March 10, 2009
Sea Level Rise Seen Accelerating

Scientists meeting in Copenhagen Denmark think the ocean level is rising faster than previously expected.

Recent data shows that waters have been rising by 3 millimetres a year since 1993.

Church says this is above any of the rates forecast by the IPCC models. By 2100, sea levels could be 1 metre or more above current levels, he says. And it looks increasingly unlikely that the rise will be much less than 50 centimetres.

Imagine the ocean about 3 feet higher. Got ocean-front property?

Professor Konrad Steffen from the University of Colorado, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, highlighted new studies into ice loss in Greenland, showing it has accelerated over the last decade.

Professor Steffen, who has studied the Arctic ice for the past 35 years, told me: "I would predict sea level rise by 2100 in the order of one metre; it could be 1.2m or 0.9m.

Glacier melting and heating and expanding oceans both cause the sea level rise.

Dr John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and the lead speaker in the sea level session, told the conference, "The most recent satellite and ground based observations show that sea-level rise is continuing to rise at 3 mm/yr or more since 1993, a rate well above the 20th century average. The oceans are continuing to warm and expand, the melting of mountain glacier has increased and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are also contributing to sea level rise."

New insights reported include the loss of ice from the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets. "The ice loss in Greenland has accelerated over the last decade. The upper range of sea level rise by 2100 might be above 1m or more on a global average, with large regional differences depending where the source of ice loss occurs", says Konrad Steffen, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado, Boulder and co-chair of the congress session on sea level rise.

I expect oil burning to decline dramatically due to Peak Oil. But I'm less clear on the future of coal burning. Will it go up even faster in response to declining oil production? Or will it go down due to declining reserves of coal? The future CO2 levels depend on the size of economically extractable coal reserves.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 10 11:58 PM  Climate Trends

JAY said at March 11, 2009 5:30 AM:

I've had a house by the ocean for 30 years. I haven't seen any change in sea level.

Bob Badour said at March 11, 2009 6:05 AM:

How high are the tides where you live?

Since they are saying the sea level went up 1.5 centimeters since 1993, which is about 6 tenths of an inch, I wouldn't expect you to notice it compared to the daily fluctuations you normally expect to see. That's the wonderful thing about extrapolating imperceptible changes into the distant future.

Nick G said at March 11, 2009 9:05 AM:

Are we running out of coal?

For better or worse, the news is that we are not.

A new report by the US Geological Survey looks at the recoverable reserves of the Gilette field in Wyoming, currently the largest producer in the US. A spirited discusion of the report can be found here (you'll have to watch out for the tone of pessimism, which is endemic on the site).

It found that at current low prices, about $10/ton, that only about 6% of the coal in the field could be economically produced.

On the other hand, if the minemouth cost of coal rose to $30/ton, the retail cost of coal-fired electricity would increase only 10%*, but economically-recoverable coal reserves would increase six times. At $60/ton, 77 billion tons would become economic, enough to singlehandedly maintain US coal consumption for about 75 years. And, that's without Montana coal (Powder River), or the Illinois basin, which I discussed previously.

Nick G said at March 11, 2009 9:07 AM:

oops. Lost a footnote.

*Electricity in the US is about $0.10/kWh, and US coal generates about 2,000kWh/ton. That gives a retail price of electricity of $200 per ton of coal used, so a cost of $10/ton for coal represents only 5% of the overall retail price.

David Govett said at March 11, 2009 10:57 AM:

The sea is not rising. The continents are sinking because of the overburden of the fattening humanity.

Lance said at March 11, 2009 11:04 AM:

Global warming is crap and should be renamed, Global Taxing

Jim said at March 11, 2009 12:57 PM:

I'm having trouble with the math here. 3 mm equal .118 inches. Multiply that by 100 years you you get 11.8 inches. That's a foot not 3 feet. And 300 mm is only 30 cm and is much less than the 50 cm predicted by the IPCC.

Nick Guess said at March 11, 2009 12:57 PM:

Think for a moment, Randall. If you really want to get at the heart of the heat balance of the planet, look to the ocean where most of the system's heat is stored. Sea level is far too crude a measurement, dependent upon a score of variables having nothing to do with Earth's heat balance. Think, lad. What are the ocean's doing in terms of heat? New satellite systems suggest cessation of heating, perhaps slight cooling. How does one reconcile that with the constant atmospheric rise of CO2 concentrations? Not easily. Ocean heat is the closest to a single reliable metric you can get.

Planetwide, sea ice extent is growing both in area and thickness. Glaciers in the Pacific Northwest of North America have slowed their melting and some have begun to grow again. The same for some glaciers in Greenland and Norway.

Politics has intruded into climate science so deeply that you cannot get at the truth via soundbites, news releases, or other conventional means.

cancer_man said at March 11, 2009 3:44 PM:

Randall, I noticed that you recently wrote peak oil has been delayed, but when it hits hybrids will take off.
A delay? Imagine that... right on schedule. The peak oil crowd will push it back again in 2011, 2014, 2017....

Paul F. Dietz said at March 11, 2009 3:54 PM:

What are the ocean's doing in terms of heat? New satellite systems suggest cessation of heating, perhaps slight cooling.

Since satellites can only observe the temperature at the ocean surface, can you provide a citation for this claim? Actual data on ocean heat content has come from in situ measurements at a variety of depths.

Bob Badour said at March 11, 2009 3:55 PM:


Get with the program! You are using ninth grade algebra when you need to use twelfth grade calculus. You have to assume the increase is accelerating and will continue to accelerate for 90 or 100 years. Maybe even the acceleration is accelerating.

In any case, some integral calculus is clearly required to extrapolate for the next 91 years to get a meter out of imperceptible changes thus far.

What is the measurement accuracy of the devices used to measure sea level? How do they get calibrated?

