Virginia Is Sinking

Virginia has attracted much attention recently not only because of its status as a swing state, but also as a sinking state.  Within the same week, two remarkably similar articles were published featuring the nexus between political belief systems and coastal sea level impacts.  The June 5, 2012 BBC News Magazine article by Daniel Nasaw "Virginia's dying marshes and climate change denial" was soon followed by the June 10, 2012 PilotOnline "Lawmakers avoid buzzwords on climate change bills" by Scott Harper.

Mr. Nasaw paints a dismal picture of the Virginia coastline with trees withering away and vital marsh lands sinking, victims of a "rising sea level," linked to "climate change denial."  Amongst those quoted in his two-page article is Carl Hershner who "studies coastal resources management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)." Mr. Hershner dutifully laments that, "Here in Virginia there is very little political will to address the mitigation side of things-reducing our carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse gas emissions."   Perhaps Hershner has some unique insight into the nature and magnitude of such mitigations needed to achieve a measurable impact on "the climate."  To date, the human contribution to global temperature change remains an ill-defined, minor contribution to natural forces.  The link to "climate change" is just plain un-defined.  Global temperatures have not increased for the past 15 years even as atmospheric carbon dioxide (carbon footprint) has continued to rise.

Neither Mr. Hershner nor reporter Nasaw seems aware of Professor John Boon, also of the same VIMS.  Boon has studied the geology and sea level interactions of the Chesapeake area.  His December 2010 report, "Sea-Level study brings good and bad news to Hampton Roads," states that the good news is that "absolute sea level in Chesa­peake Bay is rising only about half as fast as the global average rise rate. The bad news, says Boon, is that local subsidence more than makes up for it."  His report notes that, "Data from NOAA satellites and tide gauges show that absolute sea level is rising at a rate of about 1.8 millimeters per year in Chesapeake Bay. That's only about half of the globally averaged 3.1-mm per year rate of absolute sea-level rise, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." Boon concludes that, "on average, about 50% of the relative sea level rise measured at Bay water level stations is due to local subsidence. The mid-

Atlantic region is slowly sinking in response to land movements associated with melting of the polar ice caps following the last Ice Age, faulting associated with the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, local groundwater withdrawals, and other factors."

November 2010 report to the U.S. Corps of Engineers by Boon and his co-authors, "Chesapeake Bay Subsidence and Sea Level Change," provides  a more  in depth analysis of the land subsidence/land sinking and absolute sea-level interaction.

The best that the Nasaw BBC article can do is a single sentence "ancient geological forces are causing the land literally to sink..."  Nowhere does he define his headlined "climate change denial." He cites not one source which is denying "climate change," an undeniable fact of Earth's history at all time scales.

Scott Harper in his Virginia-Pilot editorial engages in a pre-occupation with "buzzwords," and Republican vs. Democratic word-games at the expense of scientific clarity.  Is it "sea level rise," "climate change," or "land subsidence/sinking"?  The actual phenomenon of "recurrent flooding" is described as a political work-around.  It is not, but is the just plain-common-sense term which accurately describes what the local citizens see and understandably fear.

"The semantics dance harkens to the days when 'global warming' was commonly uttered. But after conservatives criticized and ridiculed Al Gore and others, 'climate change' became the kinder, gentler way to communicate the same thing" according to Harper, who is unaware that an international community of scientists have also criticized Mr. Gore's climate claims.   No, kindness had nothing to do with the re-labeling: the continuing lack of global warming for the past 15 years made the term ineffective and an embarrassment.  Less kind terms, including "climate weirding" are now in use by environmentalists. 

Harper's article notes, "It also shows how climate skeptics, through their political connections and organization, are forcing state and local government to stay clear of certain buzzwords in quietly pursuing a strategy, else they risk unleashing a brawl."  He obviously feels that open

scientific debate engenders a "brawl."  The political connections and organizations supporting the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its dogma of dangerous, man-made climate change are given a pass.  In spite of the four IPCC reports of 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007, they have failed to provide scientific proof for their founding assumption that man-made carbon dioxide has made a clearly identifiable and significant impact on global temperature.  The IPCC excels in producing computer model "scenarios" of future climate states based on their parameterization of Nature; their track record and the reality of Nature have been at odds for some time.

