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Sea level rise could flood east of Bayshore

Original post made on Dec 14, 2007

The San Francisco Bay of the future will be significantly larger, rising between 4 inches to more than three feet by 2100, official warns Palo Alto leaders.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 14, 2007, 1:20 PM

Comments (49)

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Posted by Ira Berman
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2007 at 1:48 pm

The presidential candidates need to come to communities like ours which will be hit hard by rising sea levels. Levees in the South Bay and the Delta will fail as the waters rise. I don't think a single candidate is aware of this. It's like it's not a priority. An interesting poll being taken by a group called Unity08 (www.unity08.com/issues) is having voters rank their issues so the candidates can see what really matters to Americans. Global Warming is currently #7, but it should be higher. Residents in the Bay Area should make this issue a priority because the Bay Area will be hit hard by rising oceans.


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Posted by mike
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2007 at 2:25 pm



There is plenty of real estate higher up.

Some of these scientists really lack credibility and are simply looking to fund their careers.

Remember how the incidence of AIDS was rounded down by 1/3 a few weeks ago. The researchers were happy to get the money until they were found out.

We really need need better oversight and auditing of some of these estimates re Global Warming AIDS etc. There are many instances of conflict of interest, appeals to emotion rather than logic etc.

It reminds me of all that recovered memory fraud in psychotherapy in the 80s and 90s




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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Although I think the global warming hysteria will pass, it is useful to finally get us past the nuclear "china syndrome" hysteria. That is why Margaret Thatcher created global warming in the first place. (just to be honest about it).

Just taking the Al Gore/IPCC argument as the pure truth, for the sake of argument, how does one avoid the fact that only nuclear energy can get us out of our dire straits (like the flooding of Palo Alto lowlands)?

For those who go on and on with solar fixes, I offer the following conundrum:

Web Link (endangered squirrels are stopping a $billion solar installation in the S. Cal. desert).

Any serious global warming advocate will support nuclear energy. A number of former environmental opponents of nuclear have switched over to nuclear advocacy. Our PA council could get aboard with the future, and allow us to voluntarily sign up for nuclear electricity, as it does for solar (via PaloAltoGreen). That would be a major step in the right direction.

All this talk about urban densification is a hoot. It won't reduce CO2 by more than a fraction of a perent, if that.

Nukes are green. Now is the time.


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Posted by Cluetime
a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2007 at 2:39 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Are-You-Going-To-Learn-To-Swim?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

What say the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission plant a pole near the water with one-inch marks so that as the water rises (or doesn't rise), people can clearly see how many of these gloom-and-doom predictions actually come true.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 14, 2007 at 4:19 pm

Even with no increase in the height of the bay, the Army Corps of Engineers has declared the levees to be unreliable. When they draw the flood maps, they ignore the levees. This causes a bay flood zone with those in it subject to having to buy flood insurance. If the levees were strengthened, many flood insurance premiums would be saved--not to mention the increased safety of those living there.
Yet, the City Council does nothing about this. (The political lobby is stronger regarding creek flooding.)


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2007 at 4:43 pm

When they spent 5 million dollars on leves around Alviso, they neglected my suggestion to jack all the buildings up above the projected flood level. An alternative is to build on barges that can float above floods. Or we can just run around Chicken Little wise as at present.


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Posted by joyce
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2007 at 6:49 pm

R Wray,

I don't know how you think the creek flooding political lobby is getting anywhere. It's 9 years and no one has removed the Chaucer St bridge, which should have come down he day after the 1998 flooding.


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Posted by Facts Fellas
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:16 pm

What have the tide charts said for the last 60 years in the Bay Area?

Ummmmmmmmm,,,,,,, There has been no No NO change.



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Posted by Greg
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 14, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Facts,

Please do NOT confuse with facts about global warming. It is hard enough to sell nuclear WITH global warming. Don't mess it up!


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Posted by a long time resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2007 at 1:03 am

People who live or own property in the P.A. flood zone should form a special assesment district to pay for the flood control in that area.