John Moore said at March 11, 2009 8:41 PM:

Most convenient that this happened in the same decade that the earth has cooled.

Randall Parker said at March 11, 2009 9:30 PM:


Where did I say Peak Oil has been delayed? I've had to explain to those who argue for a substantial delay that the decrease in demand has been too small to cause much of a delay. A 4 million barrel per day decrease in production in response to lower prices is not enough to delay Peak much when we are still burning about 80 million barrels per day.

Nick Guess,

Climate has multiple factors working on it. The human boost of CO2 is just one of them. The reduction in sun spots might be causing the cooling due to less insolation. But that reduction won't last indefinitely. Granted, sun output could fall even further and stay down for decades. But I think it imprudent to assume the Sun is conveniently going to delay the problem for 100 years.

John Moore said at March 11, 2009 11:50 PM:

IF climate is affected by sunspots, it isn't due to insolation changes. Also, there isn't yet a strong correlation between sunspots and cooling, although there are suggestive anecdotes (this year, the Maunder Minimum, etc). The last time we had so few sunspots for so long was 1913, and 1913 was an unremarkable year in the climate record.

I think its imprudent to make significant economic expenditures on CO2 emissions reductions, given:

1) The very poor state of AGW research

2) Our proven inability to pick appropriate new technologies (rather than letting them emerge and face the markets), coupled with the high probability that that technology will continue to advance rapidly in critical areas (such as nuclear power).

Just watch a science fiction movie from the '60s. See any computers ? Now there are many more computers than there are humans. The 50's and 60's promised flying cars by the '80s - not too many of those around. Nuclear power was going to be too cheap to meter (nobody anticipated the incompetence of Utilities and the incredible obstructionism of NIMBYs and fundie environmentalists.

IFF we need to deal with excess CO2 in the atmosphere (and there isn't good evidence that it is a negative rather than a positive), we have plenty of time to use technology we are just barely glimpsing (nanotech, biotech, etc) to either remove the CO2, offset the effect, or take other measures to deal with it.

As an aside, catastrophic global warming, should it occur as a result of anthropogenic CO2 contributions, is NOT caused by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect gives you only about 1 degree C for a doubling from current levels, and less for another doubling (due to saturation effects). For any sort of catastrophic effect, one needs high positive feedback on top of the greenhouse effect - which would also imply that the same feedback would probably affect non-CO2 forcings, both up and down, the same way.

jay said at March 12, 2009 4:57 AM:

six tenths of an inch! I'll start sand bagging now.

cancer_man said at March 12, 2009 7:02 AM:

Randall -- "Though I think Peak Oil (and not government policy) will make the demand for hybrids skyrocket in a few years."

You put up a long post on March 28, 2008 that
1) Chris Skrebowski, a researcher for the Energy Institute in Britain, told delegates that the oil supply will peak in 2011 or 2012

2) Still other analysts see peak oil between 2010 and 2012.

3)Randall -- A decline in production in 2008 would be far more disruptive than a decline in 2012.

4)Randall in comments -- "I do not see unconventional sources of oil substituting in sufficient quantity for conventional oil. Shell isn't going to get oil shale extraction started until 2015 and Shell's possible quintupling of Alberta tar sands extraction still doesn't add up to a million barrels of oil per day"

It seems that you thought the peak would happen between 2008 and 2012. Now you say "the demand for hybrids will skyrocket in a few years" because of peak oil.

A few years seems more like 3 to 5 years to me: 2012 to 2015.

Bob Badour said at March 12, 2009 7:56 AM:


My bad. It's actually 4.8 cm, which is almost 2 inches. For some reason, I read 1993 as 2003.

K said at March 12, 2009 12:48 PM:

If we sequester enough CO2 underground we can lift the shorelines. Where is my grant money?

I don't think the science is settled. But a settlement is near and satellite data will be what convinces.

We should be grateful that satellites can, or soon will, so accurately and precisely measure sea levels, ice mass in Greenland and Antartica, and even the natural rise or fall of continents. Not to mention the composition of the atmosphere and its temperatures and solar isolation.

And be grateful too that NASA, or any other single authority, does not control them all.

Otherwise we simply couldn't settle AGW or CC issues with earthbound studies for a very long time.

Jim said at March 12, 2009 1:46 PM:


Get with the program! You are using ninth grade algebra when you need to use twelfth grade calculus. You have to assume the increase is accelerating and will continue to accelerate for 90 or 100 years. Maybe even the acceleration is accelerating. Bob


I was aware of that possibility, but I saw nothing in the article other than people stating their opinions that it would get worse. Tough to do calculus with that. In fact you would have to average 9 mm per year for the entire 100 years to go up 3 meters. Since you are at 3 mm now, I'm not sure the sun can produce enough heat to be trapped by CO2 and melt it that fast.

Since AGW is a crisis only in computer models that don't reflect what is actually happened in the past, I'm more than a little skeptical. Especially when Obama wants to tax us to the tune of 80 billion per year.

Bob Badour said at March 12, 2009 2:10 PM:

80 billion?!? Heck, he just grew the government by a trillion or so. Didn't he?

jim said at March 12, 2009 2:36 PM:


Hang on to your hat, taxes are going up.

I see today that the Dems are talking about taxing company provided healthcare (wasn't that John McCain's idea that Obama condemned?) But don't worry he has identified 2 trillion in spending cuts. Of course 80% of that is by not continuing the surge in Iraq for the next 11 years.

Randall Parker said at March 12, 2009 9:03 PM:


That's the best you can do?

The "a few" is not an exact number. You are using that to disagree with something I've quoted from others?

