Actual science press release headline: ‘How to save Antarctica (and the rest of Earth too)’

From the “Listen to us! We can save the world!” department and IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON comes this evangelical bit of diatribe masquerading as science. Apparently the first version of the press release didn’t go over so well, and a “do-over” was required. Via Eurekalert


How to save Antarctica (and the rest of Earth too)

IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

Please note clarifications about sea level in bold. This replaces the previous press release.

Decisions made in the next decade will determine whether Antarctica suffers dramatic changes that contribute to a metre of global sea level rise.

In a new study, scientists argue that time is running out to save this unique ecosystem, and that if the right decisions are not made to preserve Antarctica in the next ten years then the consequences will be felt around the world.

Their results, published today in Nature, assess the state of Antarctica in 2070 under two scenarios, which represent the opposite extremes of action and inaction on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection.

Illustration of the negative effects under the worst-case scenario.
CREDIT Stephen Rintoul et al./Nature

Antarctica is affected by many global changes, but in turn it also affects the global environment. For example, one of the largest uncertainties in future sea-level rise predictions is how the Antarctic ice sheet reacts to human-induced global warming.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica also absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of climate change. However, it can only absorb so much CO2, and absorbing excess amounts increases the acidity of the water, harming marine life.

Predicting the future

To see what the future might hold, an international team of researchers, including scientists at Imperial College London, has predicted what would happen under two future scenarios. Firstly, if emissions rise unabated and regulation in Antarctica fails to keep up with changes; and secondly if emissions are significantly reduced through regulations informed by research.

The authors argue that which scenario plays out depends significantly on choices made over the next decade, on both climate-change mitigation plans and on environmental regulation. For example, there is currently a moratorium on mining in Antarctica, but as global population rises this accord could be threatened.

Co-author Professor Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial, said: “Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such as the loss of some ice shelves, but there is a lot we can prevent or reverse.

“To avoid the worst impacts, we will need strong international cooperation and effective regulation backed by rigorous science. This will rely on governments recognising that Antarctica is intimately coupled to the rest of the Earth system, and damage there will cause problems everywhere.”

Lead author Dr Steve Rintoul, of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, said: “Greenhouse gas emissions must start decreasing in the coming decade to have a realistic prospect of following the low emissions narrative and so avoid global impacts associated with change in Antarctica, such as substantial sea level rise.”

Two extremes: on the road to collapse or impacts minimised

Under the high emissions and low regulations narrative, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean undergo widespread and rapid change, with global consequences.

  • By 2070, warming of the ocean and atmosphere has caused dramatic loss of major ice shelves, leading to increased loss of grounded ice from the Antarctic Ice Sheet and an acceleration in global sea level rise.
  • Environmental changes including warming, sea ice retreat and ocean acidification have altered marine ecosystems.
  • Unrestricted growth in human use of Antarctica has degraded the environment and introduced invasive pests.

Under the low emissions and tight regulations narrative, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and implementation of effective policy helps to minimise change in Antarctica, which in 2070 looks much like it did in the early decades of the century.

  • Antarctica’s ice shelves have remained intact, slowing loss of ice from the ice sheet and reducing the threat of sea level rise.
  • Ocean acidification has not worsened and Antarctic ecosystems have remained intact.
  • Human pressures on the Antarctic are managed by an increasingly collaborative and effective governance regime.

Professor Siegert said: “If the political landscape of a future Antarctica is more concerned with rivalry, and how each country can get the most out of the continent and its oceans, then all protections could be overturned.

“However, if we recognise the importance of Antarctica in the global environment, then there is the potential for international co-operation that uses evidence to enact changes that avoid ‘tipping points’ – boundaries that once crossed, would cause runaway change, such as the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.”

More detail on the impacts: environmental

Under the worst-case scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions and low or ineffective regulations, the global air temperature would rise nearly 5?C above 1850 levels, whereas under the best-case scenario of low emissions and tight regulations, it would be kept under the target of 2?C warming.

In the worst-case scenario, floating ice shelves that hold back ice on land would collapse, enhancing flow of ice from land to the sea. Antarctica would contribute more than 25 cm to a total global sea level rise of more than a metre. This could lead eventually to the collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet, and around 3.5 m of sea level rise.

Currently, ice loss at the margins of Antarctica is compensated by increased accumulation of ice through snowfall at the centre of the continent. By 2070, however, this balance would no longer be possible, and the continent as a whole would be losing ice mass.

The extent of summer sea ice would also reduce by 50%. This, combined with ice shelf collapses and grounded ice losses, would lead to a freshening of the local ocean surface, which would change ocean currents.

