back to article New science upsets calculations on sea level rise, climate change

A new analysis of data from dedicated satellites shows that one of the main factors predicted to drive rising sea levels in future has been seriously overestimated, with major implications for climate talks currently underway in Doha. The new methods involve filtering out noise from the data produced by the Gravity Recovery And …

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If this is true...

...GOOD! Maybe we still have time to yank ourselves out of this mess. Or are we 5 billion people too late?

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Re: If this is true...

Hold up there, Dr. Malthus! If this be true, it adds much weight to the already hefty question of whether there's even a mess from which to yank.

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Re: If this is true...

By "yank ourselves out of this mess" I don't mean "waste billions on useless wind tech" that our government seems to think is the answer, or "scrap all nuclear, claim to the green and import dirty power from Eastern Europe" like the Germans. I mean, actually yank ourselves out of this mess.

We can't go on over fishing, slashing and burning etc. Even if it isn't causing GW, there is a hard-limit because there simply isn't any more "stuff". Pumping toxins into rivers can't continue for the same reason.

I'm not a raging greenie in a hemp shirt, but I don't shit where I sleep either.

And, of course, that's if this is true and if it means AGW isn't as bad as thought. Big ifs.

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Re: If this is true...

And what fate do you have in mind for the sundry billions of inconvenient humans standing between you and your pastoral fantasy? Inquiring minds want to know!

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Re: If this is true...

@T.B.Y . As Aaron says, please enlighten us! These articles might give you food (ahem) for thought!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_revolution

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon%E2%80%93Ehrlich_wager

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

Aaron and Symon, what's your point?

Are you saying that population levels are not an issue, that they will not become an issue or just that you think it something best left unquestioned? (Or none of these). Please elucidate.

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Re: If this is true...

Erm... the best that could be said is that the melt is not ACCELERATING as fast as it possibly could. if the estimate accuracy is +/- 6.2 million tonnes and the new estimate is that teh melt is ACCELERATING by 8 million tonnes, that means that within the margin of error, the melt could be accelerating at between 14 million tonnes/year and 2 million tonnes / year. How the f*** can you approximate that to zero acceleration just because one end of the error bar is close to (but does not even reach) zero??

Bottom line - Earth is still warming, Greenland icecap is still melting at an accelerated rate, the only plus is that the melting is not accelerating as much as we previously thought (Hurrah, the ship isn't sinking as fast as we thought it was!!). Of course this means models need to be tweaked and results revised, but it does not change the fundamentals.

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Re: If this is true...

Can't speak for Symon, but what I'm saying is that "population levels [being] a problem" is a bloodless cipher for there being many billions of human beings whom one finds inconvenient to have cluttering up the place. People being people, and the urge to procreate being what it is, your range of potential "solutions" to this "problem" lies roughly between Sanger's voluntary eugenics, which has not worked out as intended in actual practice, and Hitler's idea of forcibly sterilizing and/or murdering en masse those deemed undesirable, which while having the virtue of directness does lack a great deal in certain other areas which most will tend to regard as rather crucial.

What I'm wondering is which solution is being espoused by this particular commenter. Given that he seems not to scruple at regarding as inconvenient billions of living humans, who progressivism tells us have no less right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as any others, I'm just curious to know what other enormities he's willing to encompass in the cause of turning our common planet into what sounds more or less like a gigantic wilderness preserve.

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Unhappy

Re: If this is true...

"And what fate do you have in mind for the sundry billions of inconvenient humans standing between you and your pastoral fantasy?"

Tough one. Number 1 is educating women in poor countries - this is the single most important factor for increased affluence and lower birthrates. But it IS a bit of a catch-22, the way to reduce overpopulation is to have richer people, the way to have richer people is to use more energy, and that will create more pollution.

But in the end, if we do not solve the conundrum, there is one sad but inevitable scenario of what happens when population continues to increase and enough resources are not available - and that's that the sundry billions of humans will slaughter each other for control of the resources. It's tragic, but thousands of years of human history have repeated that same pattern so often that it's practically inevitable. Yeah, I'm with Malthus on this one

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Re: If this is true...

