Rising Seas, Federal Inaction and Donald Trump Turn Climate Change into a Local Issue

In Alviso, the water has always posed an existential threat. The shoreline community lies on the front lines of climate change, fighting a losing battle against a rising sea.

Founded in the mid-19th century as a port city, Alviso was expected to grow into the industrial heart of the Santa Clara Valley. But as the rest of the region evolved into a world-class commercial center, toxic silt and invasive weeds choked the estuary and made the bay all but impossible to dredge. The steamboats stopped their daily trips from San Francisco. The Alviso Slough turned into a catchall for toxic runoff from the mercury-laden Almaden mines. Cargill Salt Co. divided the waterfront into saline ponds that served as makeshift dikes. The Southern Pacific Railroad rendered the port moot.

By the time San Jose annexed the town to expand its sewage-treatment plant in 1968, nature had already begun to reclaim the bayside. The town of 2,500 splintered, rusted and sank as groundwater was over-pumped, sea water rose on all sides and storm surges whelmed the backed-up drains. Mark Espinoza, a third-generation Alvisan, remembers the muddy deluge in 1983 that breached a levee and engulfed the town for a month.

“All this brown water came rushing in from the side streets,” the 41-year-old auto mechanic recalls. “People were running around trying to evacuate. They barricaded everything, but it filled up all the homes and destroyed businesses.”

The water subsided and, despite Alviso’s precarious geography, the shoreline population continued to grow. Tech companies continued to build state-of-the-art campuses in the floodplain. Insurance skyrocketed and residential building codes changed so that all new homes must be built on elevated mounds or on the second story over an uninhabitable ground floor. Espinoza lives in one of those newer homes raised 10 feet from the earth.

“I feel pretty safe now,” he says from his back balcony, lush with potted plants and decorated with vibrant Mexican folk art.

Still, the tides keep rising faster than ever, precipitated by melting glaciers and warming oceans. Experts predict that the bay waters will ascend another 3 feet by 2050. Today, the primarily Latino working-class enclave, tucked amid salt marshes at the convergence of Coyote Creek and the Guadalupe River, lies 15 feet below sea level.

“Alviso is a mini New Orleans,” says Louisiana-born wetland ecologist John Bourgeois, a California Coastal Conservancy project manager for one of the first climate adaptation measures in Silicon Valley. “We’ve created something that we can’t walk away from.”

The tiny bayside hamlet is part of a growing number of shoreline communities bracing for a hotter, wetter and more volatile future. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 40 percent of the world population lives within 62 miles of the ocean, which puts trillions of dollars worth of property and infrastructure at risk.

The South Bay is especially vulnerable because of its dense population and concentration of world-famous technology firms, whose headquarters lie at or below sea level. About 260 technology companies lie in the region’s flood zone, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Dell, Cisco, Intuit and Oracle, according to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The only defense against a major storm is a decaying network of salt pond levees—some more than a century old and none up to par by Federal Emergency Management Agency standards. Even if the water never reached their campuses, these companies would face enormous losses from flooded highways, airports and access ways.

But the region has only in the past decade begun to study how to prepare for the rising tides. Officials chose to defend Alviso—the only part of San Jose that touches the San Francisco Bay—before anything else because of the human element and the San Jose-Santa Clara Wastewater Treatment Plant, which serves more than a million people. The shoreline district has since become a template for cities throughout the state as they figure out how to bolster for the immediate effects of a warming planet.

“If we do nothing, we’re setting ourselves up for catastrophic failure,” Bourgeois says. “That’s not an option.”

Businesses along the South Bay shoreline at risk of flooding from sea level rise. (Source: GreenInfo Network for the South Bay Shoreline Study)

Businesses along the South Bay shoreline at risk of flooding from sea level rise. (Source: GreenInfo Network for the South Bay Shoreline Study)

Public officials raising the alarm about the slow-motion cataclysm have only recently begun to make headway against systemic complacency. Now, they fear, a Donald Trump presidency and Republican-controlled Congress could undermine what marginal progress has been made to adapt to—let alone prevent—climate change.

“Trump's election could not have come at a worse time, and it will doubtless add inches if not feet to the eventual height of the planet's oceans,” renowned environmentalist and author Bill McKibben tells San Jose Inside. “That's how close to the edge we are.”

Unchecked emissions of heat-trapping gases over the past century have profoundly altered the Earth’s climate, elevating sea levels and blighting ecosystems, such as coral reefs. The world’s average temperature has risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. This year will go down as the hottest on record. Sea levels along the California coast have risen more than eight inches in the past century. And yet, the president-elect has vowed to overhaul the nation’s direction on climate and energy by withdrawing from the landmark Paris agreement, which seeks to limit the effects of global warming through drastic emissions cuts and socio-structural adaptations. The accord, ratified by the majority of the 197 signatory countries, marks the first time the U.S. has agreed to collaborate with the rest of the world on climate change.

