Analysis of 'The Sea Is Rising, but Not Because of Climate Change', published in The Wall Street Journal, by Fred Singer on 15 May 2018. The scientific credibility of the opinion piece is rated 'very low' by scientists. Graphic: Climate Feedback

By Emmanuel M Vincent
18 May 2018

(Climate Feedback) – This commentary published by The Wall Street Journal, written by Fred Singer, claims that warming (and therefore greenhouse gas emissions) has no effect on global sea level rise. Although Singer concedes the physical fact that water expands as its temperature increases, he claims that this process must be offset by growth of Antarctic ice sheets.

Scientists who reviewed this opinion piece explained that it is contradicted by a wealth of data and research. Singer bases his conclusion entirely on a cherry-picked comparison of sea level rise 1915-1945 and a single study published in 1990, claiming a lack of accelerating sea level rise despite continued warming. But in fact, modern research utilizing all available data clearly indicates that sea level rise has accelerated, and is unambiguously the result of human-caused global warming.

Since the 1990s for example, satellites have measured an acceleration in the rate of global sea level rise: […]

Reviewers’ overall feedback

These comments are the overall opinion of scientists on the article, they are substantiated by their knowledge in the field and by the content of the analysis in the annotations on the article.

Chris Roberts, Research Scientist, ECMWF/Met Office: This article severely misrepresents the scientific understanding of the processes responsible for observed changes in global sea level. Understanding and attributing the causes of changes in global sea level is an area of active research and there are genuine uncertainties, but there is a clear consensus on the important roles for ocean thermal expansion and addition of mass to the oceans from melting glaciers and ice caps during recent decades. For example, the following paper by Church et al. (2008)* summarizes the independent lines of evidence for changes in sea level from satellite altimeter and tide gauge measurements and how these changes can be explained by a combination of thermal expansion and exchange of mass (either liquid water or ice) between the oceans and continents. […]

Stefan Rahmstorf, Professor, Potsdam University: The article has almost nothing to do with the modern state of sea-level science. The author tries to call into question that global warming causes sea-level rise, and does so by cherry-picking a short segment of data from 1915-1945, a time when data quality is poor and the warming signal small—a bizarre approach that could never pass scientific peer review and is apparently aimed at misleading a lay audience.

Keven Roy, Research Fellow, Nanyang Technological University: This article is misleading, and presents inaccurate statements about global mean sea level rise.

Benjamin Horton, Professor, Earth Observatory of Singapore: If this were an essay in one of my undergraduate classes, he would fail. [more]

Wall Street Journal commentary grossly misleads readers about science of sea level rise

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