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‘From sea to rising sea,’ climate change is threatening our historic landmarks

The Statue of Liberty monument in New York harbor was inundated by Hurricane Sandy and its storm surges; the area was closed for extensive repairs.

Climate change not only threatens Americans’ future but also profoundly imperils their history, according to a new report that claims to be the first survey of global warming’s probable impact on U.S. monuments, landmarks and historic sites.

Published on Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “National Landmarks at Risks” makes the case that

Many of the United States’ iconic landmarks and heritage sites are at risk as never before. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, increased flooding, heavy rains, and more frequent large wildfires are damaging archaeological resources, historic buildings, and cultural landscapes across the nation.

From sea to rising sea, a remarkable number of the places where American history was made are already under threat. The geographic and cultural quilt that tells the American story is fraying at the edges — and even beginning to be pulled apart — by the impacts of climate change.


  • Much of downtown Boston’s historic core, including the Long Wharf and Faneuil Hall, are at special risk from rising sea levels in a city that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has ranked No. 8 worldwide in terms of expected economic losses to severe flooding between now and mid-century.
  • Two of the nation’s oldest settlements by Europeans — Jamestown in Virginia and St. Augustine in Florida — sit particularly close to the rising tides. Archaeologists at Jamestown, our first permanent English colony, are considering whether the risk is sufficient to justify removing artifacts to safety, rather than continuing to leave them in place; at St. Augustine, established by Spaniards, permanent inundation of some historic districts is considered likely, the main question being whether it happens at the middle or end of the century.
  • In coastal Alaska, where permafrost loss and diminished sea ice are leading to unprecedented erosion, two historic sites on Kotzebue Sound are already “losing irreplaceable archaeological remains to worsening coastal erosion. The parks contain some of the most important concentrations of archaeological sites and artifacts documenting the first human migration to North America via the Bering Land Bridge.”

Turning the tables on patriotism

The report’s claim to orginality of focus seems plausible to me; I can’t think of an earlier example. And given the politicization and polarization of this nation’s long-running argument over climate change — in which proposals for meaningful preventive responses are routinely derided as a form of treason against the American economy and living standard — it is kind of surprising that nobody has thought to do such a patriotically minded assessment before now.

And even this effort falls short of exhaustive. It is framed not as a “comprehensive analysis of climate change threats to all of the United States’ historic places, monuments and memorials, but rather a selection of case studies that vividly illustrate an urgent problem.”

The stories were chosen because the science behind the risks they face is robust, and because together they shine a spotlight on the different kinds of climate impacts already affecting the United States’ cultural heritage.

All of the case studies in this report draw on observations and impacts that are either consistent with, or attributable to, human-induced climate change based on multiple lines of scientific evidence. Some of the sites face the risk of severe damage or even eventual loss. Other case studies describe sites that are just now seeing the first signs of damage …

All provide a wake-up call: as the impacts of climate change continue, we must make hard choices now and take urgent steps to protect these sites and reduce the risks.

Recent damage surveyed

Because of its focus on flooding amplified by sea-level rise and the changing pattern of wildfire in the American West, the report does not deal with impacts in the Midwest; rather, it focuses on 30 “case studies” in 13 of the lower 48 states plus Alaska and Hawaii.

More examples, drawing now on the evidence and impacts of recent extreme-weather events:

  • The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island monuments in New York harbor, which has already seen sea level rise by a foot over the last century, were sufficiently inundated by Hurricane Sandy and its storm surges that both were closed for extensive repairs — including raising the electrical system on Liberty Island 20 feet above ground to keep it dry in the surges ahead.
  • The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where storm surges now regularly breach sand dunes near the launch pads that sent Americans to the moon and became, with the shuttle program, our first spaceport.
  • The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, damaged to the tune of $210 million by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
  • Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, where abnormally large wildfires and flooding pose a threat to the pueblos and artifacts left by some of the continent’s first humans more than 10,000 years ago. The same threat faces places like Groveland, California, a town from the Gold Rush days that was damaged by last summer’s Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park.

Given the scope of adaptation measures that the changing climate will require, it’s easy to image some folks greeting the UCS report with a grimace, a shrug and a resigned acceptance that preserving the treasures left us by our ancestors must come second to ensuring the survival of our descendants.

Threats to the living, too

But, of course, the changing climate threatens both. Returning now to Kotzebue Sound and the artifacts left by humans crossing the Bering land bridge:

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has concluded that out of more than 200 native Alaskan villages, 85 percent are already being affected by erosion and flooding and that 31 are under imminent threat. Twelve of these communities have decided to completely relocate.

One such community is Kivalina, a small village just north of Cape Krusenstern. Winter storms are removing an average of up to 35 feet of Kivalina’s shoreline annually; however, in 2005, the town lost 70 feet from the beach to a single massive storm.

The residents of Kivalina hunt walrus, seal, caribou, and fish, and it is the only village in the region that still hunts bowhead whales, at least in principle — no bowheads have been taken in more than a decade, and locals blame the changed ice conditions. Cost estimates for moving the community of Kivalina to a new and safer location are about $100 million.

* * *

The full text of “National Landmarks at Risk,” with terrific photography, maps and graphics, can be accessed here.

Comments (75)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2014 - 09:21 am.

    More liberal hysteria

    Next you’ll be telling us that vaccines don’t cause Autism.

  2. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/22/2014 - 12:23 pm.

    try something new-

    We have all read the crazy, cherry picked, faux news info bites that our conservative reader friends use to malign the science around climate change. Instead of wasting good brain cells trying to defend science as if to educate them, just let it ride. Let it go, good folks. Let them go, they have lost credibility due to the mountains of evidence that continue to pile up.
    Good grief, we have NASA on our side –
    The discussion is not about science anymore, its about ideology and you might as well be debating religion at that point.

