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New science: seas will rise due to CO2 ... but not for centuries

Not a problem for your children, or theirs (recurring)

Opinion A new, first-of-its-kind comprehensive scientific analysis has shown that there is little to fear from rising sea levels driven by global warming. The likelihood is that the 21st century will see rises much like those of the 20th, and even in the worst possible case sea levels in 2100 will be far below those foreseen by alarmists.

There's a catch, of course: on a timescale of many centuries, serious alarmist-type rises in sea levels are to be expected. Even if humanity ceases all carbon emissions right now, in the year 3000AD the seas will have risen by 1.1m, according to Professor Philippe Huybrechts and his team.

Nothing much doing until 2200AD at the earliest

As most Reg readers know, the various land-based ice sheets and glaciers of planet Earth today hold enormous amounts of water. As and when they melt, the potential is there for huge rises in sea level. This has led climate-alarmist campaigners to suggest in reputable peer-reviewed journals that "scientists" generally expect the seas to rise by a metre or more - flooding millions of homes - as soon as the year 2100.

In fact even the reliably alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only forecasts 26-59cm rises in the 21st century, compared to the approximate 17cm seen in the 20th. That's because the vasty ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are so very vast that they will take a very long time indeed to melt, even under the much-elevated temperatures forecast under global warming theories.

“Ice sheets are very slow components in the climate system; they respond on time scales of thousands of years,” explains Professor Huybrechts.

According to a statement supplied to the Register:

The researchers believe this is the first study to include glaciers, ice caps, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and the thermal expansion of the oceans into a projection of sea-level rises. They did so by using a climate modelling system called LOVECLIM, which includes components from a number of different subsystems.

The polar ice sheets are not normally included into projections due to computational constraints, whilst researchers often find it difficult to account for the 200 000 individual glaciers that are found all over the world in very different climatic settings.

Thus it is that the Professor Huybrechts and his colleagues, in new research published yesterday, estimate that even in the worst-case-possible situation the maximum rise in sea levels in 2100 will be approximately 30cm, well down at the low end of the IPCC range and less than twice the rise seen last century. More probably, the result will be lower and the 21st century will be much the same as the 20th in terms of sea levels.

Of course, if Huybrechts and his crew are right, bigger rises will still come - just not for centuries. Worst case, the 1m rise bandied about by doomsayers might be here in 2200AD: more likely, not until 2300 or even later. In the year 3000, no matter what we do, we'll have a rise of a metre or more and it could be as much as 4m or even 6.

The research is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

“If climatic warming will be severe and long-lasting all ice will eventually melt," comments Professor Huybrechts.

“Mankind should limit the concentration of greenhouse gases at the lowest possible level as soon as possible. The only realistic option is a drastic reduction of the emissions. The lower the ultimate warming will be, the less severe the ultimate consequences will be.” ®

Comment and Background

With the greatest possible respect to Professor Huybrechts, while only a fool would fail to listen to his advice in his specialist subject - that is, how much sea level rise will there be assuming various global warming scenarios - his advice on what should be done about it (in which he is well out of his area of expertise) makes very little sense.

It should be borne in mind here that in most places the sea rises and falls every single day on a scale measured in metres, and even more during unusual events (big storms from certain directions when the moon is in certain positions etc). Existing human infrastructure that can cope with these comparatively everyday occurrences will not be much affected by rises on the 30cm scale, and it doesn't cost a lot to cope with such rises or indeed much bigger ones. (For example the Netherlands - most of which has always relied on artificial defences to keep out the sea since well back into pre-industrial times - plans to be ready for sea level rises of over a metre by 2100, and expects this to cost a relatively trivial €1bn per year, a small sum compared to any developed nation's roads budget - let alone a major cost such as health, welfare etc. Details here.)

It's also worth noting that by the year 2100 the USA (for instance) will on current rates have built enough new homes to replace all those that could be threatened by a 1m rise fourteen times over. By 2200 when such a rise might actually in the worst case have happened - this is assuming no economic growth and no Netherlands-style sea defence - 30-odd new homes will have appeared for every one lost to the sea.

By the year 3000, one might reasonably hope that people might be living on other planets: but even if they aren't, and provided we don't somehow permanently strangle the global economy (for instance by making energy hugely more expensive ...) it's safe to say that nobody will have noticed the costs of a few metres of sea level rise. It's more than likely that new construction materials or floating cities or flying cars or some other development will have made sea-level rises largely irrelevant: even if this doesn't happen, only a totally stagnant humanity that hadn't developed either economically or technologically from this point could really have been bothered by such sea level rises on such a timescale.

But an immediate and drastic cut in greenhouse-gas emissions, as Professor Huybrechts advocates, really would produce serious misery and hardship for billions of people - starting straight away and going on for a very long time if not forever. It is frankly bizarre advice to give, based on the results his team has produced.

Regardless of that, everyone now reading this can at least relax, happy in the knowledge that not only we but our children and our children's children (and their children even unto say the sixth generation) will not have to face so much as a metre of sea level rise. ®

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