By Zachary Shahan | 21 November 2011, 15:18 BST
A number of climate not-so-skeptics have recently been exploiting global sea level data in their latest attempt to hide the incline. Skeptical Science readers will be very familiar with the tactics the "skeptics" use to make this argument:
Climate "skeptics" have used this exact same strategy to hide the incline in global surface temperatures (here and here and here), lower troposphere temperatures (here), and ocean heat content (here and here). We've found that an effective way to reveal the deception of these arguments is with an animated GIF, comparing the long-term data with the short-term "skeptic" cherrypick. Figure 1 makes this comparison for the global mean sea level data during the satellite radar altimiter record (since 1993) from the University of Colorado. The first frame shows the entire record, the second shows recent periods of flat or declining mean sea level, and the third shows the most recent short-term decline.
Figure 1: University of Colorado global mean sea level data with a 12-month running average, and short-term declines.
Figure 1 confirms that yes, global mean sea level has declined slightly over the past year or so, and even slightly more than previous recent declines. But a true skeptic should ask what has caused this short-term decline, especially since it appears counter-intuitive. After all, land-based ice continues to melt rapidly, and the oceans continue to warm rapidly (thermal expansion of ocean water contributes to sea level rise). So what has dampened the long-term sea leve rise illustrated in Figure 1?
As Skeptical Science has previously reported, climate scientists attribute the short-term decline to extreme flooding in 2010. This period also saw a strong La Niña cycle, which typically results in an increase of rain and snow falling over land, which corresponds with a fall in global sea level. The last 18 months has seen some epic deluges throughout the world; countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka,Australia, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, and the United States have been hammered with extreme flooding. Figure 2 illustrates where the water has gone.
Figure 2: Change in land-based global water storage in the period March 2010 to March 2011, as observed by GRACE gravity satellites. Image from NASA JPL.
In short, arguments that sea level rise has stopped are based on the same tired old "skeptic" tricks of cherrypicking short-term data and ignoring the long-term trend. We know that ocean warming and melting ice will cause sea level to rise over the long-term, and the only reason the sea level rise has temporarily slowed is that there was so much flooding in 2010 - hardly a result worth celebrating. As long as humans continue to warm the planet by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we can expect the long-term sea level rise to continue.
Not all Congressmen and Congresswomen are bad. In fact, there are some true civil servants in Congress who know what's going on and do everything they can to fight the nonsense. One of those Congressmen is Henry Waxman. Check out this piece of his published on Politico last week.
Last Congress, the Democratic-controlled House took dramatic action to protect American families and our economy from the immense challenges posed by global climate change. We enacted new programs to invest in America's clean energy future, and we passed a comprehensive energy bill, which stalled in the Senate, to reduce weather-altering carbon pollution.
This Congress, the Republican-controlled House has reversed course. It has voted 21 times to block actions to address climate change, including a vote to deny that "climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities and poses significant risks for public health and welfare."
History will look back on this U-turn with profound regret.
Last year, the National Academy of Sciences proposed a "carbon budget" for the United States that would represent how much carbon we can emit into the atmosphere between now and 2050 without triggering potentially catastrophic changes to our climate. We are on track to burn through our entire carbon budget in less than 25 years. Every year of delay means far more drastic actions will be needed in the future.
Despite the magnitude of the stakes, most Americans are confused by the climate debate because House Republicans spread fear and deny fact. It's time to deconstruct the arguments Republicans in Congress use to justify their irresponsible votes.
We question the science but don't want to hear from the experts
Tea party Republicans explain their votes by denying that climate change is occurring or that human activities are responsible. A common refrain I hear on the House Energy and Commerce Committee is that the science is "not settled." But even as committee Republicans argue the science is unresolved, they have, with one exception, rejected repeated requests to bring scientists before the committee to educate members. And Republicans have voted to slash funding for climate science and to eliminate NASA's Earth-monitoring activities.
This makes no sense. If House Republicans are genuinely unsure about what's occurring, why would they halt scientific research and refuse to hear from the experts at the National Academy of Sciences?
No policy is ever the right sizeWhen the House passed comprehensive climate legislation in 2009, Republicans claimed it would be too big and too costly. That was never accurate: The Congressional Budget Office estimated our measure would cost the average family less than the price of a postage stamp a day. But when the Environmental Protection Agency took a different approach and proposed modest, cost-effective measures to reduce carbon pollution, Republicans complained the EPA plan should be rejected because it was too small to make a difference. "Don't talk to me about incrementalism when we talk about climate change," said one Energy and Commerce Republican in voting to strip EPA of regulatory authority.
We can't act alone ... or with other nations
When the administration tries to reduce carbon pollution in the United States, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, says he cannot support "unilateral" action that he claims could result in "losing jobs to nations like China that have no intention of burdening their industry with similar restrictions."
But Upton and other House Republicans have opposed efforts to develop an international consensus to address climate change. All but three House Republicans voted to prohibit funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body that advises nations on the state of the science. The State Department appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs bars funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the international body that's trying to develop an effective global response. In fact, House Republicans even oppose other countries' efforts to reduce carbon pollution. A bill recently passed by the House would prohibit American carriers from complying with the European Union's flexible, market-based limit on carbon pollution from airplane flights that land in Europe.
Setting climate policy is Congress's role, but we can't be bothered
Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, has argued that EPA should not regulate carbon pollution because Congress, not "unelected bureaucrats at EPA," should set policy in this area. Yet he voted against the legislation to reduce carbon emissions last Congress and has not used his chairmanship in this Congress to propose a new approach.
"All of the above" is code for "do nothing"
House Republicans like Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, say they support "an all-of-the-above energy solution" that includes "incentives to move us toward clean, renewable and reliable sources of energy." But they oppose policies that would create a market for renewable energy by putting a price on carbon. They advocate eliminating federal loan guarantees that provide incentives to commercialize promising technologies, and they vote to slash research and development funding for renewable energy.
Henry Ford once said, "Don't find fault, find a remedy." Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration have proposed a broad menu of ideas for combating climate change, including cap-and-trade policies, support for clean energy, investments in research and development and international engagement. If House Republicans object to the climate policies we have proposed, they should offer their own solutions. As I told Chairman Upton in March, I am not wedded to any one approach to addressing climate change. I am open to creative ideas and am willing to start from a blank piece of paper. But having no policy will have horrible consequences.
We cannot repeal the laws of nature. If we continue to do nothing, the floods, wildfires, heat waves and extreme weather that have wreaked havoc across our nation - at a cost of tens of billions of dollars annually - will increase and intensify. And future generations will never understand why we squandered our shrinking opportunity to protect the planet.
- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Henry Waxman photo via Public Citizen
Source: Planet Save