Summary: Another day, another interesting study about our changing climate misreported by journalists to ignite fear in their readers. The subject is rising seas from the melting of Antarctica. First we look at the science, then at journalists’ hype. You decide how this news should influence the public policy debate about the best response to climate change.
Robert M. DeConto & David Pollard in Nature, 31 March 2016
“Polar temperatures over the last several million years have, at times, been slightly warmer than today, yet global mean sea level has been 6–9 metres higher as recently as the Last Interglacial (LIG, 130,000 to 115,000 years ago) and possibly higher during the Pliocene epoch (about three million years ago). In both cases the Antarctic ice sheet has been implicated as the primary contributor, hinting at its future vulnerability.
“Here we use a model coupling ice sheet and climate dynamics — including previously underappreciated processes linking atmospheric warming with hydrofracturing of buttressing ice shelves and structural collapse of marine-terminating ice cliffs — that is calibrated against Pliocene and Last Interglacial sea-level estimates and applied to future greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 metres by 2500, if emissions continue unabated. In this case atmospheric warming will soon become the dominant driver of ice loss, but prolonged ocean warming will delay its recovery for thousands of years.”
About the study
Their predictions of rising sea levels
Here is the core of the study’s forecast. Red highlight added to their key finding.