They shouldn't wait for people who don't live in the flood areas to come up with their money to solve flooding problems. I think a ballot measure to prevent money from being collected to prevent flooding in the flood zone would easily pass in this city as a big majority don't live in the flood zone.

As I recall most of the creek and land along the creek is privatly owned. I have been told by the city departments that they do not enter private property, evan with a easement, to do things that safeguard the general public. It's against the law for them to do that. It's the property owners responsibility to prevent the flooding on their property.

The cities doled out millions after the '98 flood. The bridge was on city property and the city didn't do anything and still havent done anything with the bridge across this creek, river.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2007 at 8:17 am

Then why would Cayhill want to build a huge development on their old salt flats in Redwood City? Leave it to the birds.


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Posted by Noah
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2007 at 9:13 am

I'm beginning construction of boat over at my place-
all are invited-
bring your pets too!


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 15, 2007 at 9:45 am

At least there has been talk about creek flooding. The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority was formed.
No one even talks about solving bay flooding. Several years ago when this came up, the Santa Clara Water District had a good chance of getting the funds to strengthen the levees, but they needed approval and direction from the Palo Alto City Council. The Greens prevented this even though it would have at most effected the wet lands only a few feet along the levees.


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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2007 at 10:22 am

The creek has flooded. The bay hasn't. We must deal with problems that are real (fix the creek) before problems that are totaly speculative (the bay).


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Posted by Floodplain Manager
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2007 at 10:59 am

You'll probably never get any money from the Feds for fixing the creek. They are starting to triage projects based on depth of flooding. The local creek flood is not nearly as bad as the +10 foot deep floods that affect other regions (like Sacramento). If you take away Chaucer bridge, you'll flood EPA like that too. I believe Chaucer bridge was designed to throttle the creek on purpose.

As R Wray mentioned, the Bay flooding could have been solved already if it weren't for the vocal minority who didn't want a few more feet of levee in the Baylands. SCVWD wanted to do a project, but at the time Council said "no thanks, we'll lobby FEMA for relaxed standards". FEMA laughed and said "NO". It is all in the Council minutes from the early 1990's. It used to be on the web site too.




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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2007 at 11:03 am

> People who live or own property in the P.A. flood zone
> should form a special assesment district to pay for the
> flood control in that area.

This is a good idea. If someone were to do an analysis of the costs of flood plain insurance to the residents in this area vs the cost of the assessment district to enhance the levies, there is every chance that after twenty (or so) years there would be a break even point. Once the area is no longer in a flood plain then the insurance for home mortgages would go away.

Given that such an idea would reduce the cost-of-living in PA, it's unlikely that the Council would ever consider such an idea. This is the sort of thing that the neighborhood associations in the affected areas might consider working on.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 15, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Given that it's not politically correct to fix the creek flooding in Palo Alto (Palo Alto must take the flood waters to protect East Palo Alto), it's not an argument to not fix the bay flooding. Fixing the levees is straight forward and relatively inexpensive. It is real to those paying the insurance premiums, being subject to remodeling constraints and reduced evaluation because of the bay flood zones. Why should be wait for a mini New Orleans flood?


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Posted by Joe jez
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2007 at 5:00 pm

Heavens to Betsy!!! Climatologists cannot even predict the weather accurately for more than 24 hours in advance. Who could take seriously a prediction that is 93 years away? Give me a break!!!!!!!!


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2007 at 5:07 pm

> I believe Chaucer bridge was designed to throttle
> the creek on purpose

This is an interesting point. The Chaucer Street Bridge was built in 1939, so it doubtful that any of the key participants are around to fill in the gaps as to why this particular design was chosen. Palo Alto was much smaller then, and EPA was mostly farms. It's difficult to believe that people purposefully decided to build the Chaucer street bridge so that the Creek would overflow into Palo Alto and not EPA.


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Posted by flood zoned
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2007 at 7:12 pm

long time resident and Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It:


When we bought our house in Palo Alto, 14 years ago, we went out of our way to buy it in a "non-flood" zone. We looked at the maps and deliberately ruled out buying anything in the flood zone. We bought a house outside of the flood zone boundaries. Our street was not in the flood zone.

