris Turney explained to us that Antarctic penguins are incapable of dealing with adverse ice conditions.”

    I guess Chris Turney decided that if he and several others on his team are incapable of dealing with adverse ice conditions, the penguins couldn’t either.

  18. Here we have another grand fantasy from the renowned Polar Explorer Professor Turkey. He expects global sea levels to rise by up to one metre by 2100, so the waters had better get a move on as they have only gone up 10-centimetres since 1840 in Sydney harbour, according to the rock founded tide gauges. Bob Carter should have some amusing and enlightening comments on this latest from Professor Turkey.

  19. They sure are getting desperate to ‘prove’ things.

    “Following the stabilisation of the sea level after 8,000 years ago, we start to see the onset of intensive technological investment and manipulation of the landscape (such as fish traps and landscape burning).”

    Talk about selective tunnel vision! Burning to manage land and resources was part of hunter-gatherer cultures everywhere in the world where there was flammable vegetation and pragmatic reasons to do so.

    Are these ‘experts’ completely ignorant or simply dishonest?

  20. Aboriginal people in Australia did NOT torch the landscape in random or uncontrolled fashion. They carefully managed the ecosystem, and fire was CAREFULLY used as part of their sophisticated eco-management. Aboriginal people were practising agriculture, aquaculture and astronomy tens of thousands of years before the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Bablyonians, or the Europeans. Aboriginal people had farms, houses, tools, irrigation and trade. That has ALL be written out of the history books, much to the shame of everyone concerned. Whoever suggests that Aboriginals torched the landscape because of sea level rises, is totally ignorant of both science and history.

    • The best evidence for agriculture is the practice of leaving some of a yam in the place it was found. Evidence of aquiculture is found only in one place in Aus and academics who have no bias find it thin. The idea that the use if fire wasn’t random except for some understanding of the immediate dangers is fantasy.

    • If that is true, then the extinction of the megafauna was a deliberate act and not an accident. Causing extinction events is now part of “sophisticated eco-management”?

      And please don’t extrapolate so much. “Some” Aboriginal people were practising these things, most were not. Domestic able crops and animals didn’t really exist here.

    • ‘Aboriginal people in Australia did NOT torch the landscape in random or uncontrolled fashion.’ Neither do the farmers in Yuma, AZ.

      • You don’t have to spend much time in south-Eastern Australia in the height of summer, to realise that late-spring burning is a defence-mechanism.

        Imagine living in a landscape that is an endless expanse of flammable material, on a scorching day, knowing that there are no firefighters , no refuge areas and no method of “getting out of Dodge” quicker than your own two feet.

        Plus there are the obvious advantages to those for whom dinner means finding small animals that hide more easily in thick undergrowth, safety means being able to see snakes before you step on them, and comfort means not having your pubic tassel full of speagrass seeds.

        Yes, there are other benefits to properly timed burning, but let’s not ignore the obvious. You have to be alive to enjoy them.

  21. Ships of fools…

    One thing that really bothers me is the mefia who allow persons who have no professional or any certification(s) in the sciences, the air time or editorial time to espouse their opinions on global warming.

    Would they let a non medical person write or give air time regarding medical sciences? You can bet you bee-hind they wouldn’t.

    Therefore: I will become a witch doctor and use that excuse to go on CNN and write articles for The Boston Globe to tout my newest cure for obesity, cancer, diabetes and lumbago….Cheese burgers, fries and a coke. Gotta throw in cigarettes and alcohol too…. shhh. Don’t tell them that!

  22. people do the same thing in eastern Indonesia today, because of the seasonal very dry conditions every year from April to October, they burn the ground to promote re-growth…..and these islands are rugged and not getting smaller.

  23. “Tending The Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources. California’s lushest landscape was able to support up to 1.5 people per square mile on the rich coast of the Santa Barbara channel, and 1 person per 12.5 sq. miles in the desert regions”
    Apparently, Aboriginal Australians found 10 times that put pressure on them to do the unthinkable and start fires destroying the environment. The irony here is that one of the people to popularise the idea that fire burning by incoming Aborigines around 40 – 60 k years ago drastically altered the landscape is Tim Flannery.

  24. “With global sea levels expected to rise by up to a metre by 2100 we can learn much from archaeology about how people coped in the past with changes in sea level.”
    Chris Turney.

    There were two episodes during the later stages of the last ice age where sea level increased by 30 to 40 feet, overnight. Lakes of water formed on top of the 2 mile thick ice sheet covering North America over a period of 5,000 years. The boundary holding this water broke & the water cascaded at 1,000 mph into the ocean.

    Chris Turney is worried about 1 meter in 100 years???

  25. Austrialia is ~7,700,000 Km^2. 1 person per 147 Km^2 would mean a total population of about 50,000. To a first approximation that is empty. Note that the estimated aboriginal population at the time of European Settlement is between 320 and 750 thousand.

  26. Talk about Ozploitation!

    This toilet paper has got to go down in history as the finest example of political talking points parading as science, ever written.