When I said that a decline in 2008 would be worse than in 2012 what does that prove about my views? I think it demonstrates I do not think I know exactly when the decline will start (maybe we've already peaked).

cancer_man said at March 13, 2009 7:25 AM:


The comments made last year indicate you thought the peak would occur between 2008 and 2012. Now in 2009, you say "in a few years." What would a reasonable person think? That your new prediction has shifted from betewen 2012 and 2014 since you claimed tar sands won't produce much until 2015.

Randall Nov 2007: " Then comes the downhill slope. Or are we already on it?" I realize you were just suggesting peak oil was here in 2007, not claiming it, right? Just suggest the boogyman is here without claiming it is.

posted Jun 2008: "When we look at oil outside of the OPEC countries, when you put all of them together, I think it is going to peak very soon." EIA alarmist Fatih Birol (you put this one sentence in bold. Gee, I wonder why... then you added after that, "We are in trouble before world oil production peaks."

Sounds like 'real soon now.'

Randall Nov 2007: " By all means buy a hybrid. The payoff from owning one is about to become much greater as oil prices head up to $120 a barrel and beyond." It did go beyond $120 for a while. Are you giving this advice at $45?

Randall Nov 2007: "This is the fundamental reason for high oil prices--we are bidding against other importers for declining net oil exports." Now we know how much speculation played a part in the price hike.

Bill Johnson said at March 13, 2009 11:40 AM:

Scientists can't do math - easy, elementary multiplication - and you trust them with your global economy? Fools, both of you.

Sam said at March 13, 2009 11:44 AM:

Sea level has been rising for thousands of years already. And I mean well after the last ice age.

CO2 is a lagging indicator of warming and if all industrial activity was eliminated tomorrow and not resumed for 50 years there would be virtually no measureable modification of global temperatures. The entire premise of modifying temperature through reducing Co2 is a fraud and in reality just a premise for political and economic shifts.

lorien1973 said at March 13, 2009 11:57 AM:

So what is the ideal sea level supposed to be? What is the ideal temperature of the planet?

Oceans have been higher and they have been lower across eons. One should not expect stagnation in the environment.

Greg Toombs said at March 13, 2009 12:07 PM:

Water expands as it becomes ice.

Any increase in sea ice would tend to contribute to a rise in sea level.

Increasing sea ice would seem to indicate cooling, yes?

GW Crawford said at March 13, 2009 12:20 PM:

Water expands as it grows warmer and it expands when it freezes - water is densest at 4C (IIRC). So neither direction is meaningless without the context

The lack of sunspots, and record lows in the entire southern hemisphere, is a better indication of cooling. This is not evidence of a goddamn ice age, it is evidence that it is cooler.

Global Warming, however, is a crock - the Earth was warmer in the Muander Minimum and, guess what, Polar Bears have not evolved since 1100AD. They survived then and they will survive if it gets warmer

Species will survive, species will die - my evidence is that well over 99% of all the species to ever have lived on this planet are dead, gone forever

Chad said at March 13, 2009 12:22 PM:

I have to agree with the other posters. 3 mm/yr only becomes a 30 cm in a century - not a meter. If the IPCC can't get such basic math right it may explain their inability to model climate with any degree of scientific precision.

Mugsy said at March 13, 2009 12:28 PM:

Holy Crap! The sea will be a meter higher (1.2 at "most") some 50 years after most of the people reading this are dead. Or, if you are currently 20 you will be 111.

JorgXMcKie said at March 13, 2009 12:30 PM:

"So what is the ideal sea level supposed to be? What is the ideal temperature of the planet?"

Yes. The ideal sea level *and* the ideal temp of the planet are precisely equal to numbers that will require that Stalinists and other 'Progressive' get centralized command-and-control powers in order to force we unwashed and unenlightened to damn well do what our betters (think Al Gore, Henry Waxman, Bawney Fwank, et al) know we should.

See how easy science is?

Orion said at March 13, 2009 12:49 PM:

There's around a 200 year supply of coal after oil runs out so you still have a massive carbon source. However the CORRECT answer is algae-based biodiesel and nuclear power. Use a nuclear power plant to concentrate atmospheric CO2 into advanced algae-oil harvesting farms based on this technology:

and you create a "carbon neutral" transportation fuel system.

Green Paradise said at March 13, 2009 12:56 PM:

The ideal sea level was set in the year 1898 by Queen Victoria. The ideal temperature of the planet was set not long thereafter by President T. Roosevelt. These are official settings and not to be tampered with by man or beast.

Human CO2 has a different refractometric monopole, with a higher maximum flux capacitance. That is why it causes the climate to warm, the seas to turn acid, and sea levels to rise meters at a time. Human CO2 is, in short, pure evil.

But those of us in the green movement who are completely committed to Gaia have a solution. Many must die so the few may yet live. The final solution is almost perfected. Do what you want. It simply won't matter in the end.

David Becker said at March 13, 2009 12:58 PM:

I am a working scientist and, in my opinion, it takes enormous hubris, not to mention foolishness, for any scientist to make the preposterous predictions being made here about sea level rises in 90 years time. The computer models used for these sorts of things are crude and, likely, wrong. Ocean levels may, indeed, rise by 2100, but if so, it will likely be because we are still coming out of a recent ice-age, not because of human activity. I am truly embarrassed when I see these types of predictions.

Notan Idjit said at March 13, 2009 1:26 PM:

> The upper range of sea level rise by 2100 might be above 1m or more on a global average, with large regional differences depending where the source of ice loss occurs.....

"large regional differences"?
Sea levels will rise where glaciers melt, but not rise as much elsewhere?
When was the "law of gravity" repealed?

Robert Speirs said at March 13, 2009 1:28 PM:

What if there is no such thing as a "greenhouse effect"? Even the term is a misnomer. A greenhouse does not become hotter if it is made of a different kind of glass. The air in a greenhouse is warmed by the sun because it cannot circulate freely. Is there any scientific proof of a "greenhouse effect" caused by CO2 in the air? How would such a phenomenon be proven on a planet-wide basis? Why do people just accept the assertion of such an effect? If the very basis of AGW is not proven, how long can this nonsense go on?

materialist said at March 13, 2009 1:30 PM:

I am also a working scientist, and would respectfully point out the it does not take "enormous hubris, not to mention foolishness, for any scientist to make the preposterous predictions being made here about sea level rises in 90 years time." It takes money. Most of the folks who make these statements are being supported very nicely to say exactly this, and know perfectly well that their government grants will go the way of the last ice age if they fail to mouth the party line with sufficient enthusiasm.

Given the huge pot of money in the Obama spending package for "climate research" and the presence of ideological warmists like Steve Chu and John Holdren in control of the purse strings, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Take cover. You are about to be snowed.

Claude Hopper said at March 13, 2009 2:17 PM:

Bob Badour suggests Jim is using algebra when he should use calculus when predicting the 100 year sea level rise. Bob says: You have to assume the increase is... The key word here is assume, which is what most climate researchers appear to do. A researcher won't get funding unless the proper assumptions are made, that being: climate change is caused by human activity.

Greg F said at March 13, 2009 2:19 PM:

Greenland topography is like a bowl. The center is around 1000 feet below sea level.

The statement by Dr John Church that:
"... The oceans are continuing to warm and expand, the melting of mountain glacier has increased and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are also contributing to sea level rise".

Is patently false.
See here.

chemman said at March 13, 2009 2:24 PM:

Hubris, pure unadulterated hubris. It's in the math stupid. A 3 millimeter rise per year for 107 years (1993-2100) results in a 321 millimeter rise in the sea level. Converting through the metrics that 32 centimeters or .32 meters which when converted is slightly over 12 inches. .32 meters (1/3 rd of a meter) is significantly different than 1 meter. This isn't about science it's about fear and the money from fear.

The Monster said at March 13, 2009 2:33 PM:

"Water expands as it becomes ice.

Any increase in sea ice would tend to contribute to a rise in sea level."

Floating ice (like anything else that floats) displaces its mass in water, so the water level neither rises nor falls due to that ice melting back to water.

Papa Ray said at March 13, 2009 2:38 PM:

Peak Oil?

Yea, maybe in about five hundred years or so. There is enough oil beneath the oceans of this world to last a growing demand for oil for at least five hundred years or more.

But of have to be allowed to bring it up into the light of day to be used.

With the democrats in charge for the next ten to fifteen years, you can be sure that oil will peak (or get so expensive) that alternate sources of energy will have to be used. Various two wheel electric cycles comes to mind for us poor undereducated and misinformed general public.

As far as the GW crisis, it is a man-made (read liberal, progressive idiots) scam. Designed to make the rich richer, the poor poorer and more dependent on the all knowing, seeing socialist communist governments.

If all the oil in the world were to disappear next year, we could drill enough wells on our on shorelines and interior to re-supply the U.S.- in less than 5 years. I should know, every oil man out here where I live has told me so and they do know what they are talking about, contrary to the so called experts. The same ones that won't allow new refineries or nuke plants.

And coal? I'm not up on coal, except that I do remember reading that it is the U.S. most abundant natural resource.

Americans had better grow backbones and guts or our Republic will not stand much longer.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Paul A'Barge said at March 13, 2009 2:58 PM:

I live in Central Texas and I don't really care as long as y'all don't cost me any money.

Bruce said at March 13, 2009 3:47 PM:

The small rise of 3mm a year stopped in 2006 and has levelled off. It goes along with cooling.

Despite what the black line shows, the blue line shows a levelling off:

Even if the 3mm rise per year had continued ....

3mm a year = 333.3 years for a 1m rise. I think we can adjust.

happyfeet said at March 13, 2009 3:56 PM:

I can't unclick this page and go back to the carefree life I knew. I have never been so frightened. God help us all.

RicardoVerde said at March 13, 2009 4:09 PM:

Correct me if I'm wrong but why the rate since 1993? Isn't that when they started measuring the (average) sea levels by satellite as opposed to land-based methods? During this same time haven't the land-based methods stayed steady at roundabout 2mm per year?

It seems to me that the satellites accurately measure the sea level but overstate its effect, to wit, the majority of the rise is over the central pacific. I assume that the sea floor is subducting and the lighter water over the sea floor must rise to keep in gravitational equilibrium. The main point of this is that basically nobody lives where the greatest sea level increase takes place.

Isn't the only sea level change that really matters the change at the sea shore? And if this continues at a steady pace then there is no "rising faster".

dennymack said at March 13, 2009 4:19 PM:

Since the world is getting cooler, expect to hear a lot about other "manifestations" of this massively complex phenomenon known as global warming. Since there are endless variables to focus on, we will always be shown the ones that support the theory, and the others will be dismissed with the now familiar "Well, you can't just look at that number, the climate is complex. It's a science thing, you wouldn't understand. Now, back to my cherry-picked data..." No mention in all of this of the Greenland scientists who are saying the melting has slowed down markedly. (Do things melt slower as we heat up? I must have slept through that day in science.)

I will start to worry when these models demonstrate the ability to predict something.

Or when the "movement" explains how the panics they sponsored for the Population Bomb(Food Riots! Save me Paul Erlich! 1968) the Coming Ice Age (70's) and the Disappearing Ozone (90's) were total bunk, yet evidence of their expertise and objectivity.
I would comment more, but I'm hungry. I think I'll go have one of those fast food burgers made out of endangered rain forest critters. I'll bundle up, 'cause the jet contrails have shut out the sun. (Remember those scares? Same crowd.)

