Unfortunately, some misuse science. Some of their intentions, are far from benevolent. They see science as a mechanism for political power and control. There is great danger from those who would use science for political control over us.

How do they do this? They instill, and then continuously magnify, fear. Fear is the most effective instrument of totalitarian control.

Chet Richards, physicist,


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Climate Classroom Projects: testing the sagacity of the Royal Society

The regrettable participation of the Royal Society in the spreading of alarm over climate was partially corrected by their revised, and far less inflammatory statement on climate issued in 2010.
The new statement is full of cautions and provisos, but two of the least ambiguous remarks are to be found in paragraphs 45 and 49 relating to sea levels (I have added the emboldening):

‘45 Because of the thermal expansion of the ocean, it is very likely that for many centuries the rate of global sea-level rise will be at least as large as the rate of 20 cm per century that has been observed over the past century. Paragraph 49 discusses the additional, but more uncertain, contribution to sea-level rise from the melting of land ice.
49 There is currently insufficient understanding of the enhanced melting and retreat of the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica to predict exactly how much the rate of sea level rise will increase above that observed in the past century (see paragraph 45) for a given temperature increase. Similarly, the possibility of large changes in the circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean cannot be assessed with confidence. The latter limits the ability to predict with confidence what changes in climate will occur in Western Europe.’

Project 1: what is actually happening to sea levels?

Recently sea levels have been falling in quite a pronounced way (Climate4You has graphical summaries).   

The projected rise in sea level by the year 2100 using a 3-year running mean has fallen to 22cm in the year 2010, and the data suggests it is likely be below 20cm shortly.  If the recent drops continue, then the naïve extrapolation will in due course be for a fall in sea level by the year 2100. 

A report of a recent study using data from an EU satellite, claims a naïve extrapolation of only 8 cm rise by the year 2100.

The C3 site has more leads.

Project 2: what is actually happening to the big ice sheets?

As for the ‘the enhanced melting and retreat of the ice sheets on Greenland and West Antarctica’ of paragraph 49, that should provide scope for another informative class project.  Plenty of leads on the topic can be found here: http://www.c3headlines.com/are-antarcticgreenland-about-to-totally-melt/ .  For example headlines such as those below could be checked for veracity and relevance:

# New Research Out of Greenland Proves Stability of Ice Sheet Over The Last 2 Decades

# New Antarctica Research: The IPCC "Consensus" Science Is Turned Topsy-Turvy

# IPCC Science Wrong: Current Antarctic Climate Conditions Are Not Unprecedented, Peer-Research Determines

Both of these projects could be sustained over many years to come, with different waves of pupils adding to the collective insights and preparing their own summaries from the latest data.  The link to the Royal Society’s claims will add a topical touch.

Cultural aside.  If you or any of your pupils have a literary bent, you might enjoy a (re-) reading of Gulliver’s Travels to accompany these projects.  Here is a commentary on part of them by Shirley Galloway:

 ‘The main focus of social criticism in the voyage to Laputa is on intellectuals, such as scholars, philosophers, and scientists, who often get lost in theoretical abstractions and conceptions to the exclusion of the more pragmatic aspects of life, in direct contrast to the practical Brobdingnagians. Many critics feel Swift was satirizing "the strange experiments of the scientists of the Royal Society," but may also have been warning his readers against "the political projectors and speculators of the time," (Davis 149-150). The Laputians excel at theoretical mathematics, but they can't build houses where the walls are straight and the corners are square. Instead, they constantly worry about when the sun will burn out and whether a comet will collide with the earth. This misuse of reason is hilariously elaborated on in Chapters five and six, where the various experiments occurring at the Grand Academy of Lagado are described. Of course, the point is highlighted as Gulliver professes his sincere admiration for such projects as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and building houses from the roof down. The satire in Voyage three attacks both the deficiency of common sense and the consequences of corrupt judgment (Quintana, 317).’

I guess modern Laputians would excel at computer modeling, and be constantly worrying about when CO2 will bring catastrophe.  Oh for a modern Swift to warn us against ‘political projectors and speculators’!

Note added  13 April 2012: The key claim by the Royal Society is that sea level rise rate will be more than the historical 20cm per century we have seen over the last 100 years or so.  Not much sign of that so far.  Here is a plot for a site in England:

Note added 08 May 2012.  Less than two years since their revised, more moderate 'statement' on climate (a statement that makes an utter mockery of the spirit of Nullius in Verba, but which is at least a bit more dignified than the worse tosh which preceded it), the studies are coming in to refute them.  'New empirical evidence from New Zealand scientists document the lack of "accelerating" global sea level levels. The island nation in the southern Pacific has not been swamped by the rising seas and the confirmed trend indicates only a 7 inch rise by 2100.'  See: http://www.c3headlines.com/2012/05/tide-gauge-station-data-global-sea-level-rise-nz.html

Note added on 12 December 2012.   Recent satellite surveys of sea level confirm the deceleration of the rate of rise.  Projections from recent rise rates points to an end of century rise of 13cm or less.
See: http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/noaa-2012-report-finds-sea-levels.html
[using figures from this report: http://ibis.grdl.noaa.gov/SAT/SeaLevelRise/documents/NOAA_NESDIS_Sea_Level_Rise_Budget_Report_2012.pdf ]

Note added 30 April 2013.  An update on sea level forecasts:
'Conclusions: 1. Expert climate model predictions of catastrophic accelerating sea level increases are wildly wrong 2. CO2-centric climate models that focus almost entirely on the impact of human trace emissions of greenhouse gases produce erroneous and unreliable predictions for policymakers 3. The IPCC and large government computer climate models can't predict squat'

Note added 6 May 2013.  UK Sea Levels–No Increase In Last 10 Years

Note added 03 July 2013. 'New study using GRACE data shows global sea levels rising less than 7 inches per century'.  That's less than 18cm per century.  Still not looking good for the Royal Society.  http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/03/new-study-using-grace-data-shows-global-sea-levels-rising-less-than-7-inches-per-century/

Note added 28 December 2013.  'A paper published today in Global and Planetary Change finds global sea level rise has decelerated by 44% since 2004 to a rate equivalent to only 7 inches per century. According to the authors, global mean sea level rise from 1993-2003 was at the rate of 3.2 mm/yr, but sea level rise “started decelerating since 2004 to a rate of 1.8 ± 0.9 mm/yr in 2012.”'  http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/new-paper-finds-sea-level-rise-has.html

Note added 17 September 2014  More charts on sea-level rise 'I’ve recently looked at sea level trends on the US eastern seaboard, and shown how the rate of sea level rise was higher than now around the middle of the 20thC.  We also get the same pattern across the Atlantic.':


Fang Tentmate said...

Yet another valuable contribution here. I keep recommending your blog but getting nowhere - most recently to a retired teacher. Their response - they want the kids to be frightened! What hope for responsible education

JS said...

Thanks, Fang. We surely have a long way to go with this work. In my experience, it takes years for some people to change their mind about something they have felt strongly about. That change may be due to their musing over thoughts or facts they dismissed out of hand years earlier. So I do not get discouraged by dismissive reactions - people need time to think things through in their own ways.

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