The ocean itself would also warm up to 2?C from today’s levels, reducing its ability to absorb CO2 and causing global warming to occur faster. The acidity of the oceans would also reach a point where the shells of certain sea creatures are unable to form properly.

In contrast, under the best-case scenario, Antarctica’s contribution to sea level would only be about 6cm in a global rise of around half a metre, due to instabilities in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that have been irreversible since 2010.

However, many of the other impacts in the region would be significantly less, and in some cases reversed. The ocean would not experience significant freshening because of reduced sea ice loss and ice shelf breakup, leaving circulation patterns intact.

The ocean would also warm less, by only around 0.7°C, meaning it would retain its ability to absorb CO2 and the acidity would not be at harmful levels.

Comparison of the effects under best and worst case scenarios.
CREDIT Stephen Rintoul et al./Nature

More detail on the impacts: human

As well as the physical changes to Antarctica, the analysis also looked at the impacts on ecosystems and direct human impacts, such as mining and tourism. These factors depend strongly on how much international agreement and cooperation there is, particularly in creating and enforcing well-informed regulations.

The authors say that this means research programs need to be supported to make evidence-based decisions on the best way forward. If these are maintained into 2070, and the international community acts together on the recommendations, then worst impacts can be avoided.

For example, without strict limits on fishing, stocks of regularly caught species will decline dramatically. As a result, new species will be fished, and these will also be diminished quickly if regulation does not catch up. There will also be knock-on effects on the populations of seabirds and mammals, changing the entire structure of the ecosystem.

There are resources in Antarctica that could be mined, such as coal and iron ore, but current international agreements forbid their extraction. However, by 2070 governments with logistical presence and capability on the continent could be more interested in dividing up the resources, rather than saving the entire environment.

With less ice on land and sea, tourism could also reach unsustainable levels – for example with the introduction of permanent hotels. Tourists will bring and spread new species if there is not appropriate control, and the analysis predicts that some of the world’s most invasive species would take hold by 2070 in this case.

###

Here’s the paper, if you want to bother reading it (paywalled, because saving the Earth costs money):

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0173-4

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55 thoughts on “Actual science press release headline: ‘How to save Antarctica (and the rest of Earth too)’

    • Personally, I find this bit highly enlightening

      Currently, ice loss at the margins of Antarctica is compensated by increased accumulation of ice through snowfall at the centre of the continent. By 2070, however, this balance would no longer be possible, and the continent as a whole would be losing ice mass.

      This would indicate that this latest “piece of work” admits that all other “pieces of work” indicating Antarctic Ice Mass Loss are WRONG in their conclusions and that the Ice Mass is still in Balance

      My wife sometimes calls me a real piece of work too

  1. This so called “science” is all over the place…….by the time someone puts together a press release
    …someone else has already countered it

    For some science that’s supposed to be settled…..you can find the total opposite everywhere you look

  2. Here’s the paper, if you want to bother reading it (paywalled, because saving the Earth costs money):

    It might be paywalled because the use of RCP8.5 is embarrassing. If it wasn’t paywalled, we’d probably already be ridiculing their use of RCP8.5 to gin up a physically impossible worst case scenario.

    • It’s not like there aren’t plenty of other things in the report that are ridicule worthy.

      • Likely as not, open wide distribution would allow for all to see just what a “Piece of Work” this study truly is

  3. The cartoon leaves out a lot things like stranded pseudoscience excursion ships from Australia, cold deep waters like those ARGO actually measures, floating garbage from third world rivers, and political visits by Gore and friends.

    • First sentence from the abstract:

      We present two narratives on the future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, from the perspective of an observer looking back from 2070.

      Nature not even pretending to be a science journal anymore.

      • There are publishers who will buy science fiction and they wouldn’t have to “beg.”

    • “I was all set to drop $8.99 to rent this piece of schist for 48 hours…”

      Reminds me of the cheap hotels that rent rooms by the hour — fresh sheets are extra.

  4. Has anyone actually found these warmer deep waters that are supposedly advancing towards Antarctica?

  5. I like the bit of the cartoon … “Increased human presence” next to “Increase in snow accumulation at high elevations”; and the “Nobels” missed their own joke … “Humans cause increase in snow accumulation”. Ha ha

    And another good one … “vegetation cover expands”. Well well … the “Nobels” need to have a look at McMurdo Dry Valleys … No Vegetation to speak of except soil microbes and nematodes. Ha ha.

    “Excuse me while I whoop dis out.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgRE6BPhN2I

  6. Antarctica seems to be the new preferred place to make wild claims without fear of observational checks or debate. Jerry Brown was ahead of his time.