By all means, let us get the political speech out of the local flooding discussion, and put in some scientific clarity as Harper quotes State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, "who insisted on changing the 'sea level rise'  study in the General Assembly to one on 'recurrent flooding,' said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether."

Harper fails to provide that clarity by including such comments as, "According to scientific tide measurements at Sewells Point in Norfolk, the sea level has risen by 14.5 inches in the past 100 years. The trend is projected to continue for at least the next century, and some scientists predict that the rate could accelerate, with the level rising an additional 2 to 3 feet by 2100, and perhaps higher."  The inclusion of "could" and "some scientists predict" qualifiers indicate that these are unsubstantiated computer modeling exercises.  Harper states, "Scientists are not sure at what rate the soft, marshy region is sinking, only that it plays a significant role in calculating "relative sea level rise."  He is apparently unaware of the before-mentioned VIMS report by Professor Boon on Chesapeake Bay subsidence when he clearly states that "about 50% of the relative sea level rise measured at Bay water level stations is due to local subsidence."

Clarity would be the less sloppy use of undefined terminology in these political writings.  When the water is lapping up at your back yard, it could be because the land you are standing on is sinking, or because there is more water entering your yard, or because there is a combination of the two, as in the Chesapeake Bay area.  The combination effect is properly known as "relative sea rise."

Clarity would be abandoning the catch-all, and undefined term "climate change" as the universal "explanation" for these observations, and justification for political action.  Satellite data from the University of Colorado shows a relatively constant rate of sea level rise for the past ten years, and a more recent negative sea-level-rise trend. Fifteen years of global cooling debunk any simplistic cause-and-effect link to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Yes, it is time to deal with reality.

Charles Battig, MD , Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE). His website is www.climateis.wordpress.com

Virginia has attracted much attention recently not only because of its status as a swing state, but also as a sinking state.  Within the same week, two remarkably similar articles were published featuring the nexus between political belief systems and coastal sea level impacts.  The June 5, 2012 BBC News Magazine article by Daniel Nasaw "Virginia's dying marshes and climate change denial" was soon followed by the June 10, 2012 PilotOnline "Lawmakers avoid buzzwords on climate change bills" by Scott Harper.

Mr. Nasaw paints a dismal picture of the Virginia coastline with trees withering away and vital marsh lands sinking, victims of a "rising sea level," linked to "climate change denial."  Amongst those quoted in his two-page article is Carl Hershner who "studies coastal resources management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)." Mr. Hershner dutifully laments that, "Here in Virginia there is very little political will to address the mitigation side of things-reducing our carbon footprint, reducing greenhouse gas emissions."   Perhaps Hershner has some unique insight into the nature and magnitude of such mitigations needed to achieve a measurable impact on "the climate."  To date, the human contribution to global temperature change remains an ill-defined, minor contribution to natural forces.  The link to "climate change" is just plain un-defined.  Global temperatures have not increased for the past 15 years even as atmospheric carbon dioxide (carbon footprint) has continued to rise.

Neither Mr. Hershner nor reporter Nasaw seems aware of Professor John Boon, also of the same VIMS.  Boon has studied the geology and sea level interactions of the Chesapeake area.  His December 2010 report, "Sea-Level study brings good and bad news to Hampton Roads," states that the good news is that "absolute sea level in Chesa­peake Bay is rising only about half as fast as the global average rise rate. The bad news, says Boon, is that local subsidence more than makes up for it."  His report notes that, "Data from NOAA satellites and tide gauges show that absolute sea level is rising at a rate of about 1.8 millimeters per year in Chesapeake Bay. That's only about half of the globally averaged 3.1-mm per year rate of absolute sea-level rise, as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change." Boon concludes that, "on average, about 50% of the relative sea level rise measured at Bay water level stations is due to local subsidence. The mid-

Atlantic region is slowly sinking in response to land movements associated with melting of the polar ice caps following the last Ice Age, faulting associated with the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, local groundwater withdrawals, and other factors."

