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The Expansionist
Monday, May 24, 2010
 
Climate Quackery. I turned off an episode of 21st Century, a UN-TV series being broadcast on PBS, because of its assertion that various islands in the Pacific have to be evacuated because of sea-level rise caused by (implied man-made) global warming. When I realized I was so ticked-off that I wanted to address that propaganda piece here, I searched for an online version of the program and watched it carefully, listening for specifics. Exactly how much has the sea risen? Do they say? I backtracked to transcribe exact wording to quote here.
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The episode in question, #41, is titled "Sea Level Rise in the Pacific: Loss of Land and Culture". It's not that islands are inevitably eroded by the action of waves at any sea level. That is not, we are to believe, what's happening now, as it has always happened. No, the ocean is rising, and submerging these islands and drowning their peoples if they don't evacuate. Oh?
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The first group of low-lying islands discussed lie in the independent Pacific countries of Tuvalu and Kiribati. They are all of coral origin, which is to say they were originally ALL underwater. That in turn means that sea levels are now LOWER than they were when these islands formed as coral reefs UNDER water. If sea levels are now rising, it is only to get BACK to what they had been at some point long, long ago, when people had nothing to do with climate change — as people have nothing to do with climate change now.
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One Tuvaluan profiled is less than completely happy in New Zealand, where he is going to school to get a degree he can use there. Narrator Daljit Dhaliwal says, "This is not the sun-drenched Tuvalu. This is Dunedin, one of New Zealand's major urban areas, where temperatures rarely reach into the high 20's degrees Celsius." Oh, the poor guy! 29°C = 84°F. Dunedin is near the southern (cold) end of NZ's South Island. Average temperatures (Fahrenheit) in December, January, and February (NZ summer) are 51, 52, and 52. Winter temps (July, August, September) are 37, 39, and 42. So why did he move there? The same guy is said to have gone to school in Auckland, on NZ's North Island, where summer temps range from 71 to 75, and winter, from 58 to 61. If he's just studying, not permanently relocating, and temperature is important to him, Auckland would seem a better choice if NZ is his target country, but Australia, also within ready reach (if immigration laws permit resettlement of Tuvaluans there), offers much warmer temps (Sydney: winter average between 61 and 64°F; summer, between 77 and 79°F). If that Tuvaluan chooses to live in Dunedin, who are we to mourn for him the loss of an 'island paradise' — where a severe storm can bring waves crashing into your house, as has ALWAYS been the case?
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But let us try to quantify this devastating and, we are to believe, unprecedented sea-level rise — which is actually just one of many sea-level changes up and down over the course of this planet's millions of years of existence. UN-TV refuses to do that, but uses alarmist language like "with the ever-increasing levels of the high tide, the catastrophe seems imminent". At no point in that screed do we hear specifics, exactly how high the sea level has risen, over what period of time.
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While admitting, of migration out of Tuvalu, that "some left for economic reasons", the program insists that "others [left] because of climate change." The impression the viewer is left with is that life was just fine until sea-level rise. Storms never threatened those low-lying islands with devastation, even tho the average height above sea level in the two island nations is 2 meters, or 6½ feet! (presumably meaning above high-tide stage). Of course they did, always.
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Let us look at the reality of sea-level rise, as against the alarmist claims made by people with an ax to grind.
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Wikipedia (a source of variable reliability, I concede) says:

Current sea level rise has occurred at a mean rate of 1.8 mm per year for the past century [180mm = 7 inches in the entire past century], and more recently, during the satellite era of sea level measurement, at rates estimated near 2.8 ± 0.4 to 3.1 ± 0.7 mm per year (1993–2003). [Compromise figure of 2.9mm × 100 = 290mm = 11 inches — in a century!] ... Values for predicted sea level rise over the course of this century [presumably, 2001-2100] typically range from 90 to 880 mm, with a central value of 480 mm. Models of glacial flow give a theoretical maximum value for sea level rise in the current century of 2 met[er]s (and a "more plausible" one of 0.8 met[er]s), based on limitations on how quickly ice can flow.
Let us parse that passage. It starts by saying that predicted sea-level rise for this entire century (2001-2100) is expected to be somewhere between 90 and 880mm (3½ to 34½ inches), with a mid-value of 480mm (slitely less than 19 inches). But then it goes on to more than DOUBLE that as "a theoretical value". How much meaning can we give to a "theoretical" projection TWICE as great as the projected sea rise?
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What numbers are we talking about as regards both the area of these island nations and "climate change refugees"? Tuvalu has an area of 10 square miles, and about 12,500 people; Kiribati, about 280 square miles and 93,000 people. Between these two tiny nations, then, we're talking about 290 square miles that might be reduced by half, tho not completely submerged, and, at most, less than 115,000 people who might have to move to some larger, higher island, or mainland. That is less than half the area of one typical U.S. county (622 square miles) and little more than the population of one U.S. county (which is about 100,000).
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The mournful UN-TV video features the President of Kiribati doubting that the entire population could be evacuated to the same place, to preserve the culture. Why not? 93,000 people is not a lot. Australia and New Zealand are both arguably underpopulated, so could take in such a group, especially since English is one of that tiny country's national languages, as it is of Tuvalu.
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But how much of a loss would it be if the cultures of Tuvalu and Kiribati were to vanish entirely? Not much. Both peoples live at subsistence level, not economic wealth. Their cultures consist of very little but languages that are almost certain to die out very soon anyway, exterminated by the world's one great auxiliary language, English; some dance; some song. The Wikipedia articles on these island nations don't even mention textiles, painting, or sculpture. I think humanity will weather the loss of these tiny cultures.
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The issue raised by the UN-TV piece is not whether sea levels might be rising — tho the rise to date has been trivial, and if the middle projection for the remainder of this century is valid, will remain trivial for most of the planet's population: less than 19 inches — but whether there is anything we can do about it but evacuate people from threatened areas, be it as a cohesive group or as individual refugees. But that is not what people viewing the UN video will come away with. Viewers are supposed to be terrified that the seas will drown us all, and it's all our fault, because we caused the warming and aren't doing anything to stop it. That is drivel. We had nothing to do with it, any more than we had anything to do with the lowering of sea levels that converted coral reefs into islands. Perhaps, if you think about it, since we have so many coral islands, the current sea level is abnormal, and the seas SHOULD be higher, by 20 feet or more (the high point in Kiribati is about 15 feet, which was once under water). If that is so, then we should simply accept that those islands may become coral reefs again, and that might be a very good thing.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,400 — for Israel.)



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