TDB today: Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return

In which I pull together the strands of the recent bad news from Antarctica and Greenland, and lament the loss of the coastline we all grew up with — no longer a theoretical possibility but a long term certainty. Check out Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return, this week’s post at The Daily Blog, and start planning for all our watery futures.

36 thoughts on “TDB today: Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return”

    1. He means ‘soon’ in the second sentence of your ‘Daily Blog’ article, Gareth.

      Unfortunately John C suffers from the economists’ disease: not being able to see further than the end of their nose. Geologically and historically speaking a century is a tiny unit. Some people just lack the imagination to think back a century and realise the way small decisions have changed history for good or bad. And the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels has been the mother of all bad decisions. The profits being made from ‘business-as-usual’ at this moment are a tiny fraction of the costs of dealing with the trouble we’re piling up for ourselves.

    2. John C, the specter of several meters of SLR coming our way over the course perhaps a couple of centuries is worry enough for our descendants. A large proportion of the worlds current infrastructure is coastal – many of our current cities are located long harbors and historic places of trade. Further a lot of the best arable land is also located in the fertile delta regions of the worlds large river systems and low to the current SL. A few meters of SLR will take a very expensive chunk out of the land we have currently available and will require humanity to relocate and rebuild mega cities. All that at a time when we will have used up the cheap and easy to gain fossil fuels and most of the low hanging fruits of other essential ores…
      Life in this time will require significantly more energy to procure the resources – foremost energy itself – that we take for granted today.

      It would be so much cheaper to cut fossil fuel emissions today than to blunder into the abyss of a climate catastrophe. The sane people of today agree.

      1. Thomas, there is a 30% chance that the Alpine Fault will rupture in the next 50 years and kill thousand of people in NZ and potentially render NZ an economically unviable place for humans to inhabit.

        1. Yes – we are due for a truly big one along the Alpine Fault (around every 300 years) – 8+ is what I read last week. It depends just where it will rupture though, and that is anywhere from Bay of Plenty to Milford Sound. We have had 8+ in the recent past – Masterton in 1942 was 8.1 – but that hasn’t rendered the Wairarapa uneconomic. Certainly the loss of infrastructure will be traumatic and inevitably there will loss of life. Subduction on the eastern side will also render some areas below a rising sea level. How this compares with the inevitable loss of land by inundation through SLR though is hard to judge. Many of our major cities are only metres above sea level. Many roads are also under threat. The causeway on SH16 between Pt Chev and Te Atatu carries 10’s of thousands of vehicles a day. Even now a king high tide threatens inundate it.

  1. That Greenland and West Antarctica are going to melt is a certainty because at 400 ppm of CO2 they always do. What is in doubt is the timing because although the melting of an ice block can be calculated the catastrophic collapse of a glacier is more difficult.If you listen to the scientists who spend time in either Greenland or Antarctica they are extremely worried. They wanted a much stronger wording in the IPCC report but were over- ridden because they could not prove their fears.
    Greenland is suffering form the ingress of warm water from the summer ponds so that is interior is like a rotten cheese and West Antarctica is melting from underneath and thinning. Both can lead to a sudden break up. . please click for the RSS feed.

  2. ”We are committed to a watery future. The coastline we grew up with — the coastline that humanity grew up with will soon be history.”

    Sorry Gareth I didn’t realise you wrote it.

    [Fatuous nonsense snipped. GR]

    1. Notice any consistency here?

      There’s one group of people in this debate who consistently exhibit the most basic comprehension errors, and yet they never tire of noisily bruiting about their uninformed opinions, and further loudly demand that they be treated as having as much credibility as as the findings of people who’ve been studying the issues for decades.

      These are the people who are currently irreversibly shaping your future, Dear Reader…

  3. John C, perhaps you should head over to Baltimore in the USA at the shores of the Great Lakes where you can buddy up with fellas like that one who coined the whole American right wing nutcase mentality so perfectly below:

    My fellow Americans, when will we wake up? Man-made global warming is the biggest lie to come down the pike since the theory of evolution.

    This nation was built on the true use of fossil fuels, and the notion of alternative energy sources being the answer is simply wishful thinking. Let us drill, frack and mine wherever resources can be found. This would enable our nation to be self-sufficient and no longer have to deal with nations that hate us.

    Eye watering stuff that……

    How can humanity rise to the task of anything with intellectual dead weights dangling around our necks like this specimen?

  4. This website has great images comparing before and after views of US landmarks with SLR effects edited in. Some images have sliders to reveal the difference of before and after. Well presented.

