[Coral-List] La Nina and global warming

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Thu Nov 11 12:49:48 EST 2010

      The coral-list had been getting fairly dull with all those 
advertisements for environmental management jobs. I thought it was 
time for some excitement and nothing seems to stir the neurons like a 
little climate change poking.
     Its good to see that people still have trust in their government 
agencies and believe their published temperature numbers even if some 
may be tainted by "urban heat islands" or "climate gates." Of course 
we can rest assured the numbers have been adjusted for all that. By 
now list readers should know it is difficult to get geologists overly 
wound up over climate change. They know it's been changing back and 
forth since the beginning of time. The story is written in stone and 
deep sea mud. The same is also true for sea level, which at times has 
been higher than the statue of liberty and not long ago about 400 ft 
below present. Before that it fluctuated up and down about 4 times 
after being 6 to 8 meters above present level. That higher level was 
during what we call the Pleistocene, or "ice ages." The sea had to be 
that high so that the coral reef that is now the Florida Keys could 
      Seriously, we all know sea level has been rising for the past 
18,000 years and according to tide gauge data sea level at Key West 
came up roughly one foot in the past 100 years! Is there any 
scientific reason why it should stop short of its last high stand? In 
1991 Lidz and Shinn published a peer reviewed paper on sea level 
change in the Florida Keys. (Lidz, B.H., and Shinn, E.A., 1991, 
Paleoshorelines, Reefs, at a Rising Sea (South Florida), Journal of 
Coastal Research v. 7, no. 1, p. 203-229.) In that publication we 
documented the Holocene rise in sea level and demonstrated that with 
a continued rise of only 1 meter 75% of the Florida Keys would be 
under water. No one paid any attention. But that was before sea level 
rise hysteria reached its present level. Back then in pre IPCC times 
we were just doing basic geological science without the influence of 
     As for the Scientific American magazine poll, I have not read one 
in a long time but I think we can rest assured it is not on the Tea 
Party reading list. As for Steve's tirade against polls I certainly 
agree they are almost always skewed one way or the other. I never saw 
one that was not self-serving or asking the significant questions. 
They remind me of: "When did you stop beating your dog? A) Monday, B) 
Tuesday or C) never." Nevertheless, readers of that magazine are not 
     The interesting and revealing question related to science and 
politics was questioned by Ed Blume who wrote, "The most troubling 
response in the survey: 67% of the respondents want to keep science 
out of the political process.  I take that to mean that two-thirds of 
the respondents want our governments to make decisions without 
consideration of scientific inquiry and conclusions." I could ask, 
how many in congress do you think are capable of understanding 
science? My observation has been that they mainly like scientific 
results when they support what they already intend to do. Thus, 
science can get skewed when they dump money on projects that will 
support what they want. Climate change may be a good example because 
a lot of rich people will get richer on that issue. Want to buy some 
carbon credits?
      Many of us older types come from a long-standing culture that 
says science should be pure and not influenced by politicians, 
kind-of-like separation of religion and government. The agency where 
I spent 31 years had existed for well over a century because it stuck 
to the science and was seldom accused of bias. That agency produced 
hard data that could be used by people on both sides of the political 
aisle. I found that out when I spent 10-years installing monitoring 
wells and chasing underground sewage in the Florida Keys. On the 
other hand, some youthful agencies bend with the political climate or 
even help shape it. That's a sure way to get congressional funding 
and enlarge an agency when the climate is right but it can shoot you 
in the foot when the political winds change. Back when we published 
the paleoshorelines study it was basic science and people can still 
use that data as they choose.
      The winds have changed recently, and we can only hope our 
science will weather the new and evolving political climate. Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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