The Great Climate Flood Sting has hooked another big media fish. Recently the Mirror informed its bewildered, if rapidly vanishing, readers that much of London could be gone within 80 years, while large areas along the Humber and the Midlands could also disappear beneath the waves. Mirror reporter Sam Elliott-Gibbs notes the existence of “terrifying new maps” of the U.K. that predict towns and cities “will be vanishing into the sea”. Regular readers of the Daily Sceptic might already be observing the handiwork of Climate Central, a green billionaire-backed activist operation that specialises in custom-made flood catastrophes, usually aimed at local media.
Elliott-Gibbs informs his readers that the situation is bleak for many along the Humber – including Hull – “as the area becomes totally flooded, with a large portion of the Midlands submerged as well”. The Mirror prints a “terrifying” map showing water lapping Peterborough. The current annual rate of sea level rise is estimated by the U.S. weather service NOAA’s Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry to be 3.1 mm, with a 13% margin of error. Hull is four metres above sea level, so at the current rise it would take 1,290 years to be “totally flooded”. At eight metres above sea level, the current rise would leave Peterborough free of water for nearly three millennia.
These ludicrous forecasts, based partly on improbably high temperature increases, assume a sea level rise over 30 times faster than it is now. Elliott-Gibbs presses on: “If the sea level matches current forecasts, then other parts of the country could be in big trouble.” Coastal towns in Hampshire, Essex, Sussex and Kent are all said to be at serious risk. The bigger picture doesn’t escape the Mirror either. Belgium, Germany, Northern France and half of the Netherlands “are expected to be underwater by 2100”.
Climate Central is a well-funded green agitprop operation based in Princeton, New Jersey that provided the material for the Mirror story. Elliott-Gibbs obligingly notes that Climate Central “provides authoritative information to help the public and policymakers make sound decisions about climate and energy”. Meanwhile, the operation claims to work with news outlets, “to produce compelling and scientifically accurate feature stories”. On the flood stories, it supplies a free interactive map and web tools that are often used by local media to produce customised catastrophe copy.
Earlier this year, the Wiltshire Times reported that vast areas of south-west England could be under water by 2050 due to global warming. Among the sites that could be lost is Gloucester Cathedral, sited at an elevation of 19 metres. Last year, the Dorset Echo informed its readers that the waters would soon be lapping around the village of Lytchett Minster, a mere 17 metres above sea level.
Climate Central seems to be heavily backed by the Schmidt Family Foundation – money originally provided by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and Chairman of Google. Serving on the board is Carl Ferenbach from the High Meadows Foundation and Fund. The flood project is said to be funded by 12 Foundations, including Schmidt and Prince Albert of Monaco. Among the activist academics involved is Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University. Oppenheimer is known for once noting: “We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialisation we have in the U.S. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.”
Sea level rises are an easy hit for catastrophe forecasters. It is difficult to get a precise global figure, even with the help of orbiting satellites. As ice melts on large land surfaces such as Greenland, an enormous weight is lifted and surrounding land rises from the Earth’s mantle. This is seen in Oslo, which is currently rising 3mm a year from the sea due to ice melting over thousands of years in the ongoing deglaciation period. It is sometimes said that ice melting in Greenland has recently added 1mm a year to sea level rise. But recent evidence over the last decade suggests this process has slowed, with a possibility that the ice sheet actually increased in size in the year to August 2022.
In his recent 2021 state of the climate report, Professor Ole Humlum noted the difficulties surrounding accurate measurement of sea levels, even with the help of satellites. It is an imprecise science, with land gauges indicating a lower rise between 1-2mm.
Whatever the rise, it is hardly enough even to register on a longer trend going back to the lifting of the ice age around 14,000 years ago. In a detailed 2019 report on sea level and climate change, the American climatologist and writer Judith Curry concluded that recent changes in sea level are “within the range of natural sea level variability over the past several thousand years”.
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall
Who is the least inquiring of us all?
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.