Sunday, June 10, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #60 - Part 2

Clarabell the Clown Award: North Carolina considers ordering ocean level not to rise

A new occasional bit here: The Clown Award, given as reason arises to those people or institutions who are being mind-bogglingly stupid. This first one goes to the state of North Carolina.

Recently, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission predicted a one-meter - about a 39 inch - rise in sea levels by 2100. That could threaten 2000 square miles of North Carolina's low-lying coast.

Faced with this news and prompted by developers worried about sea front properties, state lawmakers swung into action. They forced the commission to remove the reference to a one meter rise from its report and Republican legislators are now circulating a bill which states that sea level rise "rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly."

In other words, these dodos want planners to be required to assume a straight-line rise in sea level, even though every prediction, every model, describes an accelerating rate of rise. Using a straight-line prediction limits the rise in sea level by 2100 to just 8 inches.

This almost literally is like they want the state of North Carolina to order the Atlantic Ocean to not rise more than 8 inches over the next 90 years. As Stephen Colbert said of this, "If your science gives you a result you don't like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved."

Unfortunately for them, the real numbers keep getting worse. CO2 levels in the Arctic have now passed 400ppm (parts per million), with 350ppm regarded by many scientists as the "highest safe level," that is, the highest level that could be maintained without serious climatological consequences. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have not been this high for at least 800,000 years.

Of course, more CO2 means more warmth, and more warmth means higher sea levels. A number of states have realized the implications and are starting to plan for it. Maine is preparing for a rise of up to two meters by 2100. Delaware is looking at 1.5 meters, Louisiana one meter. Southeast Florida is projecting a rise of up to two feet by 2060. On the west coast, California is preparing for a 1.4 meter rise in sea levels.

But not North Carolina. There, Tom Thompson, director of a group of local legislators opposed to planning for higher sea levels, said of the Coastal Resources Commission, “I’m not saying these people are liars. I’m saying they have a passion for sea-level rise and they can’t give it up.” In other words, they're not liars, they're just wild-eyed fanatics!

No, Mr. Thompson, what they are, are researchers looking at the science. And what you are is a clown.


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