    It is so dumb it’s not even wrong!

    For a start, at the time humans arrived, Australia’s inland was covered by vast mega lakes – the remains of the Eromanga Sea:

    …the environment was already changing by the time the first Australians arrived. The overflowing mega-lakes of pre-50,000 years ago had begun to shrink, and reliable supplies of freshwater were in a state of collapse.


    The point is, humans arrived at a time of lowering sea level when the inland was a drying sea. From that time to the present date the inland extent actually expanded while sea levels slowly rose, enough to inundate the shallow land bridge but not the – below sea level – basins of the outback!

    These inland mega-lakes were fed by big rivers such as Cooper Creekand the Diamantina River, which pumped large volumes of water into the continental interior every year to fill the lakes to the levels shown by the position of their ancient beaches. Mega-Lake Eyre held roughly ten times the water volume achievable under today’s wettest climate, and if present now would rank among the ten largest lakes (in area) on Earth. This truly was the inland sea that proved so elusive to Charles Sturt and other 19th-century colonial explorers.


    Talk about natural climate variation, Lake Eyre fills only intermittently today:

    Minor Flooding: Up to 2 m water covering half the lake: once in 3 years.

    Major Flooding: Up to 4.5 m water covering all 8,000 [km.sup.2] of the lake: once in 10 years.

    Filling: Filling another 50 cm: 2-4 times per century.

    Great Filling: More than 5 m water: 2-4 times per millennium. (Kotwicki 1986)

    It is interesting to note:

    “To the surprise of the early mariners who explored Australia’s coastline none of them discovered the mouth of any great river. Consequently, explorers including Flinders, Banks, Oxley, Sturt and King, all assumed that rivers flowing inland from the Great Dividing Range must flow towards an Inland Sea (Flannery 1998, 226; Johnson 2001, 21).”

    They never found the Sea but a huge body of water still exists today, not on the surface but hidden beneath: The Great Artesian Basin.

    “The basin occupies roughly the same area as the Eromanga Sea, the major portion of the water flowing slowly underground from the Great Dividing Range in north Queensland towards South Australia.”

    *”Species-specific responses of Late Quaternary megafauna to climate and humans”: Nature 479, 359–364 (17 November 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10574

    • My goodness. That is surpassingly weird. I have thought that if there is any use for “renewable energy”, it would be a few places like Australia. Solar panels and wind turbines could desalinate sea water and pump it inland. Other locations where that technology could be worthwhile are Chile, Israel, North Africa, and Namibia.

      • Not sure exactly what you mean but there have been plenty of papers and talks of the feasibility of piping water inland and or damming the lakes – lake Eyre is 15m below sea level (Presumably affecting the flow of the Murray** river which would be problematic though! ;-) The bore water is utilised and geothermal has been mooted.

        “In 1929 Dr John Bradfield, the engineer who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, proposed a scheme to turn back the Tully River in north Queensland with a view to improving the flow in the Burdekin River and so permanently fill Lake Eyre with fresh water through the Diamantina River. The scheme became known as the Bradfield Scheme and has been furiously debated since then–particularly during the great droughts caused by El Nino. Almost all the rare major floods occur in La Nina years. The original Bradfield Scheme did not include the possible filling of Lake Eyre from the sea but today this possibility is also sometimes referred to as his scheme. The idea of filling Lake Eyre from the sea was raised in the South Australian parliament as early as 1883 but rejected on the grounds that it would take vast amounts of money to dig a 350 km canal.”

        [“Australia’s enigmatic inland sea..” The Free Library. 2012 Australian and New Zealand Map Society, Inc. 16 Jan. 2018

        **”In 1830, after enduring extreme hardship, Charles Sturt discovered the mouth of Australia’s largest river, the Murray, but fourteen years later he was still searching in vain for the Inland Sea (Australian Encyclopaedia 1979, 5:464; Bonython 1971, 1).”

    • Accessible online article summary : Drying inland seas probably helped kill Australia’s megafauna

      I’m not making the megafauna extinction argument (by pointing to this link) I’m just demonstrating the absurdity of Turney’s lack of knowledge, regarding reality! To be clear, the contraction of the mega-lakes from the earliest date – a time of plenty – would be a far more significant source of “marginalisation” than the smaller changes due to the rising sea levels at the coast. according to multiple studies of the history, reconstructed by diverse disciplines!

  27. I refer everyone to the published works of Prof Bainbridge, the world’s most famous climatologist for decades, who passed away not so long ago at the age of 96. He noted that during the past 3000 years sea level on the E Coast of Australia was as much as 2m higher than at present, and showed photos of old coastlines to support his opinion. A similar set of beaches can be seen in E Ireland.

    After sea levels ‘stabilised’ a few thousand years before ‘Rome and Greece’ they dropped. Will the Ship of Fools sail into those already charted factual waters? I wonder.

    There is nothing as meek as a warning that sea level will rise a metre, to a position a metre below where it used to be. The horror!

