Inside the Sea Level Scare Machine


Such beach decorations exhibit the fervent belief of activists that sea levels are rising fast and will flood the coastlines if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels.  As we will see below there is a concerted effort to promote this notion empowered with slick imaging tools to frighten the gullible.  Of course there are frequent media releases sounding the alarms.  Recently for example:

From the Guardian Up to 410 million people at risk from sea level rises – study.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The paper, published in Nature Communications, finds that currently 267 million people worldwide live on land less than 2 metres above sea level. Using a remote sensing method called Lidar, which pulsates laser light across coastal areas to measure elevation on the Earth’s surface, the researchers predicted that by 2100, with a 1 metre sea level rise and zero population growth, that number could increase to 410 million people.

The climate emergency has caused sea levels to rise and more frequent and severe storms to occur, both of which increase flood risks in coastal environments.

Last year, a survey published by Climate and Atmospheric Science, which aggregated the views of 106 specialists, suggested coastal cities should prepare for rising sea levels that could reach as high as 5 metres by 2300, which could engulf areas home to hundreds of millions of people.

The rest of this post provides a tour of seven US cities demonstrating how the sea level scare machine promotes fear among people living or invested in coastal properties.  In each case there are warnings published in legacy print and tv media, visual simulations powered by computers and desktop publishing, and a comparison of imaginary vs. observed sea level trends.

Prime US Cities on the “Endangered” List
Newport , R.I.

Examples of Media Warnings

Bangor Daily News:  In Maine’s ‘City of Ships,’ climate change’s coastal threat is already here

Bath, the 8,500-resident “City of Ships,” is among the places in Maine facing the greatest risks from increased coastal flooding because so much of it is low-lying. The rising sea level in Bath threatens businesses along Commercial and Washington streets and other parts of the downtown, according to an analysis by Climate Central, a nonprofit science and journalism organization.

Water levels reached their highest in the city during a record-breaking storm in 1978 at a little more than 4 feet over pre-2000 average high tides, and Climate Central’s sea level team found there’s a 1-in-4 chance of a 5-foot flood within 30 years. That level could submerge homes and three miles of road, cutting off communities that live on peninsulas, and inundate sites that manage wastewater and hazardous waste along with several museums.

UConn Today:  Should We Stay or Should We Go? Shoreline Homes and Rising Sea Levels in Connecticut

As global temperatures rise, so does the sea level. Experts predict it could rise as much as 20 inches by 2050, putting coastal communities, including those in Connecticut, in jeopardy.

One possible solution is a retreat from the shoreline, in which coastal homes are removed to take them out of imminent danger. This solution comes with many complications, including reductions in tax revenue for towns and potentially diminished real estate values for surrounding properties. Additionally, it can be difficult to get people to volunteer to relocate their homes.

Computer Simulations of the Future

Newport Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

Newport past & projected 2020

Boston, Mass.

Example of Media Warnings

From WBUR Radio Boston:  Rising Sea Levels Threaten MBTA’s Blue Line

Could it be the end of the Blue Line as we know it? The Blue Line, which features a mile-long tunnel that travels underwater, and connects the North Shore with Boston’s downtown, is at risk as sea levels rise along Boston’s coast. To understand the threat sea-level rise poses to the Blue Line, and what that means for the rest of the city, we’re joined by WBUR reporter Simón Ríos and Julie Wormser, Deputy Director at the Mystic River Watershed Association.

As sea levels continue to rise, the Blue Line and the whole MBTA system face an existential threat. The MBTA is also facing a serious financial crunch, still reeling from the pandemic, as we attempt to fully reopen the city and the region. Joining us to discuss is MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak.

Computer Simulations of the Future

Boston Obs Imaged2


Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

Boston Past and Projected 2020


New York City

Example of Media Warnings

From Quartz: Sea level rise will flood the neighborhood around the UN building with two degrees warming

Right now, of every US city, New York City has the highest population living inside a floodplain. By 2100, seas could rise around around the city by as much as six feet. Extreme rainfall is also predicted to rise, with roughly 1½ times more major precipitation events per year by the 2080s, according to a 2015 report by a group of scientists known as the New York City Panel on Climate Change.

