Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Global Warming Predictions Continue to Worsen

The BBC (and no doubt many other news organizations) has a story on a new round of predictions regarding sea-level rise. Once again, the new predictions cast old ones as too rosy. What gives?

This report fits into a pattern over the past ten years in which succeeding reports prove earlier ones to have been too optimistic. That is, for ten or more years, new studies of the likely outcomes of global warming have repeatedly revealed even the most pessimistic of old studies to be too optimistic. That suggests that climate scientists are consistently stating things optimistically. Nevertheless, politicians — particularly in the know-nothing moderate and conservative circles of the US — consistently dismiss scientific warnings that are taken to be 'too pessimistic'.

We know that through the eight years of the Bush Disaster, scientists were intimidated and coerced into revising their studies to be less dire. Most notoriously, Bush administration thought police sought to censor the statements of NASA scientist James Hansen.

Now, with Barrack Obama in the White House and a more Democratic Congress, energy industry lobbyists and others are greatly increasing lobbying efforts to head off any legislation to protect the environment.

Below is the BBC story:
Sea rise 'to exceed projections'
By David Shukman
Environment correspondent, BBC News, Copenhagen

The global sea level looks set to rise far higher than forecast because of changes in the polar ice-sheets, a team of researchers has suggested.

Scientists at a climate change summit in Copenhagen said earlier UN estimates were too low and that sea levels could rise by a metre or more by 2100.

The projections did not include the potential impact of polar melting and ice breaking off, they added.

The implications for millions of people would be "severe", they warned.

Ten per cent of the world's population - about 600 million people - live in low-lying areas.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, had said that the maximum rise in sea level would be in the region of 59cm.

Professor Konrad Steffen from the University of Colorado, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, highlighted new studies into ice loss in Greenland, showing it has accelerated over the last decade.

Professor Steffen, who has studied the Arctic ice for the past 35 years, told me: "I would predict sea level rise by 2100 in the order of one metre; it could be 1.2m or 0.9m.

"But it is one metre or more seeing the current change, which is up to three times more than the average predicted by the IPCC."

"It is a major change and it actually calls for action."

Dr John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research added: "The most recent research showed that sea level is rising by 3mm a year since 1993, a rate well above the 20th century average."

Ice flow

Professor Eric Rignot, a senior research scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that results gathered since the IPCC showed that melting and ice loss could not be overlooked.

"As a result of the acceleration of outlet glaciers over large regions, the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already contributing more and faster to sea level rise than anticipated," he observed.

Professor Stefan Ramstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said: "Based on past experience, I expect that sea level rise will accelerate as the planet gets hotter."

The forecasts by the team of scientists are critically important for coastal communities.

At Lowestoft, on the UK's east coast, the Environment Agency official in charge of coastal protection, David Kemp, said that even small rises in sea level could be overwhelming.

"Put bluntly, if it's 10cm below the height of the defence, then there's no problem," he told me.

"But if it's 10cm above the defence, then we could be looking at devastation.

"It looks very benign today but the North Sea can turn into a very ferocious beast."

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