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Should sea level rise impact global decision making?

Some of the most dire impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, are several decades away, and even the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is years away. How should we factor these threats into our decision making today? Should we be seriously worried about them, or not?

Posted by Washington Post Editor on January 5, 2010 9:00 AM
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djfeiger Author Profile Page :
 

Climate change is having a very real effect on our planet today. Glacial melt-off will spell tragedy in South America, Africa, and even Europe and North America. The drought that triggered the Darfur Genocide should be a wake up call for the world. Western China is experiencing Black Blizzards from prolonged drought reminiscent of the 1930's Dust Bowl. Mt Kilimanjaro has lost 70% of it's Glacier and will soon will no longer be snow capped. Climate Change is accelerating. At what temperature will the Oceans no longer trap the methane trapped beneath them. The coastal ice melting will not raise the ocean levels but will alter the ocean's salination and biosphere. Soon fresh water will be more valuable then oil. As the Oceans rise as glaciers once held back by shore ice flow into the sea. Our grandchildren will scuba dive to view the art deco of South Beach and the Mansions of Palm Beach. Perhaps Manhattan will become a Venice of the tops of skyscrapers. Must this really be our legacy?

 
RobertAJonesJr Author Profile Page :
 

Consider a "thought experiment":

What sea level rise should we expect, going forward, even if mankind had never existed?

25 Feet. See 17Dec09 issue of "Nature"

Given that low coastlines will be flooded no matter what we do, why waste any money trying to prevent a sea level rise?

 
thomascanada Author Profile Page :
 

Venezuela Guri Dam supplies 73% of the Nation's hydro electricity faces power collapse due to lack of seasonal rain.
It is the same story across the longitudes of Africa and Australia. Droughts and impending disaster loom and we had better change our tune,before it is too late.

 
thomascanada Author Profile Page :
 

Venezuela Guri Dam supplies 73% of the Nation's hydro electricity faces power collapse due to lack of seasonal rain.
It is the same story across the longitudes of Africa and Australia. Droughts and impending disaster loom and we had better change our tune,before it is too late.

 
katie6 Author Profile Page :
 

Is anyone arguing that the world is cooling and has been for the last ten years despite and the climate disinformation we have heard?
This has been the coldest winter on record. We are looking at normal warming and cooling cycles. Al Gore's flawed theory ignores this. Greenland was once green all over when the Viking were there. Then the earth cooled again. According to Gores theory we should have fried long ago. This is about politics of spreading the wealth around and punishing those who have been successful. Conservation yes, global warming hysteria, no.

 
katie6 Author Profile Page :
 

Is anyone arguing that the world is cooling and has been for the last ten years despite and the climate disinformation we have heard?
This has been the coldest winter on record. We are looking at normal warming and cooling cycles. Al Gore's flawed theory ignores this. Greenland was once green all over when the Viking were there. Then the earth cooled again. According to Gores theory we should have fried long ago. This is about politics of spreading the wealth around and punishing those who have been successful. Conservation yes, global warming hysteria, no.

 
brluz Author Profile Page :
 

The fact that sea level will be a threat just years ahead is not the point in this observation. The relatively slow rate of sea level raise in relation to human being time is evidence that the Earth and its atmosphere are warming. The reason for the raise in temperature of our planet surface is the accumulation of CO2, caused mainly by the use of fossil fuels, that is, coal and petroleum.

Earth is continuously emitting energy in a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This energy is absorbed by greenhouse gases like CO2 and water vapor, or lost to space. CO2 absorbs strongly at 15 wavelength, or, for those that like catastrophic numbers at 666 wavenumbers. The energy that is absorbed by the gases in the atmosphere can be reemitted to the Earth surface or to space. The recent accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere causes more energy to be absorbed and more energy reemitted to Earth, increasing the temperature of its surface. This mechanism is very simple to understand, very well understood, and there is no doubt that it is happening.

What is difficult to predict are the consequences of it, because the effect of temperature increase is related to weather, to climate, and weather is an extremely complex matter with many factors influencing its behavior. There are no hyper computer or perfect model. Each small variation in the input can cause a very different output. But one thing is for sure: climate is changing in a fast pace, a pace never registered before, so fast, that no crop, no vegetation, can follow the change.

