Over at Lucia’s Blackboard they’re having an interesting discussion about UHI, BEST and of all things, sea level rise. I pitched in with a comment, reproduced below.
I found a paper that maps U.S. lands vulnerable to sea level rise. It can be found here. http://www.int-res.com/articles/cr/18/c018p205.pdf. It found 58,000 square kilometers lying below a 1.5 meter contour along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. They had data difficulties that hampered their ability to make similar estimates for the West Coast.
So I wrote, “Tol & Yohe 2007 found that 0.24% of habitable land would be lost to 50cm of sea level rise. As that’s mid-range of IPCC AR5 estimates, let’s go with it until incoming data shows otherwise.
Seacoast property is in most parts of the world very desirable and more expensive in the developed world. In the U.S. and Europe and the richer parts of Asia, it will be insured and protected. Parts of Tokyo have subsided several meters due to aquifer depletion, yet they’re still there and doing okay.
In the developing world, the monetary value is less but the utility is still very high. Because of high levels of poverty, much of the coastal infrastructure is fairly easy to relocate.
The environmental changes to estuaries, tidal marshes, etc. in the developed world will be significant. South of the equator things like mangrove stands tend to offer a good measure of protection.
In the rich world we seem to be pre-paying for damages due to sea level rise, due to frightening stories about extreme weather allowing insurance companies to charge higher premiums without having the damages to pay out on.
My judgement call is that if sea level rise comes in at about half a meter this century we’re in pretty good shape.”
Predictions of sea level rise without contributions from the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are not frightening. We can handle them.
Recent work on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets show that both are gaining ice in the huge centers of the ice caps, while losing some at the edges. Neither will contribute much water to sea level rise this century.
There is still one bad possibility. That some unstable masses of ice on the Western Peninsula of Antarctica might drop into the ocean due to mechanical reasons, reasons that might be accelerated by warmer water undercutting the ice that is holding the mass up. Scientists now think that might affect us in about two hundred years and that when the process starts it will take about 50 to 100 years to complete.
So I still maintain that sea level rise this century is an eminently solvable problem, assuming it stays within the IPCC’s projected range of 26cm to 98cm.