    Save your good efforts for real conversations that will do some good. Trying to convince retired fossil fuel engineers and the like is like wrestling a pig in a mud hole….. pretty soon you realize the pig is enjoying it and you just get dirty.

    • Submitted by Rolf Westgard on 05/25/2014 - 04:50 am.

      No increase in unusual weather events

      No increase in overall tornado intensity. Hurricanes like Camille and Andrew stronger than anything recent. Current drought in West pales compared to longer severe droughts in past few thousand years. No unusual floods.
      Ice sheets by definition are on water. When they melt no increase in sea level. Recent study in journal Science showed that net melt from Antarctica and Greenland raised sea level one inch in forty years.
      Relax people and don’t sell your winter coat.

  3. Submitted by Todd Adler on 05/22/2014 - 12:45 pm.


    As one conservative commentator said recently, all we have to do is build walls around our cities to protect them, as if that will be some trivial expense. All we have to do is build walls around all of the world’s continents and hey, problem solved!

    Of course it ignores the fact that salt water can slip under walls and invade our groundwater. And all the other effects of global warming, such as too little or too much water, heat waves, insect damage, damaged and relocated farms, diminishing fresh water, mass migrations, increased war, just to name a few.

    Need I go on?

    Let’s not address though the thousands of scientific papers with data and peer review to back them up. Instead we’ll focus on on three bloggers repeating disproven memes as a basis for making sound scientific decisions. We need more reason and logic in our lives, not less.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/23/2014 - 12:20 pm.

      After the 1960 tsunami in northern Japan

      the residents of one city built a wall out in their harbor.

      Too bad the 2011 tsunami was a bit higher than the wall.

      So much for dealing with rising sea levels by building walls.

  4. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/22/2014 - 03:04 pm.

    Coupled Model Intercomparison Project

    According to this study and the climate models it considered, an increase in greenhouse gases will make the occurrence of superstorms like Sandy less likely to move westward to our eastern coast.

    Thus, Sandy really is not a good storm to bolster the CAGW story.

    Abstract: Superstorm Sandy ravaged the eastern seaboard of the United States, costing a great number of lives and billions of dollars in damage. Whether events like Sandy will become more frequent as anthropogenic greenhouse gases continue to increase remains an open and complex question. Here we consider whether the persistent large-scale atmospheric patterns that steered Sandy onto the coast will become more frequent in the coming decades. Using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 multimodel ensemble, we demonstrate that climate models consistently project a decrease in the frequency and persistence of the westward flow that led to Sandy’s unprecedented track, implying that future atmospheric conditions are less likely than at present to propel storms westward into the coast.

    “The geographic and cultural quilt that tells the American story is fraying at the edge …”

    • Submitted by Todd Adler on 05/22/2014 - 04:11 pm.

      He Figgered It Out!

      Translation: I found a twig on the ground, therefor this forest behind me doesn’t exist.

      Sorry man, but that pretty much sums up your position.

      To be clear, “less likely” doesn’t mean there won’t be any storms on the east coast. Also that doesn’t mean there won’t be large storms elsewhere on the planet or even the United States. And there are historical and cultural attractions in places beyond the east coast of the North American continent.

      And lastly, there are other detrimental effects to global warming beyond large storms. But hey, that twig is looking mighty good right now! It’s really bolstering your case in a big way!

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/23/2014 - 12:28 am.


        According to the computer models, which the CAGW crowds seems so fond of, Sandy is not a CAGW artifact. That makes the photo seem misleading and inappropriate; damage shown is not from rising seawater.

        Speaking of cultural and historical attractions, have you ever been to Greece? The most popular attractions are ruins. While we worry that our quilt is fraying at the edge, we travel to Europe to view and study fragments of fraying edges. It seems that history is not so easily lost.

        Todd, I didn’t state a position. I merely pointed out a couple of ways in which this column attempted in vain to support a CAGW position. Point not grasped, in the amusing fashion in which I’ve come to expect.

        • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/23/2014 - 08:46 am.

          “Point not grasped”?

          What is “CAGW”? What is the “CAGW crowd”? And where in the article is any “CAGW position” even mentioned, as if such a thing even existed? What is the “CAGW position” this column so vainly overreaches to support?

          Your comment about the damage in the photo not being from rising seawater recalls to mind the position of the insurance industry after Katrina denying claims for hurricane damage if it was from flooding and water surges not force of wind. As if floods and water damage cannot result from hurricanes. I’m not a geoscientist but the damage sure looks to me like it was caused by crashing waves, a form of “rising seawater.” Is it your position that that climate change is not caused by human activity? or that it is not causing the ocean levels to rise or in the intensity and frequency of storms? or that there’s nothing that can be done about it, so why bother?

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/23/2014 - 09:13 am.

            CAGW = Catostropic Anthropogenic Global Warming, and that is what this article is about. CAGW crowd is a term for CAGW adherents. The term crowd is accurate because there is a lot of them.

            In CAGW parlance, rising seawater is not a term used to describe a storm surge. Rising seawater is permanent, like the seawater that permanently covered that land bridge that once connected North America to Asia.

            My point, which I think I made previously, is that Sandy is not an CAGW artifact, at least according to the climatologist’s computer models I referenced. And, a storm surge damage photo supporting concerns about permanent higher seas is dishonest.

            • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/23/2014 - 11:05 am.

              Concerns about permanent higher seas

              Do you think sea levels might start going back down?

              The article actually doesn’t say anything about more hurricanes hitting the east coast. Sea levels are rising because of melting land ice, and thermal expansion of the oceans, which don’t show any signs of slowing down or reversing. Hurricanes cause storm surges and waves that are essentially stacked up on the baseline sea level (and tides), and so permanently higher sea levels can cause (and are causing) more coastal storm damage, which was the point of this article.

              • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/23/2014 - 12:00 pm.


                “The article actually doesn’t say anything about more hurricanes hitting the east coast.” Thank you for bolstering my point. The article talks about rising seas, but offers a photograph of east coast hurricane damage.

                Global warming began as Earth started warming up from the Pleistocene Ice Age, a time when the lands on which we live were buried beneath thick sheets of glacial ice. In my opinion, we are living in better, more hospitable times. I think we are fortunate to be living during an inter-glacial period. Given the choice between glacial and inter-glacial, I will go with inter-glacial every time.

                Seven or eight thousand years ago the land bridge that linked what we call Alaska to what we call Russia became flooded. What is the goal, once we humans seize control of the planet’s thermostat, a planet whose climate has always been in flux? Do we want to lower the seas and re-establish the land bridge that was flooded by the Bering Strait?

                • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/23/2014 - 02:54 pm.

                  Planet’s thermostat

                  So you agree that humans have control of global temperatures? You just think it’s a good thing that we’re warming up?

                  My point was that the photo is not “dishonest” at all. Let’s say a hurricane occurred 150 years ago and caused a 10 foot storm surge. That same storm today, with sea levels nearly 1 foot higher (and rising), would lead to water being 11 feet higher than residents along the coast planned for. In other words, rising sea levels are contributing to increases in damage (though of course not the only cause of damage).

                  Though this may not seem like much of an impact to you, it will cost billions of dollars nationwide to raise seawalls. Enjoy the heat, but it would be a lot cheaper to put on a sweater.

                  • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/23/2014 - 03:48 pm.

                    No, I don’t agree.

                    I think it is the apogee of human arrogance that we turned up the thermostat and now we have the ability to turn it down.

                    I would like an honest assessment of human contribution to climate change. We need to move beyond the 100% human cause hysteria. Can we have an open and honest discussion about this issue? Thus far, he answer is clearly NO.

                    Living in glacial times is not simply addressed by putting on a sweater; due to a far shorter growing season and much land covered with ice, there will not be enough to eat.

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/23/2014 - 04:34 pm.

                      There’s been plenty of discussion

                      but there’s only one faction that continues to deny what 97% of scientists have determined. Meanwhile, China continues to look beyond to a post- oil world, spending 350 billion a year on renewable energy infrastructure and improving solar panel technology. Climate change denial will go down in history as a desperate reaction of old dinosaurs that can’t face facts.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/23/2014 - 08:10 pm.

                      Here is your opportunity …

                      Here is your opportunity to answer the question rather than avoiding it yet again.

                      What is the human contribution to climate change?

                      What have these 97% of scientists concluded? Most of the smart talk I read seems to indicate it is 100% human causation. However, climatologists have data from glacial ice cores that indicate that long ago interglacial periods were as warm or warmer than presently. What was at play then and what is at play now? Try to answer the questions without invoking insulting characterizations.

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/24/2014 - 11:46 am.

                      What I know for absolute truth is that there were darn few humans in the last inter-glacial period–they lived a nomadic life searching out food wherever they could. A very adaptable model, in fact that adaptability ensured their survival.

                      However, there most certainly were not 7 billion people living in mostly urban areas depending on a highly developed and productive agriculture sector that ultimately depends on very specific environmental inputs (temperature, light, water and soil).

                      As for sea levels in that period:


                      …These data indicate that global (eustatic) sea level peaked 5.5 to 9 meters above present sea level, requiring smaller ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica relative to today and indicating strong sea-level sensitivity to small changes in radiative forcing….


                      (end quote)

                      5.9 to 9 meters–18 to 30 feet.

                      You may want to check out what that sea level means in terms of the current wold infrastructure.

                      The difference is the rapidity of the changes that are now being seen. It’s a blink of the eye compared to these glacial and inter-glacial periods of the past.

                      You certainly are not going to have a population of 7 billion living a nomadic life moving into a more viable environment, grubbing for nuts and berries (and grubs).

                      That’s where the concern lies.

                      It’s absolute foolishness to deny the trend and begin to prepare for that future.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/25/2014 - 05:47 pm.

                      No Acceleration

                      “The difference is the rapidity of the changes that are now being seen.” I am hearing that a lot, but never with a source, and never a quantification of rapidity. Chicken Little once claimed that the sky was falling, but again no source to back his claim.

                      Seas rising 7” per century, no acceleration; check out this link to CO2 Science:


                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/26/2014 - 08:18 pm.

                      First, it is somewhat foolish to say that the rate measured this year will be the same rate for the next 10 or 100 years.

                      Second, sea rise is the slowest and most predictable element of climate change.

                      By the time the sea rises enough to affect major cities, the other, more unpredictable, effects will have made it clear that the world has changed for the worse.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/27/2014 - 08:00 am.


                      According to whom?

                      From the CO2Science link I quoted above:

                      What was learned?
                      Quoting the five researchers, “the new reconstruction suggests a linear trend of 1.9 ± 0.3 mm/yr during the 20th century” and “1.8 ± 0.5 mm/yr for the period 1970-2008.”

                      What it means?
                      Although some regions have recently experienced much greater rates of sea level rise, such as the Arctic (3.6 mm/yr) and Antarctic (4.1 mm/yr), with the mid-1980s even exhibiting a rate of 5.3 mm/yr (Holgate, 2007), this newest analysis of the most comprehensive data set available suggests that there has been no dramatic increase – or any increase, for that matter – in the mean rate of global sea level rise due to the historical increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration.

                    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/23/2014 - 08:05 pm.