But a two-degree warming scenario, which the world is on track to hit, could lock in dramatic sea level rise—possibly as much as 15 feet.

Computer Simulations of the Future

NYC Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

NYC past & projected 2020

Philadelphia, PA.

Example of Media Warnings

From NBCPhiladelphia:  Climate Change Studies Show Philly Underwater

NBC10 is looking at data and reading studies on climate change to showcase the impact. There are studies that show if the sea levels continue to rise at this rate, parts of Amtrak and Philadelphia International Airport could be underwater in 100 years.

Computer Simulations of the Future

Philly Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

Phil past & projected 2020

Miami, Florida

Examples of Media Warnings

From WLRN Miami: Miles Of Florida Roads Face ‘Major Problem’ From Sea Rise. Is State Moving Fast Enough?

One 2018 Department of Transportation study has already found that a two-foot rise, expected by mid-century, would imperil a little more than five percent — 250-plus miles — of the state’s most high-traffic highways. That may not sound like a lot, but protecting those highways alone could easily cost several billion dollars. A Cat 5 hurricane could be far worse, with a fifth of the system vulnerable to flooding. The impact to seaports, airports and railroads — likely to also be significant and expensive — is only now under analysis.

From Washington Post:  Before condo collapse, rising seas long pressured Miami coastal properties

Investigators are just beginning to try to unravel what caused the Champlain Towers South to collapse into a heap of rubble, leaving at least 159 people missing as of Friday. Experts on sea-level rise and climate change caution that it is too soon to speculate whether rising seas helped destabilize the oceanfront structure. The 40-year-old building was relatively new compared with others on its stretch of beach in the town of Surfside.

But it is already clear that South Florida has been on the front lines of sea-level rise and that the effects of climate change on the infrastructure of the region — from septic systems to aquifers to shoreline erosion — will be a management problem for years.

Computer Simulations of the Future

Florida Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

KW past & projected 2020

Houston, Texas

Example of Media Warnings

From Undark:  A $26-Billion Plan to Save the Houston Area From Rising Seas

As the sea rises, the land is also sinking: In the last century, the Texas coast sank about 2 feet into the sea, partly due to excessive groundwater pumping. Computer models now suggest that climate change will further lift sea levels somewhere between 1 and 6 feet over the next 50 years. Meanwhile, the Texas coastal population is projected to climb from 7 to 9 million people by 2050.

Protecting Galveston Bay is no simple task. The bay is sheltered from the open ocean by two low, sandy strips of land — Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula — separated by the narrow passage of Bolivar Roads. When a sufficiently big storm approaches, water begins to rush through that gap and over the island and peninsula, surging into the bay.

Computer Simulations of the Future

Galv Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

Galv past & projected 2020

San Francisco, Cal.

Example of Media Warnings

From San Francisco Chronicle:  Special Report: SF Bay Sea Level Rise–Hayward

Sea level rise is fueled by higher global temperatures that trigger two forces: Warmer water expands oceans while the increased temperatures hasten the melting of glaciers on Antarctica and Greenland and add yet more water to the oceans.

The California Ocean Protection Council, a branch of state government, forecasts a 1-in-7 chance that the average daily tides in the bay will rise 2 or more feet by 2070. This would cause portions of the marshes and bay trail in Hayward to be underwater during high tides. Add another 2 feet, on the higher end of the council’s projections for 2100 and they’d be permanently submerged. Highway 92 would flood during major storms. So would the streets leading into the power plant.

From San Francisco Chronicle Special Report: SF Bay Sea Level Rise–Mission Creek

Along San Francisco’s Mission Creek, sea level rise unsettles the waters.  Each section of this narrow channel must be tailored differently to meet an uncertain future. Do nothing, and the combination of heavy storms with less than a foot of sea level rise could send Mission Creek spilling over its banks in a half-dozen places, putting nearby housing in peril and closing the two bridges that cross the channel.

