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State of the Planet

Mar 12, 2009

Sea level story a washout?

Sea level story a red herring? Yesterday, we noted that the first b

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Sea level story a red herring? Yesterday, we noted that the first big story — or at least the one picked up by all the international press — coming out of this week’s climate conference in Copenhagen was claims that sea levels may rise by more than twice the previously expected levels.

But Island of Doubt blogger James Hrynyshyn says this isn’t news:

we’ve plenty of things to worry about that will prove much harder to adjust to, without getting tied up in knots over exactly how much the oceans will rise. In many ways, the relatively slow pace of sea level rise might be among the least of our worries.

In fairness, this is the press release put out by the conference itself, and they’re only dripping out one release a day. It’s lean times in the media industry, and I doubt many organisations have sent reporters there to actually cover the event. So who does the buck stop with? The press for recycling what they’re fed by the conference’s PR department, or the conference for putting it out there? Or is it in fact a relevant story that deserved coverage?

In other news:

Queensland gets oily. Oil slicks are washing up on Queensland beaches after a cargo ship lost 650 tonnes of fuel and fertiliser during Cyclone Hamish. The EPA are concerned about the danger it poses to local wildlife, but maritime authorities say other ships are at more risk.

Economy overshadows environmental concerns. Australians’ concerns about climate change are fading in the face of worsening economic conditions, The Age reports. In a poll of 1000 people, the proportion concerned about climate change fallen from 90%  two years ago to 73%.

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2 comments

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2 thoughts on “Sea level story a washout?

  1. Mark Duffett

    Just to clarify, Pfeffer et al 2008 is the paper referred to by William Connolley in the comments to Hrynyshyn’s piece, http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2009/03/sea_level_rise_a_red_herring.php

  2. Mark Duffett

    You didn’t even have to look to another blog to work out that the sea level rise story isn’t news. I wrote as much on these very pages less than two months ago, to wit: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/rooted/2009/01/15/negative-emissions-needed-for-a-safe-climate-world-watch-institute/

    See in particular my link therein to Pfeffer et al 2008, http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/321/5894/1340 which indicates 0.8 m as a likely upper bound on sea level rise by 2100, and thereby also indicates that not everything coming out of Copenhagen is necessarily holy writ anyway. The latter point is also demonstrated here:

    http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/01/rapid_retreat_of_greenlands_ou.html#comments

    which shows that extrapolation of current relationships between temperature increase and sea level rise (which is what the higher end pronouncements of those at Copenhagen are based on) are not well founded.

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