@ AC I can't speak for Aaron, but I'm saying that a Malthusian Catastrophe won't happen. Every time that people have predicted that such an event will occur, someone like Norman 'I saved a billion lives' Borlaug comes along with a Green Revolution to save the day. When nitrogen fertiliser was running out, here's Fritz Haber to the rescue. When fossil fuels run out, fission or maybe fusion will sort that out.

It seems to be received wisdom that the Earth is over populated, but I'm not so sure. I read an interesting theory the other day, in which it was suggested that technology growth goes hand in hand with population growth. Which is cause and which is effect? Maybe more people being educated and contributing leads to more technology growth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

Aaron:

OK, that clears things up a bit for me. Thank you.

Whilst I agree that it is a rather delicate issue to address and that history does indeed demonstrate that eugenics and holocaust are (obviously) not an answer, my intuition tells me, assuming there is no global pandemic or series thereof, that global population is destined to become a problem from humanitarian, political, economical, sociological and environmental perspectives, amongst others.

The one thing I have noted elsewhere (and quite frequently) however is that debate centred around global population often leads to some fool shouting 'racism', which was one reason for my question. But you seem more level-minded!

The immediate problem, as I see it, is not that we need to find a solution to a rapidly expanding population but rather that we, as a people, acknowledge that is a discussion that may need to be had. If we can't even do that, then we may just as well bury our heads in the sand.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

"@ AC I can't speak for Aaron, but I'm saying that a Malthusian Catastrophe won't happen. Every time that people have predicted that such an event will occur, someone like Norman 'I saved a billion lives' Borlaug comes along with a Green Revolution to save the day. When nitrogen fertiliser was running out, here's Fritz Haber to the rescue. When fossil fuels run out, fission or maybe fusion will sort that out."

I appreciate the logic in play. But for me personally, well, I feel it's rather a big gamble to take. I'm not a gambler, but in the absence of any solution (assuming there can ever be one), it's a gamble we may be forced to have to take.

But either way, surely education (as James above has stated) is a big factor. Also, one which goes without saying is the Catholic Church and it's stance in contraception. I mean, we all live on this planet and we all therefore have a responsibility. Individuals, countries and religious institutions alike.

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Re: If this is true...

If anyone wants it, the draft paper is here:

http://www.princeton.edu/geosciences/people/simons/pdf/PNAS-2012.pdf

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Re: If this is true...

"And what fate do you have in mind for the sundry billions of inconvenient humans standing between you and your pastoral fantasy? Inquiring minds want to know!"

The basic option is from two choices

1) We voluntarily reduce our population (or the demands of our population); or

2) Nature will reduce the population for us.

Option 1 does not mean forced sterilisation or any crap like that, it means education.

Option 2 is either going to be disease, war, famine or some combination of all three.

Pike your choice.

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Holmes

Re: If this is true...

Or are we 5 billion people too late?

Or... do we need another 20 billion?

Before people reach for the troll button - consider this:

1 - Every generation before ours has felt that the population was too high, and that the generation before theirs was ideal. Not just some generations - EVERY generation.

2 - Every generation before ours has had a better life than the generation before it. Not just some generations - EVERY generation.

3 - Every generation before ours has had more resources available to it than the generation before it. Not just some generations - EVERY generation.

These are not controversial statements - they are generally accepted, and if you think about them for a moment you will realise that they MUST be true. It's just that humans, particularly activist ones, ignore these facts so comprehensively that they might as well not exist. Humanity has NEVER been held back by a shortage of resources, in spite of using limited raw materials in ever-increasing quantities.

How can this be? Let us look at an example. Around 1750 there was a scare concerning oak trees - we were using them to build ships so fast that they were going to run out - simple calculations suggested that Britain would not be able to run a navy by 1850. And yet by 1900 Britain had the biggest navy in the world. ?

What had happened was that, as oak trees got short, people worked out that you could make ships from steel - and these ships were much better than ones made from oak. It turned out that the resources we were depending on were not just oak trees - they were oak trees, a whole set of things we hadn't discovered yet, and human ingenuity. There were fixed limits to the oak trees, possibly unknown limits to the things we hadn't discovered yet, and, as far as I know, no limits to human ingenuity.

What I have just described is a simple version of Julian Simon's Cornucopia theory. It has the merit that it has been proven right time and time again throughout recorded history. So long as we have people and ideas human life will constantly get better. Try to cut down on these and we will mark time, or get worse.

Of course, this may be the first time in history when the doom mongers are right. They have been on a losing streak for some 3000 years - they must be right sometime? But I'm still betting on Julian Simon...

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Re: If this is true...

You seem to be confusing your intuition with your received wisdom, but that's beside the point. Me, I'm with Symon; rather than having a "discussion" to decide which humans are in the way and how best to lop them off (and who does the discussing and the deciding, by the way?), I'm much more inclined to bank on someone having a brilliant idea. Looking at history, that seems to be a fairly safe bet.

Even if it's not -- and to answer Big Yin's point, expressed as it is in a rather forced dichotomy which I'll overlook for the sake of argument -- I'd still prefer a natural Malthusian catastrophe to its artificial alternative, whose implementation implies a feat of social engineering far beyond any existing precedent -- which, given the existing precedents, would be quite an accomplishment.

One quick additional point: "education" here is a thin cipher for the promotion of contraception, or the Sanger plan. Like I said before, that hasn't at all worked out in the way its proponents expected; specifically, it turns out that the people who make the most use of contraception are exactly those whom a eugenicist would most want to reproduce, i.e., the best and the brightest. I'm not sure what is being proposed here to change that, nor am I sure where the benefit lies in a negative eugenics program which draws its participants from the cohorts whose propagation a positive eugenics program would most want to promote.

(And a note for the terminologically impoverished: "positive eugenics" means encouraging those with traits deemed beneficial to reproduce at a higher rate, while "negative eugenics" means discouraging those with traits deemed undesirable from same.)

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Re: If this is true...

@AC 17:47 GMT

Whenever someone says something along the lines of "my intuition tells me" I refer them to Stuart Sutherland's book, 'Irrationality'. Have look at chapter 20, 'The failure of intuition'.

"Intuition is that strange instinct that tells a person he is right, whether he is or not."

Anyway, sorry for going off on a bit of a tangent, but I highly recommend that book.

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Van

Re: Every generation

Not the Tasmanian aborigines who survived the last melt 10,000 years ago, were cut off from the mainland but were wiped out by your ilk less than 200 years ago. The Aussie aborigines don't have it better either. Even if we're not harming the planet, at least half of us will end up with mental illness, the more cramped, nosier, restless environment we make for ourselves.

Having a better life isn't just replacing Oak trees with steel

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Re: If this is true...

They are already slaughtering each other for control of resources and have been for a long time.

America & Britain murder their way through the Middle East to steal oil, maybe started in the 1950s with the overthrow and murder of the democratically elected leader in Iran just so that BP could keep control of the oil.

Israel murders their way through Palestine partly to fulfil their imagined religious destiny but mostly to steal water because the Palestinians have it and they don't.

A side effect of these wars is to reduce population. Britain, America maybe Israel have dumped thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium throughout the Middle East during their wars, which leads to massive rises in birth defects, cancers, death, disability and will keep right on killing for the next 10,000 years at least. Seems our "civilized" western nations are already doing something to get rid of what they perceive to be surplus and inferior populations.

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Unhappy

Re: If this is true...

" Number 1 is educating women in poor countries - this is the single most important factor for increased affluence and lower birthrates. "

I think you'll find the women in such countries get it pretty well. It's the men who are the problem.

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Unhappy

Re: If this is true...

"I read an interesting theory the other day, in which it was suggested that technology growth goes hand in hand with population growth. "

It depends on the infrastructure.

10 billion educated literate and well fed people could explode across the solar system. 8 billion starving illiterates whose governments have washed their hands of them won't.

