The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Shiny-Side 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?

9 comments:

Marco said...

I expect people to a) cry foul, because that hockeystick is from Mann (and Rahmstorff, the favourite scientist to lash out at in Germany); b) say it is just a recovery from the Little Ice Age, just see how the rise starts in the 19th century; c) say there's nothing to worry about, because the rate has been constant for decades, so by 2100 we're talking about 21 cm; d) claim it's fake, because they likely did not correct for subsidence and such.

I haven't looked at the comments yet, but have I captured a few already?

Martin Vermeer said...

Marco yes, you captured Tony Watts (a) and Marc Morano (a) who both got a copy from an embargo breaker. I cannot be bothered to link to them.

The funny thing is that neither Mike Mann nor Stefan Rahmstorf had anything to do with constructing this sea-level hockey stick; that (great) job was all done by Andy Kemp and Ben Horton. Mike and Stefan were only involved in studying the relationship between temperature and sea level, using the Mann et al.(2008) temperature reconstruction that was published earlier in the same journal.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Marco,

I think that Watts also claimed it was a fake because it *did* correct for subsidence. See he gets to have it both ways, people who care about the truth don't.

dhogaza said...

Your link to the shiny-side revkin ...

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/08/melting-ice-rising-seas-easy-how-fast-hard/

I could swear it's 2011...

Michael Tobis said...

Oops; thanks for pointing that out.

No wonder Curry missed it; she wasn't flogging uncertainty back then!

dhogaza said...

Heh ... it's interesting, though, back then Revkin wasn't flogging whatever it is he's flogging today, either ...

Note the caveat in his tumblir bit which *is* from today:

"Of course, the rate (conversion is 8.26 inches/century) would have to be several times higher in the coming 100 years to pose a substantial threat to coastal investments."


Of course he can't be bothered to mention the implication of the new paper:

"75-190 cm by 2100"

Which is 30-75 inches by 2100, a far cry from Andy's naive extrapolation to 8.26 inches a century. The entire point is that the accelerating trend that's being observed isn't going to suddenly stabilize as Andy appears to suggest we accept as the default assumption.

Is it the flogging of uncertainty you're interested in?

His next sentence:

"The core issue of how much coastal retreat is coming in this century remains murky"

susan said...

1/8/08, certainly. And, yes, Andy seems to have a flirtation with his current core audience, which is largely hard-core denial and often clever with it. His strong dislike (was going to say hatred, but am giving him the benefit of the doubt) of extremes and connecting weather with climate is peculiar. With thanks and due respect to Dhoghaza, who has no doubt forgotten more than I ever knew on climate science, saying he is "flogging" uncertainty is likely to harden his position.

I think many people find it difficult to accept how bad things are, and develop a kind of psychological inability to face reality. A kind of climate science PTSD, perhaps, as it was not so long ago that Andrew Revkin was one of the most respected voices in the business and he's certainly been about is for a long time.

Another thing is the normal person's sense of time. Geologic and scientific time are a lot slower than out attention span, but vastly more inevitable and dangerous.

"deharmsi" (would that we could deharm this situation!)

susan said...

oops, failed to make my point about time. When people see the predicted danger is taking a few years, they stop paying attention and think maybe it wasn't true. In fact, this is the hastiest natural effect to the point of scary.

susan said...

Visiting that site is like time travel. A lot of excellent commenters who have subsequently departed DotEarth in disgust make useful points about both ice and dialogue, and Andy provides this:

"Blue Moulin, I saw you draining Greenland,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.

"Blue moulin, you knew just what I was there for,
You heard me saying a prayer for,
The planet I care for …

"Eric and Alberto are JPL studs!
Great article and video!"

William Patzert, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov

Things have not changed for the better.