Searching for the Answer

Ever since the temperature “hiatus” or “pause” began in 1998, climate change advocates have been constructing narratives to explain why it is not really happening. This is reminiscent of Groucho Marx’s question, are you going to believe your eyes or what I tell you?
According to an article by Michael Bastach in the Daily Caller, 52 different reasons have been given, none of which survive careful analysis. The latest two are that the satellite measurements are not valid for surface temperatures and that the heat is being stored in the oceans and causing an acceleration of sea level rise.

Professor John Christy in Congressional testimony on February 2 carefully and convincingly rebutted the criticisms of satellite measurements. That leaves the heat is hiding in the oceans excuse.

There is no dispute about sea levels rising. Professor Carl Wunsch, one of the world’s leading oceanographers, has made clear that sea levels have been rising since the end of the last ice age 16,000 years ago and will continue to rise until the next one. He has also pointed out in presentations that measuring sea level rise, especially from some past time until the present is a case of the unknown unknowns.

In a 2008 presentation to EPA, Wunsch made the following points: “Historical data are not adequate to compute accurate global averages. No mathematical trick compensates for missing data. Present multidecadal estimates of global averages have an element of fantasy about them (Among other issues, an unsubstantiated blind faith in models.)” That is a devastating but not enough to silence the apocalypitics.

In fact, all that we really know is that sea levels are and have been rising. While scientists and groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make estimates of how much and whether the changes are greater, less, or the same as the past, the fact is that the estimates are swamped by uncertainty. Tide gauge data and space based data differ by more than 100%–1.5mm versus 3.2mm– and no one is sure which data set is correct. NOAA has acknowledged a few years ago that its satellite based sea level altimetry system needs a “fix” because of spurious errors.

In 2007, the IPCC report stated “Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8mm per year over the 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 mm per year.” In view of the measurement errors noted by Wunsch and others, distinguishing between 1.8mm and 3.1mm (the thickness of two dimes) requires more than sophisticated guess work, it involves applying the lessons from the book, How to Lie With Statistics. Professor Judith Curry of Georgia Tech in reviewing the most recent IPCC report concluded that the IPCC presented data demonstrates that natural variability has been the dominant force.

In addition to numerous uncertainties and magical manipulations to build a case that emissions are the problem, the sea level issue is complicated further by land subsidence—the natural sinking of land. For coastal areas, this leads to an apparent sea level rise. The Tidewater area of Virginia, which NOAA has ranked second only two New Orleans in terms of threatened population, is a perfect example. NOAA cites two reasons in addition to natural sea level rise. The first is the Gulf Stream is circulating more slowly which leads to more water pushing toward the North Atlantic coast. The second is due to a crater caused by a meteor that came down at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay 35 million years ago and which is causing the Norfolk area to be slowly sinking into the crater.

Since sea levels have been rising for 16,000 years and will continue to do so, a wise response would be to focus technology and a policies like zoning ordnances on mitigating the effects instead of using this reality to continue to beat the cut emissions drum.