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Boffin

Re: If this is true...

"The immediate problem, as I see it, is not that we need to find a solution to a rapidly expanding population but rather that we"

You might start by verifying that there is an accelerating global population.

IIRC that's not what is happening in the G7 countries for a start. You might then go on to places like Japan, Singapore and China (obviously a special case) and see what has happened there with rising living standards.

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Meh

Re: Every generation

..The Aussie aborigines don't have it better either. Even if we're not harming the planet, at least half of us will end up with mental illness, the more cramped, nosier, restless environment we make for ourselves.

Ask one whether they would rather be living with modern conveniences, or still having to walk everywhere and live off grubs. And then ask yourself whether you would rather have a mental illness nowadays, or in 1500, when they still burned witches. Or 1700, when they put you in Bedlam and poked you with a stick. Or 1900, when they hosed you down with cold water... You get the idea?

..Having a better life isn't just replacing Oak trees with steel..

No one said that that was the total definition. That was why I used the magic words: "Let us look at an example.". Perhaps you could favour us with an example. I won't hold my breath...

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Re: If this is true... Depleted Uranium

The idea that DU is causing birth defects is almost certainly a conspiracy/scare story from Chris Busby, and nothing more. In Fallujah, where the grim account begins, it's most unlikely that DU was ever used. Very poor water supplies, atrocious sanitation, toxic rubble and the destruction of nearby chemical factories are a much more likely cause of the illnesses that have been reported.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/toxic-legacy-of-us-assault-on-fallujah-worse-than-hiroshima-2034065.html

Start with this outrageous article in the Independent and follow the leads...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Aaron Em 15:39

Open season on people every leap year?

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Anonymous Coward

@Symon 16:07

The Green Revolution isn't all that green. We're depleting aquifers faster than they get replenished, all those chemicals that supposedly make our lives better have negative effects on the environment - destroying benificial microbes in the soil, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from all the fertilizer runoff, for example. In other words, were shitting where we sleep. As for the wagers, I'm sure there are causes other than environmental pressures responsible for commodity prices.

Is it better to reduce population pressure now or to keep applying band-aids to our food production system while allowing people to make even more copies of themselves until we have another several billion people on the planet when the wheels come off the whole system?

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Pint

Re: If this is true...

Aaron, damned glad to see you back here. I have missed your style of late.

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FAIL

Re: Every generation

The Tasmanian aboriginals were arguably, no longer viable as a population long before the colonial power arrived on the island, if nothing else by virtue of lack genetic diversity (ca. 2000 individuals). Their apparently highly dysfunctional social order more or less guaranteed a mass exodus of the remaining females to the arms of eagerly awaiting freed convicts and other settlers who themselves were looking for appropriate partners who were very, very thin on the ground at the time. Birth rate decline amongst the indigenous along with susceptibility to western diseases and a penchant for robbing the sugar and flour larders of the settlers pretty much sealed their fate.

Lyndall Ryan was wrong, and almost anything you might think you know about the Australian Aborginal history, and the Tasmanian Aboriginal population in general, post colonialisation is almost certainly wrong.

You clearly have no idea how big the planet is either. Humans CHOOSE to live close together because it affords us, via our social systems, advantages that the more primitive societal models do not. This, despite having to deal with the attendant, often very fatal, crowd diseases that cannot flourish without, well, crowds. In any case, the earth is provably not crowded and it unlikely to be so any time soon. The question of whether humans are overextending the ability of the earth's resources to support our species is a different question.

I now return you to your regular programming in progress ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

"10 billion educated literate and well fed people could explode across the solar system".

Er, how? Even the hugely optimistic SF writers of the Golden Age (1950s-1960s) such as Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein never suggested that could happen. Rather, they envisaged a tiny handful of brave, smart, and slightly demented people establishing a toehold in space and eventually giving rise to what was virtually a new (and different) human race. Meanwhile, the untold billions left on Earth languished in various forms of dystopia - or, in some scenarios, wiped each other out leaving the planet a pretty radioactive marble.