Whatever the response, we won’t know for decades if the city’s efforts can keep pace with the impact of global climatic forces that no local government can control.

Though Mission Creek is unique, the larger dilemma is one that affects all nine Bay Area counties.

Computer Simulations of the Future

SF Obs Imaged

Imaginary vs. Observed Sea Level Trends (2020 Update)

SF CA past & projected 2020

Summary: This is a relentless, high-tech communications machine to raise all kinds of scary future possibilities, based upon climate model projections, and the unfounded theory of CO2-driven global warming/climate change.  The graphs above are centered on the year 2000, so that the 21st century added sea level rise is projected from that year forward.  In addition, we now have observations at tidal gauges for the first 20 years, 1/5 of the total expected.  The gauges in each city are the ones with the longest continuous service record, and wherever possible the locations shown in the simulations are not far from the tidal gauge.  For example, NYC best gauge is at the Battery, and Fulton St. is also near the Manhattan southern tip.

Already the imaginary rises are diverging greatly from observations, yet the chorus of alarm goes on.  In fact, the added rise to 2100 from tidal gauges ranges from 6 to 9.5 inches, except for Galveston projecting 20.6 inches. Meanwhile models imagined rises from 69 to 108 inches. Clearly coastal settlements must adapt to evolving conditions, but also need reasonable rather than fearful forecasts for planning purposes.

Footnote:  The problem of urban flooding is discussed in some depth at a previous post Urban Flooding: The Philadelphia Story

Background on the current sea level campaign is at USCS Warnings of Coastal Floodings

And as always, an historical perspective is important:


Fear Not Rising Temperatures or Ocean Levels

Dominick T. Armentano writes at the Independent Institute Are Temperatures and Ocean Levels Rising Dangerously? Not Really. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.  H/T John Ray

There are two widely held climate-change beliefs that are simply not accurate. The first is that there has been a statistically significant warming trend in the U.S. over the last 20 years. The second is that average ocean levels are rising alarmingly due to man-made global warming. Neither of these perspectives is true; yet both remain important, nonetheless, since both are loaded with very expensive public policy implications.

To refute the first view, we turn to data generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the relevant years under discussion. The table below reports the average mean temperature in the continental U.S. for the years 1998 through 2019*:

1998 54.6 degrees
1999 54.5 degrees
2000 54.0 degrees
2001 54.3 degrees
2002 53.9 degrees
2003 53.7 degrees
2004 53.5 degrees
2005 54 degrees
2006 54.9 degrees
2007 54.2 degrees
2008 53.0 degrees
2009 53.1 degrees
2010 53.8 degrees
2011 53.8 degrees
2012 55.3 degrees
2013 52.4 degrees
2014 52.6 degrees
2015 54.4 degrees
2016 54.9 degrees
2017 54.6 degrees
2018 53.5 degrees
2019 52.7 degrees

*National Climate Report – Annual 2019

It is apparent from the data that there has been no consistent warming trend in the U.S. over the last 2 decades; average mean temperatures (daytime and nighttime) have been slightly higher in some years and slightly lower in other years. On balance–and contrary to mountains of uninformed social and political commentary—annual temperatures on average in the U.S. were no higher in 2019 than they were in 1998.

The second widely accepted climate view—based on wild speculations from some op/ed writers and partisan politicians–is that average sea levels are increasing dangerously and rationalize an immediate governmental response. But as we shall demonstrate below, this perspective is simply not accurate.

There is a wide scientific consensus (based on satellite laser altimeter readings since 1993) that the rate of increase in overall sea levels has been approximately .12 inches per year.

To put that increase in perspective, the average sea level nine years from now (in 2029) is likely to be approximately one inch higher than it is now (2020). One inch is roughly the distance from the tip of your finger to the first knuckle. Even by the turn of the next century (in 2100), average ocean levels (at that rate of increase) should be only a foot or so higher than they are at present.