Trump has also suggested dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and deregulating the oil and gas industry, which would make it all but impossible to meet the targets spelled out in the Paris pact. The New York City real estate mogul famously tweeted about global warming being a Chinese “hoax” designed to make U.S. manufacturing less competitive. He tapped Myron Ebell—a man who’s made a career out of climate change denial—to lead his EPA transition team. This week, Trump reportedly named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, one of the agency’s most vocal critics, as head of the EPA. Meanwhile, Trump’s senior campaign adviser, Bob Walker, dismissed NASA’s climate change research as “politically correct environmental monitoring.”

“We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research,” Walker told the Guardian last month. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission. … I believe that climate research is necessary, but it has been heavily politicized, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing. Mr. Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science.”

Trump’s critics worry that he may spell the end for President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Act, which allocates $2 billion in grants to promote investments in clean energy and requires coal mines to clean up or close up shop. Or that he may open up public lands to fracking, ignite a resurgence of science denial and squelch the political will to fund anything remotely linked to environmentalism. Once in office, Trump could make many of these changes unilaterally. His appointees could approve pipelines and issue drilling permits. They could scuttle regulations for smog and coal ash or change the course in legal fights over clean air.

The impending ideological shift in the White House may require California and local governments to double down on fighting the causes and effects of climate change, says Mark Jacobson, a professor of environmental engineering at Stanford University.

“I think the Trump administration will try to cut all climate change research, including for adaptation, in the  U.S.,” he says. “This could affect the work of federal employees and many of those dependent on federal grants for research.”

Thankfully, Jacobson says, his own work on developing renewable energy solutions requires no federal funding. If anything, he plans to redouble his efforts. But slashing funds for climate change will hurt graduate students, who rely on federal grants.

“California, nonprofits and individuals will hopefully take up the slack,” he says.

South Carolina Republican Bob Inglis, a former congressman from the reddest district in the reddest state, says there’s a chance Trump could boost the clean energy market.

“I think it’s totally unpredictable,” says Inglis, head of conservative climate action nonprofit RepublicEn. “Al Gore was meeting with Ivanka Trump, and her dad joined the meeting. What that means for climate change—who knows?”

After all, Inglis points out, it was Republican President Richard Nixon who mended relations with socialist China. It was Democratic President Bill Clinton who scuttled welfare protections for the poor. It was purportedly progressive President Barack Obama who ramped up deportations to record-breaking numbers. Could President-elect Donald Trump, an ideologically inconsistent Republican, promote sustainability as a path to energy independence?

“He may surprise us,” Inglis says, adding that he’s holding out hope. “Maybe Trump will be the one who takes on climate change.”

Inglis is part of a growing coalition of conservative climate champions who are trying to rally Republicans behind renewable energy as free-market solutions to a warming planet. The former lawmaker flatly denied climate change until his children persuaded him to take a closer look at the science. That change of heart exacted a political price, costing a re-election in 2010 after 12 years in Congress. The next generation of Republicans, however, seem more receptive.

“Young conservatives are our best audience,” Inglis says. “They plan on living a while.”

A risk zone map that shows current sea levels (left) compared to a 10-foot rise, which the bay is projected to reach by 2200 unless the state imposes stricter regulations on carbon emissions. (Source: Climate Central)

A risk zone map that shows current sea levels (left) compared to a 10-foot rise, which the bay is projected to reach by 2200 unless the state imposes stricter regulations on carbon emissions. (Source: Climate Central)

What the Trump effect means for massive public works projects related to climate change adaptation, such as the levees slated for the South Bay waterfront, remains to be seen.

“I’m in a wait-and-see mode,” says Melanie Richardson, the interim chief operating officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the agency spearheading the region’s flood protection efforts. “Actually, I’m in a wait-and-hope mode. From our perspective, we already know our facilities are at risk, so we continue to move forward regardless of what’s going on at the national level.”

Climate change entered the policy discussion at the water district in the early 2000s, years ahead of meaningful action at the federal level. Wendy Ridderbusch, director of state relations for the Association of California Water Agencies, says that’s because local leaders face a level of accountability from which national officials are often shielded.

“Water agencies have been ahead of the climate change curve for several years,” Ridderbusch said at a recent Little Hoover Commission hearing. “Adapting to climate change is only one of several significant challenges that water agencies have faced in the last decade, including preparing for and coping with the historic drought, incorporating expensive regulatory requirements, planning for California’s expanding population, updating aging infrastructure and complying with changing water quality requirements.”

The Coastal Conservancy project to restore South Bay wetlands as a buffer against sea level rise kicked off in 2003, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein secured about $100 million in federal cash to buy 15,000 acres of tidal marshes from Cargill Salt Co. The decades-long project is funded by several agencies, including the water district, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Building new levees and restoring wetlands to soak up some of the rising seas for a 4-mile stretch of the Alviso shoreline alone comes with a price tag of roughly $175 million.