Until you discover the formula for matter transmission or antigravity, good luck lifting 10 billion people (educated or otherwise) out of Earth's gravity well. If they are well fed, of course, it will be even harder.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

"And what fate do you have in mind for the sundry billions of inconvenient humans standing between you and your pastoral fantasy? Inquiring minds want to know!"

The only way we can possibly adjust our population to the carrying capacity of the planet is to reduce birth rates below death rates for an extended period. Eventually, the global population would get down to a reasonable 1-3 billion, which might be viable in the long term.

The alternative is not necessarily a dramatic Goetterdaemmerung; there are many scenarios, but one obvious common factor is that the longer population goes on growing, the worse things will get before they get better. If they get better.

This is not the place to try to inform or persuade people who thoughtlessly reject the proposition that you cannot have perpetual growth on a finite planet. The facts, figures, and logic are out there for you to read if you choose. The Limits to Growth back in 1972 was on the right track, and the recent updates to it reflect developments since then - mostly bad. Actually, even the much-maligned Malthus was right too. Any population that goes on growing long enough will eventually run out of one or more critical resources. The fact that there have been many false alarms does not mean that the fundamental proposition was wrong.

Indeed, I have a feeling that we are already in the position of Wile E. Coyote after he runs off the cliff. We're still smiling, still confident, still fat, dumb and happy. But I am increasingly doubtful whether the human race can truly be dubbed intelligent. After all, can you call a species intelligent that cannot avoid bringing about its own extinction, even after it has been warned and shown exactly how it will happen?

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Re: If this is true...

@Dodgy Geezer - Just because it has been so in the past does not mean it will be so in the future.

You seem to be assuming some historical constant increase in abundance, which is not correct. Human outcomes in health, education, agricultural production, scientific advancement etc were fairly flat for hundreds of years. The generation-upon-generation improvements you mention only started with the industrial revolution and were mostly driven by the availability of cheap energy. Of course it's possible that a tech breakthrough could allow us to continue with abundant free energy but there is no reason to assume this will be so.

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Re: If this is true...

@Aaron Em " it turns out that the people who make the most use of contraception are... the best and the brightest"

No, it's the best educated and more affluent - in a typical western society this group is mostly correlated with "the best and the brightest", but I doubt that globally this is the case. There must be hundreds of kids inIndia, Africa, China etc with very high IQs and the potential to make important discoveries if only they weren't living hand-to-mouth and with no possibility of an education.

Of course for the western world you're right and it IS a concern

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Re: If this is true...

"I think you'll find the women in such countries get it pretty well. It's the men who are the problem"

Yes you're right, the men also need to get with the program. I can't remember where I saw the study, but it showed that female education was the single biggest predictor of growth. I guess the reason is that in many 'backward' countries, men are already allowed to go to school, and women kept at home. Once women start being educated the stop knuckling under and taking their 'subservient' status for granted.

Women being educated and empowered is one of the biggest fears of the entrenched (male) powers in the muslim world, which is why for example the Taliban in Pakistan are shooting 13-year old schoolgirls who call them out on their many failings

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Happy

Re: If this is true...

"If they are well fed, of course, it will be even harder."

+1 for this

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

@James Micallef: Why not? We currently have a climate debate which hinders cheap energy but we have plenty oil, coal, gas to keep going for some time. Add nuclear and reprocessing capabilities and we have even longer. Add research to improve these technologies which increases the productivity of these sources and we have even longer.

Then we move into improvements territory. Such as new sources of energy. Given time and removing the current gov manipulation to sell duff technology it could become viable to use solar or maybe even windfarms if the technology can be made to work. There are attempts to make new types of reactor and with the long time we have it is possible other options could come about.

And that is the technology and research today.

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Re: If this is true...

