The collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf has prompted the Australian to launch yet another attack on scientists — it seems they are “tabloid media ambulance-chasing” and the ice shelf collapse was entirely natural.
every natural phenomenon, such as the ice shelf split this week, is interpreted as a disaster and all who do not agree are denounced as an enemy of the planet. And so it is easier for people in public life to acquiesce rather than address the evidence – as Mr Garrett’s Lateline performance proves. The result is the intellectual equivalent of tabloid media ambulance-chasing. We are at the disgraceful state where some scientists do not seem keen to let all the evidence get in the way of a good story, especially if there is a supposedly scary photograph proving the end is near.
So what evidence does the Australian offer that the collapse was a natural phenomenon? Just this:
There is no denying part of the Wilkins ice shelf has separated from Antarctica and will sooner or later melt, as icebergs always do. But this does not prove anything other than part of an enormous iceshelf, one among many, has fractured along a fault line. This is neither unique nor in itself alarming, and to argue otherwise assumes Antarctica started to change only when humanity began generating coal-fired electricity and driving petroleum-powered cars. While there is a strong case that the world is warming, the extent to which humans are responsible is not clear. Nor is it obvious what the process means for people. Global warming may mean the oceans rise by 6m in 90 years but there are equally credible claims the rise may be much more modest. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that polar melts may increase sea levels by a 10th of this new number by 2100. And while an ice shelf has separated from the coast of Antarctica, according to the IPCC increased precipitation will actually lead to a thickening of the Antarctic ice sheet.
But ice shelves are just the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet. The IPCC is not saying that ice shelves will get thicker, but rather that ice shelf collapse could result in Antarctica losing mass:
Current global model studies project that the Antarctic
Ice Sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface
melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased
snowfall. However, net loss of ice mass could occur if
dynamical ice discharge dominates the ice sheet mass
They don’t say anything specifically about Wilkins, but when the breakup started, the scientists at the British Antarctic Survey did:
Professor Vaughan, who in 1993 predicted that the northern part of Wilkins Ice Shelf was likely to be lost within 30 years if climate warming on the Peninsula were to continue at the same rate, says,
“Wilkins is the largest ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula yet to be threatened. I didn’t expect to see things happen this quickly. The ice shelf is hanging by a thread – we’ll know in the next few days or weeks what its fate will be. …
“Climate warming in the Antarctic Peninsula has pushed the limit of viability for ice shelves further south – setting some of them that used to be stable on a course of retreat and eventual loss. The Wilkins breakout won’t have any effect on sea-level because it is floating already, but it is another indication of the impact that climate change is having on the region.”
And from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:
The Wilkins is following a pattern of instability and rapid collapse that many Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves have experienced in recent years. Scientists think that the dramatic loss of these ice shelves, which have existed for hundreds to thousands of years, is an important sign of climate change in the Southern Hemisphere.
Mind you, there is the alternative theory advanced by Jennifer Marohasy undersea volcanic activity. Marohasy helpfully links to a map showing that there are volcanoes within 2000 km of Wilkins.
Anyway, back to the Australian‘s editorial:
While serious scientists are obliged to report what their research shows, whoever it offends, claims of climate change have become a racket. Last year, the Government of the Maldives warned that rising sea levels would swamp the country and the entire population needed a new home. The global-warming faithful immediately announced it was all the fault of rich countries, which had to help. The stunt was spoiled by Swedish scientists, who had the data to demonstrate that the sea level around the Maldives was the same now as 4000 years ago and showed no signs of change. Certainly the Maldives have a problem but a major cause is much more mundane – mining coral for building material has removed reefs that provide a barrier against the ocean.
This is just repeating bogus claims from a column published in the Australian. The “Swedish scientist”, far from being a serious scientist is a dowser and his claims about the Maldives have been refuted by subsequent research. Serious scientists analysed satellite data and tide gauges and found large rates of sea-level rise in the Maldives.
This information isn’t exactly a secret, but you’ll never see it in an editorial in the Australian. That’s because the writers there are not going to let evidence get in the way of their AGW denial.