Coastal studies experts: “For coastal management purposes, a sea level rise of 7 feet (2 meters) should be utilized for planning major infrastructure” | ThinkProgress

By Joe Romm on Nov 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Front-page NY Times piece on sea level rise gets it mostly right

The New York Times has a splashy front-page story on some of the latest research on sea level rise today. The graphics above make clear the paper gets a big part of the story right — the latest science says we are facing 3 to 6 feet of sea level rise this century.

Kudos to the NYT for featuring such an important story. Given that serious federal climate action is unlikely for years if not a decade or more, it is more incumbent on the media than ever to explain to the public what’s coming.

The story has its flaws, though. For some reason the media — and many scientists — seem constitutionally incapable of explaining that inaction makes things much worse, that inaction greatly increases the chances of the worst impacts. The NYT has usefully cited the work of Rahmstorf, but somewhat simplified and hence sanitized his graph:

Our current do-nothing or do-little path currently matches the A1F1 scenario (see “U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm“), where the midpoint SLR projection is nearly 5 feet. That’s no surprise since the unrestricted emissions scenario can leads to a staggering warming where the ice is located (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).

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