  7. This is no more than lurid, comic book environmental fiction, published for its fear-mongering propaganda effects. Pathetic……

  8. Here’s the paper, if you want to bother reading it (paywalled, because saving the Earth costs money):

    Good. Some things deserve to never see the light of day. Sadly, Imperial College used to have one of the highest reputations in the UK for Science and Engineering.

    • “Sadly, Imperial College used to have one of the highest reputations in the UK for Science and Engineering.”

      Yes, it did. But it has now been contaminated by the Grantham Institute which is always on the lookout to make its “global warming” marketing efforts resemble respectable science.

      The Grantham (so-called) “Institute”

      The Truth About The Grantham Institute

      The Grantham Institute was established in 2007 by Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham, through their ‘Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment’ and with Judith Rees and Nicholas Stern of the Grantham Research Institute behind them. Lord Stern is now chairman of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (which has now latched onto Imperial College, London).

      The Grantham Institute was set up by Grantham to promote ideas that will make him vastly richer than he already is. It is not part of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) nor Imperial College London; it is actually a separate legal entity who’s ‘task’ is to promote the view point of the person paying its bills, in other words it is a marketing company and it is being paid to sell the public on so-called “man-made global warming.”

      The LSE and Imperial College London took the money and turned a blind eye, while allowing an ‘iffy marketing’ operation to ride on the back of their names, and not for the first time. One day the media may start to call it a marketing company, which is what it actually is, rather than give it the undeserved scientific credit it purports to have.

  9. “The Southern Ocean around Antarctica also absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of climate change. However, it can only absorb so much CO2, and absorbing excess amounts increases the acidity of the water, harming marine life.”

    Waiting for that scientific evidence of the ‘harmed’ marine life in the Southern ocean around Antarctica.

    • Don’t encourage them, or their next grant application will be to falsify, I mean find, evidence of harmed marine life.

  10. The illustration at the top of the page, accompanying the article, is
    Fig. 1: Schematic summary of impacts on Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in 2070, under a ‘high emissions/low action’ scenario
    … from the NATURE article.

    It has a number of labels on it that include:

    increase in snow accumulation at high elevations
    increased human presence
    vegetation cover expands
    surface melting and thinning
    shift in range and populations of penguins
    thinning and retreat of ice shelves
    accelerating ice flow and mass loss
    summer sea ice reduction
    poleward migration of warm deep water
    more warm water intrusion onto the shelf
    grounding line retreat
    basal melting increase
    Westerlies shift south and strengthen
    increase in fishing
    sea level rise

    My main question is, “What are the mechanisms by which high emissions/low actions have any impacts on all these labeled things?

    For example:

    * How will “high emissions/low actions” increase snow accumulation at high elevations?

    * How will “high emissions/low actions”, in any way, accelerate ice flow and mass loss?

    It seems like increased snow accumulation would cause more mass bearing down to move ice sheets under greater friction and mechanical stress, under the force of gravity.

    * How will “high emissions/low actions” shift and strengthen Westerlies?

    The labels give me the impression of a bunch of stuff thrown in to look pretty and convincing, with a few loaded phrases like “increased human presence”, “shift in range and populations of penguins” (never mind what this really entails, just think Oh, poor little penguins), “increase in fishing” (and this melts ice how? — oh, it doesn’t matter, good conflation just adds to the emotional appeal), “sea level rise” (of course, that’s the whole point of all this stuff — to strengthen this one important claim without properly accounting for the mechanisms — the more OTHER stuff we can throw in, the stronger this ONE main claim will look).

    Graphic design should have a minimum relevance requirement. Someone called the illustration a cartoon. I would call it emotional spam — an irrelevant (yet emotional) picture is worth a thousand irrelevant (yet emotional) words.

    • I obviously did not read the whole article — just reacting to the picture. I guess I need to go back and read it now, so that some of my stupid questions can get some stupid answers.

    • Okay, I read the article, and it seems like a jumble of competing concepts, including the concept of EMISSIONS IMPACT on ice loss mixed up with HUMAN impact on the continent itself.

      Confusion + Conflation + Emotion = Propaganda

  11. I found the words “new study,” the phrase, “… an international team of researchers, including scientists at Imperial College London, has predicted…,” and many (unsupported) assertions; but nowhere did I find any description of what constituted the study or exactly what was studied/measured. I didn’t even find the word “model.” So, how did they do the predictions? Maybe it’s all explained in the (inaccessible) paper.

    Regardless, it’s grant-seeking, straight up.

  12. I don’t even know what to think anymore. It gets crazier every day! I sometimes try to match my crazy comments to the crazy press releases and “new research” but it’s a chore. It’s like trying to keep up with the crazies!

