Does NASA’s Data Show Doomsday for New York City?

If we don’t do something quick to stop global warming, some of the biggest cities in America could go the way of Atlantis in just a matter of decades. Sam Carana over at Arctic News has taken the time to analyze the latest data from NASA, and what’s he’s projecting from that data is startling. Sam suggests that global sea levels may rise rapidly over the next few decades; so rapidly, in fact, that we could see more than 2.5 meters of seal level rise by 2040, which is just 26 years from now.

And because, as Sam Carana points out, sea levels now look like they’re going rise exponentially - on a curve - as opposed to on a straight line, they will continue to rise even faster after 2040. To put this in perspective, here’s a picture of what the New York City metropolitan area would like with just 1.8 meters (around 6 feet) of sea level rise. As you can see, large parts of lower Manhattan and New Jersey would be underwater.

Six feet of sea level rise would also be a disaster for New York’s neighbor to the north, Boston, submerging the entire central part of that city. Miami, Florida, meanwhile, would basically turn into a giant swamp with many of its most famous neighborhoods drenched in sea water.

Of course, if we don’t take action against global warming soon, the possibility that some of America’s most famous cities could turn into manmade coral reefs will be the least of our worries. There’s a very real debate going on right now in the scientific community about whether or not industrial civilization, or even humanity itself, can survive the next couple of centuries if global climate change keeps on its current pace.

Which makes it all the more frustrating and outrageous that many of our elected representatives either don’t care that our planet is in danger or are so in bed with the fossil fuel industry that they use their positions as senators or congressmen to spew ridiculous conspiracy theories about climate science. Just yesterday, for example, Republican Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said in a speech that global warming was a “hoax” used by the White House to push through an environmentalist “agenda”.

Luckily for us (and the planet) not everyone thinks the way Senator Inhofe does. Today, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would go a long way towards creating sensible climate policy. The basic outline of Van Hollen’s bill, the so-called Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014, is pretty simple. It would place a total cap on all carbon emission that would grow to 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050. At same time, it would require fossil fuel companies to buy permits for every single ton of carbon they sell on the U.S. market. 100 percent of the money made from selling these permits would then be redistributed to “We the People” in the form of a quarterly dividend.

Sounds pretty cool, right? But wait, it gets better! The real genius in this plan is that average Americans would get more money from the dividends program as the emissions cap increased. In other words, you and I would get richer as the planet got healthier!

As University of Massachusetts economist James K. Boyce wrote in a New York Times editorial about Van Hollen’s bill, "The number of permits initially would be capped at the level of our 2005 carbon dioxide emissions. This cap would gradually ratchet down to 80 percent below that level by 2050.... As the cap tightened, prices of fossil fuels would rise faster than quantity would fall, so total revenues would rise. The tighter the cap, the bigger the dividend. Voters not only would want to keep the policy in place for the duration of the clean energy transition, they would want to strengthen it."

In a sane world, Republicans would be all over Chris Van Hollen’s bill. After all, it’s basically a way to take money that would normally go straight to the federal government and give it back to everyday hardworking Americans. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a sane world. We live in a world dominated by a fossil fuel industry that owns half of Washington and pretty much the entire Republican Party. So, in all likelihood, Congressman Van Hollen’s plan won’t even make it out of committee.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up the fight. If anything, Van Hollen’s cap-and-dividend bill shows us how simple it is to make global warming policy work for both the planet and the people. At the same time, it also shows that cutting carbon is a net positive for the environment and the economy.

If the data is right - and all signs do point to it being right - global warming is happening a lot quicker than we originally thought. That’s why you should call your member of Congress today and tell him or her to support Chris Van Hollen’s Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014. After all, the future of the environment - and maybe even the future of the human race - is at stake.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 26 weeks ago

With all this talk about climate change, sea level rise, and the Republican denial of both, it reminds me of a line from the movie "Meteor'. Brian Keith's character was a Russian scientist trying to convince his superiors of the coming cataclysm, and, after getting no where, remarked, "The Volga is about to overflow her banks, and we are discussing swimming lessons!"