                      Human arrogance

                      “CAGW” as you have now helpfully defined it so I understand what you mean, is not a simple “yes/no” or “either/or” issue. It is a complex of issues. We humans have no shortage of arrogance in plenty of categories and I’m completely in agreement with you that arrogance of any one person or group of people should not drive policy or debate about “CAGW” or any other issue for that matter. And I can agree that we do need to move beyond any hysteria and have an open and honest debate about the issue.

                      But I wonder: why do you see “climate change” as one issue which depends entirely on answering the question whether humankind 100% responsible for it?

                      Consider the issue in terms of “marginal cost.”

                      Suppose that humankind’s contribution to “climate change” is not 100% but perhaps only 2%, enough to throw the “balance of nature” sufficiently out of kilter as to result in catastrophic results. Suppose further that by avoiding certain behaviors, individual and collective, the 2% marginal contribution can be mitigated or avoided so that the “tipping point” that leads to catastrophe is never attained and is avoided. Is it worth it for humankind to agree collectively to adopt such collective measures that will prevent such an occurrence?

                      If not, I’d like to hear why not. Humankind has already taken such collective measures on a global basis to prevent depletion of the ozone layer and to avoid acid rain. Why does the right consider “climate change” less worthy of collective attention or action? Why is considering such collective action considered “human arrogance” despite the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion?

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/24/2014 - 12:53 pm.

                      Marginal Cost

                      Your question, “Is it worth it for humankind to agree collectively to adopt such collective measures that will prevent such an occurrence?

                      Though unlikely, if we humans were clearly kicking in 2%, and that was a game changer, I would be in favor of taking steps to avoid the tipping point.

                      Let’s consider what that would look like, I mean humankind collectively agreeing to do something. Over the course of human history, we having been continuously warring with and enslaving one another. Yet, somehow, we are all in on this plan. People don’t walk the streets of Shanghai without wearing masks to filter their incoming air, but somehow China will stop doing what they do when we all come together to save the planet?

                      The 97% number is in decline, though oft still parroted. It didn’t receive much vetting, but that is changing. An excerpt from the link below:


                      “In a May 22 follow-up article (“Climate ‘Consensus’ Con Game: Desperate Effort Before Release of UN Report”) The New American reported on additional problems with the Cook study and cited a large and growing list of eminent climate scientists — including Nobel Prize recipients and scientists who served on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — who challenge the claim that there is any “scientific consensus” on climate change, or that “the science is settled” in favor of the Al Gore alarmist position.”

                      It remains unclear to me what the 97% have agreed upon.

                    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/25/2014 - 07:31 pm.

                      Unclear of what’s agreed upon

                      I cited a couple above which you chose to ignore: international conventions on banning chemicals that would deplete the ozone layer and acid rain. There are others of course, many having to do with limiting use of certain weapons in wars, which are remembered today primarily for their violation, like the use of chemical and biological weapons.

                      The issue of climate change, which I gather you do not deny, could have been addressed in 1998 by the Kyoto Convention but the USA refused to become a signatory to that convention. Had the USA signed that convention, we would be closer today to limiting overall carbon dioxide emissions to the 350 pm level, the level which has been determined as the point to maintain stasis. We passed that “tipping point” a few years ago and it’s unclear if things can be be reversed if we were to return emissions to that level.

                      The USA happens to be a leader so that if the USA does NOT sign onto an international convention, other major actors will also refuse. Or if the USA does, there is more international support and pressure for that to happen. The USA does continue to exert a tremendous moral force in the world by its example and leadership. Or lack thereof. My observation is that the right is perpetually in 1914, denying that the USA has long abandoned George Washington’s policy of “no foreign entanglements” except when it suits its purpose of demanding federal intervention to protect the financial and economic interests of the 1% abroad.

                    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/25/2014 - 09:01 pm.

                      97 percent

                      The correct quote is “97% of climate scientists actively publishing in peer-reviewed literature,” which can be quite different than “97% of scientists.” The 97% is based on a review of peer-reviewed papers taking a position on the cause of climate change, and of course not all papers on climate change would necessarily take a position because attributing causality may have been outside the scope of their study. Given the politicization of climate change (and the proliferation of armchair climate scientists), I would fully expect that something less than 97% of “all scientists” (including geologists, biologists, chemists, physicists, etc.) agree that human activity is the cause of the changing climate we are observing. So it’s not clear what the author of the New American article is really reporting on — lots of wiggle room to come up with any statistic he wants to.

                      Yes, of course getting industrialized and developing countries to take collective action will be a huge accomplishment, but like any 12-step program, overcoming denial is the first step.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/26/2014 - 09:05 am.

                      My question remains, what is it that 97% have agreed upon?

                      Ben provided unneeded identification of the 97%, they are climate scientists. Regarding what they are saying, he made no comment.

                      Jon Erik indicates that they agree on chemicals, warfare weapons, and the ozone layer.

                      I don’t accept “we are the cause” as a conclusion of the 97%, unless of course, “we are the cause” of every other interglacial period.

                    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/27/2014 - 09:08 pm.

                      What have 97% agreed upon?

                      The 97% of climate scientists are saying global warming is happening and it is human-caused:


                      It is happening much faster than glaciation cycles, so that is what we should be concerned about.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 07:35 am.

                      Thanks for the link

                      From your climatesciencewatch link, “The surveys do not attempt the task of gauging exactly how dangerous scientists believe warming to be. This would be difficult …”

                      That is some hard hitting science, that everyone can get behind.

                      Yet again, you cannot answer the question I posed.

                      What is the human contribution? That seems like a question that needs to be addressed. What is the contribution of the nearly 300 million cattle in India alone? Annually, they produce about 12 million metric tons of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 20 times more atmospheric heat than CO2. Not to worry about India’s cattle nor their elephants, according to 97% of climate scientists, it is human caused.