The South Bay salt ponds. (Photo by the State of California Coastal Conservancy)

The South Bay salt ponds. (Photo by Jitze Couperus, via California Coastal Conservancy)

Expanding those protections to the 14 remaining miles of South Bay shoreline would cost another $700 million or so and would only address the problem for a few decades. About half of that money would come from federal agencies, and a big chunk from congressional appropriations, which means the South Bay’s ability to adapt to a changing climate depends on the will of federal policymakers.

“We’re on the table as one of 25 of these projects nationwide,” Richardson says. “So we are eligible for federal funding.”

Of course, it takes tireless lobbying to secure that kind of money. The water district recently sent one of its twice-yearly delegations to Washington, D.C., to vie for funding to complete the design of the first 4 miles of shoreline levees, so construction can start as planned in 2018. That first stretch of levees will protect hundreds of millions of dollars in homes and businesses, as well drinking water and electrical, sewage and transportation infrastructure. Authorization would have to come in a Water Resources Development Act bill, which is supposed to happen every two years but often runs into protracted delays amid partisan quibbling.

Richardson says the imminent political shift doesn’t shake her confidence, because the project has such a broad base of support from environmentalists as well as the private sector, which would face enormous losses without the planned flood protection. In 2005, a Republican-controlled Congress authorized the Bay Area shoreline study that led to the flood protection efforts in the South Bay.

If conservatives do end up limiting funding for projects related to climate change, Richardson acknowledges, that would put the pressure on Bay Area governments to keep up the momentum. That has long been the case in California and the rest of the nation. The vast majority of flood protection funding is offered only after a disaster occurs, according to the National Research Council.

Bay Area residents care enough to pay for at least some of the shoreline protections. In June, 70 percent of the region’s voters approved a $12 parcel tax that will raise $500 million over two decades for the projects that include the South Bay wetland restoration.

“There’s a lot of money for local agencies to raise on their own, but we’re off to a good start,” Richardson says. “It’s going to take a lot of collaboration to get this done.”

The cost of inaction would be far greater—$6 billion in Santa Clara County alone. That’s according to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, which estimates that a 150-year storm event would cause $10 billion in damages to the Bay Area, with the South Bay shoreline bearing the brunt of the devastation. In 2009, the Pacific Institute released a report predicting that a 100-year flood coupled with a 5-foot sea level rise would exact $100 billion in damage statewide, with most of it concentrated in the Bay Area.

Yet local governments and private businesses have barely begun to plan, let alone adapt, to the “new normal” of heat and high water.

Alviso lies 15 feet below sea level.  (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Alviso lies 15 feet below sea level. (Photo by Jennifer Wadsworth)

California has long stood out as a national leader in cutting carbon pollution. Its auto emissions standards are among the more rigorous in the nation. In 2006, the state imposed a new mandate to reduce climate-warming greenhouse gas output to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. While Congress has failed to pass a single bill in the past decade that tackles climate change, California has considered Obama an ally when it comes to environmental issues.

“We will protect the precious rights of our people,” Gov. Jerry Brown declared after Trump’s election, “and continue to confront the existential threat of our time—devastating climate change.”

Even with a Democrat in the White House, only modest progress has been made on environmental issues. Secretary of State John Kerry boasted last month that wind and solar power have grown 30-fold under Obama’s tenure, but they still generate little more than 5 percent of the nation’s energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Chances of renewables beefing up their share of the national energy market look dismal under the incoming administration, which has cozied up to the coal and gas industries. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, clarified that Trump’s “default position” on climate change is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.”

“California’s role is more important than it’s ever been,” says Assemblyman Ash Kalra, who recently ended his second term on San Jose’s City Council. “We have to stand out as the shining example in our nation. We don’t need to wait for Washington, D.C.”

The Golden State has one of the most comprehensive energy efficiency rules on a vast range of applications, including new construction and kitchen appliances. In the absence of a national cap-and-trade program, California rolled out one of its own that forces power plants, factories and refineries to pay to pollute. The state set a goal to derive 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Gov. Brown has even taken it upon himself to approach heads of state, signing a climate deal endorsed by 136 cities and nations to cut emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels within the next few decades. The multinational agreement covers a population of 832 million residents who produce a third of the world’s economic output.

“Local governments will have to take more of an initiative to act on this, too,” Kalra says. “We already have been. Environmental issues are inherently local anyway. Every decision that we make, from the cars that we drive to the food that we eat, has a cumulative impact on the climate.”