Most of the Universe is unknown, especially the future. The unknown is infinitely scary. This is a fact not lost on those seeking power.

happyfeet said at March 13, 2009 4:21 PM:

I feel like I'm drowning.

dfenstrate said at March 13, 2009 4:22 PM:

If only there was some system of walls, culverts, locks, dykes and similar implements that could be built to deal with sea levels rising...
If only there were countries in northern europe that had extensive success in holding back the sea...
If only a dyke built when needed cost an order of magnitude less than the crippling carbon taxes or the absurd plans to 'turn back the clock'...
And if only global warming extended growing seasons and made my home of new england slightly more hospitible in the winter...

If only all those things where true, we could deal with global warming. Since they aren't , we should all commit mass economic suicide in the name of our lord and savoir, mother gaia.

We do know how to build dykes and global warming does have practical upsides.

Look, of course I've been sarcastic. I don't believe that AGW is anything more than an attempt by lefties to cripple economies and impose their 'wisdom' and will on the rest of us.

HOWEVER, even if it were true, we are utterly able to adapt to any changes that global warming might bring. If it's not an outright net benefit (growing season) then the adaption (dykes as needed) is still far cheaper than cap and trade, carbon taxes, or anything else.

The problem with what I've pointed out is that it doesn't require morons in washington, NYC or Geneva to lord over us as our betters, and direct our lives to 'save' the earth. So they won't like it at all.

happyfeet said at March 13, 2009 4:25 PM:

Feel better. Gots mah life preserver on! Hey leggo getcher own.

Porkov said at March 13, 2009 6:39 PM:

Means testing to determine whether your beliefs regarding global warming are based on superstition or reason:
Raising or lowering the albedo of the planet is technically feasible, and gives us the ability to regulate the amount of solar energy reaching the surface of earth. If the idea that we would even consider trifling with mother nature in this fashion infuriates you, you are a true believer. If Al Gore said we need to start burning witches instead of oil, you'd be for it. If, on the other hand, you believe that the biggest problem with climate control will result in wars waged over where the thermostat gets set, you're Spock-like.

Randall Parker said at March 13, 2009 6:45 PM:


First off, I think you are confusing what I said about oil shale with what I said about tar sands. I know that the tar sands fields have been in production already for many years. I've become more pessimistic about oil shale since I first wrote about it several years ago. Even 2015 looks unlikely for oil shale. Shell's enthusiasm of several years ago (go find my posts on that since I can't remember the exact date of my first oil shale post - hence the "several") has given way to later and more guarded announcements of future prospects for oil shale.

Second, you've glommed onto my use of "a few" in a desperate attempt to argue I've moved the goal posts.

Fatih Birol works at the EIA? Since when? He works at the IEA which is a different (and more realistic) organization.

Kralizec said at March 13, 2009 6:56 PM:

Here's the comparison I'd like to see someone make. Taking the U.S. Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic Coast as an example, what portion of buildings within, say, a mile of the coast will be destroyed through all causes over the next 100 years, assuming the sea level rises one meter? And what portion of such coastal buildings will be destroyed through all causes, assuming the sea level remains unchanged?

Paul F. Dietz said at March 13, 2009 6:59 PM:

Robert Speirs wrote:

What if there is no such thing as a "greenhouse effect"? [...] How would such a phenomenon be proven on a planet-wide basis? Why do people just accept the assertion of such an effect? If the very basis of AGW is not proven, how long can this nonsense go on?

If the atmosphere did not retard the escape of thermal energy back into space, it is straightforward to calculate the temperature the Earth would have (simply look at average solar energy input and determine the average surface temperature needed to radiate that given the measurable average emissivity of the surface. The result is MUCH lower than the current average global temperature. The existence of a (natural) greenhouse effect is necessary to make our world habitable at all.

This is generations-old science. What you are doing is akin to being skeptical to the assertion that the Earth is round, not flat.

Randall Parker said at March 13, 2009 7:47 PM:


Our ability to trust experts is essential for good policy making.

How can we discover the views of scientists who A) know enough about climatology research to offer informed opinions and B) do not feel constrained by the need for grant money to hold their tongues?

Also, how can we fund climatology research in a way reduces the need to support a consensus viewpoint?

Also, how can we know just how much the funding sources influence what climatologists say?

TallDave said at March 13, 2009 11:18 PM:

It's very unlikely the trace amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere are a primary driver of climate. Not only have we had Ice Ages at 10x current levels, it recently was revealed that water vapor feedback is not the large positive that is assumed in AGW models and may even be negative. Most likely we have little to worry about as long as Antartica remains isolated by an ocean (as temps have been relatively low since then).

In any case, Russia, China, India, and Africa are not going to stop using fossil fuels, and nothing is bring CO2 levels down. So all the global warming taxes and regulations do nothing but make us poorer.

Francis Manns said at March 14, 2009 5:08 AM:

