Sunday, December 1, 2013

Graph of the Day: If all the ice melted

Homo sapiens sapiens, the species with the ironic name, is not known for long-term thinking. So if the prospect of Sandy-level storm surges happening every year (!) in a half century or so isn’t enough to get us to stop using the atmosphere as an open sewer for carbon pollution, then the prospect we are going to melt all of the Earth’s landlocked ice and raise sea levels more than 200 feet over the next couple of millenna or so ain’t gonna do the trick.
Still, National Geographic has been one of the few major magazines to consistently warn the public about the risks posed by unrestricted carbon pollution. And who better to be alarmed about how we are going to destroy the nation’s geography than National Geographic? Unsurprisingly, the deniers and confusionists, including Bjorn Lomborg himself, have suggested that somehow Nat Geo’s concern is misplaced. Sadly, it isn’t.
The best science suggests that on our current CO2 emissions path, by 2100 we could well pass the tipping point that would make 200+ feet of sea level rise all but unstoppable — though it would certainly take a long time after 2100 for the full melt-out to actually occur.
That said, the text on Nat Geo’s graphic is a little confusing and has the unfortunate effect of suggesting that we would need 22°F of global warming to melt all the ice on the planet, when that’s not what the paleoclimate record suggests.
The confusionists are preternaturally confused by all this. A leading denier website actually cites current data on sea ice (!) to refute Nat Geo, even though it is only melting landlocked ice that raises sea levels.

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