Source: San Jose Community Choice Energy

Source: San Jose Community Choice Energy

In 2010, Santa Clara County established its Office of Sustainability to incentivize energy saving by offering home improvement rebates. San Jose this past March voted to become a municipal energy provider, a plan supported by Kalra and endorsed by environmentalists. Under the Community Choice Energy program, which rolls out next year, the city would buy electricity for residents. In addition to saving energy overall, the model will create 12,000 jobs and bring in an estimated $1.25 billion in economic activity over the next six years, according to a study by the Center for Climate Protection. Several other local cities plan to launch similar energy programs in 2017. San Mateo launched one this fall and San Francisco rolled its own out last year.

“At the local level, we kind of have to push politics aside and get to work,” says Kerrie Romanow, San Jose’s director of environmental services. “We’ve already accepted that climate is changing, and we have no choice but to adapt to that. Climate change informs all our contracts, all our policies, essentially everything that we do, from the building standards we impose to what kind of fuel our garbage trucks use or how easy we make it for people to install solar panels.”

Local action is crucial, she adds, especially when cities make up most of America’s carbon footprint. However, most of those emissions come not from municipal agencies but private citizens and private enterprise, according to a report by global infrastructure firm AECOM. Still, simple changes, such as planting more trees or paving more bike lanes, wield a huge collective impact, Romanow says. While global warming hasn’t always been an overt part of the policy conversation at City Hall, it has shaped San Jose laws. Former Mayor Chuck Reed didn’t talk about greenhouse gas emissions, but he did focus on how to make the city a leader in clean tech. Mayor Sam Liccardo has been more outspoken about global warming than his predecessor, which drives home the point that urban centers have a big role to play in addressing the most far-reaching issues.

“In a way, climate change is part of everything we do, whether we specify the direct link or not,” Romanow says. “It’s why we’ve been innovating the heck out of everything.”

Source: NOAA

Source: NOAA

In 2014, the Little Hoover Commission criticized state agencies for failing to coordinate climate change strategies with local governments, essentially leaving cities and counties to their own devices. The state’s adaptation strategy remains in the planning stages while actions by lawmakers to prepare, plan and invest in defenses against climate impacts have been largely lacking, the report found. In Sacramento, the conversation was limited to strategies to keep the climate from changing. No one really addressed how to adapt to the changes already underway.

“I was surprised when I got to the state Assembly that not one piece of legislation had been introduced related to sea level rise,” says former Assemblyman Rich Gordon, who termed out this month. “Nobody in Sacramento was talking about adaptation.”

During his tenure in the state Legislature, Gordon, who began working on local climate change policies in the 2000s as a San Mateo County supervisor, rolled out a statewide database for local governments to share adaptation strategies for the rising sea levels. The hope was to get local governments to share ideas for how to protect tens of millions of people along the state’s waterways, as well as their homes, ports, roads and other infrastructure. The proposal passed despite opposition from most of the Legislature’s Republicans, who questioned the dangers posed by the rising seas.

In their legislative analysis, GOP lawmakers fretted about how the sea level rise database “appears to try and shame cities and counties” that aren’t preparing for the eventuality. It’s unclear how useful the database has been. Part of the problem is that too many of the state’s jurisdictions are languishing in the planning stages without taking any concrete action. Bourgeois, who’s in charge of the South Bay wetlands restoration—a project that spans a surface area the size of Manhattan—says he hadn’t even heard of it.

Meanwhile, South Bay cities have been tackling the problem on their own. Palo Alto appointed a chief sustainability officer in 2014. Milpitas drafted a plan to deal with greenhouse gas reductions, though it conspicuously failed to address sea level rise despite its proximity to the eroding shoreline.

Sunnyvale drummed up a climate action plan in spring of 2014, though it lacked language that conveyed any sense of urgency and lacked the funding commitments to translate its goals into reality. San Jose requires developers to factor in the rising waters when building in affected areas. Redwood City has been grappling with how to protect massive development by Dreamworks and EA Sports along its shorelines. Mountain View, which Bourgeois calls “one of the most progressive and collaborative” cities in the region when it comes to sea level rise, drafted a growth plan that requires developers to build higher and chip in for “adaptive planning” such as levees. The city also completed a hazard inventory and revised its flood maps to plan for a retreating shoreline.

And still, on a regional level, there has been an alarming lack of collaboration. A 2015 report by Santa Clara County’s Civil Grand Jury said the dearth of communication among cities has created a sense of complacency.

“Since the effects of sea level rise are not imminent, there is a lack of urgency in addressing this pending emergency,” jurors wrote. “The scientific community, however, is giving long-range future projections, indicating possibly devastating consequences in Santa Clara County. Nevertheless, the grand jury was told those consequences are seen by some jurisdictions as so far off in the future, that they have not seen a need to address its effects on the [local] infrastructure and economy.”

The county’s Office of Sustainability has been working on creating a software tool—Silicon Valley 2.0—that calculates the economic effects of ignoring sea level rise, which it plans to share with other jurisdictions.

“Hopefully, this can help us start planning for the long term,” says Kevin Armstrong, interim director of office. “It’s more than a checklist. It can also be a reminder that while this is a global problem, there are certain things to be done right here at a local level.”

Though California’s climate change politics have been lauded as progressive, the most populous state in the union is as much to blame for global warming as any comparable economy. In 2013, California spewed more more carbon dioxide pollution than any other state but Texas. Most of that pollution came from burning petroleum and private vehicles. Meanwhile, five states with some of the highest wind energy outputs are all “red” states that voted for Trump.

“Big oil is still big business—even in California,” says Kalra, who was sworn in Monday to the 27th Assembly District, where he succeeds Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

The oil lobby has played an outsize role in state elections. Oil companies bankrolled Campos’ failed campaign to unseat state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose). Statewide, oil giants amassed more than $10 million since 2015 to spend on this year’s legislative races—a $3 million bump from the preceding election cycle. That may have been in response to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León’s Senate Bill 350, which sought to slash petroleum use in half. A number of other issues have galvanized lobbying efforts from the industry, including fuel standards that require California refineries to undertake costly measures to limit the carbon content of their fuels. Although this past weekend, the state Democratic Party issued a decree to refuse political donations from oil companies in Sacramento. At least for now.

“We’re seeing a lot of pushback from the industry,” says Kalra, who was the first San Jose councilman to speak out against having oil trains barrel through the South Bay from the Phillips 66 refinery on the Central Coast. “I’m very concerned about this. We’ve already created enough trauma to our earth and enough damage to future generations.”

The week after his election to the state Legislature, Kalra personally delivered supplies to the protesters at Standing Rock, where thousands of people have been camped out for months to oppose a $3.8 billion pipeline. The multi-state conduit, which the Army Corps agreed last week to reroute, aims to pump fracked oil for 1,200 miles from North Dakota. Native American reservations just 2 percent of the U.S. but hold as much as a fifth of the nation’s gas, oil and coal reserves.

“I wasn’t going there as a council member or an Assembly member,” Kalra says. “I wanted to be there to personally experience it, to contribute whatever time and resources I could and to get some perspective.”

On Monday, the start of the 2017 legislative session and the day Kalra was sworn in to the Assembly, he introduced his first bill. AB 20, if it passes, will prevent California’s public pension funds from investing in the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“I know it’s not a matter of us just stopping this one pipeline,” he says. “It’s a start.”

Assemblyman Ash Kalra at Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra at Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. There would be more money for cleaning the creek and doing other projects but instead @valleywater , @SCVWD decided to get into the park building biz and built a park out there good use of taxpayer money. That has nothing to do with water except to spend money.

    • Agree. One of the reasons Alviso has been comparatively affordable to live is because of the risk of flooding. I’ve lived in SJ my whole live (50+ years) and the area has always been known to flood.

      Seriously – who came up with the bright idea of using Alviso as an example of rising seas? This immediately signals the person either isn’t serious about the topic or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

      • Sorry, I reread my comments above and feel I need to apologize for the inflamatory tone. There’s enough of that going around these days and no need for my contribution.

        I still stand by my point though – just wish I had said it without putting someone down.

      • You are right about Alviso flooding. And it is not the seas rising. Alviso dropped 20 ft. in just the last century. It is believed over pumping of well water caused it. The reason it silted up is because the Army Engineers stopped dredging waterways for free and nobody wanted to pay for dredging. Another revisionist mistake in the story is that Alviso used to stink very badly with the pig farms and Alviso dump. Up wind from Alviso were dairy farms. As a kid, my parents would stop at the Edelweiss Dairy up a mile on the left.

  2. Something not mentioned in the article that I heard from Gene, the guy that runs the outboard shop out there. Take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, because it may/may not be accurate.

    According to Gene, the Coyote and the Guadalupe were once joined a bit upstream. This was done to increase the water flow through the Aviso and prevent silting. Alviso Marina only silted over after the army core of engineers decided to set the waterways back “To their natural state” Part of this was done for flood control.

  3. Now that the Dems have a supermajority in the state assembly, Ash Kalra really isn’t needed here any more.

    I would suggest to him that he should probably plan on staying in North Dakota for the long haul to fight for social justice.

  4. Meanwhile, both Google and Facebook aka. the smartest guys in the room, continue with their massive campus expansions right in the middle smack of Jennifer’s APOCALYPTIC FLOOD ZONE aka. shorelines of Mountain View and Menlo Park. Rising Seas?!? Ha!

    Cue Al Gore’s voice from South Park: “Yes kids, I’m super cereal about that ManBearPig!”

  5. Your article reported that “the worlds average temperature has increased by an entire 1 degree F in the past 116 years but failed to report on how much the sea level has risen. It would be nice to know since the headline leads a reader to assume that the article is, at least in part, about sea level rise and not temperature rise.

      • Jennifer,

        Did you read the very first paragraph in your link? The writers were well paid to arrive at the desired conclusion.

        The ‘accelerating sea level’ scare is baseless because global sea level rise has decelerated over the past decade.

        The article’s sources simply cherry-picked places where land subsidence causes the local sea level to rise faster than global MSL. There are many other locations where sea levels are declining locally, but those are never mentioned.

        The only relevant metric is global sea level change. But since global sea level rise has not accelerated, this article is sounding a false alarm.

      • Jennifer:

        I got a good hearty laugh out of your reference:

        “The Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the San Francisco Bay”

        This is a CLASSIC example of what is known in scientific circles as “IF THEN” science.

        “IF global warming is happening, THEN all of these horrible awful things will happen”.

        The problem is that the “IF” part has not been proven to the degree of certainty required by the scientific method.

        WHERE O WHERE is the definitive broadly accepted EXPERIMENTAL SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that HUMANS are the primary cause of out of control GLOBAL WARMING? Bogus “polls” that claim that 97 percent of “scientists” believe something or other is NOT experimental scientific evidence.

        Global Warming theology is founded on computer models, and every computer literate person knows that the nature of computer models is “GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT”.

        Climate Scientist Roy Spencer has documented and compared NINETY computer models. At best, only one of them can by right and the other eighty-none must be wrong.

        “Satellite warming trends (’79-2013) are lower than 88 of 90 models (98.7%)”


        Which of the ninety computer models did you decide to believe, Jennifer? And why did you decide to believe THAT one and not the others?

        Computer models are NOT scientific evidence. They are simply detailed elaborations of scientific hypotheses. A hypothesis is something that REQUIRES proof by SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT and EVIDENCE.

  6. So Jennifer, call me a worrywart, but here’s another thing that those of us who are trying to save the planet have to worry about. Suppose we do too good of a job of trying to stop global warming and ACTUALLY SUCCEED IN STOPPING IT! Then what!

    According to Wikipedia, global warming has caused the sea levels to rise 425 feet (130 meters) in the last 22,000 years.

    If we stopped global warming, wouldn’t the sea level DROP 425 feet?

    Santa Cruz would be on a 425 foot cliff overlooking the frozen Pacific Ocean. Surfing would be REALLY difficult.

    Thousands or millions of square miles of ecologically fragile coral reefs would be high and dry all over the Pacific basin. THE CORAL WOULD DIE!

    And the oil seeping out from under the water in the Santa Barbara channel would be gushing out ABOVE sea level and getting all over the feathers of vulnerable sea birds. UC Santa Barbara would have to suspend classes to get enough volunteers to wipe the oil off of the birds with paper towels.

    I love surfing at Santa Cruz. I love coral. I love pristine sea birds with clean white feathers. So, I’m going to continue to do my part to make sure we continue to have ENOUGH global warming to keep the ecology in balance.

  7. Don’t worry too much bubble, if the sea level drops 425 ft you can ride your toboggan down to the water’s edge on that glacier that will cover Coldifornia.

    Imagine my surprise when I found out Alveso was being covered by sea level rise. All these years the water district has been pumping out drinking water making the whole south bay subside by about 10 feet and we should have been blaming George Bush/ Trump for making the earth warmer.

  8. > A risk zone map that shows current sea levels (left) compared to a 10-foot rise, which the bay is projected to reach by 2200 unless the state imposes stricter regulations on carbon emissions. (Source: Climate Central)

    So, IF “the state imposes stricter regulations on carbon emissions” THEN the bay will avoid a 10-foot rise in sea levels by 2200.

    Got it.

    Seems like a bit of over-promising to me. Do any of the other 7 billion people on the planet have anything to do with the rising sea levels that affect the bay?

    Wouldn’t this require building a dam across the Golden Gate or something? I thought we were against building dams.

    • I suppose if we could get the 7 billion people on the planet to stop peeing in the ocean it may not rise all that much!

  9. My background, education, and carreer is in the hard sciences, so I tend to LOL at the ‘global warming’ nonsense, and all the related arm-waving.

    Here are some published, peer reviewed scientific studies, interviews, and scientific reports showing that the natural rise in sea levels has not accelerated over the past century. In fact, the rise has slowed:













    No stearic sea level rise means there has been no unusual or unprecedented global warming. The $1 billion+ that is shoveled out every year in federal government grants to ‘study climate change’ is the reason people continue to parrot the ‘dangerous man-made global warming’ false alarm.

    Stop wasting that tax money, and the global warming scare would collapse, STAT.

    • The science on this well may be more complex than the attention spans of most people can tolerate. As well, the rise in sea levels may be more controversial than popularly indicated. But I’m not sure that gives us cause to “LOL at the ‘global warming’ nonsense,” as you say.

      Here are just 2 quotes from the articles you posted that suggest global warming may not be as nonsensical as you suggest:

      “During the warming of the past century, glaciers have receded throughout the Arctic, terrestrial ecosystems have advanced northward, and perennial Arctic Ocean sea ice has diminished.”


      “Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm.”

      • > “Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm.”

        “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge. ”

        –Lao Tzu, 6th Century BC Chinese Poet

        “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

        –Nils Bohr, Nobel laureate in Physics

        • You’re right, we should just sit tight in the present moment.

          Don’t make any plans for dinner. Who knows what can happen between now and then.

          And tell your buddy Smokey to stop citing prediction articles like this, which supposedly endorse a position you also endorse.

    • Nice try, Smokey, but Al Gore says we all need to be FEARFUL of rising sea levels. And Al should know because he got a “C” in science class at Harvard. That was before he went to divinity school and then dropped out.

      I predict major violence in universities and colleges over the next fear years as professors of warming quackery lose their EPA grants and barricade themselves on campuses and have to be removed by SWAT teams.

      • 》I predict major violence in universities.

        More likely to be major violence when Putin tells you the head of intelligence position you thought you would be offered is going to someone Russian. Better that than a Mexican though, right?

        That’s ok, always something you’ve liked about those Russians, isn’t there? And you will be taken care of with some other important posting in intelligence, I’m sure. Something that still lets you threaten to sic US Marshals on people. Head of covert black ops in Siberia maybe? I know, you can’t confirm or deny.

  10. > You’re right, we should just sit tight in the present moment.

    “If it’s not necessary to make a decision, it’s necessary not to make a decision.”

    Particularly true if you have NO information.


    Thank you for posting this quote:

    Arctic summers were ≈5 ºC warmer than at present, and almost all glaciers melted completely…

    Almost all glaciers disappeared during the Eemian (≈125K ± 5K years ago), when CO2 remained well under 300 ppm. Today, many glaciers are retreating. But many are advancing, too. But advancing glaciers are rarely if ever mentioned.

    Geologists have identified hundreds of thousands of discrete glaciers. The planet has been naturally warming since the Little Ice Age ended, so we would expect some glaciers to be retreating. But the ‘man-made global warming’ conjecture states that the rise in CO2 (“carbon”) over the past century is the primary cause of global warming. But is it?

    If CO2 (carbon dioxide) was the cause of global warming, then the 40%+ rise in CO2 over the past century would have resulted in an acceleration in the rate of global warming by now. But no such acceleration has been observed. In fact, the recent drop in global temperatures is the largest decline in the satellite record.

    Thank you also for posting the second quote, which states:

    “Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm.”

    That is an estimate. Even if it turns out to be an accurate prediction, it is a lower rate of sea level rise than we have seen over the past century. So again, the rate of sea level rise is slowing. The same link also states:

    The methodology applied and the views claimed by the IPCC are challenged. For the last 40-50 years strong observational facts indicate virtually stable sea level conditions… contradicting all claims of a rapid global sea level rise, and instead suggests stable, to slightly falling, sea levels.

    Sea level rise is decelerating, not accelerating. As Albert Einstein wrote to the 100 scientists who challenged his theory of relativity, “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.”

    Every alarming prediction based on the ‘dangerous man-made global warming’ conjecture has been proven wrong; from Florida and the South Sea islands being submerged by rising seas, to ‘snowfall will be a thing of the past’, to ‘polar bears are being decimated’, and ‘increasing hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather events’, and so on.

    But none of the frightening predictions of ‘runaway global warming’ and ‘climate catastrophe’ have come true — and there is no evidence that they will ever come true in the forseeable future. The scary climate alarmist predictions were wrong. All of them; no exceptions.

    When repeated observations falsify a hypothesis, honest scientists will acknowledge that the hypothesis was wrong. And there are many, many scientists who have stated that the ‘dangerous anthropogenic global warming’ hypothesis has been decisively falsified. (I can provide lists of thousands; just ask.) But the ‘carbon’ scare is politics, not science. So the global warming scare lives on, fed by easy grant money and relentless .edu peer pressure.

    To put the ‘carbon’ scare into perspective: Over the past century CO2 has risen by only one part in 10,000. If not for very sensitive measuring instruments, we couldn’t even tell. (But plants can tell; agricultural productivity is rising in lockstep with the rise in harmless, beneficial, and essential CO2.)

    Carbon dioxide is a tiny trace gas, measured in parts per million. But it is essential to all life on earth; below 150 ppm, plants begin to die. And CO2 has been up to twenty times (20X) higher in the past, without ever triggering runaway global warming — or any global warming, for that matter.

    Some interesting facts: Navy submarines operate continuously with CO2 levels 10X higher than atmospheric levels. People exhale CO2 in the range of 40,000 ppm (compared with 400 ppm in the air). Farmers pay to raise CO2 levels to thousands of ppm in their greenhouses, and so on.

    The ‘carbon’ scare is a complete false alarm. And the wild-eyed media alarmism over the past century’s rise in global warming? Look at this graph, based on NASA’s own data:


    The global warming scare, and its corollaries like accelerating sea level rise, have been repeatedly debunked. Maybe that is why the purveyors of that false alarm refuse to publicly debate skeptical scientists any more. Because in every past debate, they were crushed by facts. So now ‘global warming’ is all politics, all the time. It certainly isn’t science.

    • Hmm, interesting stuff. Whether or not we agree, thank you for your civility and for your detailed, thoughtful points. You undoubtedly have more scientific background than I do.

    • Excellent exposition, Mr. Smokey.

      I think it is also very telling that, although Al Gore has been challenged many times to debate global warming, he has always declined, presumably hiding behind the fiction that global warming is “settled science”.

      OK. If it’s “settled science”, when did the debates occur that settled the science? Who participated in the debates? Who judged the debates and declared the winner? Are there any transcripts of the debates?

      Kind of curious that a MAJOR scientific debate could occur and be settled without any record of it ever having occurred.

      Maybe they used North Korean debate rules.


    Sorry to respond so late. I’ve been watching this moth circle the kitchen light…

    To answer SJO’s question, here is an example of a debate between a panel of scientists defending the popular position that man-made global warming is a serious problem, and an opposing panel of skeptical scientists who argued against that proposition:


    The debate took place in 2010 at England’s Oxford union — home of the world’s oldest and most prestigious academic debating society, which has hosted debates since 1823. (It was publicized in the media, but not widely because… well, take a guess. The climate alarmists lost.)

    When the Oxford audience arrived, by custom each audience member was polled. The result: the audience initially voted that man-made global warming is a serious problem (for the specific wording of the debate question, see the linked article above).

    But following the debate, the sentiment had been reversed: the audience was convinced by facts presented by the scientific skeptic side, which won the debate. (I have more debates saved if anyone is interested; ask and I’ll post them.)

    To answer SJO’s question about “settled science”, there is no such thing. From Conjecture, to Hypothesis, to Theory, to Law, every scientific assumption is open to falsification (search: ‘Popper’ if interested; the subject is too involved to try and explain here).

    Next, to reply to Empty Gun’s comment: Yes, an Ice Age (meaning global glaciation; we are currently in an Ice Age), can begin very rapidly. For example, just prior to our current Holocene climate (the past ≈10,700 years, which includes up to the present), global temperatures fluctuated by TENS of degrees — within only a decade or two. Now that is scary! Here’s a chart by an internationally esteemed climatologist, R.B. Alley:


    Compare those global temperature changes (when CO2 remained well under 300 ppm) with global temperature change over past century and a half:


    (I have charts that end more recently than 2006, but not on the computer I’m using at the moment. If anyone is interested, I can post them tomorrow. But they just extend the record to now; there is no sudden warming evident, despite the media’s ‘hottest year EVAH!!)

    So correctomundo, EG; the threat has never been from global warming. The real threat is global cooling. And all it requires is about a 5ºC decline in global temperatures to once again bury Chicago under a mile of ice…

    • Most excellent work, Mr. Smokey!

      I’ve been watching the “global warming narrative” for many years and my sense is there is not a suggestion in the popular media that there is or ever has been a “debate”. It has always (since the 1990’s) been characterized as “settled science”. Amazingly, it was declared to be “settled” to the extent that prestigious scientific journals announced that they would no longer publish papers that questioned [human caused] global warming.

      We truly live in an era of T.D. Lysenko science.

      I have heard people challenge Al Gore to debate “global warming” but I have never heard that he actually participated in a debate.

      • Climate science stands apart from other branches of science. In climate science skepticism, seen as a good and necessary trait in other branches, is discouraged, even rejected.
        I’m perfectly happy to consider the possibility that by changing the composition of the atmosphere we humans might be affecting the climate. But I don’t respond well to people who insist something is a fact when they can’t possibly know that it’s a fact. It makes me question their overall credibility and I then don’t trust them to make political decisions for me. If they’d just be more honest I’d be more receptive.

        • John, in climate “Science/Religion” they threaten you with jail if you’re not a true believer, thus making it an inquisition.
          That why it’s called settled science in leftwing speak, so there is no debate.

    • Thank you for bringing up thermohaline circulation , Brian Sussman mentioned that at a debate about “anthropogenic global warming” I attended several years ago in San Jose with a group of “climate change followers” from San Jose State. Their consensus didn’t do very well against Brian & company’s list of facts.
      Science is never about consensus or even debate it’s about facts, everything else is theory which is open for debate.

      Per Al Gore being challenged to a debate, it will never happen as it would bring down his entire “global warming” financial empire if anyone in his religion caught on to the fact that he is all about sucking up government research money.

  13. Tenured climate professor resigns over climate quackery:


    A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

    How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

    • Climate change is a religion and as such must be band as the same people that belive in it demand we have a separation of church and state!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *