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There are other factors, admits Wendy Schmidt statistician
Opinion Climate researchers - including one working for Wendy Schmidt, the campaigning wife of Google overlord Eric - have published research suggesting that there are other things apart from cutting CO2 emissions which would help to avoid disastrous rises in sea levels this century.
According to Dr Claudia Tebaldi:
"Without diminishing the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the long term, this study shows that more immediate gains from shorter-lived pollutants are substantial. Cutting emissions of those gases could give coastal communities more time to prepare for rising sea levels."
Dr Tebaldi trained in economics and statistics, and is nowadays a staff member at Climate Central, an organisation founded and funded by Wendy Schmidt. Tebaldi worked with scientists at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography on the production of this new study.
In essence, the study was carried out to highlight previous research by the team members in which they had forecast that 50 per cent of the global warming expected by the year 2050 could be prevented by comparatively easy methods as opposed to the hugely difficult and controversial reduction of CO2 emissions.
The easy methods are, specifically, reductions in emissions of methane (a hugely more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2), measures intended to cut levels of ozone in the troposphere*, efforts to further reduce emissions of refrigerating gases, and a crackdown on soot. Soot has been acknowledged even by the famous Dr James Hansen, the man who more or less invented the CO2 apocalypse threat, as being a factor perhaps just as important as carbon dioxide.
What Tebaldi and the others have done now is to take this idea - that half the warming expected by 2050 could be prevented by soot/ozone/refrigerant/methane cutdowns - and apply it to projections of sea level rise. We are told:
The researchers used mostly percentage changes for sea level rise, rather than actual estimates in centimeters, because of uncertainties over future temperature increases and their impacts on rising sea levels.
Those uncertainties are certainly very large: even the reliably alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits that "no long-term acceleration of sea level has been identified" using reliable 20th-century data in its most recent report. In order to suggest that any acceleration of sea level rise has occurred, one must make use of highly erratic 19th-century data. If no acceleration of sea level rise is happening, it simply isn't a problem, and the primary reason to worry about climate change goes away.
However, many scientists think that sea level rise will accelerate seriously. At Climate Central, for instance, it is taken as an established fact that the seas will rise at least three times as fast this century as they did in the last, and that six or even 12 times acceleration is more likely - for a rise of one to two metres.
Some rather less activist scientists recently produced research saying that actually the worst possible result would be a slight increase from 17cm of rise in the 20th century to 30cm in the 21st. Much more likely, it will be hard to detect any increase at all.
So when Tebaldi and her colleagues say that their "semi-empirical model" indicates that a soot/methane/ozone/hydrofluorocarbon plan could reduce sea level rises in 2050 by "24–50" per cent, that probably won't be a very big deal.
The new research paper can be read here in Nature Climate Change.
The big difference between this and most CO2-centred plans, however, is that it's not cripplingly costly. So it might be worth exhorting politicians to actually do it, and they actually might be able to get it done. As it doesn't require the abandonment of economic growth or anything, even a carbon or sea-level sceptic might file it under the heading of a reasonable just-in-case precaution that doesn't cost much.
It would still require political action to get this plan implemented, however. Which does suggest that Dr Tebaldi and her employer Wendy Schmidt are walking rather close to the line with respect to Climate Central's tax-exempt, non-advocacy status: in much the same fashion as the Heartland Institute of evil reputation, or other thinktanks on the opposing side of the climate debate.
But then Climate Central openly confesses to being engaged in social engineering as much as anything else. The organisation states:
We use proven social science methods to determine what messages resonate with our viewers, and the best messengers to engage the public ... We share this information with partner organizations to ensure the most effective public outreach.
Ms Schmidt for her part funds Climate Central through the 11th Hour Project ("the objective of our Climate & Energy program is to accelerate the shift towards a 100 per cent renewable energy economy") and directly through the Schmidt Family Foundation. The Foundation states as matters of already established fact that:
At current rates, the earth’s average temperature is expected to rise anywhere from three to ten degrees over the next 100 years. This will result in a rise in sea levels that, among other things, will erode the coasts, entirely submerge agricultural resources in low-lying countries, decrease crop production, and cause a dramatic increase in annual river flooding. The human contribution to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions is well documented, yet many people remain uninformed about this issue and what specifically they can do to reduce emissions. The Foundation intends to fund research and other activities to ensure the availability of high-quality unbiased data on global warming ...
And so Ms Schmidt pays out some Google ad money and we have our new article in Nature Climate Change - which, despite paying lip service to uncertainties over sea level rise, boldly includes a chart in which we still see projected rises in the metre range by 2100 - in blunt contrast to the IPCC and recent peer-reviewed research. ®
*We would naturally wish to leave the upper-atmosphere ozone layer alone, as it protects us from harmful ultraviolet frequencies in sunlight.