Sadly, it is too late for "swimming lessons".

ckrob's picture
ckrob 8 years 26 weeks ago

Off topic: When conservatives say the magic of the free market will solve all our problems, is that magical thinking?

stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 8 years 26 weeks ago

I'm going to go a little off topic and share with you something I culled from the internet over a decade ago. The prevailing attitudes in the United States, and for that matter, the world, it seems very appropriate now:

The Cold Within

Six men trapped by happenstance, in black and bitter cold;
Each man possessed a stick of wood, or so the story's told.
Their dying fire in need of wood, the first man held his back;
For on the faces around the fire, he noticed one was black.
The next man looking across the way, saw one, not of his church;
And wouldn't bring himself to give his little stick of birch.
The third man sat, in tattered clothes, he gave his coat a hitch;
Why should he put his log to use, to warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought, of the wealth he had in store;
And how to keep what he had gained, from the lazy shiftless poor.
The black man's face bespoke revenge, as the fire passed from his sight;
For all he saw in his stick of wood, was a chance to spite the white.
The last man of this forlorn group, did nothing except for gain;
Giving only to those who gave, is how he played the game.
So, their logs held tight - in death's still grasp - was proof of human sin;
They died not from the cold without, they died from the cold within.

-- Author Unknown

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago

Great poem, "stecoop"!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago

I think making a law that caps carbon, taxes and passes back to the people the profits of the fossil fuel industry is a great idea. However, an even better idea is a law that would make the fossil fuel industry directly responsible for all losses and damage incurred by the climate change they are causing. In fact, we could take a little lesson from the USPS and make that law to cover future losses and damage as well. That would not only include things like the BP oil spill but things like Katrina, Snowmageddon, coastal flooding, loss of cities, and all those record breaking midwest twisters. Profits are the main motivation for pushing fossil fuels on the public. Start stripping those industries of those profits and you starve those executives of all their motivation real fast.


Stecoop01 ~ That was a beautiful poem. Shame you don't have the name of the author.

Richard Kreidler's picture
Richard Kreidler 8 years 25 weeks ago

Just an observation. There is no picture of New York City with a 6' sea level increase, as indicated in today's column. And there is at least one grammatical error. I only write this because this happens quite frequently, and the quality and Information of the article is worth writing with proper editing and attention to detail.

Richard Kreidler's picture
Richard Kreidler 8 years 25 weeks ago

Just an observation. There is no picture of New York City with a 6' sea level increase, as indicated in today's column. And there is at least one grammatical error. I only write this because this happens quite frequently, and the quality and Information of the article is worth writing with proper editing and attention to detail.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 25 weeks ago

Did you mean the use of "data" as a singular? Or the typo of "seal level"? Anyway, I'd also like to see the picture.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago

Richard Kreidler ~ I know what you are talking about. I had the same reaction when I read it. Very odd, indeed. However, I suspect that is in the blog post because it is probably part of the script of one of the monologues of the show. Often times I hear Thom read word for word from his blog title article. If it was a part of today's show--and I haven't heard the entire show yet so I don't know for sure--I imagine that the picture referenced was probably provided in the video telecast. Somewhat careless of the staff to leave that reference in the blog version. However, like you stated, there are also some other grammatical errors. I guess putting together such a show can stretch one's ability to perfect everything. I'm sure it was just an oversight.

Mathboy ~ You're the math expert. Can you explain how your post #9 is in response to post #11? I never saw the blog software mess up the order that bad before. Maybe this thread is haunted?

deander's picture
deander 8 years 25 weeks ago

l work in this field. I have not seen anything close to this estimated sea level rise by 2040 Thom cites - actually more like a couple cm not meters. I hope Thom is more carefull in examining and reporting this data otherwise he risks loosing credibility to the benefit of climage change deniers.