    Meanwhile NASA is retreating from the worst SLR affected areas in its space ports in Florida already:

    “According to NASA’s planning and development office, rising sea levels are the single largest threat to the Kennedy Space Center’s continued operations,”
    “Retreat is the way to go here because you just can’t like, get up and move. The infrastructure is too great,”

  5. You are taking liberties with my position Thomas. I do not think global warming is a big lie. I do however think companies (solar and wind manufacturers) politicians and some scientists have exaggerated the risk of climate change for their own ends. I am not saying there is no risk, just it might not be as catostrophic as some would have us believe.

    1. Just for you, John, and your latest deployment of the Denialist meme-du-jour:

      Plot idea: 97% of the world’s scientists contrive an environmental crisis, but are exposed by a plucky band of billionaires & oil companies.

  6. John C, the thing is solar and wind manufacturers aren’t really saying much on global warming, unlike fossil fuel companies and their paid websites like the Heartland Institute. This is where the noise comes from.

    Politicians also don’t make much noise on global warming, even the Greens don’t say much. Politicians have nothing to gain by highlighting a problem that could require unpopular taxes. If anything politicians understate global warming, and are part of the problem.

    And accusing scientists of exaggerating global warming is one thing, evidence is another. I don’t see them all getting rich.

    1. It’s recently occured to me that the denialists are the worst alarmists. Being basically conservative, therefore somewhat inert with respect to change, they are alarmed at the very idea that change is required – knocks them right out of their comfort zone – so they have to find a way of avoiding the issue, like trivialising it, or inventing conspiracies, which means deceiving themselves first and then deceiving others.

      1. An idea that Sou over at HotWhopper runs with frequently. There’s been quite a bit of neuro/psych research regarding this – overactive amygdalas, and all that – but I prefer the more concise rule: ‘with Deniers, it’s always projection’. 😉

      2. There has been ever more rapidly increasing change in human civilization, never more so than in the last 100 years
        The idea that people are afraid of change is not really very supportable

        We like change when it is for the better, on the whole.

        1. The problem is Andy, that finally Humanities exponential expansion is on a collision course with our ‘one planet’ reality.
          If we possessed ‘Star Trek’ technology we could perhaps continue the growth meme, but as a Physicist I know to well that this is not going to happen.
          Our future (if we want one as a stable advanced civilization) lies with a very firm sustainability strategy. At the moment however this is not happening as most governments prefer to manage the Ponzi economy long enough to see its collapse on somebody else’s watch and because there are still a few to many Andy’s and Johns about to drag us down.

          The collapse is inevitable if you launch an exponential growth meme into a limited resource base. Climate Change is just one of the indicators that the end game is close.

        2. Yeah, right on, andy, just like people wholeheartedly embraced the end of slavery, children no longer toiling in factories, the eight hour day, unionized workforces, women’s suffrage, civil rights, industrial safety, equal pay for women, universal healthcare, and the protection of the environment…

          And the way they simply gave up noxious crap, such as leaded petrol, DDT, CFCs, and tobacco, as soon as they became aware there was a problem with them.

          Except of course, for the minor technical detail that your tribe opposed every single one of these bloody things, and wailed that the world would come to an end if any of them occurred, whether it was the embrace of a good or the renunciation of an evil! Some of you are still fighting bloody rearguard actions on the battles you lost decades ago!

          In short: uninformed, ahistoric garbage. You’re clearly confusing buying iPhones and cheap flights with human progress.

          I repeat, Dear Reader – such as these are irreversibly shaping your future as we speak.

          (Warmest May in 100 years here in Adelaide, incidentally)

          1. A few points to answer.
            We haven’t abolished slavery
            There are still places in the world that have slaves

            We haven’t abolished smoking
            We still use CFCs in some cases
            We still need fossil fuels to build so called renewable energy sources.

            In my view the fastest way to move off fossil fuel dependence is to move to some form of nuclear energy. Maybe fusion will work one day

            Ironically, it is the environmentalists who purport to be concerned about emissions are mostly against nuclear, with the exception of Hansen, Monbiot, Lynas, Bryony Worthington to name a few

            1. Yes andy you are right that slavery is still with us. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 20 to 30 million people who are in slavery at this moment. This is an increase from the 12.3 million slaves estimated in the 2005 study done by the International Labour Organization.

              Contemporary slavery is not present in just one area, forced labor lies within the realms of sexual abuse and prostitution, state-enforced work, and many others.

              According to the International Labour Organization, someone is in slavery if they are:

              forced to work through mental or physical threat
              owned or controlled by an “employer,” usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
              dehumanized, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as “property”
              physically constrained or have restrictions placed on freedom of movement

              So modern slavery could and does exist in many modern societies as well as undeveloped.

              It is a fact however that slavery has been made illegal in every country in the world since 1981 (Mauritania became the very last country in the world to make slavery illegal).
              So it depends upon our definition of “abolish” doesn’t it?
              The truth is that modern sensibilities abhor the concept of “slavery” in what ever guise – where as in the 1700’s it was acceptable practice ;and indeed, arguments were made in the Britian and elsewhere that to do away with slavery would lead to economic ruin. A thesis that has been proven to be false. Just as the thesis that to move towards alternative forms of energy will lead to economic ruin is false.

