Preparation Not Panic
Jack R. Noel
John Englander graduated Dickinson College with a B.S. with a double major in Geology(Earth Sciences) and Economics. He is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Marine Sciences — UC Santa Cruz; a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
His book is, High Tide On Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis and he’s given talks on the subject of sea level rise at various places including the Royal Institute, London.
Having seen the video of his talk at the Royal Institute on TED Talks, I have to emphasize that I am not attacking him, his book or his ideas. But I also emphasize that what politicians are doing with material like Englander’s is irresponsible, dangerous and largely self serving. We know this as the “stampede tactics” so I will address the most frequent ways politicians make use of scientific, engineering and economics to give voters the idea that “only they” and their party can be trusted to “save us” from something.
While understandable, Englander’s focus on the last 3–4 million years is misleading in itself and the news media and Democrat politicians are making full use of this truncated version of Earth’s history to make it seem we are in some great crisis.. It will be helpful to explain that Earth’s climate has existed roughly as we know it today for about 700 million years. During that time, it’s also useful to know, Earth’s climate was hotter than even the most dire predictions of today and sea levels went up and down hundreds of feet over millions of years. Yet: life exploded during the Cambrian Period which began 541 million years ago and lasted 56 million years.
Then came the the Mesozoic Era which included the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, they spanned 166 million years in all. This was the time of the vertebrate land animals when they became the dominant land lifeforms and it therefore can be used as a time of much longer duration compared to just the last 3.3 million years. Basic zoology tells us that this was a time of predators and prey with the prey animals being eaters of vegetation. Therefore, we know from inference and from physical evidence: plants supported this immense food chain with predators at the top. What about the climate though?
There were no ice ages at all during the entire Mesozoic. In fact, it appears there was almost nowhere on Earth where it even snowed- at all! The sea level was about 400 feet higher. That’s how much water was free instead of being locked in the form of ice. Plant fossils from the Mesozoic are found almost worldwide and nearly from pole to pole. Plants are the medium through which CO2 and Oxygen are processed. The more plants, the greater consumption of CO2 and the greater the amount of oxygen they produce. This eventually leads to low CO2 and high oxygen content and that together with shifting continents affects the world’s climate in big ways: toward cooling. But as noted the high temps persisted for 166 million years and didn’t end until around 65 million years ago. It was only then the first signs of glaciation appeared and that led to the more familiar cooling and warming cycles which John Englander focuses on.
But all the politicians had to hear was about how greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane work to accumulate heat on the Earth’s surface. That is all it took along with a sly understanding of how to exploit “movements.”
Adding to the confusion is the comments made by popularizers of Science like the late Carl Sagan. It was he who first made the statement which has been misunderstood since Sagan uttered it. He (over estimating the scientific knowledge of the general public) referred to the runaway greenhouse effect as being “like that on Venus.” Which is complete poppycock, Venus’s actual history is different from Earth’s and there’s no way Earth’s temperature cycle can result in duplicating Venus’s murderous “climate.” No way. Sagan never meant to equate the two.
Most people know it was the Democrat politician, Al Gore, who was first to start talking about how greenhouse gases lead to inevitable catastrophe and at first there was no way to be certain he was wrong unless you knew of the above information about Earth’s long periods of warmer climate. Some of us who follow politics were eventually treated to the sight of one political monkey having success with a mistaken idea and other political monkeys joining in to support what turned out to be a false claim meant primarily to attract idealist voters and thus bring victory in political elections for all those political monkeys. Nothing succeeds like success even when it’s founded on a serious amount of ignorance at first.
Fortunately, not all political activists are like that. John Englander is that different activist: he has solid experience and data which shows us that we will face sea levels 5 to 10 feet higher (not “400 feet”) and that we can start soon to take known corrective measures which need little or no help from politicians and their government department lackies. Englander supplies another fact which gives us a better idea of what we can do. He says that we will reach that 5 to 10 foot higher level in about 30 years (probably less and there’s no way to stop it now).
Florida will be reduced in area by about half to two thirds, areas like that around the city of New Orleans will be inundated and will probably be uninhabitable except by house boat residents. Some coastal cities may be raised by a few feet in the hope that raising them 5 or 6 feet will be all that’s needed. He does not mention how Florida became inhabited starting around 1920: real estate investors began promoting the idea of filling in lowlands and building “choice properties” on those fill lands. A simple reversal by real estate investors and developers can use the next two decades to promote real estate well to the North — where global warming may eliminate winters entirely, enabling huge expansion of both agricultural and real estate land areas.
Instead Englander says we still must find alternate energy sources to fossil fuels. But from sources like Science Direct we see: “the Klass model and thus assumes a continuous compound rate and computes fossil fuel reserve depletion times for oil, coal and gas of approximately 35, 107 and 37 years, respectively. This means that coal reserves are available up to 2112, and will be the only fossil fuel remaining after 2042.” There are plenty of estimates but for this article I use this one because they don’t vary by many decades in any category. This tells us two things:  It’s not a matter of choice but of fact: we must find alternate energy sources within 100 years. Must-must-must. Political claims not withstanding.  A side effect: almost the entire output of greenhouse gases from manmade sources will cease and with it the greenhouse warming effect.
Again: the most likely source of new energy will come from Free Enterprise, not from government. If money diverted to “government research” instead is left in the hands of private individuals, things are likely to go a lot faster. Government will still get tax money for “defense research” but politically oriented public universities won’t be draining as much from the heart of the US economy.