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Rising Sea Levels, Drowning Cities and Global Warming

A diver views a statue in the sunken Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion

My home town of Miami, Florida is often used as an example by those wishing to use scare tactics about Man-Made Global Warming (MMGW).  The standard line is that our coastal cities are going to be put underwater as rising sea levels punish us arrogant humans for not listening to the followers of the Church of MMGW.  As with most cults, it usual does little good to talk to die-hard adherents of this faith about even the slightest possibility that they might be wrong in their beliefs.  To do so will usually get you nothing more than an intense stare, a sneer of contempt and a snide “Denier” remark.  But there are the rare birds among their faithful that actual can still hold an intelligent conversation about their beliefs.   If you find yourself talking with one of them, you will inevitably hear some variation of the above-mentioned watery fate of our coastal cities at sometime in not-to-distant future.

While being respectful of others religious beliefs, I am also (I’m sure this will be a shock to my friends) a person who cannot resist commenting when I hear someone espousing their beliefs as scientific facts.  As they talk about rising temperatures changing our environment, I will often mention how the Vikings, having found an island so warm and green with vegetation that they named it “Greenland” must have driven a lot of SUVs to have changed it to its current semi-frozen tundra.  Then I’ll mention how pre-industrial Londoners enjoyed ice skating on the Thames.  Or how, in the winter of 1780, New York Harbor froze and people could walk from Manhattan to Staten Island.  In both cases, there were no coal power plants and people were more interested in footprints in the snow than they were in Carbon Footprints.  I must admit that my attempts at levity on a subject they consider to be the most dire to humanity are not often conducive to continuing a friendly conversation on the subject.  It’s around that time that the subject of rising sea-levels usually comes up.

There was a time not long ago when Al Gore was threatening that the city buildings would be underwater soon.  Movies were made with awesome scenes of cities being either frozen in an instant or being drowned by huge waves.  And the UN’s infamous IPCC Panel was saying that coastal cities all over the world were doomed if we didn’t change our society to the way they wanted it to run.  The IPCC still predicts a global rise by 52-98 cm by the year 2100, a rise that would in fact impact many coastal cities.  They also show, but rarely talk about the fact that much of this rise is projected to happen NATURALLY.   They admit that even if all of humanity destroyed their economies implementing aggressive emissions reductions, a rise by 28-61 cm is still predicted to happen.

In other words, rising sea levels are going to be a threat to cities around the world regardless of humanity.  And this is how it has always been.  Throughout humanity’s history,  we have always built our cities on coastlines.  The ocean offers a bounty of food and city ports enable commerce and conquest.  So man has always built cities on shorelines that nature insists on changing.

The ancient Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion was lost to the sea after having been a major population center for a thousand years.  Phanagoria, a large Greek city established on the coast of the Back Sea around the 6th Century BC, is about 1/3 underwater today.   And parts of the ancient city of Alexandria, including the palace where Cleopatra committed suicide, are totally underwater today.  Venice would be an abandoned ruin if not for hundreds of years of constant water management and the adaptation to canals instead of roads by it’s inhabitants.   Most recently, New Orleans was drowned by a hurricane surge too large for it’s levy system to handle.

All of these cities, and many other sunken cities not mentioned in this article, are examples of mankind’s hubris.  We think of our cities with a sense of permanence.  They are these huge creations of mankind that do not suffer the frailty or mortality of their creators.  But Mother Nature, through ocean tides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or other tools available to her, has been there throughout history to show us the fallacy of this belief.

Man-Made Global Warming, the belief that in such as short time mankind’s industrial creations will cause such as huge change, is another example of mankind’s hubris.  As is the idea that we could cause a pendulum swing in the other direction “If we’d only do what they tell us to do.”  The believers of this religion sit high and smug in their knowledge of exactly how Mother Nature works.  And when their own tools and data contradict their beliefs, then they change the data.

None of this matters to Mother Nature.  The planet will chug along just as it has for countless millennia regardless of human activity.  It will go through various heating and cooling cycles without even noting the little creatures that crawl along its surface.  That is not to say that we shouldn’t be careful stewards of our planet and protect its beauty for future generations.  But let us do so for the right reasons, not some misguided pseudo-scientific belief based on manipulated data.

Edward G. Ruth


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