Then, guess what. They (the city) re did all the measurements and decided to move the boundaries by a block or more in some areas. Now we are in a flood zone, even though we bought outside of it.

Would I think it fair to have to shoulder the whole cost of fixing the levees with the other homeowners in the flood zone after we did all we could to not buy in a flood zone? No.


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Posted by Floodplain Manager
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2007 at 11:55 am

Everyone lives in a "flood zone". Nearly 25% of all flood damage happens in areas that are not mapped in the special flood hazard area (SFHA). The SFHA is an area with a 1% chance of a flood in any given year. It is the area that requires flood insurance on any structure with Federally backed mortgage. Most of Palo Alto has a 0.2% chance of being flooded in any given year.

Everyone should buy flood insurance regardless. You have a higher chance of experiencing a flood than a fire over the course of a 30-year mortgage. Regular policies DO NOT cover flood damage. Small floods can happen just about anywhere with the right amount of rain.

In 2002, Palo Alto corrected an error on the flood maps that better reflects the actual risk. This removed many properties from SFHA, but a few were added. Flood maps need updates frequently to reflect the changes to risk. There is no regional agency that can prevent Portola Valley, Woodside or unincorporated San Mateo County from building more impervious area in the hills above San Francisquito Creek. There should be, but there is not. So the chance of creek flooding will really get worse as time goes on (especially if climate change affects rain patterns).

I believe in Global Warming, but I'm not convinced of sea level rise. Have the calculations included the earth and seafloor compaction that will occur with the added water weight? I kind of doubt it. It may be a zero sum game, like sea ice is.


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Posted by Floodplain Manager
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:06 pm

"This is an interesting point. The Chaucer Street Bridge was built in 1939, so it doubtful that any of the key participants are around to fill in the gaps as to why this particular design was chosen. Palo Alto was much smaller then, and EPA was mostly farms. It's difficult to believe that people purposefully decided to build the Chaucer street bridge so that the Creek would overflow into Palo Alto and not EPA."

At the time Chaucer Bridge was constructed, pretty much only the Crescent of Crescent Park existed. That area is right beside the creek, and it does not currently flood. It might if Chaucer Bridge is removed. San Francisquito Creek is an alluvial flood plain. Overflows would historically flow away from it in all directions. Most riverine flooding only affect homes near the river. Many of the houses in danger from the over flow were not built until the late 40's and 50's. They are mostly pretty far from the actual creek. I don't think EPA was the reason that Chaucer was built to throttle the creek. I think the reason was to protect the older parts of Crescent Park. I think that concept got overlooked by later developers and planners.




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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2007 at 12:21 pm

We can accomodate to slowly changing sea levels, especially if we do not mictrate away our substance on feel good schemes that are as effective as incense burning.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2007 at 4:16 pm

Yup...people have migrated away from too much and toward enough water for millenia...and should continue to do so. To do anything to encourage foolish choices would be harmful to those who make the foolish choices.

For the same reason I deeply resent funding people to REBUILD their homes in slide areas or flood areas, I would deeply resent contributing to any policy which would encourage people to keep settling along the water line... If it is true that it is going to rise. Those who want to take that risk ( which I would, frankly), should be able to do so, but then bear their own costs.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2007 at 8:34 pm

They require that, building above the flood, for reconstruction along the Russian River. Old Sacramento has many story and a half houses, built with the first floor above the then expected flood plain. Even at that, when the big one comes, much of Sacramento will flood.


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:42 am

> Would I think it fair to have to shoulder the whole cost
> of fixing the levees with the other homeowners in the flood
> zone after we did all we could to not buy in a flood zone? No.

The issue being suggested comes in two parts:

1) Fixing the levees so that there is no flooding for anyone in the flood plain.
2) Effecting a solution that reduces the cost of home ownership for people moving into the flood plain zone in spite of the city government's doing nothing to help.

While there is a direct benefit to those with flood insurance who might now drop it, there is also a direct benefit to those without flood insurance whose homes are no longer subject to flooding because of improved levee protection.

