Monday, February 22, 2010

Half the truth from NOVA and National Geographic

Last week I watched the PBS joint NOVA/National Geographic program Extreme Ice. I recorded it in high definition and then crunched it down to DVD-resolution instead of watching online because I was interested mainly in seeing the photography clearly, the beauty and architecture of the glaciers being studied.

Of course it was full of alarmism, implying that glaciers and ice caps were at the tipping point, about to melt and inundate the planet. At the end of the program they estimated a 3 foot rise in sea level by 2100. Part of this is simply due to the expansion of ocean volume from its warming, but that of course assumes the ocean will continue warming, something we cannot actually predict.

The glaciers melting were sure interesting and pretty. But it was all alarmism, talk of "unprecedented change," point of no return, and the implication that warmer air temperatures are to blame. (Well, they are, partly. But globally there is not enough of a change to make the difference. In many cases there are local/regional factors precipitating the "unprecedented" increases in melting in some glaciers.)

When a case is presented with all the evidence on one side and absolutely no voice of moderation, no pieces of evidence on the other side, it is tantamount to a lie. Although many scientists did talk about uncertainty, "we just don't know," "we don't understand this phenomenon," etc., the clear impression was that the scientists were uncertain about how fast calamity would overtake us, not if calamity would overtake us.

The underlying and repeated claim was that increased melting of ice would cause sea level rise, inundating low-elevation islands, Vietnam, and other coastal areas. Yet no evidence was presented of an actual acceleration of sea level increases. (The sea levels have been rising for 15,000 years, long before any burning of fossil fuels oo man-made creation of greenhouse gases.)

Here's the latest record of global sea levels, going back almost 20 years. The average rise is about 3mm per year, or about 1/8 of an inch, and it has been remarkably steady. Far from accelerating, it appears to me that the sea level increase has moderated (i.e. the average slope of the increase has slightly decreased) since 2004, which would be expected since Phil Jones, the embattled head of East Anglia's Hadley Climate Research Unit, admits now there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1998.

A paper last year attempting to back up the IPCC's claim of a three foot sea level rise in the next 90 years has now been withdrawn, due to errors. Basically, they cite uncertainty. At least that is a start. To claim to know something when one does not know it is offensive to the notion of pure science, which is supposed to be getting at the truth. If you don't know, then the truth is to say you don't know.

NOVA tried to have it both ways, claiming there are many things about melting glaciers we don't understand, yet seeming certain that sea levels would be rising dramatically because of it. If you did not listen closely, you might have felt frightened to go to bed for fear you would wake up underwater!

If anyone is interested in articles offering sound alternative explanations for Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland ice melting -- i.e. local or regional factors -- you'll find plenty searching through the archives at