            2. And ‘we haven’t abolished slavery’, or any of your other ‘squirrel’ nitpicks, refutes my point – essentially; reactionaries gotta react – how, exactly?

            3. It refutes your point by first of all pointing out that most of your claims that “my tribe” apparently opposed haven’t actually happened.
              Secondly, I am not knowingly part of a “tribe”
              Just because you prefer to hang with like minded groupthinkers that uncritically accept the latest “liberal” dogma that floats around the trendy Twitterati doesn’t mean that there is an equal and opposite force of darkness that everyone else subscribes too.

            4. By your tribe I mean reactionaries.

              We like change when it is for the better, on the whole.

              No, you don’t. That’s the point. Thank you for playing.

            5. Oh so I don’t like change, and I am a reactionary?

              In my lifetime, I have seen and embraced these changes:

              Man landing on the moon.
              The development of nuclear power.
              The development of the personal computer
              The development of the internet
              The development of many modern drugs that extends peoples lives

              To name a few…

            6. Interesting: All those changes you cherished Andy delivered exponentially greater personal power, more consumer goods and personal well being through improvement in diet and healthcare to the masses without the need to sacrifice anything (besides the money to pay for the new goods or services).

              The coming change: adoption of a sustainable lifestyle for humanity will be a rather different beast!

              People, especially in the wealthy and developed nations will need to sacrifice personal consumption of resources for the benefit of the greater good of humanity and the preservation of our planetary ecology.

              This is the change that the tribe of liberal capitalists is unwilling to even contemplate. Instead they point to far-away and perhaps never-ever hopes such as nuclear fusion to one-day solve all our energy problems while in the meanwhile we should all carry on fracking the proverbial out of the planet, come hell or high water (the later is unavoidable now…), so that we can carry on growing personal power, liberty and consumption exponentially further, as demanded by the principles of our Ponzi economic system, which falls over like any other Ponzi scheme once growth ends.

              The conscious adaptation from an exponential growth predicated economy to a sustainable steady state economy will be the most important change coming our way.

            7. There is an assumption in Thomas’ comment that improved technology and healthcare is not “sustainable” and that there is exponential growth required

              I don’t buy that argument. I believe it is possible to improve technology and reduce consumption at the same time.

              As an example, look at how computer servers are being consolidated in virtual machines running on the same physical hardware, dramatically reducing energy costs

            8. By all means keep up the stream of irrelevant inanities, little science denier…

            9. Andy, you did not get what I was trying to make you understand:
              The growth predicated economic system is the problem. I was not suggesting that we can not have ongoing improvements of all the things we do in a steady state economy.
              Here is a timely and excellent article that just makes my point:

              “If we can’t change our economic system our number is up”:

              The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence.


          2. An impressive list Bill. I take your point about projection, and have often though so too – how else would one come up with conspiracy theories?

            Nevertheless I also have at times declared that in everyone there is a conservative, sometimes even a reactionary, a progessive as well as a denier, and every other political shade but none have power unless we identify with them. To do so is to limit our choices, our thought, and our actions.

  7. I agree with Zadie Smith’s observation that the “desire for innocence” is what drives both sides of this debate:

    “For both “sides” are full of guilt, full of self-disgust — what Martin Amis once called “species shame” — and we project it outward. This is what fuels the petty fury of our debates, even in the midst of crisis.”

    I have read that the American Meteorological Society considers that there is a “90 percent probability that global temperatures will rise by 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius in less than 100 years, with even greater increases over land and the poles”, so I am certainly appalled at myself and my generation.

    But I live in a property near the coast and house prices are up, and I havent moved. So I am in denial.

    In terms of ‘outright’ deniers, I think that greater evidence of warming will simply led to more denial, no matter how crazy that gets. Self-loathing and self-doubt are powerful motivating forces.

    For those in the ‘moderate denier’ category (say Lomborg), I think that they are canny enough to see the writing on the wall and will ultimately find comfort in ‘environmental authoritarianism’ (think Chinese Government style regulation), which I worry is coming whether we like it or not.

  8. I think we are missing the basic the nature of scepticism. Basically scepticism is in our genes, we are programmed to be sceptics. This comes out differently in different people some are sceptical of climate change, some people are sceptical of other things. The scepticism can be boosted by fear, guilt, and vested interests, but the basic cause of scepticism goes to our human nature.

    The only real answer to scepticism is very solid scientific evidence. I think we are altering the climate, but more proof is needed to silence people having trouble joining the dots. Another big jump in temperatures may be enough for all but the completely hopeless cases that will never be convinced. The flat earthers.

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