Stop me if you’ve heard this beforeThe Australian has published a story with a picture of a bloke standing on a beach to prove that sea levels aren’t rising. Mitchell Nadin tells us:

At 73, former CSIRO engineer Denis Whitnall has seen many things — but rising sea levels isn’t one of them.

Looking out over the Pacific Ocean from the back of his waterfront property at Avoca, on the NSW central coast, Mr Whitnall shakes his head as he talks about a grim report commissioned by his local council in 1995 that predicted some houses along the beachfront, including his own, would be subject to flood risk. “The council had a town meeting and told everyone properties along the waterfront were going to be under threat,” Mr Whitnall said. “Everyone was aghast. Twenty feet (6m) of water is supposed to be covering my land (by 2015).”

Wow! That sounds serious. Let’s hope Nadin checks to see if the report really did say that. His story continues:


Hazard lines included in Gosford City Council’s 1995 coastal management plan, obtained by The Australian, forecast a threat of flood for some waterfront homes by 2015, due to a combination of shoreline movement from a rise in the sea level and major storm events.

But did it predict that Whitnall’s house would 6m underwater?

“The Avoca beach unit as a whole has been assessed as losing sand in the long term. This, together with sea level rise, will lead to shoreline retreat over time. Thus, the extent of severe storm erosion will move landward progressively over time,” the 1995 report says. However, 16 years after the release of the council’s warning, the shoreline remains about 100m from Mr Whitnall’s back door, where it was when his family acquired the property in 1951.

So Nadin implies that Gosford’s 1995 Coastal Management Plan predicted Whitnall’s home would be flooded. But look at what the very next sentence says:

The projected rates of retreat and erosion are summarised in Table 3.1.

And here’s Table 3.1:

i-e50fb4d44e0a1726461bbaffbb341658-gosford1995cmpfig3.1.png

So it predicted a 8 metre retreat in 20 years, or about 6m in 16 years. Which would mean that the shoreline would move from being about 100m from Whitnall’s house to … being about 100m from Whitnall’s house. The plan did not predict that Whitnall’s house would be under 6m of water by 2015. Even the projection of a 20m retreat by 2045 would leave the shoreline a long way from Whitnall’s place.

It is hard to believe that Nadin did not read the sentence following the one he quoted and that he was unaware that the Whitnall’s claim about what the report said was entirely false.

Nadin’s story continues:

Mr Whitnall said while the 1995 report had been discredited, Gosford was among 55 coastal NSW councils “at it again” by using “flawed” data to warn of possible floods. “The data council is using from the 2007 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has been shrouded in controversy since its release,” he said.

This being a news story in The Australian comment from scientific experts on sea level changes is nowhere to be found.

Mitchell Nadin, I should note, has form when it comes to misrepresenting the science.

Update Nadin responds with:

I never said his land would be 6m underwater you fool.

and:

the 1995 report it says with a major storm event, a portion of his land could be covered due to erosion and sea level rises.

and:

and I have to say deltoid, you should probably clarify things like this with the author before smearing his name.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave X
    October 18, 2011

    Heh. So he could interpolate 8m to 6m, but not tell the difference between up and sideways. Sounds like a 1st year undergraduate engineering error.

  2. #2 _Arthur
    October 18, 2011

    Beach erosion can be utterly removed from sea level.
    Beaches get eroded by waves, tides and currents, even with a constant sea level.

  3. #3 chek
    October 18, 2011

    Perhaps The Australian could be pressured into declaring that as sea levels aren’t rising, Rupert Murdoch will personally guarantee his organisation to insure beachside properties for the next 60 years, or at least refund the difference between today’s prices and rises in insurance costs over the period.

    ‘Putting your money where your mouth is’, is I’m sure a phrase every reader of The Australian would be familiar with and appreciate the sentiment of.

  4. #4 Acacia
    October 18, 2011

    And the Australian’s war against green energy is [here](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/wind-farms-to-need-new-budgetary-draft-of-30bn-by-2020/story-e6frg9df-1226169198986) and [here](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/greening-of-energy-supply-exacts-a-high-cost/story-fn558imw-1226170064642).

    Of course there may be some underlying truths in the article but it is the Australian after all.

  5. #6 Tom R
    October 18, 2011

    Acacia, from the editorial you linked to

    POLITICIANS know that, in theory at least, most people are kindly disposed towards renewable energy. That is why, for instance, the government calls its carbon tax plan a clean energy package.