    OMG … First we destroy the earth and the moon, now we’re leavin tracks on Mars and the tourists ( under the disguise of researchers) are being paid to destroy Antarctica by their invasion. A look to the sea will show Antarctica in just ten more years . Here’s a pic of the sustainable ‘magic carpet ride’ that will cause even more destruction in Antarctica with all the tourists riding it to hang out on the southern beaches and eat the penguins.

    To save the ‘solar system’ we must ban boots now! Non-bare feet should only utilize flip-flops with approved permit application. . Boots are causing mass destruction. Complete ban on hunting/hiking boots. Shut down Danner and Chippewa boots. Boot abuse is causing foot prints all over the moon and other sacred places, even Antarctica! Without boot regulations there will be even more tracks. Save the universe, support boot restrictions now! The graphic in the head posting shows just such results from human presence. There are more from the moon!

    If we don’t act now this is what you may see someday! Think of the children. Do you want them to see this?

    https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/roanoke.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/7/da/7da235f3-fef7-509b-926f-7891951159a2/5b22a6bc59f09.image.jpg

  13. “Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such as the loss of some ice shelves,…”

    Yes, the ice shelves that have drifted off can’t be retrieved and stuck back on. But, that doesn’t preclude the creation of new, replacement ice shelves by the same processes that created the ice shelves that decided to take a vacation in the tropics. I can’t help but wonder if they bother to have anyone proof read their masterpieces?

    • This was some of the worst:
      “In the worst-case scenario, floating ice shelves that hold back ice on land would collapse, enhancing flow of ice from land to the sea. ”
      Say Whaaatttt??!

      • One often sees the claim that that the ice shelves are buttressing the grounded ice. Personally I doubt it, and I haven’t seen any work defend the idea the the friction with floating ice is greater than friction with the the bedrock.

  14. These sound like the same people that had dogs banned from the Antarctica. These folks really don’t think passed how to they should scream about some bizarre future catastrophes so they can keep getting funded. This rates right in there with the Population Bomb, nuclear winters, the astroid strike next week.

  15. time is running out to save this unique ecosystem

    What is it with the eco-loons’ love of ice?? They’re always bemoaning the retreat of the glaciers or the loss of ice mass from Greenland or Antarctica. Antarctica is a unique ecosystem because most life can’t live there! And Alpine glaciers are covering up what might otherwise be fertile valleys, with meadow flowers, dairy cows, and Heidi. A warmer world will be a better world for most living things. Bring dinosaurs and trees back to Antarctica, where they belong.

    • Maybe they should be relocated to live in Northern Canada so they can be closer to their beloved “Ice World” !! LOL

  16. ‘Decisions made in the next decade will determine whether Antarctica suffers dramatic changes’

    Suffers?

    SUFFERS?

    • The proper wording should be, “Decisions made in the next decade will determine whether believers in an ailing Antarctica will suffer dramatic changes of mind.” At least, that’s one possible re-wording.

      The mythology seems to be that Antarctica loves being just the way she is, and so any change would cause her to suffer. Any warmth would disturb her frigid composure. Antarctica, thus, is the epitome of a cold-hearted mother.

  17. Notice that these jokers apparently expect that there will be rats in Antarctica by 2070. Rats don’t survive outdoors even in Svalbard which is vastly more hospitable.

  18. No,.. the near bountiful alkaline buffers stabilize and CO2 absorption and claims of ‘acidification’. Better said, reduction in the alkaline sea is stabilized by total alkalinity of sea water. There are huge stores of buffer that they avoid acknowledging since it doesn’t fit the scary catastrophic narative. Moving on,..

  19. “Scientists”? How many Scientists? And what is their expertise? They could be referring to 2 graduate students here and the appellation “scientists” would be accurate. That doesn’t mean that their paper is anything more than science fiction.

    • The article above mentions several of the lead authors.

      Lead author Dr Steve Rintoul, of the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Australia

  20. WTF has fishing got to do with climate sensitivity to CO2?

    Just like the existence of the word ‘gender’ in the Paris accord. The shape of ones genitals, like the cod quota, has nothing to do with CAGW.

    What it does though is give away the kind of enviro/mushy-headed thinking of the progenitors of this stuff.

  21. There seems to be a whole industry churning out unlikely prophesies based on an exaggerated effect of CO2 emissions we know do not have the effects claimed in these prophesies AKA models. Sea level rates of rise have been steady from before the industrial revolution at around 3mm pa, no evidence of a change in the long term trend, as has the change in temperature on a more planetary time scale vs short human lives, from 1695 in HADCET for example, which can go down as well as up. They contrast a wholly unlikely prediction as disaster with the top end of any likely change as if that was a real comparison, in fact it is two exagerated one sided guesses by a computer.

