“Shiver me timbers! Mount Everest, cast into the sea! Every two years! What is this world coming to?!”
That’s the kind of panicky response climate alarmists count on when they write headlines like the one in the Washington Post December 3: “This West Antarctic region sheds a Mount Everest-sized amount of ice every two years, study says.”
(That puts a whole new spin on Jesus’ saying, “if you have faith and do not doubt, you will … say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ [and] it will happen”!)
Or maybe not.
What does it contribute to sea-level rise? About 2 hundredths of an inch per year—or 2 inches per century. At that rate, my home, 17 miles inland and 8 feet above sea level in south Florida, will be a beach house in a mere 4,800 years! I can feel the surge of beach-loving buyers bidding up its price already!
But, as our friends Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger, both climate scientists, put it, the Post obviously couldn’t achieve its alarmist goals by running a headline like “New Study Finds Antarctic Glaciers Currently Raise Sea Level by Two-Hundredths of an Inch Annually.”
Even that, though, would exaggerate Antarctica’s contribution to sea-level rise. While the West Antarctic region loses enough ice to add about 2 inches per century to sea level, Michaels and Knappenberger point out, the rest of the continent is gaining ice. Net result? Total continental contribution of just under 3/4 inch per century.
Shucks! At that rate, it’ll take about 13,500 years for me to have my beach house.
There are ways to deceive that don’t require outright lying. One is to present facts without enough context to make them meaningful. That’s a specialty of the Green movement: using facts without context to generate fears, in response to which people will accept policies they’d never consider otherwise—as the Greens hope happens with the UN climate summit going on in Lima, Peru, right now.
And it’s not just Green advocacy group marketers, or newspaper headline writers, or even scientific study authors (in this case led by a student working on his Ph.D.) who do this.
The Obama Administration did it in a myriad of ways in its National Climate Assessment issued earlier this year, including on the same issue: sea-level rise driven by ice loss. It reported combined Antarctic and Greenland ice loss as about 3,600 gigatons per decade and graphed it like this:
Boy, that’s frightening! Looks like, sure ’nuff, they’ll be ice free in no time!
But if the NCA had shown context—ice loss as a percentage of total ice instead of gigatons, of which hardly anybody has the foggiest conception—the graphs would have looked like this, as physicist J.C. Keister and I pointed out:
That does have a calming effect, doesn’t it? Greenland loses about 1% of its ice per century, Antarctica about 1% per 2,200.
More relevant, because more contextual, their combined contribution to sea-level rise? About 3.3 inches per century. At that rate I’ll have my beach house in about 2,900 years.
(By the way, look again at the NCA’s two graphs. If its authors used the same scale [left axis] on both, Antarctica’s slope would have been less than half as steep as Greenland’s—but they look the same. Another way to deceive while telling the truth.)
So when you see the panicky headlines throughout 2015 leading up to the Paris climate summit, at which the Green Globalistas hope a binding agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions will be signed, strangling economies and trapping billions in poverty, do two things:
- Don’t panic, but find out (at our website or our Facebook page) whether the claims are true and, if they are, how significant they are in context.
- Make your voice heard—by letters to the editor, conversations with friends, posts to social media, calls and letters to your political representatives, and signing our declaration, Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies—against any climate agreement that will restore or perpetuate poverty by restricting the use of abundant, affordable, reliable hydrocarbon fuels.
And always remember: in the interpretation of facts, just as in the interpretation of literature, context is king.