    Perhaps it should have read this.

    media barons know that, in theory at least, most people are fearful of taxes. That is why, for instance, the media baron calls a clean energy package a carbon tax.

  6. #7 ginckgo
    October 18, 2011

    Is it just me or do engineers have the greatest difficulty to comprehend science among all ‘science & engineering’ professions?

  7. #8 SteveC
    October 18, 2011

    Limited News paywall? Bring it on…

  8. #9 David Irving (no relation)
    October 18, 2011

    It mostly seems to be retired engineers, ginckgo …

  9. #10 Joel C
    October 18, 2011

    Even better, The Australian online editorial team (along with News Ltd Digital’s editorial team) have decided this shall not be a story upon which comments can be made.

    Any chance of the details being cleared up in today’s Letters to the Editor section? I hold not my breath.

  10. #11 Joel C
    October 18, 2011

    Note also, Mr Bolt is regurgitating the story to his adoring masses too:
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/seen_too_much_to_scare_again

  11. #12 JamesH
    October 18, 2011

    Joel C, thanks for that image of Bolt as a mother bird regurgitating worms. I’m having difficulty holding down my breakfast now…

  12. #13 Nick
    October 18, 2011

    I still find myself surprised at the audacity of the lying that is passed off as journalism at News Ltd. That the over-opinionated idiot Bolt swallows it whole is entirely routine,however.Anyone for a subscription?

  13. #14 bill
    October 18, 2011

    The Australian – the Antipodean Journal of Epistemic Closure.

    “We’ll be havin’ none of yer fancypants book-learnin’ and smart-guy fact-checking in these parts! The Intertubes say it; I believe it; and that settles it…”

    What are we to do with all these people? They’ll never accept that they’re wrong, and they’d sooner see us all fry than try!

  14. #15 Bern
    October 19, 2011

    ginckgo: no, not all engineers, just the ones who don’t bother to understand the underlying science behind a topic before commenting…
    This particular engineer has no difficulty comprehending science.

  15. #16 Mikem
    October 19, 2011

    I agree we shouldn’t tar all engineers with the same brush. Like the rich tapestry of personalities within the general population, some bother to check and understand the facts, and some don’t.

    Even some genuine scientists who present themselves as planetary climate “experts” (Plimer, Spencer, Lindzen, etc) don’t bother to check facts. It’s not just engineers.

  16. #17 dj
    October 19, 2011

    If I ever leave my current employer, I look forward to pimping myself out as an expert on all manner of subjects unrelated to the expertise that I was employed for.

  17. #18 JamesA
    October 19, 2011

    I guess he could be right about one thing. The sea level rise projections from the 2007 IPCC report are possibly flawed; they’re probably too low. http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/ippc-sealevel-gate/

  18. #19 SteveC
    October 19, 2011

    One of the possible ironies in this is that Gosford City Council’s Coastal Management Plan (adopted 1995) specifically mentions landward regression due to storm surges, presumably much of which would come from east coast lows (depressions off the NSW coast that are not uncommon and which lead to heavy rain, strong onshire winds, heavy seas and – you guessed it – coastal erosion).

    Leaving aside for a minute the question of a climate change signature in the formation of east coast offshore depressions, should it come to pass that one such east coast low resulted in significant chunks of Avoca Beach and Mr Whitnall’s property going AWOL (or threatened to) he’d be the first on the blower to Council bitching that they’d failed to carry out their responsibility to ensure coastal processes occurring on Council managed land didn’t affect his property. Which story would doubtless feature prominently in the OO.

  19. #20 MostlyHarmless
    October 19, 2011

    “This being a news story in The Australian comment from scientific experts on sea level changes is nowhere to be found.”

    Try this – data from Bureau of Meteorology
    http://www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/tides/monthly/

    Plots of data from nearest stations (note the signs) –

    Newcastle ~75 km N of Avoca 1999-2010: -1.75 mm/year

    Sydney (Fort Denison) ~50 km S of Avoca 1999-2010: -0.02 mm/year

    Online graph Newcastle
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/837.php

    Online graph Sydney
    http://www.psmsl.org/data/obtaining/stations/196.php

  20. #21 Lionel A
    October 19, 2011

    Steve C

    Thank you for giving the full name of the place i.e. Avoca Beach.