Two bits of poorly reported knowledge you should consider:

1. NO INCREASE IN RATES OF HISTORIC SEA LEVEL RISE --- Despite the AGW driven propaganda that you read in the MSM, there has been no increase in the historic rate of sea level increase --- 8" per century, during a century with significant increase of atmospheric CO2. NOAA officially admits this in a just released report. Toward the end of the report you will find this sentence: "The lowest sea level change scenario (8 inch rise) is based on historic rates of observed sea level change. See: " http://www.cpo.noaa.gov/reports/sealevel/

2. NO GLOBAL WARMING FOR 16 YEARS --- Despite the AGW driven pre-COP18 propaganda that you read in the MSM, there has been no global warming for the past 16 years. Statistically, that is a long enough period to signal a climate change to climate scientists. It was the UK MET Office, the keeper of the gold stand temperature data bases, that shocked everyone with the recent report confirming the 16 year lack of global warming. For an excellent article with many links to original data and studies, see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html#ixzz29E78OR9H

3. THE AGW HYPOTHESIS HAS BEEN FALSIFIED -- Any way you cut it, the UK MET report on flatlined global warming throws the CO2-driven AGW hypothesis in the scientific trash can. CO2 has gone up significantly during the past 16 years yet global temperatures have flat-lined. That is a direct contradiction of the primary prediction of the hypothesis. You can make up your own mind as to why this has not been more widely reported in the MSM.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If this is true...

There hasnt been any doubt about the 'mess' for a least a decade now...the world is undoubtedly warming due to human activity and there is overwhelming evidence for this, and zero climate scientists doubt this anymore...

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Coat

Well, it's not going to stop the alarmism either way.

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Alert

Let the flaming commence!

I prefer crisps to popcorn by the way.

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Thumb Up

Time to...

Fire up the V8!!!

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"Put another way, in that scenario we would be looking at 5cm of sea level rise from Greenland by the year 2130"

So what has caused the 5cm of sea level rise observed over the last 15 years?

http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

Thermal expansion of the oceans (yes the Earth has warmed over the last 15 years) can only explain about half of it (http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/stericcomp_2000m.png)

Sea level rise, ocean heat content and ice sheet mass loss are a linked equation.

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Anonymous Coward

Current average annual sea level rise is about 1.7mm/year.

The average annual rise for the last 20,000 years is 4mm/year.

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Thumb Up

Data

I like your data - it comforts me.

However I would like to have some sort of source with it.

I'll even say please!

Please!

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Anonymous Coward

Nom: But how much of the other ~25mm is written down to AGW? Obviously it cannot be 100%. Got any links for numbers here?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Data

The 1.7mm per year is from the IPCC TAR WG1

I mistyped the 4mm per year for the last 20,000 years, it should have 6mm per year and I got that from wiki.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Data

"I mistyped the 4mm per year for the last 20,000 years, it should have 6mm per year and I got that from wiki."

Hey, no biggie when compared to the 'Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035' error made by the IPCC.

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"Current average annual sea level rise is about 1.7mm/year. The average annual rise for the last 20,000 years is 4mm/year."

That is just misleading. The impression you give is that sea level rise today is slower than over the rest of human civilization, when the opposite is true.

There was no reason to go back as far as 20,000 years other than it gave you a higher figure because it exploits the post-glacial sea level rise that ended before human civilization, so is actually irrelevant.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1d/Post-Glacial_Sea_Level.png

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Black Helicopters

Sea level rise can be easily explained by all of those deep sea bases the Illuminati have been building. There they stay, controlling the Earth's climate through HAARP. Waiting for the day when all societies on the surface have cast off their technology in fear of the coming warming apocalypse and have regressed to hunter-gatherers. Then will be the time that the Illuminati emerge from the depths and instigate their New World Order.

... What's that 'dukka dukka' sound I hear overhead?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: NomNomNom

Whether you like it or not the sea level has been rising for the last 20,000 years. Sometimes it has been faster than today and sometimes it has been slower, but every single graph I have ever seen has a continuous rise since the last ice age. Today's level of about 1.7mm is neither extraordinary nor outside of the bounds of natural variation.

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Stop

Re: NomNomNom

Several hundred years of accurate tidal charts concur. However getting your hands on that data is no longer as simple as it was. There are a number of recorded cases of this data being withheld for AGW based political reasons, because it is not "on message".

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