Keeping in mind that windmills are hazardous to birds, be wary of the unintended consequences of believing and contributing to the all-knowing environmental lobby groups.
Climate and economy are being linked. Yes there has been warming since the Pleistocene. Climate is a multiple input, multiple loop, multiple output, complex system. The facts and the hypotheses do not support CO2 as a serious 'pollutant'. In fact it is plant fertilizer and seriously important to all life on the planet. It is the red herring used by the left to unwind our economy. That issue makes the science relevant.
Water vapour (0.4% overall by volume in air, but 1 – 4 % near the surface) is the most effective green house gas followed by methane (0.0001745%). The third ranking greenhouse gas is CO2 (0.0383%), and it does not correlate well with global warming or cooling either; in fact, CO2 in the atmosphere trails warming which is clear natural evidence for its well-studied inverse solubility in water: CO2 dissolves in cold water and bubbles out of warm water. The equilibrium in seawater is very high; making seawater a great 'sink'; CO2 is 34 times more soluble in water than air is soluble in water.
CO2 has been rising and Earth has been warming. However, the correlation trails. Correlation, moreover, is not causation. The causation is being studied, however, and while the radiation from the sun varies only in the fourth decimal place, the magnetism is awesome.
“Using a box of air in a Copenhagen lab, physicists traced the growth of clusters of molecules of the kind that build cloud condensation nuclei. These are specks of sulphuric acid on which cloud droplets form. High-energy particles driven through the laboratory ceiling by exploded stars far away in the Galaxy - the cosmic rays - liberate electrons in the air, which help the molecular clusters to form much faster than climate scientists have modeled in the atmosphere. That may explain the link between cosmic rays, cloudiness and climate change.”
As I understand it, the hypothesis of the Danish National Space Center goes as follows:
Quiet sun → reduced magnetic and thermal flux = reduced solar wind → geomagnetic shield drops → galactic cosmic ray flux → more low-level clouds and more snow → more albedo effect (more heat reflected) → colder climate
Active sun → enhanced magnetic and thermal flux = solar wind → geomagnetic shield response → less low-level clouds → less albedo (less heat reflected) → warmer climate
That is how the bulk of climate change might work, coupled with (modulated by) sunspot peak frequency there are cycles of global warming and cooling like waves in the ocean. When the waves are closely spaced, the planets warm; when the waves are spaced farther apart, the planets cool.
The ultimate cause of the solar magnetic cycle may be cyclicity in the Sun-Jupiter centre of gravity. We await more on that.
Although the post 60s warming period appears to be over, it has allowed the principal green house gas, water vapour, to kick in with more humidity, clouds, rain and snow depending on where you live to provide the negative feedback that scientists use to explain the existence of complex life on Earth for 550 million years. Ancient sedimentary rocks and paleontological evidence indicate the planet has had abundant liquid water over the entire span. The planet heats and cools naturally and our gasses are the thermostat.
Check the web site of the Danish National Space Center.

Fearsome Comrade said at March 14, 2009 8:01 AM:

3mm per year since 1993 means less than five centimeters (.003*16 = .048). I have my doubts about the ability of anyone to measure the global average sea level to within five centimeters. It would seem like 5cm would be within the tolerance of the measuring equipment and well under the error bars you'd get from the granularity of the measurements.

Not only that, but extrapolating any trend out to 100 years is just plain bad science.

Greg F said at March 14, 2009 10:26 AM:

Randall Parker said at March 13, 2009 07:47 PM

Our ability to trust experts is essential for good policy making.

It is foolish to trust experts without a 3rd party audit of their arguments and data. It is the logical fallacy 'appeal to authority'.

No one would think of spending millions to build a bridge without having a 3rd party audit of the design. You couldn't get me in the flight path, much less in the aircraft, of a plane if it wasn't subject to strict audits on all aspects of the design. There are reasons we have well defined processes for building public infrastructure. It reduces human error. It works. Experts are human and humans are not always objective. The processes work and we know they work. They insure a higher level of objectivity. The processes minimize bias that is inherent in the human species. You cannot have "good policy making" if you do not have a process in place that minimizes what is known to be one of our major failings as a species.

Nick G said at March 14, 2009 10:42 AM:

"Keeping in mind that windmills are hazardous to birds"

This is a classic case of misinformation (the easiest proof of this is that the Audobon Society is a strong advocate of wind power), that keeps being recycled by cynical industry advocates and goofy anti-wind groups. Expression of this idea is a symptom of being a captive of an "echochamber" of bad information.

I read this, and I know the rest will be silly.

Nick G said at March 14, 2009 10:45 AM:

"It is foolish to trust experts without a 3rd party audit of their arguments and data."

The IPCC report is a consensus document. It required signoff by the Bush administration, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, etc, etc. The primary danger of such a process is that it's conclusions are far too weak.

Greg F said at March 14, 2009 11:10 AM:

Nick G said at March 14, 2009 10:45 AM

The IPCC report is a consensus document.

It is not a 3rd party audit. The authors of the chapters are auditing themselves. You missed the point. There is no systematic audit of the papers used by the making the IPCC process flawed at the foundation. The consensus argument is an appeal to authority.

Randall Parker said at March 14, 2009 11:11 AM:

Greg F,

The 3rd party auditors will necessarily have to be experts.

If a panel of Nobel physicists and chemists could be convened to spend a year studying the research of climatologists I'd be keen to hear their take on AGW.

Paul F. Dietz said at March 14, 2009 2:15 PM:

TallDave wrote:

It's very unlikely the trace amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere are a primary driver of climate. Not only have we had Ice Ages at 10x current levels, it recently was revealed that water vapor feedback is not the large positive that is assumed in AGW models and may even be negative. Most likely we have little to worry about as long as Antartica remains isolated by an ocean (as temps have been relatively low since then).

If we had ice ages when CO2 was 10x current levels, it was very long ago, when the solar output was considerably lower (the sun has brightened 30% since it settled onto the main sequence shortly after its formation.) Indeed, it's a bit of a puzzle why the very young earth didn't freeze over entirely.

We have evidence the feedbacks in the climate is positive, since we have a natural experiment: the reduction in effective solar input due to the Pinatubo eruption. Mean global temperature declined after that in a way consistent with a positive feedback from water vapor.

Erik said at March 14, 2009 2:48 PM:

I was just thinking of buying a house in the Netherlands (seriously) as a good investment for my retirement. Hmmm....

Randall Parker said at March 14, 2009 3:01 PM:

Paul F. Dietz,

If I'm to believe the History Channel the Earth has frozen over entirely twice. Massive volcanic eruptions unfroze it.