    Being an engineer who does understand much of the science (and learning more as I go along especially using text books now listed at RealClimate) and checks facts I entered Avoca into Google Earth and was puzzled, not being a native of Australia and thus not knowing where Gosford County was, by being place in NSW but in land. Now thanks to you I can locate the place in question and use another Google Widget to investigate further.

  21. #22 John
    October 19, 2011

    Knowing Bolt he will be quick to make a correction of this obvious error.

    Just kidding.

  22. #23 Ol' Sancty
    October 19, 2011

    So how far has the water risen?

  23. #24 Reality check
    October 19, 2011

    “The council had a town meeting and told everyone properties along the waterfront were going to be under threat,” Mr Whitnall said. “Everyone was aghast. Twenty feet (6m) of water is supposed to be covering my land (by 2015).”

    Note carefully. This comment refers to a council’s townhall meeting; it does not refer to any coastal management report. Maybe your time would be better spent investigating what that townhall meeting said and whether it was an accurate reflection of the coastal management plan.

  24. #25 GSW
    October 19, 2011

    @Tim

    Is the ‘has form’ link correct? couldn’t find anything on the page relating to Nadin(?)

  25. #26 Tom R
    October 19, 2011

    Reality check
    it does not refer to any coastal management report

    Note carefully. What was said at the meeting is where this engineer comes to the conclusion (along with the writer) that the report is ‘discredited’.

    That is the basis for the articles remaining atttack on the report.

  26. #27 Harry Bremner
    October 22, 2011

    Don’t blame the fourth Estate for their rediculous figuring on sea level rises. Blame the Coucils neglecting to invite ‘proof’ do date. I wonder how many prime beachside residents sold out cheap to the ‘real Estate’ agencies. Media is governed by the Advertisers being offended.

  27. #28 Harry Bremner
    October 22, 2011

    Don’t blame the fourth Estate for their rediculous figuring on sea level rises. Blame the Coucils neglecting to invite ‘proof’ do date. I wonder how many prime beachside residents sold out cheap to the ‘real Estate’ agencies. Media is governed by the Advertisers being offended.

  28. #29 StevoR
    October 22, 2011

    @11.Joel C | October 18, 2011 8:00 PM :

    Note also, Mr Bolt is regurgitating the story to his adoring masses too: [link]

    Umm.. the link there seems to be broken – at least its not taking me anywhere other than “page not found.”

  29. #30 ben
    October 22, 2011

    I’m with Reality Check on this one. The first thing I noticed was that Whitnall referred to what he was told at the meeting, not what he read in the report. Granted, he should have read the report in order to be properly informed.

    *[Off topic trolling deleted]*

  30. #31 Tim Lambert
    October 22, 2011

    ben, I don’t think that it is plausible that the council engineers said something at the meeting that was not supported by their report. Whitnall’s recollection of the meeting is obviously faulty.

  31. #32 ben
    October 23, 2011

    Tim, do we know that the council engineers, if there are any such persons, spoke at the meeting at all? All I can tell is that at a “local council meeting” that happened 16 years ago, Whitnall claims he was informed that a portion of his land was going to be under water by 2015.

    All we can say for certain is that Whitnall makes claims about what was said at the meeting and not about what the report says, at least not directly. How do we know any engineers spoke about the report at the meeting? How do we know that it wasn’t just the members of the “local council” who spoke and got the data wrong? I don’t see any way to tell from the info presented.

  32. #33 jakerman
    October 23, 2011

    I’m with ben,

    Nadin was correct to just trust the 15 year old oral memory of 73 year old, rather than the written report itself.

    As a “reporter” for Murdoch’s premier “newspaper” Nadin did the right thing by reporting one sided dodgy vergabe rather than fact checking.

  33. #34 Vince Whirlwind
    October 23, 2011

    The capacity of deniers for self-delusion is astounding.

    The article says, “…Whitnall shakes his head as he talks about a grim report…”. This sentence is immediately followed by a direct quote from Whitnall which ends with the claim of a 6m sea-level rise.

    It’s entirely possible Whitnall was talking about something else, but Nadin himself is clearly trying to communicate the idea that the report contains the 6m sea level rise.

    Notice the usual breach of professionalism: nowhere is somebody from the council, state Dept. of Environment, BoM or CSIRO consulted to provide balance to Whitnall’s assertions and elucidate the actual issue.

    Instead, some confused and ambiguous information is presented in such a way as to give maximum encouragement to people who hold unusual fringe beliefs about the reality of sea level rise.

