Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forbes' James Taylor: 'Initiation' means 'completion'

Maybe it's beneath my new digs here to go after as easy a target as a Forbes opinion page (and Heartland Institute) writer, but it's not beneath me. I saw the headline in Morano's page "Schneider claimed W. Antarctic ice sheet could melt before year 2000", ignored it for a while and finally clicked through to Forbes "Polar Ice Rapture Misses Its Deadline". Taylor announces:

[Schneider] claimed the west Antarctic ice sheet could melt before the year 2000 and inundate American coastlines with up to 25 feet of sea level rise. Obviously, the west Antarctic ice sheet was not raptured away last century, and New Yorkers can still drive rather than swim to work.

Clicking the provided link, which most denialists probably can't be bothered with, gets one to one Steven Goddard and a recopied old 1979 newspaper article about Steve Schneider predicting warming and ice melt in the next century.

The next hurdle involves actually reading the article. It says that Schneider said regarding the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that "its initiation cannot be ruled out as a possibility before the end of this century". To be fair to Taylor, though, the word "initiation" wasn't highlighted at Goddard's link. And of course the WAIS hasn't done so well since the end of that century. A 4+ meter rise by 2100 seems pretty unlikely now, but I doubt it was unreasonable for Schneider in 1979 to think it possible.

I can't give Mr. Taylor a very good grade on his effort - the best denialist nonsense takes far more effort to debunk than it does to construct, but I think it was the reverse in this case. He'll have to step up his game to attract a better class of debunker than myself.


cRR said...

There is a scenario for the WAIS to desintegrate suddenly. The point being its base is partly below sea level by weight of the ice sheet, but a coastal rim is above. Apparently once in a couple hundred thousand years the ocean breaks through this rim, causing the sheet to float then bust up around Antarctica.
We can hope sea level rise is compensated for by uplifting of the rock under the WAIS by way of its decreasing mass (as has actually been measured for Greenland).

joe said...

In that particular piece, Mr. Taylor also appears to be confused about the difference between an ice-free north pole and an ice-free Arctic Ocean.

But then again, science was never the Heartland Institute's strong point.

Anonymous said...

On the evidence, I'd say 4+ meters by 2100 is way more likely now than it was in 1979. There's some pretty large movement underway. Interestingly, Hansen's present view is be more or less what Schneider's was in 1979, although of course with much more behind it. He points out that sea levels ran up about 6 meters (relative to current) in both the Holsteinian and Eemian with temps equal to or only slightly higher than currently, and that they appear to have done so quite quickly.

Steve Bloom (Blogger won't let me sign in)

Anonymous said...

To enlarge the curiosity of Forbes's management as to James Taylor's core competence, bunnies may wish to register so they can nibble on his Forbes's columns, and those of his colleague in climate sci fi writing, Larry Bell, Space Architect and orbital PR merchant


Doesn't cost a single carrot.

Anonymous said...

SLR has been decidedly nonlinear in the past. Business as usual through 2100 would have us way above CO2 of the past many millions of years, so expect a shock, except that I don't expect BAU all the way to 2100, nor even close. But just BAU through 2030 (or all the way to CO2 > 450 ppm) could bring meters more ocean in time.

Pete Dunkelberg

Anonymous said...

"Steven Goddard" is a serial offender when it comes to getting things completely wrong. Time for an audit.