    In the real world of natural data the threatened effect of CO2 simply isn’t happening, and cannot even by separated and proven if temperature was rising as they claim, which it isn’t. All is hubris from the computer game models of ivory tower climate priests in Kensington. Ir simply isn’t proven science, i.e. accurately predicting what happens. Or provable science. Or useful in pratical terms. Anyone can repeat a lie and use national media to promote it, that doesn’t make it true, buit repeating big lies worked to enrich and empower religions, fascism, etc.

    So how is any of this more than self serving dystopian science fiction by career academics, pseudo science paid for by the taxpayer. A total waste of money better directed at a realistic energy policy without renewables. THis sort of thing could accurately be called climate wanking. I was at Imperial College, which then had a practical engineering ethos to its science, apart from the old fashioned music racket from the RCM practice hall. Not any more. They lost the plot. I am ashamed of Imperial”s deceitful voyage into cult science, they should open a new department of pseudo (or unprovable?) science, maybe apply for recognition as a religious organisation? IMO

  22. Okay, that does it. I was going to hold off putting the planet into a real ice age until 2875, because you have to take enough time off to fend off the Bad Guys attacking other settled planets, but I have changed my mind.

    Here’s what I have:
    Winter will come in all hemispheres and it will not end until 75% of the population has moved to other planets. That will take about 2 centuries instead of the 550 years I had planned. Colonizing other planets is time-consuming because you have to test soils for agricultural viability, and find out if any local grain plants (mostly grasses) are compatible with human digestive systems. And then you have to take into account that herds of scattamongians (like the Irish deer and Maine moose) don’t like having their migratory paths encroached upon, and also that there are opportunistic predators similar to crocodilians just waiting for a tasty snack.

    Also, we arrogant Hominids have to take into account that if we want to settle on a planet and farm it, we may have to make nicey-nice with the locals or go some place else. And moving all that furniture is expensive. I think I should but the Church of Ecohippies in there somewhere, too. Anyone else think so? I’m up for it.

    Question: why is anyone stupid enough to believe that we humans have ANY control over anything this planet does?

    If it doesn’t want us, it will shake us off and start over, just like it did with the dinosaurs. The only reason we have any “higher order thinking” capacity is that we have a chance to get off-world and explore and settle elsewhere, just like our distant ancestors did. It’s what we do. And this is a massive, humongously BIG UNIVERSE.

  23. I wasted 9 years in university studying sciences. I should have realized long ago all I needed was an old shawl, a mysterious foreign accent and a crystal ball.

  24. “There will also be knock-on effects on the populations of seabirds and mammals, changing the entire structure of the ecosystem.”

    Sheer hyperventilating alarmism.

  25. My five (okay, six) point plan for saving humanity from the impending “Waterworld” style Armageddon.

    1. Wait for the ice in Antarctica to melt.

    2. Hop on my big boat which was already prepped and ready to sail, filled with all the tools and supplies I’ll need, and head for Antarctica.

    3. Homestead and build a cabin and small eco-friendly farm near a beautiful new beach near Mount Vinson.

    4. Convince my beloved Rachel Maddow that lesbianism is bad for the future of humanity and to try heterosexual love-making, with an eye to reproduction.

    5. Sweep my beloved Rachel Maddow off to Antarctica with me, to become the mother of all future humanity, bearing many children, who will all be smart and wise and have Maori-style tattoos and know where a mirror from a 1969 Buick came from and why we don’t have 1969 Buicks anymore. It will be opposite to when Kevin Costner sailed away from Jean Tripplehorn at the end of the movie. I will stay and Rachel and I will be together.

    6. We will be wary for Sharknadoes, which although they prefer to attack major population centers, may decide to attack us because most all the other humans will be drowned and long dead, so making us the most populated town on Earth. And of course she and the children will learn to love my snoring and never want to not sail away with some young Nepalese hot shot with a big boat and an eco-farm on a new lovely beach on the island of Himalaya

    So far, my plan is working well. Rachel and I are in phase one right now. For any of you logic masters who criticize my numbering, saying I’ve already left in phase 2, before I’ve swept my beloved off her feet in phase 5, well, you’ve got me there. So instead of this order, I plan to add in a phase 1.5, in which I barrage Rachel with a long series of loving texts and e-mails that convince her of the logic of my plan, prior to New York and Washington becoming inundated with acidic ocean water. But the drowning of those two cities with acidic melting ice water will be sort of like the offer she cannot refuse. She will survive, but I hate to mix movie metaphors.

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