As I listened to the radio this morning I had a hunch we’d see a post from Andrew Bolt on this topic – and I knew it would be misrepresented to make it sound like the latest nail in the coffin of global warming “alarmism”:

Remember this great scare, which turned Tuvalu into the poster island of the global warming faith?

More than 75 million people living on Pacific islands will have to relocate by 2050 because of the effects of climate change, Oxfam has warned.

… [lots of statements quoted; some perfectly accurate based on the scientific evidence, some exaggerating or inaccurate about the risk] …

Stop! Hold the scare right there. The farce has gone on long enough.

Here’s the latest study, just in:

Climate scientists have expressed surprise at findings that many low-lying Pacific islands are growing, not sinking.

Islands in Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia are among those which have grown, largely due to coral debris, land reclamation and sediment.

Yes, the study suggests that the forecasts of the effect of rising sea levels on small Pacific islands might need to be revised. That’s what happens with science – new research tells us new things. But there are a few things Andrew doesn’t bother noting – things that were covered in an appropriately balanced report on Radio National’s AM, which is where I first heard about the study. It’s worth reading the transcript or listening – if you do, you’ll find that one of the authors of the new study notes that the finding:

poses even more significant challenges of how they cope with the changes ahead and there are questions arising now as to, the land may still be there but will they still be able to support human habitation?

Another researcher from Kiribati notes that even if new land is being created, erosion still can displace the population from where they currently live:

a few metres would actually displace people and in a populated place people can’t move back or inland because there’s hardly any place to move into. So that’s quite dramatic.

And Barry Brook notes that sea level rise remains an issue:

I think in the short term it suggests that there may be more time to do something about the problem than we’d first anticipated. But the key problem is that sea level rise is likely to accelerate much beyond what we’ve seen in the twentieth century.

In short, it’s a very interesting finding, it’s potentially a very important one, and it may well mean that those earlier forecasts need to be reconsidered. That could turn out to be great news. But it changes what we know about the potential effects of rising sea levels – it doesn’t mean those effects are gone, and it changes nothing at all about the cause of sea level rises.

UPDATE: Bolt expanded his post into a newspaper column for today. Same approach – little focus on the facts, no acknowledgment of caveats about the research, lots of bagging “that grotesque green horde of hysterics, dreamers, carpetbaggers and moral grandstanders that has whipped up such baseless fears for a decade”.

CORRECTION: Oxfam notes that the claim attributed to them is inaccurate. The following letter to the editor was published in the Herald-Sun:

Climate does pose a danger

ANDREW Bolt’s article, “Theories fall to take atoll” (June 4), quotes Oxfam as saying that “more than 75 million people living on Pacific islands will have to relocate by 2050 because of the effects of climate change”. The number of people quoted refers to the Asia-Pacific region, not just the Pacific islands, and comes from Dr Norman Meyers, one of the world s foremost experts on environmental migration.

I apologise for repeating the inaccurate statement. I have discussed some of the issues these sorts of inaccuracies raise in this post.

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