Analysis Of Literature Shows Hansen’s Recently Published Sea Level Paper Is A Scientific Outlier

Guest author and analyzer of climate science literature Kenneth Richard presents an essay on sea level rise and James Hansen’s latest alarmist paper.

Antarctica_Mt Herschel Andrew Mandemaker
Mt. Herschel Antarctica. Photo by Andrew Mandemaker, CC BY-SA 2.5

Only science deniers don’t believe in catastrophe

By Kenneth Richard

Now that the latest James Hansen catastrophic sea level rise paper (Hansen et al., 2016) has been affirmed by peer review, it has, according to Slate‘s meteorologist Eric Holthaus, been effectively “canonized.”   In other words, it has become scientifically authoritative.

James Hansen’s Bombshell Warning Is Now Part of the Scientific Canon”

The paper, which has undergone some wording revisions since the original version appeared last July (so that it could be accepted for publication), apparently “concludes” that the polar ice sheets will soon melt catastrophically; this ice sheet melt contribution will in turn result in sea level rise of “at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years” according to a summation from the same Eric Holthaus:

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

Putting aside for the moment that (a) Greenland’s vast interior ice sheet has been melting more slowly in recent decades than it has for 95% of the last 9,000 years (MacGregor et al., 2016), or that (b) the West Antarctic Peninsula melted faster during the Medieval Warm Period than it has in recent decades (Guglielmin et al., 2016), or that (c) the northern Antarcitc Peninsula melted 10 times more slowly between 2003-2014 than it did between 1995 and 2003 (Seehaus et al., 2015)…

Or, putting aside that (d) the rate of sea level rise contribution from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets combined was just 2.3 inches per century (0.59 mm/year) between 1992 and 2011 (Shepherd et al., 2012).

Alas, with inconveniences put aside, Hansen’s claim of 10 feet of sea level rise in 50 years has nonetheless been officially anointed as scientifically authoritative anyway.  Therefore, to deny the conclusions of Hansen’s paper is tantamount to denying climate science. After all, that’s what science deniers do.  They deny canonized climate science like Hansen’s sea level rise forecasts.

To avoid being characterized as a science denier, one effectively must believe that the sea level rise contribution from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets combined will catapult from the current rate of 0.23 of an inch per decade (Shepherd et al., 2012) to 10, 50, or perhaps 100 times that rate so as to reach 24 inches per decade total sea level rise through the mid-2060s (so that Hansen’s sea level rise estimate of “at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years” can be realized).

Don’t agree that one should be categorized as a science denier if she or he doesn’t agree with Hansen’s catastrophic melt and sea level rise forecasts?  Well, that immediately begs the question: How many meters (or feet) of sea level rise must one believe in to avoid being labeled a science denier?  If one believes in only 2 meters (~7 feet) of sea level rise by 2100, for example, is that denying canonized climate science?

The IPCC’s last two reports (2007, 2013) confer sea level rise forecasts ranging from a low threshold of 18 cm to a high threshold of 98 cm (between 7 and 39 inches) by 2100.  One would assume, then, that with the scientific canonization of Hansen’s latest paper, the low range IPCC estimates are now effectively in the science denier camp.  If not science denier, how else does one categorize a forecast of just 7 or 10 or 12 inches of sea level rise by 2100?

Specifics are needed here.  After all, no one wants to be called a science denier due to non-belief in authoritative climate science.  So again, how much sea level rise by 2100 must one minimally believe in to avoid being called a science denier now that Hansen’s sea level rise catastrophe paper has been canonized?


Hansen et al., 2016

MacGregor et al., 2016

Recent peripheral thinning of the Greenland Ice Sheet is partly offset by interior thickening and is overprinted on its poorly constrained Holocene evolution. On the basis of the ice sheet’s radiostratigraphy, ice flow in its interior is slower now than the average speed over the past nine millennia.”

– Press release

[T]he interior of the GrIS is flowing 95% slower now than it was on average during the Holocene.”

Guglielmin et al., 2016

Based on new radiocarbon dates, during the MWP [Medieval Warm Period], the rate of glacier retreat [West Antarctic Peninsula] was 1.6 m yr−1, which is comparable with recently observed rates (~0.6 m yr−1 between 1993 and 2011 and 1.4 m yr−1 between 2005 and 2011).”                                                                                                                  

Seehaus et al., 2015

Highlights: Ice mass loss (2003–2014) was approximately one order of magnitude smaller than between 1995–2003.

“The northern Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest changing regions on Earth. The disintegration of the Larsen-A Ice Shelf in 1995 caused tributary glaciers to adjust by speeding up, surface lowering, and overall increased ice-mass discharge. … The contribution to sea level rise was estimated to be 18.8±1.8 Gt, corresponding to a 0.052 ± 0.005 mm sea level equivalent for the period 1995–2014.”

Shepherd et al., 2012:

Since 1992, the polar ice sheets [Antarctica and Greenland] have contributed, on average, 0.59 ± 0.20 millimeter year−1 to the rate of global sea-level rise.”


15 responses to “Analysis Of Literature Shows Hansen’s Recently Published Sea Level Paper Is A Scientific Outlier”

  1. John F. Hultquist

    Maybe you have heard about “being a little bit pregnant”?

