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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scientific Jargon – “Would” “Will” “Could” “Might” “Maybe”

Guest post by Steven Goddard
http://gothamist.com/attachments/jake/2006_1_bigwave1.jpg
The BBC has perfected the use of weasel words to create alarm. They have a lead story today :

The collapse of a major polar ice sheet will not raise global sea levels as much as previous projections suggest, a team of scientists has calculated.

Writing in Science, the researchers said that the demise of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) would result in a sea level rise of 3.3m (10 ft).

There is no evidence presented that such an event would, could or will occur – other than some 30 year old hearsay.

It has been hypothesised for more than 30 years now that the WAIS is inherently unstable,” he explained.

And how many other global catastrophes have been forecast over the last 30 years? Seems like a new one nearly every week. The article goes on -

“A sea level rise of just 1.5m would displace 17 million people in Bangladesh alone,”

Sea level is currently rising at 2.378 mm/year. At that rate, it will take 631 years for sea level to rise 1.5 meters. During that time hundreds of billions of people may have lived and died – the ultimate displacement.
http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/fileadmin/images/news/indic/msl/MSL_Serie_J1_Global_NoIB_RWT_PGR_Adjust.png


But the author wants us to worry about 200 years from now.

In other words, if the global average was one metre, then places like New York could expect to see a rise of 1.25m. Responding to Professor Bamber’s paper in Science, British Antarctic Survey science leader Dr David Vaughan described the findings as “quite sound”. “But for me, the most crucial question is not solely about the total amount of ice in West Antarctica, because that might take several centuries to be lost to the ocean,” he told BBC News. “The crucial question is how much ice could be lost in 100-200 years; that’s the sea level rise we have to understand and plan for.”Even with this new assessment the loss of a fraction of WAIS over those timescales would have serious consequences and costs that we’ve only really just begun to understand.”

Two hundred years ago was before the War of 1812. Thank goodness people weren’t so ridiculous and arrogant back then as to try to predict and solve our problems. My question is, how could the BBC pick this obscure piece of speculation as front page news? NASA can’t even figure out if Antarctica is cooling or warming.
Antarctic Temperature Trend 1982-2004
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WilkinsIceSheet/images/wilkins_avh_2007.jpg

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WilkinsIceSheet/images/wilkins_avh_2007.jpg

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