The Dutch are planning to do a massive build-up of their sea walls to handle a sea rise. My guess is they are smart enough and determined enough that they won't go under water.

kwr said at March 14, 2009 3:28 PM:

This argument reminds me of the tobacco debacle not so long ago. A very well known Head and Neck Surgeon, Dr. Ogura, was funded by the tobacco industry. There really isn't much debate on global warming. How much of it is man made is up for debate but it is still a no-brainer that using less polluting material is a long term plus. There is no doubt that we are polluting our earth. No doubt we are using resources faster than they are replenishing. No doubt we are running out of clean water. No doubt more and more people are coming on line for competition for resources. No doubt that our population is growing. How can preserving nature and the ecosystem be a bad thing? I live in the NW and no so long ago we had abundant salmon, a very tasty feast from nature that you just had to harvest. Now we have many salmon runs faltering and some of the great fisheries (including my favorite, the Yukon River) have become endangered. We are draining the Ogalalla aquafier and in our lifetime much of the area it serves will be unusable. And why? We are growing corn to feed cattle and make fuel in places where corn should't grow and cattle did well (or the buffalo before) on the natural grasses. Man is stupid.
I would also imagine that the 3mm a year would be greater as once/if we start melting the ice shelfs it won't be a steady increase, rather will see bursts from time to time.
Look at the motivation of your sources. Most of the deniers are funded by the energy industry. Most of the scientists are academics and don't have a big financial gain one way of the other. Sure there is a group think that occurs but there is little debate on whether climate change is happening among scientists. Just like evolution, the other thing most of the world isn't warming/we aren't polluting/more trees than ever etc.... crowd like to tout.

Trailrunnr said at March 14, 2009 4:45 PM:

Commenters are SO much smarter than scientists.

Wilder said at March 14, 2009 6:22 PM:

I'd be more worried about salt water intrusion into the freshwater aquifer that supplies South Florida. And what rising sea levels will do to the Everglades, a womb for all sorts of life. This is about much more than the ocean creeping up on waterfront homes. And that's enough to merit further study instead of dismissive and short-sided attitudes.

Randall Parker said at March 14, 2009 6:52 PM:


Yes, the laymen non-scientists who think they can disprove the climate scientists need to go spend some years in school training on the intellectual skills one would need to even start to wade into that debate.

cancer_man said at March 14, 2009 7:01 PM:

Second, you've glommed onto my use of "a few" in a desperate attempt to argue I've moved the goal posts.
Fatih Birol works at the EIA? Since when? He works at the IEA which is a different (and more realistic) organization.

Writing Birol was at the EIA was just a typo. And they aren't realistic at all. Like you, they don't understand the potential for technological innovation, nor do they understand the economics. The IEA explicitly states that they do not expect any significant changes in energy technology all the way out to 2030. Does that seem all realistic to you, the blogger of the Future Pundit? Why not set up a post that takes an informal survey of those who post here and ask how many agree with the IEA that there will be no significant changes in energy use and producion out to 2030. My guess is at least 90% will say no.

You have moved the goal posts based on what you have written. They were 2008 to 2012, and you kept quoting people who thought 2007 to 2010. Now in 2009 you say "in a few years. 2010 is "in a year," 2011 is "in a couple of years. 2012 to 2015 is what anyone would say is "in a few years" Are you now saying 2012, or will you keep being sliding on this?

Other Mike said at March 14, 2009 7:06 PM:

Trailrunnr said at March 14, 2009 04:45 PM:
Commenters are SO much smarter than scientists. LOL!

"I may be driving my car blindfolded and be completely dependent on you for navigation, and you may tell me you think we're going to drive off a cliff, but if you can't definitively demonstrate we're REALLY headed off a cliff, I refuse to hit the brakes."

There's a principle called risk management to be applied here, folks. None of you commenters railing against doing something about climate change are subject matter experts. I suspect few of you are even trained in science, much less working in scientific research.

There is a non-zero probability that we face catastrophic changes to our climate in the next century, including massive increases in deserts and huge changes in the rainfall/snowmelt patterns we depend upon to feed ourselves. We're talking huge risks to our civilization and our ability to feed ourselves, not something simple like whether the temperature averages 63F or 66F for the year, or whether a cottage at the Jersey shore will have 50 or 100 feet of sand in front of it!

We can choose to pretend there's no chance of a problem, but then we risk burying our heads in the sand until it's too late to do anything about it. On the other hand, acting today, we can take far less dramatic steps now to avert worsening the problem should it play out. I think I owe it to my kids to make damn sure we're not the willing cause of a future catastrophe when we knew the risk existed.

Andy F. said at March 14, 2009 10:20 PM:

There is a much greater chance that there will be nuclear war between now and 2050 or 2075 than a climate catastrophe, yet I don't see anyone preparing for this risk.

In addition, taking drastic measures to try to prevent CO2 emissions from increasing further and /or reducing before cheaper technology is in place exacts a high cost on people in the developing world. They need to worry about living today, not in 2075.

So it isn't true that the steps would far less dramatic today.

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2009 10:07 AM:

Other Mike,

I agree about risks and probabilities. We lack the ability to forecast future weather beyond a few days. Similarly, we lack the ability to accurately forecast climate change. But that is not a reason for making no decisions. We make decisions every day based on incomplete and partially inaccurate information. We do not know our houses will burn down. But we buy insurance anyway.

I think it imprudent to assume that feedback loops will balance out to cancel the effects of higher atmospheric CO2.

Andy F.

I do not know how to calculate the probability of a future nuclear war. I also do not know how to calculate probabilities for global warming. We face uncertainties on both these issues.

People in the developing world: Since we aren't them does that mean we should get out of cutting our CO2 emissions just because they can't afford to cut theirs?

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2009 10:13 AM:


You haven't made your case on my moving goal posts. As for when I expect oil production to peak: either last year or some year between now and 2015. We are only going to know a few years after the fact whether the most recent new high in production is the highest point.