The suggestion for local assessment districts for better levee protection still stands.


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Posted by flood zoned,
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2007 at 7:44 pm

Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It,

Well, no, I still don't agree. See, because we took out flood insurance on our house before it was reclassified to the 100 year flood plain, I still pay the same insurance rate as people outside the flood plain. We were grandfathered that way.

So it would cost us probably much more to shoulder the cost of the levees not spread out over the whole city, than the cost of our flood insurance now.

But, you know, as someone mentioned, you will also be better protected by newer levees because as it is, you house can be flooded anyway, almost anywhere you live in Palo Alto.


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2007 at 8:16 pm

> So it would cost us probably much more to shoulder
> the cost of the levees not spread out over the whole city,
> than the cost of our flood insurance now.

As suggested in the posting, an analysis of the situation would reveal the details. However, a thumbnail sketch might be worth the time:

1) 2000 homes paying $50 a year into an assessment district fund for levee work.
2) This would generate $100K at year, and $1M per decade. Invested, it might generate ~$1.7M for the ten year period.
3) Given a dedicated revenue stream, up-front money could be borrowed (although not suggested) to do any immediate work deemed important.
4) Over the next 20-30 years, an additional $3-$5M additional dollars would be available from this source.

Would this be enough? Time for a levee engineer to take the platform and tell us a little bit about the current state of the levees and what might need extra money, over and above what we could expect from the normal sources.

If $50 per parcel were too small to be effective, then raising the fee would ultimately generate the needed funds.

The problem here is that is that somebody has to pay for these improvements. If not the people who live in the so-called "flood plain", then who? The people who don't live in this zone?

> you house can be flooded anyway, almost anywhere you
> live in Palo Alto.

Given that all the homes in Palo Alto are not declared to be in a flood plain, this is a little difficult to understand. A contour map of Palo Alto shows that homes west of Middlefield are about 25 feet above sea level, and the land surfaces gets progressively higher as one travels to the west--into the hills.

But, perhaps the poster can provide technical details as to why every home up to the skyline is subject to flooding?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Burns (R) Cupertino
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2007 at 9:57 pm

Another opportunity to blow smoke (or greenhouse gases) in a public forum. There seems to be subtle patterns developing in local governments' response to the highly debatable subject of Al Gore's movie.

It's simple. First: restate the (publicly perceived) inevitable catastrophe of global warming and include new stories about ice sheets falling into the ocean (because the public is becoming numb to the old rants). Second: tell everyone it's too late. Third: explain that the only solution is to allow the <insert local government entity like BCDC here> more authority over private land use.

In this case, while the audience attempts to comprehend a world with 39 more inches of water evenly distributed across 70% of the 197,223,374 square miles of the surface of our planet; tell them that they can plan ahead by putting up a lot of high density housing. While the opponents and advocates prepare their arguments to that; slip in the part about how only the real experts like BCDC are qualified to manage the future use of the land upon which $100 billion of property is built on.

There is way too much unsubstantiated, inflammatory, (if not riot inducing), rhetoric contained in this article. I sincerely hope that reasonable and intelligent people can see the danger of allowing elected and appointed officials to prophesize recklessly like this. Is he getting ready to retire? He should.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 3:30 am

There are wolves among the sheep who generate panic in order to cut supper away from the herd.


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Posted by Larry_T
a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 18, 2007 at 8:31 am

Nukes aren't so green. Have you taken a vacation in Chernobyl lately? Would you offer to guard Yucca Mountain for 15,000 years? Would you live near any power plant whose owner's liability is capped?

Before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the nuclear industry assured us that the warnings of scientists and environmentalists were unfounded. Now the carbon dioxide industry is doing the same.

Long-term predictions are hard to make, and most will be over- or underestimated. Maybe sea level won't rise very much. Maybe it will rise a lot. But warming is already happening. Ice sheets are melting. Climate is changing.