NYC past & projected 2020

None of this sounds particularly alarming for the general society and little of it can justify any draconian regulations or costly infrastructure investments. The exception might be for very low- lying ocean communities or for properties (nuclear power plants) that, if flooded, would present a wide-ranging risk to the general population. But even here there is no reason for immediate panic. Since ocean levels are rising in small, discrete marginal increments, private and public decision makers would have reasonable amounts of time to prepare, adjust and invest (in flood abatement measures, etc.) if required.

But are sea levels actually rising at all? Empirical evidence of any substantial increases taken from land-based measurements has been ambiguous. This suggests to some scientists that laser and tidal-based measurements of ocean levels over time have not been particularly accurate.

For example, Professor Niles-Axel Morner (Stockholm University) is infamous in climate circles for arguing–based on his actual study of sea levels in the Fiji Islands–that “there are no traces of any present rise in sea levels; on the contrary, full stability.” And while Morner’s views are controversial, he has at least supplied peer reviewed empirical evidence to substantiate his nihilist position on the sea-level increase hypothesis.

The world has many important societal problems and only a limited amount of resources to address them. What we don’t need are overly dramatic climate-change claims that are unsubstantiated and arrive attached to expensive public policies that, if enacted, would fundamentally alter the foundations of the U.S. economic system.

DOMINICK T. ARMENTANO is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford (CT).

Update Dec.11: USCRN Comparable Temperature Results

In response to Graeme Weber’s Question, this information is presented:

Anthony Watts:

NOAA’s U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) has the best quality climate data on the planet, yet it never gets mentioned in the NOAA/NASA press releases. Commissioned in 2005, it has the most accurate, unbiased, and un-adjusted data of any climate dataset.

The USCRN has no biases, and no need for adjustments, and in my opinion represents a ground truth for climate change.

In this graph of the contiguous United States updated for 2019 comes out about 0.75°F cooler than the start of the dataset in 2005.

See Also Fear Not For Fiji

Setting the Global Temperature Record Straight

Turtles Vs. Trump

Apologies for the image; I couldn’t find one with turtles wearing lawyers suits.  Again it is ambulance chasers with legal training targeting deep pockets, as explained in USA Today article Trump administration sued for failing to protect green sea turtles from climate change.  Excerpts on this latest example of climate derangement syndrome are in italics with my bolds.

Several environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming several agencies in the Trump administration have failed to protect green sea turtle habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the turtles’ nesting beaches in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as their ocean habitat, face threats from sea level rise brought on by climate change and plastic pollution, according to a news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs.

Other plaintiffs are the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection and the Turtle Island Restoration Network. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that several federal agencies are in violation of the Endangered Species Act and order them to designate sites – unspecified as yet –as critical habitat for the turtles.

Defendants include:

Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
Margaret Everson, principal deputy director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
National Marine Fisheries Service
A UPS driver started posting dog pictures in 2013:It’s now a viral sensation with 1.6M likes

Climate change, sea level rise
The lawsuit acknowledges that green sea turtle populations have been on a general increase over the last few years, but notes the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish & Wildlife Service found in 2016 that threats from climate change and sea level rise mean the turtles still need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat.

Floridians should be proud of how far we’ve come with green sea turtle recovery, but the fight’s not over yet,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now the feds have to step up and ensure that sea turtles have safe passage to nest on our beaches. These imperiled animals can’t afford any more delays.”

Green turtle populations around the world are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.



A 144-pound sea turtle was rescued by Indian River County police after being struck by a boat.

Sea Level Rise: Just the Facts

The Maldives–Poster Child for rising Sea Levels

The three most mentioned evils of rising CO2 are Rising Temperatures, Declining Sea Ice and Rising Sea Levels.  Plateaus presently appearing in the first two have been discussed a lot here and elsewhere.  This post gives what you need to know about Sea Level alarms.

Sea level rise (according to NASA)

Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Dave Burton takes us underneath the hype and exposes the facts.  Below is his post originally at Tom Fuller’s website. David Burton puts it all in perspective from his location on the coast of North Carolina.  Much more info on sea levels is available at Dave’s own website linked below.