    This being #71, nobody is even surprised anymore.

  34. #36 Tim Lambert
    October 26, 2011

    **Update** Nadin responds [with](http://twitter.com/#!/tabletalk16/status/129050892245798912):

    >I never said his land would be 6m underwater you fool.

    [and](http://twitter.com/#!/tabletalk16/status/129051938519126016):

    >the 1995 report it says with a major storm event, a portion of his land could be covered due to erosion and sea level rises.

    [and](http://twitter.com/#!/tabletalk16/status/129053374929846272):

    >and I have to say deltoid, you should probably clarify things like this with the author before smearing his name.

  35. #37 Acacia
    October 26, 2011

    Nadin is throwing a hissy fit because parts of his article were published verbatim above.

    I wonder if he has any empathy for Tim Flannery who is either seriously misquoted or maligned in The Australian every other day. Although slighly off topic, the [latest in the war against Flannery](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/tim-flannery-backs-coal-seam-gas-and-mining-industry/story-e6frg9df-1226175717415) misrepresents Flannery’s view on coal seam gas. Flannery has [followed up](http://climatecommission.gov.au/media-releases/chief-commissioner-clarifies-position-on-coal-seam-gas/) but I wonder why he doesn’t sue.

  36. #38 Chris O'Neill
    October 26, 2011

    and I have to say deltoid, you should probably clarify things like this with the author before smearing his name.

    It’s a pity Nadin didn’t clarify with any scientist that Whitnall’s claim “the 1995 report had been discredited” was wrong. But that would have been taking his own advice.

  37. #39 chek
    October 26, 2011

    But you’re forgetting Chris that hypocrisy and projection come naturally, with playing-the-victim being second nature when called on it, is the Murdoch press’s gift to the information age.

    It’s almost as if first and foremost there’s an agenda to pursue.

  38. #40 SteveC
    October 26, 2011

    I never said his land would be 6m underwater you fool

    But Mitchell dear, Tim never alleged you did say that, you shabby, piss-poor, boot-licking excuse for a reporter.

    the 1995 report it says with a major storm event, a portion of his land could be covered due to erosion and sea level rises.

    Yes, we know that, some of us read the Management Plan before we put finger to keyboard. The quesion is: why is it you failed to mention this fact that you now think so salient in your execrable little puff-piece? Was it too hard to read the Gosford City Council Coastal Maangement Plan before you submitted your piece of fiction? Or was it simply an “inconvenient truth”?

    and I have to say deltoid, you should probably clarify things like this with the author before smearing his name

    Attempt to shift focus of criticism – FAIL.

    Attempt to hold others to standards you can’t be arsed with yourself – FAIL.

    Lesson learnt – FAIL.

    Was there anything else?

  39. #41 Acacia
    October 26, 2011

    I thought the pay wall would fix my obsession for inane opinion from The Australian but unfortunately, everyone can read George Pell’s ‘[Be Prudent with climate claims](http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/be-prudent-with-climate-claims/story-e6frgd0x-1226177730473)’.

    George’s appeal ‘is to reason and evidence’ and fears ‘that many politicians have never investigated the primary evidence’. George’s reason and evidence includes such multiple dot pointed gems including:
    >The earth has cooled during the past 10,000 years since the Holocene climate optimum

    >The earth warmed between 1979 and 1998 and has cooled slightly since 2001

    And George, as the head of the Catholic Church in Australia, doesn’t pretend to display prudence with his political affiliations:
    >Whatever our political masters might decide at this high tide of Western indebtedness, they are increasingly unlikely, because of popular pressure, to impose new financial burdens on their populations in the hope of curbing the rise of global temperatures, except perhaps in Australia, which has 2 per cent of the world’s industrial capacity and only 1.2 per cent of its CO2 emissions, while continuing to sell coal and iron worth billions of dollars to Asia.

  40. #42 Craig Thomas
    October 26, 2011

    I was thinking about Pell this morning – parhaps his objectivity is affected by his fear of Julia Gillard’s lack of belief in his Christian mythology?

  41. #43 Craig Thomas
    October 26, 2011

    As for the deficient reporter in question, this sentence appears in his article:

    > Twenty feet (6m) of water is supposed to be covering my land (by 2015).

    *Nowhere* in his article does he appose this mistaken opinion with the necessary accurate, expert opinion correcting it.

