At last week’s annual meeting of the Key Biscayne Condominium Presidents Council, Dr. Judith Curry, an acknowledged expert in oceanography and hurricane forecasting, detailed why she believes most projections for sea level rise by mid-century are too high. Her analysis largely rested on the relatively poor correlation between atmospheric CO2 and previous measurements of sea level in the 20th century and on the many uncertainties of forecasting.
Nonetheless, Dr. Curry predicts that sea level rise will continue unabated and considers a 2-foot rise as being 50% likely. She predicts less than 1 foot by mid-century. She also concluded that hurricanes are the greater near-term threat for South Florida and advises that in flood-prone areas a one-foot rise in building elevations is insufficient.
It is important to note what Dr. Curry did not say. Sea level rise is a tertiary effect of global warming. The correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures is extraordinarily strong, dating back at least 800,000 years.
We have now entered an unprecedented era where atmospheric CO2 greatly exceeds that observed previously. With each major report, observed global temperature increases are at the higher end of those predicted in earlier reports.
Evidence of global warming is all around us and includes increased oceanic temperatures, glacier and sea ice melt, storm intensification, increased and larger wild fires, species migrations, altered weather patterns, heat wave-caused deaths, especially among the elderly, and (yes) sea level rise. The last five years have been the hottest years on record.
As atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases rise further, global temperatures will increase further and will be aggravated by feedback loops that further accelerate change.
The United States Military, the recent National Climate Assessment prepared by 13 federal agencies, and the 2018 report by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-5) are all in agreement: we must act now to avert the worst of the predicted consequences of climate change and global warming.
Even if Dr. Curry’s more modest predictions of sea level rise are correct, we cannot afford to delay action for the myriad of other deleterious consequences we all face.