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With the Royal Society smoke ‘n’ sea level rise

Last September, the Royal Society published a report entitled “SEA LEVEL RISE Emerging Issues”, available as a pdf (645 KB). In the accompanying press release they had this to say:

Professor Keith Hunter, the Society’s Vice President of Physical Sciences, who contributed to the paper, says researchers are starting to be able to estimate the amount of rise that we should expect to see over this century and beyond. But he says these projections of future sea level rise depend upon the future melting of ice sheets, which is poorly known.

“The uncertain knowledge about ice sheet behaviour is the key reason why IPCC projections in 2007 did not state upper bounds for sea level rise. Similarly, Ministry for the Environment guidance in 2008 wisely left open the question of any upper limit on sea level rise.”

The paper states that some early scientific work into the effect of a warming climate on ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica suggested that many metres of sea level rise could occur within a century. However, it says few scientists now consider that such rates are possible.

What do we learn from this?

We learn that we can’t guess future sea level rise, since we can’t guess future ice sheet melting; our mates at the UN and the MfE won’t touch it, and our first guess was several metres but now only the cranks go that far.

The press release expresses complete ignorance on future sea level rise. Great. So we also learn that scientists can make complete ignorance appear very interesting. Continue Reading →