Sea-level rise is not accelerating, and has not accelerated since the 1920s.

There are about sixty good-quality, 100+ year records of sea-level around the world, and they all show the same thing: there has been no statistically significant acceleration (increase) in the rate of sea-level rise in the last 85 years or more. That means anthropogenic CO2 emissions do not measurably affect sea-level rise, and predictions of wildly accelerated sea-level rise are based on superstition, not science.

Here are two very high quality sea-level measurement records, one from the Pacific and one from the Atlantic:

With atmospheric CO2 at 0.040% by volume, globally averaged sea-level rise at the coasts is just under +1.5 mm/year.

When atmospheric CO2 was at 0.031% by volume, globally averaged sea-level rise at the coasts was just under +1.5 mm/year.

The difference is that climate alarmists think the current +1.5 mm/year is catastrophic and caused by human release of CO2, and the +1.5 mm/year 85 years ago was natural and inconsequential.

However, the similarity between the two numbers — the catastrophic 1.5 mm/yr and the inconsequential 1.5 mm/yr — has confused even some liberals into backing away from the One True Climate Faith. Even President Obama’s former Undersecretary for Science, Steven Koonin, has written that:

“Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today.”

Sea-level didn’t actually rise 3.39 mm last year, at the coasts.

That 3.39 mm number is from satellite altimetry measurements of the open ocean, inflated by the addition of model-derived GIA estimates. It has little relation to anything that matters.

Most fundamentally, satellite altimeters measure the wrong thing. Their measurements are distorted by “sea-level rise” caused by thermal expansion when the upper layer of the ocean warms. But that is a strictly local effect, which doesn’t affect the quantity of water in the oceans, and doesn’t affect sea-level elsewhere (e.g., at the coasts).

Sea-level rise only matters at the coasts, but satellite altimeters are incapable of measuring sea-level at the coasts. Tide gauges measure sea-level at the coasts, where it matters, and their data is of much higher quality.
The best tide-gauge records of sea-level measurements are nearly ten times as long as the combined satellite measurement record, and twenty times as long as any single satellite measurement record, and the tide-gauge records are trustworthy.

The satellite measurements of sea-level are not. They are subject to a long list of potential distortions, and vary considerably from one satellite to another.

Steve Case has documented how U.Col. has revised their satellite “measurements” of sea-level over the years:

The Envisat numbers were revised even more dramatically. Subsequent revisions to data up to ten years after it was recorded approximately tripled the rate of sea-level rise “measured” by Envisat.

NASA is aware of the problems with satellite measurements, and they’ve proposed a new mission called the Geodetic Reference Antenna in SPace (GRASP) to try to improve matters. However, that mission has not been funded.

References and additional information is here:

Footnote February 23, 2016

Dave Burton warned us above about superstitious sea level rises to come.  Prime example comes in Scientific American article gone viral in mass media.  The abstract of the study:

We present the first, to our knowledge, estimate of global sea-level (GSL) change over the last ∼3,000 years that is based upon statistical synthesis of a global database of regional sea-level reconstructions. GSL varied by ∼±8 cm over the pre-Industrial Common Era, with a notable decline over 1000–1400 CE coinciding with ∼0.2 °C of global cooling. The 20th century rise was extremely likely faster than during any of the 27 previous centuries. Semiempirical modeling indicates that, without global warming, GSL in the 20th century very likely would have risen by between −3 cm and +7 cm, rather than the ∼14 cm observed. Semiempirical 21st century projections largely reconcile differences between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections and semiempirical models.

My bolding is to draw attention to the basis in models not observations.  Further they say half the projected rise is due to thermal expansion which is a local effect not appearing at the coastline or on tidal gauges.

In ancient times people built idols in their own images and worshiped them to ensure more favorable weather and prosperity. Today those icons take the form of computer models whose prophecies are sure to scare the bejesus out of us.