Physicist Richard Muller, known as a global warming skeptic, has reversed his opinion on causation of rising atmospheric temperatures, concluding that only human causes can explain the environmental phenomenon. Muller’s work is supported by the conservative Charles Koch Foundation, making his most recent conclusions highly significant to both scientific and political debates about environmental dangers and means to avert them.
Muller’s research follows the course of temperatures over the past 250 years, concluding that there has been a 1.5 C degree rise in temperatures over that time span. Muller has long emphasized the importance of finding the true data needed for analysis to measure global warming if it is indeed that, and to confirm or refute human activities as a causative factor. Muller contends that much of the past century’s temperature data has been confounded by scientists failing to account for micro-climate changes around temperature stations. However, once having garnered what he regarded to be the most accurate data, Muller’s study could still find no natural reason why there still remained a 1.5 C rise in temperatures, finally concluding, “humans are almost entirely the cause.”
Ironically, this about-face comes in the very same month marking the end of the hottest year in recorded history. July 31 marked the end of the hottest year on record. In July 2012, 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet went through four days of surface ice melt. This month, many global warming trackers are projecting the Arctic ice melt to be the largest ever seen by industrial man.
That same month became the hottest month in the entire history of record-keeping in many parts of the United States. July 31 marked the end of the hottest year on record. The projected Arctic ice melt for the upcoming month should be the largest melt ever seen by industrial man.
What does this mean for humanity? Rising sea levels bring on more threatening storm damage on shore and land; worsening of soil, sand and barrier erosion; salinization of inland waters; and actual loss of usable land area causing the displacement of many millions of people. Roughly 80 percent of the world’s population lives around 60 miles from the ocean. That’s approximately 5.6 billion. One in ten of all people currently live in the low-lying coastal areas that are regarded as the most vulnerable to ocean rise. Ocean levels have become one of the most serious environment concerns of nations today.
According to a study done by Robert J. Nicholls and Anny Cazenave in 2010, the average rise of ocean levels from 1950 to 2009 was an estimated 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year, with satellite-measured rates at an estimated 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009. That indicates an approximate 100 mm rise in ocean levels worldwide. For those not very familiar with the metric system, that’s roughly 4 inches. Even more worrisome, however, is the more recent acceleration of ocean level rise. National Geographic reports that we have seen rises of 0.13 inches per year for the past twenty or so years, which is a rate double what it was for the eighty years prior. This rise is attributed to the melt of land ice – Arctic melt does not actually affect ocean levels – as well as ocean warming. Water expands as it heats up.
MIT scientists estimate temperatures will rise anywhere in the range of 1-4 C before 2100. What kind of sea level changes will this bring on? Estimates are mixed. Many suggest the levels may rise up to three meters. If so, New Orleans will be officially reclaimed as part of the Gulf of Mexico. Miami will become uninhabitable. One in ten people worldwide will be displaced. Some global warming news-criers argue that we will see up to a 10 meter rise in ocean levels. If that happens, South Florida will no longer exist, and the Bahamas will likely cease to exist.
Global warming skeptics and extremists alike have been pretty vocal trying to convince people that their version of the future of our environment is the correct one. That debate has now tilted more supportively toward scientific moderates who give credence to human cause theories but insist on rigorous scientific method in reaching conclusions to base the discussion.