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 8 years 25 weeks ago

I find it so offensive that Republicans and Tea Party people we've elected and have been paying salaries to... are being SO PIG-HEADED about something as real, frightening, and dangerous as denial of Climate Change. Do they think they can pray the bays away? Like they think they could have prayed away the Gays if they had just prayed a little harder? Faith is something greater than ourselves can often be a worthy belief, but not when it means that ALL the rest of our country's people will be paying a terrible price for their stubborness. They are NOT elected to LIKE the President; they are elected to SERVE THE PEOPLE who pay their salaries. They are putting our lives and our livelihoods in jeopardy. I hope they will one day look back on their follies and wish they had been more open to the REAL over the imagined perfection. I am truly ashamed of all those who are acting like idiots. And to the senior representative from "Oklahoma... SHAME ON YOU for not wanting a fund VA to take care of the men & women you sent into harm's way who now need the best healthcare their service to America should have provided... It's not a Taj Mahal; it's a VA Center any State should be proud to build. I hope your vets remember what you said about them when it's your turn to be up for re-election


DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago
Quote deander:l work in this field. I have not seen anything close to this estimated sea level rise by 2040 Thom cites - actually more like a couple cm not meters.

deander ~ That is true according to contemporary estimates. However, as Thom points out, these current estimates are linear. The estimates that the arctic news source calculated with NASA data is probably taking into account methane release. Thus, these estimates are not linear but hyperbolic where sea level rises at ever increasing rates as time goes on.

Personally, I find that a bit hard to believe too since I live near the coast all my life and the total sea rise I've seen so far is "0". However, the satellite photos of the receding ice cap, the atmospheric measurements of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)and CH4 (Methane)--together with the mathematics that go along with it--do paint a dismal prospect for the future.

Whether or not that future will be as dismal as Thom's sources foresee is debatable. However, the fact remains that if there is any chance Thom is right we as a planet must act fast to mitigate the consequences of fossil fuel use. Of that there is no question. To that ends, no amount of exaggeration is unwise. Also, regardless of the consequences, fossil fuel use has to end. It is not a renewable energy source and its use poisons the planet.

Also, deander, although challenging Thom and his facts is permitted and encouraged in this forum, it is customary to present ones own sources quite clearly when doing so.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 25 weeks ago

Last Thursday Republican Senator Jim Inhofe blocked a resolution that would have stated simply that climate change is real. After leaving the floor Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse took the floor and obliterated Inhofe's official climate change denial argument an a spectacular tongue lashing that has to be seen and heard to be appreciated.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 25 weeks ago

DAnneMark: Yes!! What a great speech!!! Thanks for that link!

It's only the greedy maggots, like the oil companies..etc, and their trolloping twit useful idiots that still preach the golden rube of drill baby drill.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago

Thanks Marc! "Spectacular" is the word for it.

deander's picture
deander 8 years 25 weeks ago


Thank you for your thoughtful response.

Sea level rise - history to forecasts- was a hot topic at the December American Geophysical Union meetings in San Franscisco last December. Richard Alley- I believe he was on Thom's program in the past year- among many others (over 115) gave presentations. One that struck me as well done came from the Hadley Center in the U.K. (but I encourage you to explore others too at the AGU meetings website):

While there were estimates as high as 2m by 2100 most were considerably lower. There is a great deal of uncertainty in all the estimates given, as duely noted in the presentations. Getting back to the NASA report which links projections of sea level rise to potential methane emissions, there is substantial uncertainty as to net emissions of methane to the atmosphere.

Over the past couple of years the concern of release from methane hydrates in shallow coastal zones (these were published in Science & Nature) indicates that there would be substantial methane oxidation of potential releases in near surface waters.

I heartily agree with you that there would be dramatic ecological, societal & economic consequences if a 2m sea level rise by 2040 becomes a reality. And if the findings from the study Thom noted were repeated by other researchers, we'd better prepare for major upheaval. However, pushing what at this time appears to be a well outside of science consensus position will alienate the portion of the public 'tuning in' to this number in the more likely probability that sea level rise will not reach that level.

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