Climate alarmists often assert that global warming is a threat to our military and national security. The Navy Times and various establishment media outlets recently published articles claiming rising seas at Annapolis, Maryland. are threatening U.S. Naval Academy facilities. The assertion is hogwash.
U.S. Naval Academy professor Gina Henderson claimed in a recent briefing that sea level at the Naval Academy’s Annapolis campus is expected to rise between 7 and 43 inches by 2050. Media outlets quickly seized on the remarks to assert a global warming crisis, including making claims that rising sea levels are a national security threat. An examination of sea level trends, however, shows Henderson’s sea level prediction is far-fetched. Moreover, simple measures like sea walls would protect U.S. military facilities that would otherwise be affected by sea level rise.
Since 1993, measurements from radar altimeters on NASA satellites have allowed estimates of global mean sea level. Skeptics of an asserted global warming crisis have pointed out flaws in the manner in which government-funded scientists at the University of Colorado report the data – flaws that lend the appearance of more sea level rise than is actually occurring. Regardless, even the reports from the University of Colorado scientists show a much slower pace of warming than Henderson predicts.
According to the University of Colorado scientists, global sea level rise is occurring at a pace of just 1.2 inches per decade. The altimeter data, which stretch back 25 years, show no significant recent increase in the pace of sea level rise. The recent and present pace of sea level rise indicates there will be just 3.6 inches of global sea level rise by 2050, which is only half of the least amount of sea level rise predicted by Henderson.
Various natural factors – especially plate tectonics – can cause some locations to experience a different pace of sea level rise than others. Yet sea level measurements at Annapolis show the city is experiencing sea level rise at approximately the global average. Scientists have been taking tidal gauge measurements at Annapolis since the 1920s. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), sea level rise at Annapolis is occurring at a pace of merely 1.4 inches per decade, with no recent acceleration. By 2050, that would equate to only 4.2 inches of sea level rise, which is little more than half of the least amount of sea level rise predicted by Henderson.
It remains theoretically possible, of course, that sea level rise at Annapolis will reach the lowest end of Henderson’s 2050 predicted range. That would require, however, an immediate and dramatic change in sea level rise that would occur for some unforeseen reason (global warming, after all, has been occurring throughout the time period of minimal sea level rise at Annapolis and globally).
Even if Henderson’s predicted rise in sea level were to occur, this would not create a crisis at Annapolis naval facilities or a threat to national security. Taking Henderson’s prediction at face value, the Naval Academy plans to raise its sea wall approximately three feet. Problem solved.
The Naval Academy’s response highlights the silliness of alarmist global warming claims regarding rising sea levels. Global sea level has been rising since at least the beginning of the 20th century. Utilizing 20th-century technologies, people and nations have been able to deal quite well with rising sea level. It stands to reason that with 21st-century technologies, people and nations will be able to deal even more effectively with rising sea level.
Let’s get back to the main point, however. Given a choice between speculative claims of imminent, rapid sea level rise versus long-established objective data showing minimal historic sea level rise with no recent acceleration, the smart money says claims of imminent, rapid sea level rise are unfounded.
James Taylor is a senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute.