Mark Hertsgaard: Climate change comes for us all

The effects of climate change are already becoming painfully prevalent in cities like Norfolk, Va., where a sinking shoreline and sea-level rise have resulted in regular flooding.

Sea-level rise is only one of the many potentially alarming consequences of climate change.  In his new book, “Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth,” author Mark Hertsgaard suggests a future that includes massive flooding to severe draught. In a satellite interview with Alison Stewart, Hertsgaard discusses scientific illiteracy in America, the media’s responsibility in reporting the realities of climate change, and what other effects of climate change cities in the U.S. can expect to deal with in the coming years.

“What we’re seeing now in Norfolk is actually going to be replicated in various ways all across this country over the years to come,” Hertsgaard says. “We’re now locked into a minimum of 3 feet of sea level rise around the United States in this century, perhaps twice that. A mere 3 feet of sea level rise would put much of lower Manhattan Island in New York City underwater … Here in San Francisco where I live, 3 feet of sea level rise will put both of our major airports underwater.”

Related:
Climate change at the doorstep in Norfolk

 
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Comments

  • Josh Logan

    It’s time to air the debate. Doing the right things for the environment ought to be a high priority for everyone; instilling fear based on global warming is not the right thing. Scientists who have proven global warming is not true have been ridiculed and censored. Great for people to make money of of global warming by writing about it. Let’s get everyone on both sides talking on an even playing field, and let’s see where the science is.

  • Sfalvo

    Many of the scientific think tanks that dismiss global warming have been linked to funding by the Koke Brothers who are Texas Oil men. One was quoted as saying that the haze created by pollution is good for us because it blocks the harmful rays of the sun.

  • http://twitter.com/ZenCushion Zen Cushion

    Mr Hertsgaard, you are a pompous charlatan.

  • http://twitter.com/ZenCushion Zen Cushion

    Yet another tired use of conspiracy theory grasping at straws to try to smear legitimate scientific debate. Is that the best that you can do, Sfalvo ?

  • pbs viewer

    It’s just a matter of the laws of chemistry and physics now. These laws pay no attention to what humans may wish, think, know, don’t know or pass their own laws about.

  • NeedToKnowFan

    Stop the fear-mongering talk about climate change and start talking about solutions — both large scale and small, everyday things. Reliable and standard climatology data gathering and recording processes have been around for barely 100 years. If you believe the earth has been around for millions, or tens of millions, of years, 10, 15, even 100, years of “unusual” weather hardly ranks as a hiccup in earth’s lengthy history. Because of all the back and forth rhetoric both supporting and debunking climate change, I really don’t know if it’s truly happening or if this is simply a blip in the millions of years history of the earth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doris-Brown/1348753703 Doris Brown

    Those who don’t believe in global warming have only to see, as an example, the couple’s home in Norfolk Va and what devastation they’ve been through.. The water wasn’t present in their area when they bought their home some years ago but now is showing up on a regular basis. Their home has been flooded numerous times as the pictures illustrated.. Before and after pictures were shown on PBS “Need to Know”…..the “after” pictures showed a lake instead of a street in front of their house – pictures don’t lie! So isn’t that proof enough that the climate is warming, melting the ice caps and causing rising waters along the shorelines? (and It wasn’t caused by a broken water line by the way) If your house and street were being flooded like that couple’s and you’d be constantly replacing everything in your home like they’ve been having to do, you’d soon believe in global warming and that we need to take it seriously.

  • http://twitter.com/ZenCushion Zen Cushion

    Doris, there is no question that there is a flooding issue in the parts of Norfolk documented in the segment. But you are missing the point of the criticism of the show: the program even states that the land itself is sinking, and then goes on to ignore that as a significant cause of the flooding.

    When the land that one inhabits is essentially at sea level, then any number of things can cause flooding — exceptionally high tides and storm surges, for example. These occasional phenomena will in fact cause flooding which is far more severe, and noticeable, than a few inches rise in average sea level (which would not have caused the extent of the flooding shown in the program).

  • Vdbwong

    Zen Cushion

    It might be helpful, before you criticize others for not knowing what they are talking about, to list your credentials and scientific education and background so we can tell if YOU know what YOU are talking about. You mention that Mr Hertsgaard is profiting from his climate change alarms. Is he a billionaire like the Koch brothers and many other oil industry profiteers whose vast wealth are derived from polluting the environment? Is he contributing to any politician’s campaigns to vote the way he can make more money? Are you employed or receive any compensation from the oil industry? Does your pen name imply that you are more devoted to religion than science? A rise of 2 inches over the PAST 100 years does not mean that the seas will not rise 3 feet over the NEXT 100 years. The warming effect is accumulative and accelerating as more climate warming occurs. It makes a difference if a cycle of warming occurs over a 200 year period or a 10,000 year period.

  • Anonymous

    It might be helpful, before you criticize others for not knowing what they are talking about, to list your credentials and scientific education and background so we can tell if YOU know what YOU are talking about.

    you forgot to list your credentials
    whoops

  • Mtfmfw

    Journalists and NTK seemed to have missed a MAJOR ITEM, if sea levels GO UP, then river levels go up, all the way to tributaries and feeders. Water in rivers will NOT flow up hill to a higher sea level, Nature demands balance and one way or other will get it, Would sure like to see a graphic with REAL raises, to include the rivers as they major issues none seem able to address. WHY NO RIVER heights escapes as seems only coast will flood? Yes it is happening and have been to Greenland’s Ice and when it melts or partially melts, HUGE climate changes as well as huge physical changes will happen that even lobby money cannot stop/ Do have a good strong earth sciences education/background a guess I just a “follower” as 100% agree with the 99% of real scientists that know warming is human issue with serious mess on the way. USA is just getting a preview of it past few years.

  • guest

    The legitimate “1%”?

  • guest (educated)

    You might talk with Great Plain farm folks, they are seeing new varieties that only grew further south 10 years back, you might go up to AK and visit some coastal villages where ice is either gone of moved out very early or their land being taken back by higher sea levels. You might speak to those in Arctic areas that live off and are sensitive to climate changes, they can tell you of the warming, you might look up the data on warming that is showing up in ALL records and the amount of dirt in air as compared with previous warming, you might look at the climate recorder in soil, trees etc as to the man made gases now changing climate and compare them to the various nature changes and the end result there. Amusingly the ole “well it warmed before naturally so no big deal” seems to relate to “typhus killed millions so why worry about it now as not hurt anyone this week!”
    NOTE have worked on the “models” and they are hitting, some adjusted for time, but are far more accurate then not. Note we have only been able to measure sea levels accurately over last few years, they indicate rising, and yes the ice at both ends of earth are melting. Note most of the forecast models are being update as data gets better and natural process to adjust as more data comes in, BUT the models are hitting in most accurate manner, so have to ask exactly which part of the “models is off” in detail, not faux news spin. You seem to have never worked with physical models for earth as they are always adjusted, when they no longer need “Adjustment” they are no longer models as any 6th grader knows

  • CharlieFFoxtrot

    Subsidence of the land exceeds sea level rise in the Norfolk area. The entire area is slowly sinking into the sea. Even if we all stopped burning fossil fuels, it would still sink into the sea. Sorry, but that is a physical fact.
    If you are really interested in the science, there is a report available at http://web.vims.edu/GreyLit/VIMS/sramsoe425.pdf?svr=www. That report was prepared by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District.

  • Anonymous

    Although you are correct, higher sea levels will indeed cause the rivers to rise, it will only be a local event. Rivers normally have a pretty significant elevation change. The exception is in locations like a bay or delta. Deltas are in danger of being covered by the seas of course, and bays are essentially a part of the sea. However, most inland locations are well above sea level and will not be affected. If a location is 10 ft. above sea level and 50 miles from the ocean, a ft. of sea level rise will not be noticed.