    The ‘immigration, fleeing, crowding’ thing is nothing more than climate jingoism. If he thinks a miserable metre of sea level rise will cause the collapse of civilisation he should build an ark and get busy collecting marsupials.

  28. “With the onset of the massive inundation after the end of the last ice age, people evacuated the coasts causing markedly increased population densities across Australia…”

    Apparently, an ice age is preferable to an increase in sea level. I wonder what the aboriginals from that time period would say about that if we could ask them. Clearly, life must have been better after it got warmer because their population increased quite a bit despite a smaller habitat. But if sea levels and temperatures back then can rise so much through natural means, why is it they cannot be affected today by natural means but only by man-made CO2?

  29. There is little hard evidence that oral histories are remembered for more than a handful of generations in a society that does not record events in writing. Rock art is sparse, has dating difficulties and relies on modern interpretations for some of its tales.
    The majority of Australian fires of large area are most likely to be caused by lightning. Their impacts can be seen on aerial imaging for some decades with enough history to eliminate arson.
    The archaeological industry in Australia is imaginative. I have witnessed the schooling of locals by University experts in the 1970s and 1980s when concepts perviously alien, like some stories relating religion to land ownership, were force fed to some locals in northern Australia.
    It is.shameful to see this bending of minds for personal profit. Geoff

  30. You don’t have to spend much time in south-Eastern Australia in the height of summer, to realise that late-spring burning is a defence-mechanism.

    Imagine living in a landscape that is an endless expanse of flammable material, on a scorching day, knowing that there are no firefighters , no refuge areas and no method of “getting out of Dodge” quicker than your own two feet.

    It does not take much intelligence to work out that burning when conditions are more benign, enhances survival

    Plus there are the obvious advantages to those for whom dinner means finding small animals that hide more easily in thick undergrowth, safety means being able to see snakes before you step on them, and comfort means not having your pubic tassel full of speargrass seeds.

  31. “from around 1 person for every 355 square km 20,000 years ago, to 1 person every 147 square km 10,000 years ago”

    Wow, imagine the “crowding” that must have caused. I wonder if Mr. Turney has any idea just how big a square kilometre is. And that transformation supposedly occurred over a 10,000 year period, so the sense of haste and crowding must have been very…… slow and, in practical terms, unnoticeable.

  32. The odd thing is that increasing population and “resource intensification” is a world-wide phenomenon during the Late Glacial and Early Holocene. It occurs both along coasts and inland, and there is an extensive literature dealing with the phenomenon.

    Google “intensification” + “paleolithic” or “broad spectrum revolution”

  33. And at the same time as the poor crowded aborigines started torching the landscapes the inhabitants of the other half of Sahul, i e New Guinea, solved their resource problem by independently inventing agriculture.

    However this didn’t happen along the coast where the purported catastrophe was going on. No, it happened in the Eastern Highlands, 6000 feet above sea-level and as far from the sea as you can get in New Guinea. It didn’t spread to the coast either. People there didn’t really need it. Tropical coasts are resource-rich.

  34. This is total bollocks from a completely (but infinitely) proud idiot speaking way outside his expertise.
    The aborigines have never been short of land. The land was never very productive. So some communities developed agri / aqua cultural practices.
    In Tasmania fire farming was an established practice (you can still see the evident remains of this today) in order to encourage grasslands on which Kangas and Wallabies would feed, and then supply an abundant food supply. The first white settlers in Tasmania survived for this reason, in contrast to the close to extinct settlers in Port Jackson.
    This man is an idiot commenting way beyond his pay grade.

  35. Squeezing one poor soul into 147 km2 or even 71 km2 – with a neighbor to the left, right, front and behind; one ought’a have spoken out more clearly against sea-level rise.

  36. Well, there you go: they adapted. People with technology no more advanced than the stone axe adapted. But WE won’t – we’ll just die like flies according to the hysterics. Jesus wept…

  37. Turney is a second rate academic from Kenso Tech.
    You would not get away with this stuff at Sydney University.

  38. This guy is a babbling idiot, just spout hyperbole and conjecture, and that’s all you need for “science” now days… just make sure that EVERYTHING you say supports AGW – Missing Heat, kind of like Dark Matter and Dark Energy, you can’t prove they are there or not there – the MUST be there or your theory is wrong – that is horrible science. I have a prediction – in the next 15 years monkeys will fly out of my ass… Never happened before, but my models show this to be possible…history, even easier – this sounds plausible (sometimes), so we will go with that – again, as long as it supports man’s corruption and eventual use of fossil fuels – what always gets me, is most of of us would not even be here if it were not for cheap, abundant electricity, and other power sources….. They are “pro-science” and use the hell out of a smartphones and high tech -that uses the same amount of electricity, when all of the background equipment is calculated, as a one of those miniature refrigerators…maybe they should give those up…OH NO… can’t have mine, take it from the “rich”, but it’s the rich getting richer off of this scam!!! So stupid it hurts.

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