Opinion: Daily Journal

Balance Needed on Coverage of Sea Level Rise

Today’s Daily Journal guest columnist is Paul Chesser, a former associate editor of Carolina Journal and former director of Climate Strategies Watch, a watchdog project that scrutinized the claims about catastrophic future global warming.

RALEIGH — Environmental pressure groups, activist scientists, and the legacy media are predictably upset by the movement of a bill through the N.C. General Assembly that requires state policies dependent on sea level forecasts to be based on historical trends, rather than speculative computer projections.

The implications for such policies are not small, as extreme predictions — such as the 39-inch-rise-by-year-2100 prophecy spat out by computer models — would, at a minimum, require billions of dollars (much of it from taxpayers) to build new infrastructure; adjust to new building codes and higher insurance rates; and restrict land use and property rights.

Yet those aspects of the debate were downplayed in nearly every green activist’s testimony and major news story. Instead, property rights defenders such as the NC-20 coalition, which represents coastal counties, were marginalized as “deniers” of real science. At the top of nearly every news report journalists bemoaned the fact that North Carolina has been “mocked” worldwide because of its ignorance.

The sources of the mockery are undoubtedly among the foremost minds on the planet, right? Well, decide for yourself. The first is a blogger for the Scientific American website, Scott Huler, whose scientific credentials are nonexistent, but whose bio boasts that he’s “written on everything from the death penalty to bikini waxing, from NASCAR racing to the stealth bomber… .” Another dreaded mocker is The (U.K.) Guardian, unfamiliar to most Americans but which ideologically sits on the political spectrum where The Nation, Mother Jones, and MSNBC reside. And perhaps worst of all for the eco-conscious mavens and media, Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert parodied the N.C. legislation – oh, the Tar Heel humanity!

But activists with science degrees also weighed in support of the environoiacs’ 39-inch claim. The one who spoke on their behalf at a Senate committee hearing last week is Robert B. Jackson, director of Duke University’s Center for Global Change. As if that position wasn’t enough to betray his prejudice, his bio explains “his quest for solutions to global warming.” He also directs the Department of Energy-funded National Institute for Climate Change Research for the southeastern U.S., receiving at least $28,000 per month for the project. In other words, he gets paid to find such problems. You can be certain he isn’t paid to identify whether other natural influences such as the sun and clouds might affect global temperatures and sea level.

There’s plenty of other money for Jackson’s work. For example, the National Science Foundation showed his projects received at least $2.3 million in taxpayer-funded grants since 1999. Also, Environmental Defense Fund awarded Jackson $74,350 for six months’ work to measure methane emissions from Boston’s infrastructure. I’m sure there’s more to be found.

Bringing up the inconvenient money truth about alarmist scientists’ funding is unacceptable in the polite company of environmentalists and the media, who last brought the subject up, well, never. Instead they only find it newsworthy when they scrutinize the global warming “deniers” and the allegedly unsurpassed millions of dollars that “Big Oil” supposedly throw at them.

Here’s the truth about money and global warming: A 2009 report published by the Science and Public Policy Institute found “the U.S government spent over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, education campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks.”

As for sea level rise, let’s look at the facts rather than crystal ball computer models. A new study in Nature Geoscience, based on historical photos of glaciers and their “behaviors” under previous rising temperatures, reported that Greenland ice melt could slow down rather than accelerate, leading to less dramatic sea level rise.

And in the Winter 2010/2011 edition of 21st Century Science and Technology, Nils Axel-Morner, former president of the Commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution at the International Union for Quaternary Research, wrote, “global sea level is not in an alarming rising mode.” Peer-reviewed research that supports such findings [is] plentiful if you look — for example, see PopularTechnology.net for links to 19 peer-reviewed papers on sea level rise that do not support the extreme three-foot plus rate.

Axel-Morner based his findings on “clear observational measurements,” including rate of acceleration. That’s all that the sea-level legislation now before the full North Carolina General Assembly requires — science based on observations. No hype or exaggeration need apply, at any price.