Global warming is not about playing golf in higher latitudes, or sun bathing the whole year. Global warming is about unpredictable changes in our food and water supply. Small cuts of 5 or 10% in fossil fuel use is not enough. Very strong measures have to be taken now. A green revolution that will hurt many, but that may mitigate the future of human kind. Our cozy morning coffee in our cozy den, before commuting to work in our SUV has a high cost. We can easily change our energy supply to alterantive energy if we want. Americans already did more difficult things before.

 
ridagana Author Profile Page :
 

testing

 
ridagana Author Profile Page :
 

I understand that Al Gore has bought a beach front home in Cuba. Even Florida is too cold for him. More seriously, he should give his Nobel Price back - that guy is all fake.

 
Nymous Author Profile Page :
 

That Asian brown cloud happens every year now. They don't much care. I'm waiting on the permafrost to thaw & start releasing methane. That's not far off.

Severe storms though, they're right around the corner, if not arguably here already.

Our unwillingness not to pollute in many different ways as a species will cause a lot of harm. Science is, and will continue to be, pretty much just and observational sport. People don't want to hear the truth, and they don't want to accept that we don't know everything. Instead, they dismiss anything anyone tries to learn.

This mostly is a pretty hopeless issue due to willful ignorance & greed.

 
chris_holte Author Profile Page :
 

The time for action is now and shouldn't be dedicated to theoretical issues but to clear and present current problems.

The problem with much of the climate change debate from the beginning is that it has focused on seemingly distant disasters when the problems posed by climate change are already staring us in the face and are in no way new or far off! We live in a degraded environment now compared to what could be.

Degraded water-sheds are a current threat in much of the world, and a looming threat in the developed world where one way extraction of water has lowered the water-table to empty. Places like Syria and Iraq are near blows over water. The Sahara region and Sub-Sahara Africa face water issues.

The World Community needs to invest in recycling, reclaiming and producing pure water.

We need to be pumping water back into aquifers during flood periods and rainy season, and storing pure water in wells when we take oil out of them.

We need to go back to encouraging dry walls, construction of Qanats, and other water conservation.

We need to use filtration to separate fresh water from polluted water and reuse the fresh water. We need to strengthen water treatment so that raw sewage doesn't contaminate our water supply. We need to do all this in the United States and World Wide.

We need to engage in desalination. As a threshold coastal cities should get their freshwater from the ocean and turn river water to storage and agriculture.

We need to be planting trees, encouraging farmers to improve their soil, and creating community ponds and water storage. It is a crime that at the very time we talk about carbon sequestration farmers are burning vast swaths of forest. We need to improve our use and husbandry of forests.

We need to consider turning dry basins back to inland seas.

All this would be concrete, have immediate benefits, and would be useful whether the climate gets colder or hotter. Planting trees provides both water conservation, improves the local microclimate, and produces carbon sequestration.

Imagine a world where presently bone dry areas have some plants, and presently scrub areas can support life. That is the future we could have.

 
atknapp Author Profile Page :
 

> Should we be seriously worried about them, or not?

Actually, as the media at this point in the process, it's irresponsible to keep asking this question.

The climate change "debate" is over and it's happening. Even IF it weren't (for the sake of this ridiculous, on-going, and head-in-the-sand counter-argument that won't seem to die), it makes all the sense in the world to do everything we can to reduce and eliminate our dependence upon fossil fuels, the global market of which supports some of the most repressive, fundamentalist, non-democratic and threatening regimes on the planet.

The responsible thing is to stop whining and admit that there's a massive global problem (actually, a complex adaptive sytem of them), and realise that the US can't just drive the Hummers and leave the air conditioning on from April-October. Price carbon, get in the green energy game (China's already years ahead of us), tar-and-feather Senator Inhofe and lead.

America (and many other developed countries) have reaped the benefit of industrialisation for a century and a half - the (globally) responsible thing to do is to take responsibility for setting an example and correcting the initially inadvertent and subsequently ignorant damage we help cause.

Stop hiding behind an over-played veneer of 'balanced' enquiry to avoid the painful truth when the question isn't even in play any longer.

 
walkerbert Author Profile Page :
 

People can author lots of documents, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're able to think 'out of the box', or come right back, question all 'findings', and pursue a completely different course of independent reasoning and deduction, to then essentially challenge the accuracy and veracity of them.

