Guest post by E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D
Refuting climate alarmists’ counterfactual claims is like playing whack-a-mole. Smack this one here, and ten others pop up there, and there, and there, and ….
In the climate apocalyptic video propaganda category, the newest seems to be The Final Years of Majuro, posted to YouTube August 4.
The film tells us, with all the authority of “science,” that the Marshall Islands (of which Majuro is the capital city), will disappear if global average temperature (GAT) rises beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
Since this is a claim about the future, it cannot, of course, be the finding of empirical observation—the essence of science.
So where does it come from? Well, we might be forgiven for thinking it comes from nothing but unhinged emotions.
The climax of The Final Years of Majuro comes with Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijner reading aloud a tear-jerking letter to her newborn daughter, about the imminent disappearance of their beloved islands, in front of delegates to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 21st Conference of the Parties, in Paris in 2015.
(That’s the conference that gave us the Paris Climate Agreement, full implementation of which would cost some $70 to $140 trillion and prevent 0.3°F of warming by 2100—a bargain price of $23.3 to $46.6 trillion per tenth of a degree.)
The video then cuts to her saying, “I think poetry forces people to slow down, and connect to the emotion of the issue, rather than just facts and data ….”
Alas, emotion isn’t the stuff of sound science. Facts and data matter. So where does the claim really come from?
It comes from mathematical models that integrate the knock-on effects of carbon dioxide emissions, global average temperature, and sea level. (And a lot more, but these are the ones most relevant to this topic.)
It’s already widely known that climate models grossly exaggerate the warming effect of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Indeed, the newest ones, which one might have thought would have been improved after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on them, actually do worse than the last ones.
But that’s not quite to the point. The Final Years of Majuro simply says the Marshalls will disappear because of sea-level rise if GAT rises more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial times. It doesn’t say how quickly that will happen, though the ominous implication is that it’s going to be soon—very soon.
But ten years ago, Cliff Ollier, of the School of Earth Environment at the University of Western Australia, one of the world’s leading scholars on sea level and its effect on low-lying islands, published “Sea Level in the Southwest Pacific is Stable.” Examination of tide gauges found that “any rise of global sea level is negligible.” Further, Ollier found that the prevailing theory of how sea-level rise would affect coral atolls “would suggest that we should see more land subsidence, and apparent sea level rise, than is actually occurring.”
So, the claims of rapid, threatening sea-level rise are themselves counterfactual.
The question remains, though, whether raising GAT to 1.5°C above what it was in about 1850, however long it takes, will cause sea level to rise such that low-lying coral atolls like the Marshalls will be submerged.
But wait a minute. Isn’t the answer obvious? If sea level is rising at all, must not the islands be drowning, even if not so fast as some claim?
No. Why? Because sea-level rise isn’t the only thing happening in the world—even in the world of low-lying atolls.
Two other things are happening that counter the effect of sea-level rise: coral growth, and increase of land through wave-driven deposition, also called accretion.
As sea level rises, corals grow upward to stay within reach of the sunlight necessary for them to live.
At the same time, currents and waves move some material from the surrounding sea floor onto land.
True, they also remove some.
The relevant question, then, is, “What’s the balance?” The answer depends not on assumptions or theories but on empirical observation. If physical measurements show that an atoll is expanding rather than contracting, even while sea level is rising, then accretion must be outpacing erosion.
Two years ago, Virginie K. E. Duvat published “A global assessment of atoll island planform changes over the past decades.” She found
Over the past decades, atoll islands exhibited no widespread sign of physical destabilization in the face of sea‐level rise. A reanalysis of available data, which cover 30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands, reveals that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted. … no island larger than 10 ha [“the minimum island size required for human occupancy”] decreased in size.
In other words, sea-level rise posed no threat to inhabited islands.
Last year Ollier and colleague Albert Parker published “Pacific Sea Levels Rising Very Slowly and Not Accelerating.” Citing Duvat, they concluded, “The Pacific Atolls are not drowning because the sea level is rising much less than what was once thought.”
In short, empirical observation contradicted claims of rapid sea-level rise and shrinking coral atolls—including in the southwest Pacific, where the Marshall Islands lie.
So, residents of Majuro, and the rest of the Marshall Islands, and of Tuvalu and Kiribati and the Maldives and other poster children of climate alarmists’ sea-level rise scare, you can breathe easier. The final years for your islands are not imminent.
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.