                      Here is an interesting link from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about warming following other glacial periods. Note where the CO2 comes from.



                      Why do glacial periods end abruptly?
                      Notice the asymmetric shape of the Dome Fuji temperature record, with abrupt warmings shown in yellow preceding more gradual coolings (Figure 3). Warming at the end of glacial periods tends to happen more abruptly than the increase in solar insolation. There are several positive feedbacks that are responsible for this. One is the ice-albedo feedback. A second feedback involves atmospheric CO2. Direct measurement of past CO2 trapped in ice core bubbles show that the amount of atmospheric CO2 decreased during glacial periods (Figure 3), in part because more CO2 was stored in the deep ocean due to changes in either ocean mixing or biological activity. Lower CO2 levels weakened the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect and helped to maintain low temperatures. Warming at the end of the glacial periods liberated CO2 from the ocean, which strengthened the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect and contributed to further warming.

                    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/28/2014 - 09:05 am.

                      Answers to your questions are readily available

                      You keep saying that I have not answered your question, but again, the answer is that ALL of the warming in the past century has been caused by humans. We are already in an interglacial period, not the abrupt end to one (which seems to be what you are implying). It’s also alarming that over the glacial cycles of the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels have varied between 200 and 300 ppm, but now we are at 400 ppm and rising.


                      And cattle grazing is also a human activity, and the contribution to global warming is significant, but small compared to burning fossil fuels, in case you are trying to get oil companies off the hook by mentioning all those cattle in India. And furthermore, methane release from cattle is not beyond our control, since wastes can be collected and used to produce biogas as an alternative fuel.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 12:03 pm.


                      Really? If not for man, this planet whose climate has always been in flux, would be in a steady state? I have never before encountered anyone else who believes that.

                      According to the Utah Geological Survey, the Earth has experienced at least five ice ages and inter-glacial (warm) periods in between. We are still living in an ice age.


                      P.S.: I am interested to learn your proposal for capturing cattle flatulence.

                    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/28/2014 - 12:54 pm.

                      Warm interglacial

                      97% of climate scientists believe that virtually all of the warming since 1950 is due to human activity; it cannot be explained by natural causes as you suggest (see the link I posted, again). Yes, the world’s climate has changed remarkably over millions of years, but rapid changes did not come without mass extinctions. For instance, it was a lot warmer when dinosaurs roamed, but where are they now? Are you proposing we just sit back and wait thousands, or maybe tens of thousands of years hoping for the next glacial period, so that will solve our global warming problem? Our society needs to start discussing how to mitigate and adapt to rapid changes very soon, like in the next few years.

                      P.S. Biogas can be produced from manure, and believe it or not, cow backpacks to capture emissions are being developed.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 08:58 pm.

                      Virtually All?

                      From your climatesciencewatch link:

                      “The surveys do not attempt the task of gauging exactly how dangerous scientists believe warming to be. This would be difficult …”

                      This passes for “virtually all”? And for you, all caps “ALL”.

                      My work is done here.

                      P.S.: Cow backpacks is an experiment, not a solution.

                    • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 05/29/2014 - 03:25 pm.

                      Nice Strawman.

                      “The surveys do not attempt the task of gauging exactly how dangerous scientists believe warming to be. This would be difficult …”

                      That quote does not attempt to answer how much of the warming is being caused by humans. I’m not sure why you’re not understanding that. Perhaps it’s intentional?

                      This quote is describing the uncertainty of the variable outcomes of warming. You’ll notice that they’re not questioning whether the warming is happening, only how dangerous it will be.

                      It’s a different question altogether.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/29/2014 - 03:48 pm.

                      How much straw?

                      What is the human contribution to warming? In the comments, we have on all caps “ALL” and we have an ambiguous “virtually all”. Now there is you, who doesn’t like the question.

                      You are late to the conversation, but that is what it is about. What is it that 97% of climate scientists agree on? Real question, not a nice strawman.

                    • Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/29/2014 - 04:39 pm.


                      Steve, since you’re so skeptical of all the information provided here, why don’t you spend some time carefully reading the links I’ve posted (not just cherry picking a sentence here and there). Others have commented on the quality of the sources you keep referring to. Are you really curious, and think commenters to the MinnPost are the world’s authorities on climate change? Or do you have a political agenda for being here and running up the comment list?

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/29/2014 - 05:46 pm.

                      I don’t presume to …

                      I don’t presume to know what you have read.

                      Really, the only reason I don’t agree with your position is that I have not read what you have read?

                      Diversity, it is really not such a bad thing.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/22/2014 - 06:15 pm.

    Why don’t we ever hear

    the promise of New Orleans slipping underwater and being gone forever? Because I can’t wait for that to happen. Then maybe they’ll stop whining about not getting their 11th Superbowl.

  6. Submitted by Rolf Westgard on 05/23/2014 - 04:52 am.

    Rising seas reality

    Sea level rise was rapid as the Wisconsin Glacier(last one) melted. The rise has now slowed to about one inch per decade.
    A problem for some low lying areas, but not the catastrophe the article suggests. Warren Buffett, CEO of some big casualty insurance outfits, notes that their rates are stable because there is no increase in unusual weather events. Hurricanes were pure profit in the past decade with no Force 3 or stronger hitting the US. Most of Force 1 Sandy’s losses were on flood plains that they don’t insure.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/23/2014 - 08:22 am.

      Buffet was “talking his book”. Hurricane-related losses have been low due to low number of hurricanes.


      Do you know why there have been fewer than average hurricanes striking the area his insurance companies cover?


      Do you think that the truth of climate change relies on the number of hurricanes striking the US–the more, the truer?

