A new climate-change report from the United Nations that was leaked to the media this week says sea levels could rise by more than 3 feet by the end of the 21st century and that there is a 95% likelihood that the global warming that is causing this rise is largely a result of human activity. You may now cue the deniers who say somebody is just making this stuff up.
In this case, that somebody is the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), an international scientific team that issues periodic assessments of our planet's shifting climate. Its report, which is still under review, is scheduled for release in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014. Just like a slew of other scientific studies, it warns that major coastal cities, including New York, Miami, New Orleans, London, Shanghai and Sydney, are in peril of being inundated by the rising seas. And, like those numerous other reports, it says dramatically increased levels of carbon dioxide produced by industrial activity and the burning of fossil fuels are likely to lead to extreme heat waves, widespread melting of polar and glacial ice, drought, crop failures and extinction of many plants and animals.
As dire as this sounds, there are already those who complain the new report, like previous IPCC assessments, understates the problem. In an interview with the Huffington Post, the director of Penn State University's Earth System Science Center, Michael Mann, said the sea level rise might actually reach 6 feet by 2100.
"This fits a pattern of the IPCC tending to err on the side of conservative, in part -- I believe -- because of fear of being attacked by the climate change denial machine," Mann said.
And, of course, that denial machine is always humming. On Monday, one of the U.S. Senate's most vociferous climate change deniers, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), was on Mike Huckabee's radio show sharing misinformation with the host. The conservative pair traded a series of bogus claims that purported to prove there was nothing to worry about when it comes to increasing global temperatures.
Oddly, former-Arkansas Gov. Huckabee was once a climate change believer who backed a cap-and-trade plan for industry to cut CO2 emissions. Then, of course, Huckabee decided to go after the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and had to dispense with scientific knowledge in favor of the right-wing magical thinking that pervades the base of the Republican Party.