Humans Can’t Control Sea Level Rise
June 15, 2017
By John Steinberger | Contributing Writer
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg recently signed a letter opposing President Donald Trump’s executive action removing the United States from the terms of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, citing sea level rise, flooding and more extreme weather events. He was one of three South Carolina mayors who signed the letter.
The Paris Climate Accord operates on the premise that human carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing global warming and that restricting CO2 in the advanced, industrialized countries would result in a mean surface temperature reduction of 0.2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Under the treaty, which was never ratified by the United States Senate, the United States would be required to reduce CO2 emissions 26% by 2025 and 80% by 2050. India and China would not be bound to similar targets.
CO2 makes up only 0.04% of the atmosphere, and all human activity contributes only 3% of that tiny concentration. Restricting CO2 emissions only in advanced, industrialized countries would have virtually no impact on global CO2 concentration.
Statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the United States has already reduced CO2 emissions 18 percent since 2001. The reductions have resulted from better vehicle technology and the increased use of clean-burning natural gas in power plants. An even more glowing statistic is that the six major pollutants which harm human health (which do not include CO2), such as ozone (smog), particulates (soot) and sulfur dioxide, have been reduced by 70% since 1970. Our air has never been cleaner!
As far as sea level goes, it has been steadily rising at an average rate of 3.24 millimeters per year since 1900, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Sea level rose 1.1 feet during the 20th Century. Somehow, the “experts” project that sea level will rise an additional 2.5 feet by 2050. You can view a NOAA graph of Charleston Harbor Sea Level here: https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=8665530
The climate has been changing throughout recorded history and long before. The Vikings farmed in Greenland during the Medieval Warming Period (950-1350 A.D.) and then evacuated as glaciers took over the land mass during the Little Ice Age (1400-1850). The coastline once advanced as far inland as Columbia and once extended to the boundary of the outer continental shelf. Human activity did not cause those extreme shifts in climate. Heartland Institute physicist Willie Soon documents the shifts in his video Endless Solar Cycles.
The issue of flooding in West Ashley and the rest of the lowcountry is very real. Restricting our CO2 emissions or shifting to solar power will do nothing to solve the problem. The real solutions involve stopping development in the wetlands and improving our drainage systems.
The City of Charleston has taken some positive steps to improve drainage. The $154 Million drainage upgrade downtown should be completed by 2020. The misnamed $15 Million Forest Acres drainage project (which actually impacts East Oak Forest and West Oak Forest) should be completed by the end of the year. A Church Creek Drainage Basin study is being initiated, and a moratorium on new construction along the Church Creek Basin is in place.
A workshop during the West Ashley Master Plan process yielded some solutions, including offering storm drain fee credits for shopping centers which make their parking lots more resilient, a major tree-planting program and retrofitting parks with more absorbent native plants, such as sweetgrass.
The key element to reducing or minimizing flooding in West Ashley is to implement a thorough preventive maintenance program for our storm drainage system. That will require cooperation from the City of Charleston, Charleston County and the South Carolina Department of transportation. Ditches and culverts need to be cleaned on a regular basis, clogged drainage pipes must Be blown out, and debris needs to be pumped out of storm drains, some of which are clogged solid.
We can’t control the sea level, but we can reduce the risk of flooding by protecting our wetlands and maintaining our drainage systems.
John Steinberger is the editor-in-chiefof LowcountrySource.com. To contact him, email John@LowcountrySource.com.