      That’s some special reasoning you have there.

  7. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/23/2014 - 07:07 am.

    perfect timing, ,,,

    IN the opinion section of the Duluth News Tribune this morning is a response to a yet another goofy letter from a fossil fuel retiree-

    Now that’s entertainment.
    But maybe the serious discussion ought to be with Minnpost editors and NewsTribune types to take on a policy of editorial control. Knowingly printing op-eds or letters that obviously contain misleading or wrong information ought to violate some sort of journalistic ethic.
    At least the LA Times thinks so –
    As the Times editor puts it –
    “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published,” said Thornton. “Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

    • Submitted by Jim Halonen on 05/23/2014 - 01:33 pm.

      Only one opinion

      What if we shut off discussion on what diet we should be following? It turns out that fats, including saturated fats are absolutely essential to good health. Who would have thought that ten years ago?

  8. Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/23/2014 - 07:27 am.


    Sandy’s cost to the US was $68 Billion in cheap. Those are some very expensive flood plains.

    • Submitted by Rolf Westgard on 05/25/2014 - 04:40 am.

      Flood plain damage not cheap

      That’s why Buffett only insures them through the government funded flood insurance program. Again sea level rise has slowed to one inch per decade.

  9. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/23/2014 - 08:44 am.

    The silly thing is that no-one really knows how fast a rise will occur because we have never experienced as rapid a set of changes as is happening now. The only events of comparable rapidity are the changes that occurred after a large meteorite strike. That’s the territory of the type of event we are moving into now.

    My suspicions, based on extensive reading, is that the changes will happen far faster than most believers in climate change would expect.

    However, there is a complexity to the natural system in which there are factors yet to be considered that will affect where and how the effects of climate change will be felt.

    There will come tipping points–perhaps we are in the middle of a tipping right now. Extremely high temperatures are occurring in the arctic regions, releasing various forms of trapped methane which will force much faster and larger changes than have yet to be accounted the the various main-line climate change reports.

    Hang on for the ride–if you can.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/27/2014 - 12:12 pm.

      Already happening

      “My suspicions, based on extensive reading, is that the changes will happen far faster than most believers in climate change would expect.”

      Neal, that’s already happening.

      Ya know, we’ve had 40 years of warnings about this. The lesson of climate change for future generations is that an educated and supposedly intelligent population such as ours could behave so stupidly. Here we had a chance to recognize and forestall a worldwide crises, the evidence was clear, the scientific consensus solid, and instead we listened to Rush Limbaugh.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/27/2014 - 03:08 pm.

        Suspicions and un-sourced claims abound

        Seas rising 7” per century, no acceleration; check out this link to CO2 Science:

        Excerpt: Quoting the five researchers, “the new reconstruction suggests a linear trend of 1.9 ± 0.3 mm/yr during the 20th century” and “1.8 ± 0.5 mm/yr for the period 1970-2008.”

        A linear trend doesn’t support “faster than most believers in climate change would expect.”

  10. Submitted by Sheila Bayle on 05/27/2014 - 04:17 pm.


    Mr. Rose likes to refer folks to CO2 Science. I visited the website in order to understand the qualifications of those making claims that seem to run contrary to those from climate scientists that I am more familiar with, namely the 80,000 or so scientists from 80 countries around the world that contributed to the International Panel on Climate Change’s original papers. Turns out that Co2 Science is a family business or at least that is how it appears. The chair of the board is Craig Idso, the President of the board is Sherwood Idso, the VP is Keith Idso. All three have Ph.D’s, by the way; Sherwood’s degrees are in physics from the U of MN. But there are no other people on the board, no other staff, the organization is a 501(c) 3, meaning that it is organized for charitable purposes, and the latest tax return available from 2010 indicates that the income was around $38000. Oh, and the organization is based in Gilbert, Arizona. My point is that why is it that three family members with an opinion and the resources to organize their own tiny nonprofit in the middle of the desert Southwest seem so credible to Mr. Rose, when the resources of so many governments, scientists, and university personnel involved in the IPCC do not have any credibility for him? How is it that the Idso’s have any credibility at all when they obviously have no one else reviewing the materials they publish before they are posted on their website? Political axe to grind they have. Credibility? No. Trained scientists they may be but if they are posting materials that have not been rigorously peer-reviewed, quoting them is quoting an opinion, not a fact.

    Climate change is real, already happening, and, for those of us who read widely, and understand the scientific process, utterly terrifying. If you are going to quote science, please find a source that is actually peer-reviewed, rigorously argued, fact-reviewed, science WITHOUT the politics. That way, your arguments might add to the discussion about what is happening and how we can protect the commons we all depend on.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/27/2014 - 05:48 pm.

      Really, a family business?

      What is the Union of Concerned Scientists? A lobbying group.

      They are a lobbying group concerned with outlawing GMO food, though there is a broad concensus that GMOs pose no health risks. Consensus, there is that word again. They also concern themselves with the promotion of organic and sustainable farming practices. It is high yield and efficient farming that keeps millions from starving. It this sounds like an ad hominem argument, I would have to agree with that appraisal.

      What is wrong with CO2Science? They are “in the middle of the desert Southwest”. That is a pointed indictment. By the way, that part of the country was once home to large Ponderosa pine forests. What caused that dramatic change?

      Attack the message, not the messenger, and there will be something to discuss, Ms. Bayle.

  11. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/27/2014 - 08:45 pm.

    What about the messenger’s qualifications?

    I see the Idso family was in the thick of the climate change debate back in the 1990s, but climate science has come a long way since then. Besides a few peer-reviewed articles on how CO2 promotes plant growth (which is pretty obvious, and doesn’t tell the whole story when droughts, insect infestations, and invasive species also stem from climate change), can you point to peer-reviewed climate science articles by these guys in the last 5 years?

