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The Shiny-Side of Revkin on Sea Level Rise

An excellent piece on Dot Earth today that I can’t recommend highly enough, on sea level rise.

Somebody, please express mail this to Judith Curry:

[NASA Glaciologist Walid Abdalati] said: “It is always a challenge to convey scientific uncertainty (and there is a lot in this case) to the general public. People want ‘the answer,’ and when you start to explain why ‘the answer’ is not as obvious as they would like, it is easy to lose them. Plus, there is so much hype made of uncertainty by skeptics, that it gets spun into the idea that scientists don’t really know what they are talking about and don’t have the answers.

“At the end of the day, you can be 90% confident of something, and all people will hear is that you aren’t certain about what you are saying. This is why the debate is often cast in extremes, rather than an honest consideration of the data. It is really too bad, because an honest consideration of the data is still quite compelling.”

Revkin also has a Tumblr on the side, where he displays this new hockey stick:

That’s from Andrew C. Kemp, Benjamin P. Horton, Jeffrey P. Donnelly, Michael E. Mann, Martin Vermeer, and Stefan Rahmstorf: Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia PNAS 2011; June 20, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1015619108

You expected, what, now?

Michael Tobis's picture

Thank Michael for the Post!

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David Lewis's picture
David Lewis on June 22, 2011

Your Dot Earth link goes to a piece Andy wrote on January 8 2008.  I tend to think the situation would be described differently than he described it then.  

In 2008 Andy didn’t feel East Antarctica was worth mentioning.  I heard a guy (Tas van Ommen, interviewed on The Science Show, “East Antarctic ice sheet reveals rivers and lakes“) just back from surveying the bottom of the East Antarctic sheet summarize what was generally thought circa 2008: “we thought most of it was sitting on bedrock hills that were well above sea level so that even if you get a little bit of melt around the edges where it touches the ocean the ice would just shrink back onto its hills, end of story”.  Then he described what the group he is working with just discovered:  “In actual fact because we are finding that so much of this area is grounded below sea level, it means that if it melts a little at the edge, it can’t actually retreat from the ocean, the ocean can follow it in and the process continues, it melts a little bit more.  …so you get an enhanced contribution to sea level over what we might have expected before we knew this.”

I’m not sure what you mean by the “shiny-side” of Revkin.  I assume what revolts me about his writing is his darker side?    

He’s on record saying Patrick Michaels should be given equal weight on policy issues as we might give the views of James Hansen.  He thought The Economist piece “Welcome to the Anthropocene” was an “excellent” piece.  When I put it to him an equivalent piece, if written pre WWII might have been entitled “Welcome Hitler”, he replied, speaking about climate policy, that there is a “decent chance”, by implementing “no brainer policies as much as possible”, “that we’ll surprise ourselves on the upside”.  That things like this can fit into his mind given what he understands would explain a lot, if I could understand it.  

Revelle wrote this, around 1980 on the subject of sea level rise:  “The oceans would flood all existing port facilities and other low-lying coastal structures, extensive sections of the heavily farmed and densely populated river deltas of the world, major portions of the states of Florida and Louisiana, and large areas of many of the world’s major cities”.  


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