National Geographic’s Pseudo-Scientific Centerfold

natgeo-risingseasWhile plausible arguments can be made that anthropogenic global warming is happening, many proponents thereof often resort to demagoguery and pseudoscience. Hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods, for example, are demagogued to death as signs of global warming, even though the same has been happening since time immemorial.

National Geographic just pulled a whopper in the demagoguery department. Its current feature article is on rising sea levels. There’s a fold-out map, called “If All the Ice Melted,” on what the world would look like if all polar and glacial ice melted – with sea levels some 200 feet higher than present.

The map – which many families will no doubt post up in their homes and many teachers post up in their classrooms – is groundless and very unscientific fear-mongering.

It conveys the impression that if we continue on our current course, the world will look like that at some future date. In fine print they say it could take 5,000 years for all of the ice to melt. But even this is absurd. For one thing, it is estimated that it would take anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 years for all of the ice just on Greenland to melt – and that would raise sea levels by just 20-25 feet. Antarctica, which holds the most ice, isn’t even melting; perhaps that’s because even if global temps rise a bit, it’s so cold there that temps will still remain well below freezing.

More significantly, within a couple of thousand years, we’re due for another ice age. It’s been about 11 or 12 thousand years since the last one and ice ages have been the norm over the past 2.5 million or so years, with “interglacials” such as the one we’re in now lasting around 12,000 years. And with a new ice age, sea levels would drop several hundred feet as happened during the last one.

While someone could speculate that mankind will delay the next ice age due to increased CO2 emissions, the NatGeo article doesn’t go near that – probably because it’s so speculative.

So the NatGeo map is depicting an absurdity.

A scientifically grounded map would depict the likeliest scenario: an ice age a few thousand years hence, with ocean water levels a few hundred feet lower, not higher. In that case they could have mentioned the far less likely scenario of all the ice melting, but then they would have had to argue that mankind will prevent or delay the next ice age through carbon emissions. And they certainly don’t make that argument.

Likewise, their cover graphic of water levels reaching halfway up the Statue of Liberty – some 200 feet above current levels – depicts an absurdity as well.

— update – four months later —

NatGeo finally ran letters to the editor regarding the above cover story. Despite a letter from this observer echoing the above, and I’m sure letters from others making similar points, the magazine had zero letters critical of their cover story. Only only positive letters were featured. Now that’s shoddy journalism.

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  1. […] magazine has some good articles, but it has some bad articles too – either containing misleading information, or containing a lack of information. Regarding the latter, the latest issue of NatGeo has an […]

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