The glaciers are melting, the glaciers are melting. How do glaciers form? How do they maintain themselves? Are ALL the glaciers melting? Don't they always melt, to some degree? If the glaciers are melting, what's happened to the water, why is there not then a measurable rise in ocean levels to match? Did the water simply vanish, is it all airborne, does airborne water not then accumulate, condense, and then precipitate, does the snow not also fall where the glaciers were? Germany and the United States have experienced a couple of bad snowstorms. There's ice on the Potomac. It's January. If it was 80 degrees and sunny, on the east coast, the whole business of global warming would probably have more credence with the public. But, it just ain't so.

Should more be done about pollution, should more be done in terms of conservation and preservation of resources, regardless of independent findings on global warming? Probably, because whether or not the planet overheats, an overcrowded world with 6.8 billion people in it, is going to also have OTHER problems. With any luck at all, maybe freezing to death won't be one of them, in the future. Is global warming a hoax? Is it just a way to try and assert more control over people? Is it, in other words, just a bunch of B.S.? Are there secret government satellites causing global warming with their microwave beams? Is global warming all because of cellphones?

 
oracle2world Author Profile Page :
 

Just get a sandwich board and walk around with "end of the world is near" written on it.

 
Essence_ Author Profile Page :
 

"Should sea level rise impact global decision making?" The question itself is making the assumption it will be so whereas there is no scientific facts let alone consensus on this very claim. This scare tactic is similar Al Gore's claimed Arctic ice would be gone in 5 years during his presentation at the Copenhagen conference. One has to wonder why the Main stream media like Washington Post keeps delivering one-sided journalism instead of with real integrity by scrutinizing both sides. Please stop interpreting the messages for us WP!

 
chatard Author Profile Page :
 

Who are you "Washington Post Editors" to say the dire effects are decades away? Prince Charles said they are four minutes and thirty-two seconds away, and he is just as capable of throwing out numbers as you are! Are you buying time for Al Gore to get all the bureaucracies in place so the evil bastion can come swooping down and get his revenge on Ted Olson?

 
alance Author Profile Page :
 

It is pure speculation that sea levels will rise. It is pure propaganda to scare people into accepting carbon taxes.

As long as there are poor people scrounging for firewood and farmers and lumberjacks clearcutting forests there will be desertification, as long as governments are not serious about replanting trees or promoting better farming practices.

Let each nation decide if they want forests or deserts. We need to take care of our own country and our own hemisphere first. Let Europe, China and Japan take care of the rest of the world.

 
dunnhaupt Author Profile Page :
 

The idea distributed in Copenhagen that the sea levels will uniformly rise worldwide by 6 to 8 meters is patently wrong. The Earth is rotating at the speed of 40.000 kilometers per day at the equator. Water does not distribute evenly over a body rotating at this speed.

 
pioneer1 Author Profile Page :
 

POliticians obsessed with the desire to tax and regulate are quite happy to point to rising sea levels (maybe) in 2070 as the reason to tax and regulate you today. This is the perfect excuse for them-there is no discernible current effect of "global warming" on anyone in the US, so no actual basis to argue for against actual effect or urgency. Those who dissent are anti-science right wing nuts, easily marginalized by the science-politician complex. Before you know it, those who actually make money will all be at the 65% effective tax rate when you add in the "temporary" taxes and the medical care taxes; WDC wins.

 
spamsux1 Author Profile Page :
 

The question is dripping with bias towards a catastrophic global warming in a few decades.

"Some of the most dire impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, are several decades away, and even the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is years away. How should we factor these threats into our decision making today? Should we be seriously worried about them, or not?"

Allow me to take this nonsense apart

"Some of the most dire impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, are several decades away"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Please, stop saying "climate change" when you dam good and well mean "global warming". Only global warming will raise sea levels.

"...and even the loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic is years away."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There are objective reports of a large loss of summer sea ice in the 1920's. Our satellite records only date to about to 1979--a fair reason for skepticism.

"How should we factor these threats into our decision making today? Should we be seriously worried about them, or not?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How about if we factor in some longer term data--like two thousand years--a mere blink of an eye. Even in that than short span there have been civilization-altering climate changes that can't be explained by today's computer models.

Fix your models, shut up in the mean time. Get back to me when you can explain the Medieval Warm Period.

 
lufrank1 Author Profile Page :
 

Still . . . . . Totally ignored, and indeed a taboo subject is the exponential growth of the human population. THAT is the prime cause of deforestation, vanishing species (including marine species) and ALL the other factors that are contributing to impending catastostroke (as Durante would say). However - it ain't funny - and neither is condemnation of contraception and family planning by medieval-minded religious leaders.