November 2010 report to the U.S. Corps of Engineers by Boon and his co-authors, "Chesapeake Bay Subsidence and Sea Level Change," provides  a more  in depth analysis of the land subsidence/land sinking and absolute sea-level interaction.

The best that the Nasaw BBC article can do is a single sentence "ancient geological forces are causing the land literally to sink..."  Nowhere does he define his headlined "climate change denial." He cites not one source which is denying "climate change," an undeniable fact of Earth's history at all time scales.

Scott Harper in his Virginia-Pilot editorial engages in a pre-occupation with "buzzwords," and Republican vs. Democratic word-games at the expense of scientific clarity.  Is it "sea level rise," "climate change," or "land subsidence/sinking"?  The actual phenomenon of "recurrent flooding" is described as a political work-around.  It is not, but is the just plain-common-sense term which accurately describes what the local citizens see and understandably fear.

"The semantics dance harkens to the days when 'global warming' was commonly uttered. But after conservatives criticized and ridiculed Al Gore and others, 'climate change' became the kinder, gentler way to communicate the same thing" according to Harper, who is unaware that an international community of scientists have also criticized Mr. Gore's climate claims.   No, kindness had nothing to do with the re-labeling: the continuing lack of global warming for the past 15 years made the term ineffective and an embarrassment.  Less kind terms, including "climate weirding" are now in use by environmentalists. 

Harper's article notes, "It also shows how climate skeptics, through their political connections and organization, are forcing state and local government to stay clear of certain buzzwords in quietly pursuing a strategy, else they risk unleashing a brawl."  He obviously feels that open

scientific debate engenders a "brawl."  The political connections and organizations supporting the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its dogma of dangerous, man-made climate change are given a pass.  In spite of the four IPCC reports of 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007, they have failed to provide scientific proof for their founding assumption that man-made carbon dioxide has made a clearly identifiable and significant impact on global temperature.  The IPCC excels in producing computer model "scenarios" of future climate states based on their parameterization of Nature; their track record and the reality of Nature have been at odds for some time.

By all means, let us get the political speech out of the local flooding discussion, and put in some scientific clarity as Harper quotes State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, "who insisted on changing the 'sea level rise'  study in the General Assembly to one on 'recurrent flooding,' said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether."

Harper fails to provide that clarity by including such comments as, "According to scientific tide measurements at Sewells Point in Norfolk, the sea level has risen by 14.5 inches in the past 100 years. The trend is projected to continue for at least the next century, and some scientists predict that the rate could accelerate, with the level rising an additional 2 to 3 feet by 2100, and perhaps higher."  The inclusion of "could" and "some scientists predict" qualifiers indicate that these are unsubstantiated computer modeling exercises.  Harper states, "Scientists are not sure at what rate the soft, marshy region is sinking, only that it plays a significant role in calculating "relative sea level rise."  He is apparently unaware of the before-mentioned VIMS report by Professor Boon on Chesapeake Bay subsidence when he clearly states that "about 50% of the relative sea level rise measured at Bay water level stations is due to local subsidence."

Clarity would be the less sloppy use of undefined terminology in these political writings.  When the water is lapping up at your back yard, it could be because the land you are standing on is sinking, or because there is more water entering your yard, or because there is a combination of the two, as in the Chesapeake Bay area.  The combination effect is properly known as "relative sea rise."

Clarity would be abandoning the catch-all, and undefined term "climate change" as the universal "explanation" for these observations, and justification for political action.  Satellite data from the University of Colorado shows a relatively constant rate of sea level rise for the past ten years, and a more recent negative sea-level-rise trend. Fifteen years of global cooling debunk any simplistic cause-and-effect link to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Yes, it is time to deal with reality.

Charles Battig, MD , Piedmont Chapter president, VA-Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE). His website is www.climateis.wordpress.com

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