    This is a clear breach of The Australia’s own guidelines, let alone anything else.

    …and he calls Tim Lambert a “fool”. Ha ha ha. Playground stuff.

    I notice yet another example of innumeracy among his colleagues, resulting in them failing to spot and correct the obvious mistake in this article they reprint from AP:

    [http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/largest-us-nuclear-bomb-dismantled/story-e6frg6so-1226177137738]

  42. #44 SteveC
    October 26, 2011

    Acacia

    everyone can read George Pell’s ‘Be Prudent with climate claims’.

    I followed the link. I wish I hadn’t. 2 minutes of my life I’m never going to get back

  43. #45 jakerman
    October 26, 2011

    Tim, is Rupert’s paywall going to impede your holding him to account on his paper’s war on science, or a your going to be forced to fund it’s poor and biased journalism?

  44. #46 barista
    October 27, 2011

    Interesting about the paywall. Will it diminish News Ltds political influence? Hard to tell. But the ABC will be pretty pleased.

  45. #47 Sou
    October 27, 2011

    George Pell is at it again – he’s suspicious of climate science because some people call the fake ‘skeptics’ deniers. Very scientific reasoning :D

    This is a bit OT, but the article is in The Australian. (He seems to have backed off saying the science is a complete sham. Maybe he’s going to eventually be converted (an in-joke if you’re Catholic!))

    To read the paper, if you must (it’s not all bad all the time), see this tip.

  46. #48 Wow
    October 27, 2011

    If the spambots can manage to pretend to have different names, why can’t they have different messages?

    Maybe they’re happy to see more of it so they can keep posting spam on the same blogs…

  47. #49 Acacia
    October 27, 2011

    Thanks Sou but The Australian is still mostly bad. I used your tip to investigate the letters page and only found letters from two of Pell’s disciples. May they stay behind the paywall.

  48. #50 Acacia
    October 27, 2011

    Sou you are right, occasionally there are good articles in The Australian and there is one today.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/why-experts-refuse-to-debate-climate-science/story-e6frgd0x-1226178807693

  49. #51 jakerman
    October 27, 2011

    Interesting pattern, a rare article in the OZ by a climate scientist is behind the paywall, and Pell for pushed out free!

  50. #52 Tom R
    October 27, 2011

    For those who don’t want an account with the oo, pasting the url into google allows you to see the story.

    I don’t know the legality of that? And I’m pretty sure it will only be temporary.

    Personally, I’m happy for them to stay behind their wall and sink further into irrelevance.

  51. #53 Tom R
    October 27, 2011

    “Interesting pattern, a rare article in the OZ by a climate scientist is behind the paywall, and Pell for pushed out free!”

    I think that pattern will become the norm

  52. #54 bill
    October 27, 2011

    I was able to read the enjoyable ‘exception proving the rule’ article referenced by Acacia behind the Australian’s paywall via the method provided in that link by Sou @45! Thanks to both.

    If I was making predictions, though, I’d predict the Paywall will fail – not because of this tedious work-around, but because there are simply too many alternative news resources, easier to access (and many of them significantly less tendentious!) – and the general readership and general influence of the Australian will decline accordingly.

    Since it already makes a loss – and I understand always has – not much changes. The main function of the paper is to act as a stick to beat the government with, after all! Except of course, that nobody will actually read it anymore, rather undermining the cover story; being a newspaper…

    We’re already seeing a situation where the Murdoch Empire shareholders are increasingly antsy and they may well ask why they’re tossing money at the Old Man’s greying, sway-backed political hobby-horse.

    And even they must have grasped that the dreary organ’s zealous efforts to ensure an unlivable climate for future generations in the name of ideological purity are pretty, um, Stupid…

  53. #55 Tom R
    October 27, 2011

    Sorry bill (and Sou), I hadn’t noticed the link in the Sou post.

    I also agree with your point on why the wall will fail. Google makes millions, yet is free. Newspapers need to look closely at their model.

  54. #56 Vince Whirlwind
    October 28, 2011

    Actually, the Pell article is also Paywalled.

  55. #57 Wow
    October 28, 2011

    Well, as a wake-up call to those who insist that corporations are owned by the shareholders that also has bearing on this thread, the shareholders of Fox corp are trying to remove Murdoch.

    Apparently, these “real owners” of Fox can’t actually get rid of him.

    Maybe these votes really don’t exist, huh?

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