    The Hansen/Holthaus “canon” is of this sort.
    You cannot have just a part of a binary choice.
    Thus, accept “10 feet in as little as 50 years” – or go to jail.

    Funny thing, this CAGW scam is.

    1. DirkH

      It’s terrible. What we now need is a flood of new computer animated fake documentaries showing how coastal cities will drown. I liked the fake ones from 2007 but they stopped producing them, and computer animation is much better now.

  2. yonason

    So just how wrong is Hansen? About as wrong as one can be.

    More failed predictions of climate disasters, by a number of the usual hysterical suspects.

    But the narrative must NOT be questioned!
    (Republicans could have thwarted the confirmation of that piece of dreck, but they didn’t. I hope they have sense enough to not allow Obunko to appoint the replacement of Chief Justice Scalia.)

  3. wert

    Funny, but I think those who should learn from this satire, will not even read this, and those who read, won’t learn anything.

    Hansen comes old and foolishness increases. He will of course be in grave before the dispute on SLR is solved. Future generations in 2050 and later will be perplexed.

  4. yonason

    Professor Nils-Axel Mörner knows a thing or two about sea level,…
    …as Luhd Monckton tells us here (about a debate he attended):

    When a true-believer in the New Religion of “global warming” got up and sneeringly advised the Professor [N-A Mörner] to see if he could get his ideas about sea level published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, his answer won us the debate: “Madame President, I do apologize that in a 40-year career I have only published 530 papers [now 547] in the peer-reviewed literature, most of them about sea level, but in the light of the Hon. Gentleman’s strictures I will undertake to try harder in future.” The House collapsed in helpless laughter…

    That tells me all I need to know about the skeptics and the humorless drones who oppose them. And the fact that the audience was able to appreciate the humor tells me all hope is not yet lost.

  5. Ирина

    Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

    1. Papy Boomer

      Opinion as long as a source is provided. That is the easy way. Sorry but not credible

  6. yonason

    Here’s a nifty new invention from Israel that might make our air travel safer and less inconvenient.

    I can’t help but wonder how many Greenies and Warmists will trigger false positives. 🙂

  7. M E

    I feel cynical. We have this sort of scaremongering in New Zealand where the levels of the sea coasts vary suddenly with tectonic movements. Developers of new subdivisions inland will be pleased with these findings and so will insurance companies if the levels of the sea do not encroach they will have nice cash flow for a few years until the next panic.

  8. Edward.

    Hansen is, all about merchandising bullshit and the bigger the lie, the more Hansen the BS merchant promotes it.

    It is more likely that, a comet hits earth than it is for the remotest of possibilities…. Antarctic ice sheet melt thanks to ‘runaway mankind induced CO2 warming’ – to threaten earthly shorelines.

  9. Richard111

    My simple arithmetic tells me that some 400,000 CUBIC KILOMETRES of land borne ice must melt to raise global sea levels by just 1 metre. The energy required to do that in the time scales claimed by warmists is impossible. Especially when the temperature of land ice is much colder than just freezing. And remember, warm sea water has problems reaching ice in the middle of a continent. Most of the melting must be done by hot air. Someone please provide Hansen a comfortable seat at the South Pole.

    1. yonason

      Greenland alone has 7.2 million cubic miles of ice.(**)

      Working with a smaller number (5.3e6 cubic miles) I calculated that if we threw that ice in a pot, had 100% efficient heat transfer to the ice, it would take about 2.72e14 short tons of coal to melt it. At max consumption the world has burned about 8.2e9 tons per year. So, it would take roughly 50,000 years worth of coal energy to melt it.

      Hansen is telling us that just a slight increase in CO2 will do the same job in 50 years.

      Yeah, riiiiight!

      (**) – When I first did this rough calculation about 9 years ago, the estimate for glacial ice in Greenland was 6.3e6 cu mi, which is about a million less than today’s number. Must be just a better estimate now. Greenland couldn’t possibly have added that much in 9 years, could it?

      1. DirkH

        “Greenland couldn’t possibly have added that much in 9 years, could it?”

        Nope. Couldn’t. Photos prove Greenland’s melting.
        And look what Occupy did with their crayons! Last picture on this page.
        Greenland is obviously turning into some dark-reddish something quicker than you can say Hansen.

      2. mike

        Excellent to see maths being used in the discussion 🙂

        I don’t quite understand why you work out how much coal we need to burn to melt enough ice for the purpose of the argument. I don’t think this is being suggested. Could you perhaps calculate for us the excess solar energy retained by additional anthropogenic gasses in the atmosphere instead? After all it is the giant nuclear reactor in the sky that may toast us, not the heat from burning fossil carbon.

        May I also point out that while a 3m rise/50years in sea level might be in the paper – I note that the argument turns on a quote in Slate – and to argue one point from a 50pp paper does rather imply that the rest might be correct.

        However, as I’m sure you’re well aware, actual evidence is terrible a changing the human mind. Evolution did dot create rational beings when is shaped us 🙁 Our descendants will at least know who was right and we will all be dead and safe from any consequences of our actions.

  10. yonason

    “Working with a smaller number (5.3e6 cubic miles)” should have read 6.3e6 cubic meters. sorry