I expect advances in technologies for extracting coal, transporting coal, burning coal. I also expect advances in technologies that increase the demand for the electricity that coal provides. I am skeptical about carbon capture from coal burning can ever be cheap enough to compete with wind and nukes.

I also expect advances in technologies for generating energy from solar, wind, nukes, and geothermal.

cancer_man said at March 15, 2009 7:28 PM:


You kept posting "experts" predicting peak oil in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, with you asking "our we at peak oil?" in 2007. It is common for many peak oilers to both be alarmist and vague at the same time. You've mastered this.

You say the IEA is reaslistic, but their predictions are all over the map depending on the year. The IEA is a political group, not an economic or technological agency and it plays off people's fears to further an alarmist agenda. They started to become even more alarmist than 2006 alarism in late 2007. The wheels are supposed to "come off" the economy by 2012 due to oil "shortages" (even though shortages aren't possible on a global scale)

Randall, you also put up a post on possible hoarding of oil. You now see how this is also impossible with a word oil market? Why not start studying a bit of basic energy economics this summer?

Nick G said at March 15, 2009 7:43 PM:

Greg F,

"It [The IPCC report] is not a 3rd party audit. The authors of the chapters are auditing themselves."

You missed my point: the IPCC report survived the scrutiny of a large number of countries whose governments were overtly hostile to the idea of AGW. The Bush admin appointed someone to attend who was previously publicly sharply critical of the idea - his participation in the process converted him! Similarly, Saudi Arabia had the money and motiviation to hire whatever expertise was needed to find any plausible holes in the research.

Randall Parker said at March 15, 2009 8:39 PM:


When I ask a question rather than make a statement it is usually because I do not know. I've even more recently gotten in the habit of using more question marks in subject titles.

To be precise: IEA gets closer to realistic than EIA. IEA knows their political masters don't want them sounding alarmist. But Birol has gradually moved toward trying to get people to prepare for a halt in production growth and a production decline much sooner than they previously stated. Birol's statements in the last several months show a big shift in IEA's position regarding Peak Oil.

I read a lot of analysts on oil, far more than I post about here. I agree with Robert Rapier that we do not know enough to exactly calculate the year of peak. He thinks the peak has a 90% probability of happening within 5 years.

World oil market and hoarding: The US government has a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That's hoarding. The Chinese are building a similar reserve. That's hoarding too. The oil storage tanks at Henry Hub are near full. The owners are waiting to sell the oil when prices go back up again. Kinda like hoarding. The same is happening with parked oil tankers full of oil that is in storage for when prices go back up again.

Basic energy economics: You keep condescending to me about this while not demonstrating such an understanding yourself.

The term "shortage" has several meanings. Some economists will argue that since at any point supply and and demand will meet each other at some price that perfectly balances them there are never surpluses or shortages. If that is what you mean by there never being "shortages" that's true as long as prices aren't regulated. But there are other definitions of "shortage" and I'm using a more commonly understood definition.

cancer_man said at March 16, 2009 3:25 AM:


You don't think the IEA is alarmist? Anyone following the IEA knows what a joke it is. Birol didn't "move" the IEA position, he went 180 degrees. In 2005 the IEA laughed at peak oilers , correcly calling them alarmists, but then became that a year later for political reasons. They even contradict themselves within their reports. It is not a serious organization, nor do they have any trained economists. (No one with any training would call Birol an economist with a straight face. I guess Art Bell is a physicist.) They go with the political wind.

The US and China can't hoard. Geez, this isn't tough. They can increase what they mistakenly think are 'reserves' but the market always implicitly factors that into price. The governments are as effective as you going to Brazil and 'hoarding' coffee beans. There is no difference.

And no, the concept of shortage does not have "different meanings." Nor does gravity have "different meanings."

Nick G said at March 17, 2009 1:08 PM:

"They go with the political wind."

As far as I know, the IEA has dismissed Peak Oil for it's whole history, until recently. Also, I'm not aware of any political pressure on the IEA to be alarmist - quite the contrary. Do you have evidence (sources, news articles, etc) to the contrary?

"The US and China can't hoard."

Could you expand on this? It doesn't make sense to me. Why is this point important?

"They can increase what they mistakenly think are 'reserves' but the market always implicitly factors that into price."

How? Does the existence of strategic reserves increase or lower the world price?

cancer_man said at March 17, 2009 6:02 PM:

The IEA is a Paris based organization that was originally constructed to "keep oil flowing." In other words, it has never had a good reason to exist since oil can flow on tankers without an NGO. In recent years, it has been under attack by peak oilers and those pushing alternative energy for various predictions. The IEA wants it both ways since it is also on the global warming scare bandwagon as well. That explains why they have stated no major technological changes through 2030 since then alarmists can say that major changes need to be made today instead of waiting for uch cheaper methods when the solar, wind, etc use is higher in 2020.

There is a video of a Guardian reporter chastizing Birol for not warning of doom back in 2005. The reporter doesnt understand economics or technology, so he just assmes the newer 2007 report was correct. At any rate, the IEA does not have a good track record for predicting either future production or oil prices. I doubt energy companies take IEA reports seriously, and they are meant for the ignorant politicians. It isn't a coincidence that the IEA started hyping even more just after Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize.

For some reason, Randall takes the IEA seriously.

Hoarding? How can any nation hoard oil when there is a global market? The reserves don't do anything to the price of oil. The exception would have been last summer when the U.S. should have used some reserves to pop what became an oil bubble in the short run. That is really the only useful purpose of reserves in a modern world, but the IEA has wrongly convinced not use reserves unless there is some oil "supply gap" of around 5 to 7%. But since there can't be a supply gap unless the government creates one artificailly, reserves will never be used.

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