 
MPatalinjug Author Profile Page :
 

Yonkers, New York
09 January 2010

Geologic and climatological changes do not unfold overnight, let alone in just a matter of a few years.

They could take many decades or centuries and in some cases even many thousands of years to fully develop. Such was the last Ice Age.

But enough empircal scientific evidence is now available clearly showing that carbon emissions which started to pollute the earth's atmosphere at an exponential annual rate since the Industrial Revolution are the main cause of global warming and climate change.

The polar ice caps are melting at an unprecedented rate. The Greenland ice sheet is melting and moving down to the sea. Destructive typhoons and hurricanes are occurring at unusual frequencies and intensity causing a lot of damage to lives and property all over the planet. For the very first time the snows of Kiliminjaro are melting, and melting at an alarmingly rapid rate.

Given these ongoing rapid changes, it is a certainty that sea levels will rise to dangerous levels within the next 50 years or so. Thousands of coastal cities and towns will inevitably get buried in sea water and their inhabitants, in the tens of millions, will need to move to higher grounds.

The time to do something about these inexorable climatological changes is NOW.

Mariano Patalinjug

 
Sapiando Author Profile Page :
 

Looks like just when DC is under water Americans will pay some attention at CO2 levels...maybe...but, maybe it is more important to continue this infinite waist of energy...

 
katie6 Author Profile Page :
 

Old maps show that glaciers have been receding for 250 years and obviously man had no impact for most of that time. Warming is clearly is due to the sun or ocean current shifts.This viciously cold winter should silence the warming hysterics who would cripple our economy with their plans to spread the wealth by taxing us all causing job losses. Conservation yes, global warming legislation to line the pockets of the green investors, no. The drought is over in Texas. The globe has been cooling for ten years. Al Gore has made 100 million out of his flawed theory and Obama has promised billions to his friends at GE for green contracts. It's all about money not science.

 
quackers1 Author Profile Page :
 

"Should sea level rise impact global decision making" is a loaded question. It forces the responder to accept the premise that the sea level will rise due to global warming and further forces the responder to assume that human activity is responsible for global warming. It's like asking your readers if their mothers are still hookers.

The whole radical environmental support of the global warming theory is nothing more that bad science piled on top of wishful thinking.

It reminds me a lot of cold fusion. Cold fusion sounded so good to the green movement that it progressed much further than sane scientists would have let go.

If the north pole ice melts totally it won't raise the sea level one inch any more than melting ice cubes in a glass of scotch will raise the scotch level in the glass. Any high school science student should know that. As for the melting of ice on the continents incluiding Antartica, those continents float on a sea of magma and if the weight on top is reduced, the continents will rise and the sea floor will drop so that sea level will remain constant.

The only thing that will change will be the temperature of the ocean itself. If the ocean temperature is raised a few degrees, the water level will rise, but not that much.

The whole global warming scare is just another "Chicken Little" attempt by the radical environmental movement to scare the world into shutting down progress.

In a few years the world will know that global warming due to human activity will we known to be a crock of Gore crap.

Sadly, we will all move on and let the environmental radicals off the hook and forgive them because "They know not what they do."

You see, you can only believe that man has control of and is solely responsible for his universe if you don't believe in God.

 
Sapiando Author Profile Page :
 

Sea level rise isseveral decades away?
How can the editor be so sure if not even expert scientists are? What is the source of this information?

Nobody knows for sure about the impacts of the CO2 excess in the atmosphere...the impacts already began and there is no reverse action...what about a serious drought in central US in the next 5 years? What would be the consequences?

 
cloudyone Author Profile Page :
 

I keep hearing about saving the planet for the 'children.' How about this for a solution: Stop having children! People having human children are the main problem with the environment anyway. If people would stop having children, the Earth and the wildlife could be rid of filthy human viruses in as little as a 100 years!

 
iamredwolf Author Profile Page :
 

Since 1860 sea level has risen
one and a half foot. I didn't see
any crisis. Did you? Glaciation
is shifting upon the continents,
not retreating. The warmest year
during the 20th century was 1934.
Atmospheric and oceanic temps
have gone down every year since
1998. Greenland was not under all
the ice it is now, when Vikings
settled there a thousand years
ago. The Saharah and the Gobi were
both verdant Savannahs teaming with
vast herds of giant ungulates and
a plethora of human encampments
several thousand years ago. The
Sphinx has been weathered by many
thousands of years of intense rain
fall. All of human civilization as
we know it has ocurred during the
past several thousand years of
intense global warming. We're still
here and you're still here. To adapt
to changing climate is rational. To
attempt to control climate is not.