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/27/2014 - 09:24 pm.

      What part of last week …

      … did not occur in the past five years?

      Here is a reference to the same study, archived 20 May 2014:

      Here is the reference, also clearly stated in paragraph 1 of this link:

      Jevrejeva, S., Moore, J.C., Grinsted, A., Matthews, A.P. and Spada, G. 2014. Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807. Global and Planetary Change 113: 11-22.”

      Really, “climate science has come a long way since then”? It was in the 1990s that the term “settled science” became popular. Anyone skeptical was scolded as a denier and told that the debate was over. There is nothing new to learn.

  12. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/28/2014 - 08:01 am.

    Yep, no peer-reviewed papers

    You failed to produce a single peer-reviewed paper by these guys in the last 5 years. Quoting a non-peer-reviewed report that cites peer-reviewed papers does not count. The paper you cite finds sea levels were falling until the mid-1800s, but then started rising when human activity (land clearing and the industrial revolution) started to change the GHG balance and affect ice melt. I’m not “scolding” anyone — I just want to understand where you get your information.

  13. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 08:33 am.

    Nope, the reference is right above your comment

    Since you and Ms.Bayle didn’t like CO2Science, I linked another article that referenced the same peer reviewed research. So, you can forget about “these guys”. Here it is again, for your convenience:

    Jevrejeva, S., Moore, J.C., Grinsted, A., Matthews, A.P. and Spada, G. 2014. Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807. Global and Planetary Change 113: 11-22.”

    Sea level rising and sea level rise accelerating are not the same. We know the sea level has been rising, as the land bridge that once connected Asia to North America is now known as the Bering Strait.

    Look at my posting above from earlier today if you care to know from where the rising atmospheric CO2 originates.

  14. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/28/2014 - 09:07 am.

    OK, and see my response above…

    …regarding where the CO2 originates. Also, the paper you cite indicates sea level rise is already accelerating.

  15. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 11:54 am.

    Where the CO2 …

    … originates? You provided no source, just the same shop-worn talking point, “started to change the GHG balance”.

    Yes, if you cherry pick, you can find parts of the globe that are experiencing a positive rate of change, but not the global mean rate.

    “this newest analysis of the most comprehensive data set available suggests that there has been no dramatic increase – or any increase, for that matter – in the mean rate of global sea level rise due to the historical increase in the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration.”

  16. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/28/2014 - 12:49 pm.

    Global warming denial is a house of cards…


    This is a guest post by James Lawrence Powell.

    I have brought my previous study (see here and here) up-to-date by reviewing peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals over the period from Nov. 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013. I found 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. (Download the chart above here.) Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. I discuss that article here.

    My previous study, of the peer-reviewed literature from 1991 through Nov. 12, 2012, found 13,950 articles on “global warming” or “global climate change.” Of those, I judged that only 24 explicitly rejected the theory of man-made global warming. The methodology and details for the original and the new study are described here.

    Anyone can repeat as much of the new study as they wish–all of it if they like. Download an Excel database of the 2,258 articles here. It includes the title, document number, and Web of Science accession number. Scan the titles to identify articles that might reject man-made global warming. Then use the DOI or WoS accession number to find and read the abstracts of those articles, and where necessary, the entire article. If you find any candidates that I missed, please email me here.

    The scientific literature since 1991 contains a mountain of evidence confirming man-made global warming as true and no convincing evidence that it is false. Global warming denial is a house of cards.

    (end quote)

    Mr. Rose, in 10 years time, will be standing by the broken cookie jar.

    His kids will ask him, “How did it get broken?”

    He’ll look down, shuffle his feet, twiddle his fingers, and say, “I dunno. It just fell.”

  17. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/28/2014 - 01:10 pm.

    More wasted brain cells, energy, and web space

    It would be instructive for some, entertainment for others, to go back and click on Mr. Rose’ links. Pay attention to the language, advertisers, and overall hysteria captured in the content. For the MinnPost that allows the publicity for such trash— shame on you. The good work of your environment reporters is sullied by your insistence in providing play time for the sad efforts of this minor league effort to contradict real science.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 01:26 pm.


      Mr. Karas:

      For us all, link an example of your claim regarding my language, advertisers, and overall hysteria.

  18. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/28/2014 - 01:21 pm.

    Extrapolate to Infinity & Beyond!

    Mr. Rovick is very sensitive to small fractions of a degree in temperature. According to the latest IPCC report, the Earth is presently warming at a rate of 0.2C per ten years.

    That might break your cookie jar, but mine will be just fine, thank you.–computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html

    “World’s top climate scientists confess: Global warming is just QUARTER what we thought – and computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong; Leaked report reveals the world has warmed at quarter the rate claimed by IPCC in 2007
    Scientists accept their computers may have exaggerated”

  19. Submitted by jason myron on 05/28/2014 - 03:13 pm.

    Wow…the desperation is thick

    First you link to the New American, funded by the John Birch society, then you fall further down the rung trying to pass off CO2 Science as a legitimate source. But for the trifecta, you reach to the tabloid Daily Mail. Was this article squeezed between Kardashian’s wedding photos and how to achieve Hugh Jackman’s rockin’ abs? By the way, in answer to your cow flatulence question, those cows aren’t raising themselves, therefore their methane is still produced by man….much like Congress.

  20. Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/28/2014 - 05:58 pm.

    Hey Steve

    What happened to that ice shelf in Antarctica?

  21. Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/29/2014 - 07:55 am.

    The latest IPCC Six Year Assessment, formerly considered the gospel of climate politicians and scientists alike, is under attack right here on MinnPost.