There is far more evidence that reducing greenhouse gas emissions of all kinds (not just CO2) is a good investment than there was that invading Iraq would be a good investment. Spending half a trillion dollars to occupy a country that didn't even threaten you only makes sense if your goal was to enrich your buddies in the oil and weapons industries and the Saudi royal family. If W's buddies were in the alternative energy industry, you can bet that's where that half a trillion would have gone to fight a "war on carbon" campaign starring Muslim oil barons as the bad guys.

I would be happy to discuss these issues at length on a cruise ship through the Northwest Passage.



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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:44 am

> I would be happy to discuss these issues at length on a
> cruise ship through the Northwest Passage.

On a cruise ship that is burning fossil fuels, no doubt--contributing to "global warming"? Seems a bit hypercritical to propose something like that when chatting on-line doesn't require burning much oil to provide the platform for a discussion.

> Before Three Mile Island

There was no environmental damage, or loss-of-life, at Three Mile Island.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:46 am

Compare the deaths from Chernobyl with the deaths from coal mining in the same period. Compare the deaths originally predicted with those in actuality. Why guard Yucca for 15000 years when the waste will decay below the natural radiation of the source material in less than seven hundred years, while the waste from coal will live forever, unguarded in the biosphere. And the liabililty of any owner is capped at the value of their company and insurance. Happy to discuss this further in a Northwest Passage cruise. Your treat?


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:12 am

Just to keep the record straight (for the US anyway):
---
Web Link

The 2006 death toll is far below pre-1930 levels, when an average of 2,295 miners were killed each year. But deaths could continue to rise as high oil prices pressure coal companies to produce more of a fuel that provides about half the nation's energy, says Davitt McAteer, former head of MSHA.
---


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm

This Wikipedia entry provides a clue to the cost of coal in the loss of human life yearly from a worldwide point-of-view:
---
Web Link

China only produces 35% of the worlds coal but accounts for 80% of the world coal mining deaths. Mining deaths (recorded) in China in 2006 were 4746 people so there for world death estimates to about 5932 people/year.
---

If one were to use 6,000 people killed worldwide annually mining coal, and project that back over 100 years--this could easily come to 500,000 to 600,000 miners killed producing this energy source.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Eric
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Regarding the comment from Joe that "Climatologists cannot even predict the weather accurately for more than 24 hours in advance. Who could take seriously a prediction that is 93 years away? "

The answer is in your posting. "Climatologists" don't predict weather, they predict climate. Models of weather and models of climate are NOT the same thing. People continually confuse these -- saying that because forecasters can't tell them what the WEATHER will be next week very accurately they shouldn't trust climate forecasts.

However, climate and weather are NOT the same thing. I get frustrated with some of you folks who post statements with a conspiratorial edge about "the scientists" and their "agendas".

The majority of scientists have an agenda of figuring out what is going on and building good theoretical models. Politicians often have agendas -- and the agenda I've noticed most predominently is that of trying to deny the science based on political beliefs and/or short-term payoff instead of the evidence.

Lastly -- the evidence. It isn't just about melting ice and CO2 levels etc. One can build good models that show effects of CO2, but that alone doesn't do it. As others have noted -- the earth is a complex system. Anyway, there is a confluence of evidence from many many sources. But here is the real story for doubters -- if you really want to understand global warming instead talking about agendas you have to do a lot more than see Al Gore's movie and not believe it because Al Gore is talking or listen to some guy telling you on FOX News that is all part of somebody's agenda.

You have to learn about science, I mean REALLY learn about science. Then, go read some of the source research (I suggest the excellent journals - Nature and Science to start) and decide for yourself. Guess what? If you do that, then you might start getting concerned.


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It,
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2007 at 11:12 pm

> I get frustrated with some of you folks who post statements
> with a conspiratorial edge about "the scientists" and their
> "agendas".

Scientists are people first. It would be nice if they weren't, but they are. Making things worse, scientists who are unfortunate to be citizens of totalitarian regimes all too frequently fall captive to the agendas/themes of their governments--for their jobs, and/or funding for the projects that they do get to work on.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2007 at 6:44 am

Well said, Local. Scientists, like most people, follow the funding, unless they are very, very dedicated to real science or independently wealthy.

Fortunately, more and more former scientist "believers" in man-induced global warming are coming out of the closet from around the world and telling everyone that the man-made part is probably not true.

We have been distracted by the real need to simply deal with the reality of another cycle of climate warming by the "we have to fight it" crowd.

I hope we can now pay attention to how to help people deal with this part of the cycle.


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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2007 at 11:18 am


The neighbors laughed when I put a rowboat on the roof. I'll have the last laugh. Muuuuhahahahahahaha!!


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Posted by Noah II
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Hulkster, be sure you get two of every species, including the "science doubters"; we'll need to study them when the next millennium gets going, so that we can genetically engineer their propensities for basing everything on faith out of existence.


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Posted by Local-Control-Only-Works-When-You-Use-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2007 at 3:40 pm

> so that we can genetically engineer their propensities
> for basing everything on faith out of existence

Like the faith that government will solve all of our problems?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2007 at 4:54 pm

yeah, that one, too...

bye, bye


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2007 at 8:24 pm

From Topex/Poseidon satellite altimeter data, the mean sea level rise has been +3.2mm per year from 1993-1998 with an errorbar of +-0.2mm. Assuming that the sea doesn't rise any faster now, this equates to 7.3in in 50 years. This is a big assumption because the mean sea level rise for the 40 years before this period was +2.1mm per year +- 1.3mm.

Web Link



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Posted by Eric
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:16 pm

Regarding this comment:
"Well said, Local. Scientists, like most people, follow the funding, unless they are very, very dedicated to real science or independently wealthy.

Fortunately, more and more former scientist "believers" in man-induced global warming are coming out of the closet from around the world and telling everyone that the man-made part is probably not true."
-------

This shows a profound misunderstanding of the current state of science on global-warming, and indeed a profound misunderstanding of how science operates in general. The writer doesn't seem to have understanding of the peer review process or the nature of contention in science (which is significant and ongoing). Research published in major peer-reviewed journals is not about "belief". By and large, that's simply not how research gets published gets into reputable journals.

Oh -- about the funding. I've got several friends who are faculty at major universities doing science research in areas as diverse as viral mechanisms in cancer and cellular basis of certain neurological disorders. I understand very well what suffering they go through to get funding. Does it impact their findings and what they publish? No way. Especially since the vast majority of their funding comes government agencies through peer review of grant proposals. Is there some expected OUTCOME attached to the funding? No way.

Would they get published in the short term if they faked results to get a desired outcome? Yup, they probably might be able to get away with it if they were smart and good. It has happened before -- but guess what? People who do that get caught and they are skewered before their peers. It doesn't hold up when others try to corroborate the results. What I'm trying to say is that people who think that scientists somehow follow an agenda are misinformed about the peer review process and about the confluence of evidence that feeds current understanding of global warming issues. It isn't just one guy, or a few labs, or just people in climatology. It derives from a confluence of evidence from multiple fields studying issues as diverse as ocean levels, frogs in high mountains, glacial advance and retreat patterns, ice cores, deep ocean currents, computer modeling, atmospheric fluid dynamics and on and on and on. Is it simple with a simple answer? No way.

Unfortunately, the fact that I have to explain this at all means that it is unlikely in the space provided people who have such a profound misunderstanding could be educated otherwise. And I don't mean educated to agree that global-warming is an issue -- I mean educated to understand how science works.

As for people being influenced by their funding and scientists being people -- yes, and yes. Of course that happens sometimes. Does it happen the majority of the time? No. There a system in place for working against such tendencies via peer review and falsifiable claims and replication of results and convergence of predicted results from different fields? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Do people take wrong turns and make errors? Yes. Is it the best way of "knowing" that we have? Yes.

Lastly, I have a different take on all of this anyway. It reminds me of the prisoner's dilemna logic problem. Let's say that the current understanding is wrong, and that there isn't warming -- or that there is warming but it has nothing to do with human activity. The result of us trying to save energy, become more efficient, cut greenhouse gases and so on would have economic impact to be sure, but it would cut both ways, both negative and positive. Certainly economists have a record predicting the future that folks who criticise climatologists could be concerned about. ;-)

What that says to me is -- lets just say YOU doubters are wrong. What is the worst case scenario? Seems to me that if we prepare and we were right, we are in way better shape than if we prepare and we wrong. This last point isn't a scientific argument, just a bit of common sense. That seems to be missing from all of this discussion.


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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2007 at 10:50 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I guess politicians don't lie (not in their long-term interest, media constantly scrutinizing), investors don't follow fads (they are highly analysis and rationale, and the market will prevent it), doctors are focused on curing the the sick (just read that Hippocratic oath), etc. Peer review, both for publication and funding, couldn't possibly be influenced by group think and the flavors of the month, could they??

Ever read "Wonderful Life" by Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould? Basically tells how the leading paleontologist of the 1900's shoehorned Cambrian explosion fossils into existing phyla because there just COULDN'T be a lot of fossils from one place/time that fell into multiple previously undiscovered phyla. Everybody agreed with him. If memory serves, it took about 60-70 years to discover the error and correct it. Hmm - that couldn't happen today, could it?

Science, like every other human activity, is prone to mistakes and social dynamics. Mix the two, you can get wildly wrong conclusions that "everybody" believes. Is global warming one? I have no idea - but I sure wouldn't dismiss the idea.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 20, 2007 at 11:36 pm

"Science, like every other human activity, is prone to mistakes and social dynamics. Mix the two, you can get wildly wrong conclusions that "everybody" believes. Is global warming one? I have no idea - but I sure wouldn't dismiss the idea."

Fair enough, but until the overall *weight* of evidence counter to what we so far know about climate warming is refuted, anyone who acts as if that information isn't true - or shouldn't be acted upon - is NOT acting from respect for scientific method, and is instead acting on faith.

So far, the relative *weight* of the warming problem leans the scales in the direction that has prompted things like the Kyoto and Bali initiatives.

Without exception, every single one of the naysayers re: global warming on this thread (and in many other similar threads seen in PA Online) is essentially asking those who are **acting on the best data we have, and the comprehensive WEIGHT of data we have**, to "prove zero".

What the naysayers are insisting upon is NOT science, because the paradigm shift is currently completed in favor of the warming arguments. Thus, many nations and individuals are taking action.

This isn't to say that the current data will not be shown to be inaccurate based on the *weight* of countervailing data, but until that happens we should act accordingly.

Sparky and others can trot out examples of scientific theories that have been disproved, all they want, but what is the real *relevance*, in terms of *real weight of evidence* that will turn the current theory about global warming on its head.

My sense is that the naysayers are barking up the wrong tree, because their beliefs (theories) are far outweighed by evidence to the contrary.

What troubles me most of all about the naysayers is that many of them present data points to don't accumulate to a comprehensive picture - it's a lot of disconnected stuff. Thus, their theories are not falsifiable, which is a sina qua non requirement for any throery that wants to call itself a "scientific" theory.

There is a real "true believer" quality to most of the warming naysayers (see Eric Hoffer); we really shouldn't be paying attention to them (I've already spent too much time thinking about their weak positions).

IN a very fundamental way, they don't appear to understand how science works, or even what it is - as they appear more religious in their approach to what they label as "science".



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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2007 at 11:56 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I agree (I think) that we have to act on the data we have; that's what everybody always does, right? But of course we have to weigh how drastic the action is against how certain we are about what we believe. If we are certain about global warming, maybe we should spend zillions to combat it. If we aren't certain, knocking 1% off global economic growth is a huge mistake.

The stakes are big either way. So before group think fully sets in, it's worth it to be a skeptic and push back on the lemmings.

So Mike, dude, no need to swagger over others, calling them anti-science and "faith based" - enough to just say you disagree and think the evidence says otherwise.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2007 at 12:10 am

Sparky, as we debate, the ones who are coming off as looking like jerks are the ones who seem to be ignoring the pollution that kills millions of people every year. THAT's a scientific fact. Find me some scientific paradigms that says it isn't true.

And please do consider what Senate committees are publishing this stuff, and who they cater to in the real world. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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