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This weekly newsletter, focused on environmental issues, highlights relevant analysis done by the John Locke Foundation and other think tanks, as well as items in the news.

1. JLF Spotlight: Well-known climatologist disputes sea-level rise claims

In a Spotlight report released Wednesday by the John Locke Foundation, former Virginia State Climatologist and current director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute Dr. Patrick Michaels argues that "Unless there is a sharp change that is simply not being revealed in recent data, the expectation of 38 inches of sea-level rise in the next 87 years is not very likely at all."

The projection of 38 inches referred to by Michaels is from a controversial report released by the North Carolina Coastal Resource Commission in 2010 and is the estimate being used by many to argue for drastic new land-use regulations along North Carolina’s coast. Michaels argues that the commission’s projections of global warming are inconsistent with reality and that their projections of sea-level rise therefore overestimate what should actually be projected. He also argues that the tidal gage that the NCCRC relied upon, which is located at Duck along the northern Outer Banks, is an extreme outlier and is completely inconsistent with measurements taken in Wilmington and Southport.

On the question of global warming Michaels charts differences between climate model projections and actual observed temperature trends. The models overestimate the amount of warming taking place (see graph below). The NCCRC study invokes these models as if they were gospel.

Michaels makes his point invoking this graph. The thick red line shows actual global temperature change beginning in 1977 projected out past 2010 to 2100. Thinner lines are climate model projections use by the United Nations and the NCCC. In explaining this graph Michaels states that:

What pops out is that, once warming starts, these simulations generally say that it takes place at a constant rate. I’ve also superimposed the observed temperature history since 1977, which … also looks like a constant-rate phenomenon.

So, unless the mathematical form of projected warming (i.e. a quasi-straight line) is wrong, nature is telling us that it will be around 1.6 degrees C (2.9 degrees F) this century. If we can’t even get the form right, policymakers have no business using our science, and taxpayers have wasted an awful lot of money.

He concludes this point by stating that:

Global warming forecasts that are associated with such a large sea level rise [as those used by the NCCC] are demonstrably erroneous. While global warming is real, and human activities are one cause, it now appears that the most publicized forecasts systematically overestimate the rate of temperature rise.

As noted, Michaels also argues that the tidal gage used by the NCCRC at Duck, due to peculiar circumstances in that location, way overstate the amount of sea-level rise that is occurring throughout North Carolina. Michaels points out:

While global sea level is estimated to have risen about eight inches since 1900, the rate at Duck is over twice that. That’s probably because Duck is being influenced by the same geological processes — called land subsidence (sinking) — that are evident around the Chesapeake Bay and the Mid-Atlantic. That excess "rise" in water has nothing to do with recent climate change and cannot be stopped by any policy or fiat of the CRC. … Down in Wilmington and Southport, the rise is pretty much in line with the global average, which is more typical of the North Carolina coast.

Ultimately he points out that globally, "contrary to the CRC’s predictions, satellites show a decline in the rate of sea level rise." The graph below shows what has actually been happening globally, and as he noted, most of the North Carolina Coast is consistent with this.

So how convinced is Michaels in his conclusion? Convinced enough to make the following offer.

The Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) says to plan for 38 inches of sea level rise in the next 87 years. Surely warmer seas will whip up increasingly strong and frequent hurricanes, magnifying the effect of sea level rise.

It’s enough to make you sell that beach house. To me. Please. I’ll take it off your hands before it washes into the Atlantic, which, according to the CRC, could happen pronto.

I’m willing to offer you bottom dollar for your house a) because everyone thinks it is doomed and b) because they’re wrong.

2. Ozone Report

The 2012 ozone season began on April 1, and each week during the ozone season this newsletter reports how many, if any, high-ozone days had been experienced throughout the state during the previous week, where they were experienced, and how many have been recorded during the entire season to date. The ozone season will end on October 31. All reported data is from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, which is part of the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

During the period from September 17 to September 23 there were no reported high-ozone readings on North Carolina’s ozone monitors. Since the beginning of the ozone season there have been 111 high-ozone readings over 16 days on North Carolina monitors.

Click here for the Environmental Update archive.