    According to the IPCC, from my latest link above, the 1990-2005 rate of warming of 0.2C/decade was expected to continue. However, the latest IPCC Six Year Assessment reports that in the most recent 15 years (up to 2012), the warming was just 0.05 degrees per decade. None of the computer models saw that coming. So hard to spin that news as acceleration.

    “The desperation is thick”, indeed. Ad hominem attacks are the hallmark of the desperate. Continue to attack me or the media outlets that report the IPCC findings, anything to distract from the inconvenient truth.

    P.S.: Did someone steal the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica? It will be difficult to hide, as it is several hundred meters thick

  22. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/29/2014 - 08:20 am.

    Really piling it on now…

    This is the old “going down the up escalator” trick. Keep trying.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/29/2014 - 08:54 am.

      Fall Down the Escalator?

      AKA “the data that cannot be spun to support our agenda is not important”. Even though we spend millions of dollars to track it and construct and run computer models to predict it, it is unimportant because the computer models turn out to be wrong.

      If mean global temperature change was an important component, call-to-action of the IPCC 2007 Assessment, why is it being so downplayed following the release of IPCC’s Fifth Assessment?

      Start trying.

  23. Submitted by Ben Munroe on 05/29/2014 - 01:49 pm.

    What global computer models do…

    These models predict long term trends (multiple decades), not short periods of time. We have seen periods of apparent “stabilization” in the past century, only to be followed by more temperature rises (see last comment). Although air temperatures have not risen much in the last 15 years, oceans have continued to warm (and acidify, and the deep ocean warm more than the surface), and ice has continued to melt.

    It takes 4 times the energy to warm a gram of water by 1 deg C than it does a gram of air (at standard conditions) by 1 deg C, and 320 times the energy to melt a gram of ice than to warm a gram of air by 1 C. So the earth is continuing to accumulate heat, and it cannot be explained by natural causes.

    The IPCC’s 5th Assessment focused on mitigation alternatives. It’s intent was not to analyze recent climate variability.

    Lots of things cause climate variability on decadal scales, including volcanic eruptions and atmosphere-ocean oscillations. If the recent warming isn’t enough to worry you, just wait until the next El Nino event. There may be one coming this year.

  24. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/29/2014 - 04:34 pm.

    save your breath, and your energy

    Once again, why, oh why, does this discussion spiral like this? Its by design. Its a business plan. And the good folks here are falling right in line with the likes of Mr Rose as he exists in many forms in many publications across the country.
    Don’t take my word for it. Google “trolls paid to comment on climate change”
    But the science is still the science, rest assured.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/30/2014 - 10:24 am.

      Why not link and quote, why the google search?

      I found out; the top google links from this search don’t support your statement about paid commenters. Trust him when he says “don’t take my word for it.”

      One notable exception is the Chinese government. Allegedly, they pay 5 mao (1/2 Yuan) per comment; that is 8 cents American! But, they are not paying for comments about climate change. I need to brush up on my Mandarin.

      Stuff this good, you cannot fabricate. Read it right here on MinnPost.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 05/30/2014 - 01:36 pm.

        Then maybe you should have someone google it for you

        because I just did and have at least ten pages on it. History has shown that disinformation has always been an effective weapon. You don’t have to look any further than the GOP’s disinformation campaign on the ACA to grasp that. Their war on science is yet another bolt in their quiver….they really have nothing else.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/30/2014 - 01:59 pm.

          Yet, you cannot link and quote either?

          I think I detect a pattern.

          Who is paying, who is being paid, and how much? Having read at least ten pages, surely you can answer these basic questions.

          Are we holding our climate change opinions, or rather opinions adopted from others, in high regard? Surely, no one would disagree unless they were paid to do so.

          So there is this vast conspiracy funded by Big Oil, who won’t know what to do with all that oil and those wells, once the truth comes to fore. I would be surprised if Oliver Stone were not already at work on the film.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 05/30/2014 - 03:05 pm.

            The only pattern you’re detecting

            is your own obfuscation. Look it up yourself!! I did…

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/30/2014 - 03:15 pm.

              Quote a source

              Without a source, you have said nothing of value. You are backing another commenter’s baseless claim that people are being paid to comment against the majority position on climate change.

              As we have learned from today’s exchange, it just isn’t so.

  25. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/29/2014 - 04:48 pm.

    Reddit bans climate denying trolls

    “”While evolution and vaccines do have their detractors, no topic consistently evokes such rude, uninformed, and outspoken opinions as climate change. Instead of the reasoned and civil conversations that arise in most threads, when it came to climate change the comment sections became a battleground.””

    Go away, just go away, so the rest of us can get down to work.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 05/29/2014 - 05:39 pm.

      For a fine example, look directly above.

      “no topic consistently evokes such rude, uninformed, and outspoken opinions as climate change.”

      Go away, really? The MinnPost comment board should be a lot of preaching to the choir? That would be an informed discussion.

      I am a MinnPost columnist; MinnPost has published one or more columns of mine each year for the past five. Your contribution seems limited to referring to the contributions of other as “trash”, as well as other rude and trollish behavior. For this, are you being paid?

  26. Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/29/2014 - 06:42 pm.


    I know there are paid trolls for the climate deniers and they will stick to a script of sorts. Some over the top, maybe most.

    I’m not sure at all if anything will be done to curb human causes, mainly because of the corporate money involved in the denying process.

    I wonder if they pay people not to comment on (pro) climate change?

    Anyway, a 4 degree drop in mean temperature brought on the little ice age roughly between 1300 to the early 1800’s. Some argue about the exact dates, but it was right after the Medieval Climate Optimum. A lot of famine and disease reduced the population of earth during the LIA. It’s been warming ever since and we’ve surpassed the Optimum in warmth in the 20th century.

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