 
jfv123 Author Profile Page :
 

I just recovered from Y2K when all the world's computers crashed, the electricty grid went down, starving masses rioted in the streets and civilization as we knew it died.
Good thing I had the foresight to store ten years of food and water in an impervious bunker.
It's my first time using a post-Y2K computer and now I find out the sea levels are rising, because of a gas I exhale every day.
This is too much to take.
I'm going back to the bunker.
We're all doomed!

 
thardman Author Profile Page :
 

The very immediate concern -- 10-20 year timeframe -- isn't so much Sea Level Rise, but rather it's Headwater Glacier Melt-Off.

Google for "chacaltaya", a major glacier in Bolivia. It just totally disappeared within the last few months, and that was years ahead of the predicted time. Comparable accelerated melt-rates are seen particularly in the Andean tropical glacier zone... which provides some 50 percent of the water for Quito Ecuador, 80 percent for Lima Peru, 60 percent for La Paz Bolivia, etc. Already water rationing is in effect in many of these areas, or is soon to be imposed.

How does this affect Policy considerations?

It's simple. If 9 million people are forced to abandon Lima Peru, where will they go? Probably by 2015, at least 6 million highland Bolivians, especially around Lake Titicaca which is at a tipping point to become a brine lake, may have to flee or perish. Comparable risks abound all along the Tropical Andes. Even Venezuela and Colombia will experience problems... and the headwaters of the mighty Amazon are all either glacial or come from springs fed by glacial groundwaters.

The "knock on effects" of a cascading failure of glacial-sourced water supplies for large urban areas in South America, which also are irrigation waters for poor subsistence farmers, may inevitably force a minimum of about 20 million people to become "climate refugees".

And this doesn't even begin to take into the consideration the nearly 3-Billion people whose reliable water comes mostly from the Himalayan glaciers... which also are mostly melting at accelerating rates.

This won't so much cause problems for coastal people, as will sea-level rise. But it will force millions out of high-altitude areas which will suffer Desertification over increasingly widespread areas. A billion or more people may be displaced from the Indus to the Yangtze.

A decade ago, the "brown cloud" over the Indian Ocean promoted massive forest fires in Indonesia, and the cloud from that helped promote massive drought in Mexico and in Florida, resulting in the first-ever documented Globally Cascading Rainforest Conflagration.

When you worry about sea-level rise, you may be worrying about the wrong thing...

 
thardman Author Profile Page :
 

The very immediate concern -- 10-20 year timeframe -- isn't so much Sea Level Rise, but rather it's Headwater Glacier Melt-Off.

Google for "chacaltaya", a major glacier in Bolivia. It just totally disappeared within the last few months, and that was years ahead of the predicted time. Comparable accelerated melt-rates are seen particularly in the Andean tropical glacier zone... which provides some 50 percent of the water for Quito Ecuador, 80 percent for Lima Peru, 60 percent for La Paz Bolivia, etc. Already water rationing is in effect in many of these areas, or is soon to be imposed.

How does this affect Policy considerations?

It's simple. If 9 million people are forced to abandon Lima Peru, where will they go? Probably by 2015, at least 6 million highland Bolivians, especially around Lake Titicaca which is at a tipping point to become a brine lake, may have to flee or perish. Comparable risks abound all along the Tropical Andes. Even Venezuela and Colombia will experience problems... and the headwaters of the mighty Amazon are all either glacial or come from springs fed by glacial groundwaters.

The "knock on effects" of a cascading failure of glacial-sourced water supplies for large urban areas in South America, which also are irrigation waters for poor subsistence farmers, may inevitably force a minimum of about 20 million people to become "climate refugees".

And this doesn't even begin to take into the consideration the nearly 3-Billion people whose reliable water comes mostly from the Himalayan glaciers... which also are mostly melting at accelerating rates.

This won't so much cause problems for coastal people, as will sea-level rise. But it will force millions out of high-altitude areas which will suffer Desertification over increasingly widespread areas. A billion or more people may be displaced from the Indus to the Yangtze.

A decade ago, the "brown cloud" over the Indian Ocean promoted massive forest fires in Indonesia, and the cloud from that helped promote massive drought in Mexico and in Florida, resulting in the first-ever documented Globally Cascading Rainforest Conflagration.

When you worry about sea-level rise, you may be worrying about the wrong thing...

 
 
 
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