Antarctic ice is melting faster than we thought – killing one last climate denier talking point

  • Published on June 19th, 2018

Odds are, no one was especially thrilled by the widely reported news last week that Antarctica’s ice melt has tripled since 1992. But deniers are particularly angry: the finding strikes a blow against one of their last sort-of-true talking points. Deniers, you see, love to claim that despite Arctic melt, the ice covering the Antarctic is doing fine, or maybe even growing.

The Larsen trillion-ton C iceberg has broken offBy Climate Denier Roundup

The denier reaction to the new science was quick and prodigious. WUWT posted four separate times about the study last week. The first post tried to distract from reality by pointing out that despite the fact that the melt has been accelerating, it’s still only a small percentage of the continent that’s melted. (So far…)

The second WUWT post highlighted another new study, this one on the paleoclimatology of Antarctic ice over the last eight million years. This study found that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet historically survived conditions 2 to 3 degrees C warmer than today. While this finding is reassuring, the study Watts is attempting to debunk deals with the Western and Peninsula sheets. These sheets are already melting at 1 C of warming and 400ish ppm, making his claims fall well short of offering the reassurance that everything will be fine if we don’t get emissions under control.

That weakness must be why WUWT ran yet another post on Thursday about this study, this time trying to claim, via some cluttered paleotemperature graphs adapted from a 2001 study which may or may not be reliable, that a few degrees of warming in the past didn’t trigger full-continent ice melt. But this post misses the point that we’re already somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way to the warming that ‘01 study identified that the ice sheet might survive. Given that emissions are still rising, this is hardly a sign that we don’t need to worry about future warming.

Last week’s fourth Antarctica post is about yet another study that compares Antarctica’s potential futures, one where we drastically reduce emissions versus one in which we don’t. In the post, Watts describes the study as an  “evangelical bit of diatribe masquerading as science,” because it posits that we can save the world by reducing emissions. But Watts’ mockery misses the fact that the thrust of this study is that changes in ice melt aren’t set in stone, so we can avoid the sort of catastrophic sea level rise that the first study invoked.

Then again, according to denier blogger Paul Homewood, in a post picked up by Breitbart’s James Delingpole, sea levels are already rising and Antarctica hasn’t yet contributed that much. According to this argument, the continent’s future melt can’t be that bad, simply because it hasn’t already happened.

No, that doesn’t make much sense, but the attacks against Antarctic science aren’t about logic or intellectual integrity. This assault about throwing every excuse against the wall and seeing what sticks. Case in point: Aussie blogger JoNova’s take that because there are volcanoes and magma under the Antarctic ice, a warming atmosphere must not be causing the melt.

We’d be surprised if JoNova wasn’t aware that those volcanoes have probably been there for quite a while, and there’s no evidence that they have only recently begun causing ice to melt. And, of course, there’s no reason that volcanoes can’t naturally melt the ice from below as warmer water and air melts it from above.

Despite all these different posts trying to explain in different ways why this isn’t bad news, deniers just cAn’t-artica-ulate any coherent or persuasive arguments.

(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)

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