Sea Level Rises…What Sea Level Rises?

Nicolas Loris /

Another one of the standout presentations at the Heartland Institute’s fourth International Conference on Climate Change was the one by Nils-Axel Morner, former emeritus head of the paleogeophysics and geodynamics department at Stockholm University. His talk focused on sea level increases and the difference between observed data and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) model’s predictions.

Morner was a former reviewer on the IPCC report and when he was first made a reviewer he said he was “astonished to find that not one of their 22 contributing authors on sea levels was a sea level specialist: not one.” Morner discussed the realities of a number of countries and islands claimed to be doomed from climate change. He started with the Maldives, which some reports claim will be submerged in the next fifty years. Morner pointed out that the sea level around the Maldives has been much higher before and actually fell 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) during the 1970s. He also asserted that sea levels have been stable for the past three decades.

The same could be said for Bangladesh, another country threatened by sea level rises. Last year US News reported that “brackish water from the Bay of Bengal is encroaching, surging up Bangladesh’s fresh-water rivers, percolating deep into the soil, fouling ponds and the underground water supply that millions depend on to drink and cultivate their farms.” Morner’s analysis of the data, however, shows that the sea level has been stable for the past 40 to 50 years and may have even decreased. Coastal erosion is unquestionably a problem but it’s not from sea level rise, Morner says. He also reports that there has not been an increase recorded in Tuvalu, Qatar, Vanuatu, Venice and northwest Europe.

Of course, rising sea levels could present problems in the future but so far the hysteria has been unsupported by fact. Furthermore, the policies aimed at reducing sea levels (cap and trade, international carbon dioxide reduction treaties) will have little if any impact. Despite the futility of CO2 cuts, there are many cost-effective, adaptive solutions that efficiently target specific problems and do not require globally adopted treaties. Many of these adaptations are driven by markets. Seed companies develop drought and heat resistant strains that have increased agricultural productivity in the face of global warming. Low tech, but efficient, dams create reservoirs in the Himalayas to provide water supplies and irrigation during dry months. Capping CO2 only hinders the overall economic development of poorer countries and thus puts them in a worse position to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels, if it ever becomes necessary.