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Varying sea levels since the last ice age  (Source: Global Warming Art Project)
Environmental reporting adheres to adage: "bad news sells better than good"

A new scientific report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program has sharply reduced earlier estimates of global ice loss. The CCSP, which coordinates the efforts of 13 different federal climate agencies, has released updated figures estimating combined ice loss from Antarctica and Greenland at 48 cubic miles per year, a figure the Washington Post dolefully reports as "accelerated" ice loss.

But is it?

In 2006, a widely-reported study estimated ice loss from Greenland alone to be over 57 cubic miles per year. Another the same year reported Antarctic ice loss of 36 cubic miles -- a combined annual total of over 93 cubic miles. The new estimate, however, is only about half as high. In most rational circles, this would be cause for celebration.

Not for the Washington Post, however. Ignoring earlier estimates, it casts the figure in a threatening light by noting it's twice the amount of ice locked in the Alps. It fails to mention, though, that those 48 cubic miles, when spread out over the planet's 139 million square miles of ocean, works out to a sea level rise of only 2.1 inches per century. For you metric types, that's about half a millimeter a year. Even factoring in an additional increase for thermal expansion, the value is far too small for concern.

Glossing over all this, the Washington Post instead reports a potential rise of four feet by the year 2100. The figure is based on the assumption of unforeseen positive feedback effects which might accelerate ice loss, despite the fact that no evidence exists that this is happening, and even the report's own authors considered such a scenario "unlikely".

When one considers sea level has been rising for the last 18,000 years, at an average of about 25 inches a century, one sees even less cause for alarm. The rate of increase has actually slowed in past 4,000 years; before this, it often rose by as much as several meters per century.

The Post article also fails to point out the report doesn't include data for 2008, a colder year in which sea ice increased sharply, and preliminary estimates indicate that land-based ice sheets may have as well.

Some positive notes in the report are that "no clear evidence" for global-warming induced hydrologic changes (drought or floods) are being seen in the US, and that catastrophic events such as a shutdown of sea ocean currents ("thermohaline circulatory shutdown" ) or dramatic releases of methane (the "clathrate gun" hypothesis) seem increasingly unlikely.

To be fair to the Washington Post, 48 cubic miles/year is indeed larger than some estimates from the 1990s. But those figures were arrived at before the launch of advanced systems such as NASA's GRACE satellite. It's unclear how much of the difference in estimates is due simply to today's more accurate monitoring. 

The report also indicates that current IPCC modeling doesn't accurately capture lubrication effects that may increase ice thinning and loss.  However, a model prediction is not the same thing as actual measurements and observations.

The new figures obviously don't prove whether or not CO2 is warming the planet. However, they do strongly indicate that sea level rise isn't something that we -- or even our great-grandchildren -- need to worry about.

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By reader1 on 12/29/2008 11:11:45 AM , Rating: -1
The idea that humans can alter the climate is now considered fact among the political, scientific and engineering communities. All future technology and societies will be developed with this in mind.

How much we've adversely altered the climate so far is irrelevant. If we aren't significantly affecting the climate now, there's no reason to wait until we do.

For the opposition to win now, they would have to convince people that humans would be better off by increasing pollution as they would be if they decreased it. Or they would have to prove humans can't alter the climate. They can't and won't ever be able to these things.

Humans will not only prevent adverse changes to the climate but ultimately they will control it.

By grenableu on 12/29/2008 2:14:47 PM , Rating: 2
The mistake you (and other environmentalists) make is by assuming that any change = "adverse effect". People have been changing the environment for centuries and its almost always been for the better.

By FPP on 12/29/2008 6:38:10 PM , Rating: 2
Is a plowed field better than a forest?

For who?

Is a dam better than a free flowing stream?

Ask a Beaver.

Science should have perspective.

By meepstone on 12/29/2008 9:18:51 PM , Rating: 2
Better off? what are you even comparing. better off compared to what? your trying to sell your point with nothing. how about something constructive instead of a rant.

By Jim28 on 12/29/2008 11:42:06 PM , Rating: 2

I guess then don't eat. Everything you eat comes from plowed fields of some sort. People have been farming for how many milenia now? Indians used to set fires to drive game. ALl through our history we have changed the environment. Even animals change the environment dope.

By arisch on 12/30/2008 12:56:22 PM , Rating: 3
Organic farming includes plowing fields.

"Eurocentric lies"

What the hell are you babbling about?

You might check this link out:

You just might qualify for special assistance. =)

By Ringold on 12/30/2008 4:14:58 PM , Rating: 2
that they were in tune in with the spirit of nature.

Thats debatable. Native Americans are not extinct; they're still living semi-autonomously around the arctic circle. They think environmentalist and government counts of animal populations are bunk, and gleefully continue to hunt various species to near extinction. The natives there as well as primitive folk in the Amazon and Africa also eat quite a bit of meat. Modern environmentalists are probably the only people in the history of man who don't eat at least a little meat.

Oh, and there are plenty of people in parts of Africa who still live today like they did a thousand years ago, with the only difference being the occasional AK-47. They also over-work the land to the detriment of the environment and themselves. Like many others, I think you have a romanticized view of history and certain groups of people. Government education ftw.

By plowak on 12/30/2008 5:27:02 PM , Rating: 2
What spirit of nature? The one the brought the dinosaurs to extinction - not to mention the thousands of species before and after.

By Jim28 on 12/30/2008 11:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
Blow me,

Considering I am partly creek indian I think I know a hell of a lot more of about this then you.

There are lots of stories all over the place about different tribes setting fires to drive game, and setting fires to kill neighboring tribes.

If you want nature stop posting on the Internet doofus. Go be a part of it. Go try it. Parachute out of a place in the middle of nowhere with no civilzation at all, and see how long you can survive.

I really hope you are being sarcastic with your response, otherwise you are simply not equipped to live in this world on your own.

By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 8:25:29 AM , Rating: 2
I eat organic too. Cows are organic. Chickens are organic. Fish are organic. Carrots are organic. Potatoes are organic.

Tofu. Not organic.

By Etsp on 12/31/2008 8:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhh, Tofu is made directly from Soy beans.... I think that's still organic. You know what isn't organic? Soylent Green.

By SilthDraeth on 1/3/2009 9:18:09 PM , Rating: 4
Uhhh, Tofu is made directly from Soy beans.... I think that's still organic. You know what isn't organic? Soylent Green.

Lies! Humans are organic!

By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 8:21:59 AM , Rating: 3
So kill yourself.

By truk007 on 1/1/2009 5:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
Once again Fit, you made me laugh out loud at work. Thanks!

By FITCamaro on 12/31/2008 8:30:02 AM , Rating: 1
Other than his second "paragraph" he is mostly right. Doesn't matter that man-made global warming is a complete sham. Government's nationwide are going to spend billions of dollars fighting it until enough proof points to the contrary and is actually reported on.

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