  • Anonymous

    It has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age. You assume warming is due to CO2, but there is no proof. Models can be made that will show any output you want.
    The existing models do not, in fact, do a very good job. There is a peer reviewed paper available at http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/980723__928051726.pdf if you are interested enough to wade through it. The authors conclusion, and I paraphrase, is that climate is just too complex to model.
    I have no doubt that humanity is influencing the climate. The question is in what way and how much, and what can we/should we do about it.

  • Anonymous

    Since when has science been driven by polls? It may be that only one scientist is correct, as has been the case in the past. It was heresy to say the world is round or that blood circulates through the body a few hundred years ago.
    I checked a few polls anyway. The way the questions are asked is critical, of course. There appears to be about 5% of active climate scientists that don’t toe the line, so Hertsgaard is off by a factor of 5. All the others are working for the government on climate change. It’s almost impossible to work in the Climate field if you don’t champion human induced warming since you won’t get any money from Uncle Sam. Skeptical scientists must finance themselves, a fact that by itself limits their numbers.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_J3J7C5UWCBPOMPQJUJ6FLAF4NA Currawong

    The scientists from around the planet gather data from all sorts of procedures that tell them what occured on our planet even a few hundred thousand years ago. Ice core samples from the Antarctic, stagmites and stalactites, ancient fossilised tree rings etc etc.

  • republikant

    If you’re not old enough to remember acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer, look them up. They’re no longer in the news, haven’t been for over a decade. Why? Scientists brought them to our attention, we made the necessary changes, and now they are no longer news worthy.

    So, why is climate change more politically difficult? Because it involves more significant change and it goes against a large and powerful industry: The oil industry. Just look at smoking and lung cancer: How many years did doctors fight to finally prove that smoking causes lung cancer and finally get society to change how they think about it? Look at how the tobacco industry fought against scientific fact. Look at the millions if no billions they spent fighting.

    Where did oil coal and gas come from? Plant material trapped under the earth millions of years ago, back at a time when the planet was hotter and plant growth was lush. The plant material removed CO2 from the atmosphere and it got sequestered under the earths surface.

    We’ve been digging and pumping that same carbon up from under the surface and releasing it back into the atmosphere for the last several hundred years, exponentially accelerating the rate in the last four or five decades.

    What we are doing, by bringing that ancient carbon back up and putting it back in the atmosphere, is recreating that ancient atmosphere. It should be absolutely clear what the consequences will be.

  • republikant

    If you’re not old enough to remember acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer, look them up. They’re no longer in the news, haven’t been for over a decade. Why? Scientists brought them to our attention, we made the necessary changes, and now they are no longer news worthy.

    So, why is climate change more politically difficult? Because it involves more significant change and it goes against a large and powerful industry: The oil industry. Just look at smoking and lung cancer: How many years did doctors fight to finally prove that smoking causes lung cancer and finally get society to change how they think about it? Look at how the tobacco industry fought against scientific fact. Look at the millions if not billions they spent fighting.

    Where did oil coal and gas come from? Plant material trapped under the earth millions of years ago, back at a time when the planet was hotter and plant growth was lush. The plant material removed CO2 from the atmosphere and it got sequestered under the earths surface.

    We’ve been digging and pumping that same carbon up from under the surface and releasing it back into the atmosphere for the last several hundred years, exponentially accelerating the rate in the last four or five decades.

    What we are doing, by bringing that ancient carbon back up and putting it back in the atmosphere, is recreating that ancient atmosphere. It should be absolutely clear what the consequences will be.

  • Anonymous

    As soon as you persuade China and India to shut down all their coal fired power plants and factories, and convince the developing world that they just can’t use energy from fossil fuels, then we will have a starting place. It won’t happen. We can destroy our economy by forcing everyone to spend six to twelve times as much for energy, but CO2 concentrations will continue to increase.
    If you do the math, getting CO2 emissions down to the low levels the warmists say is necessary would mean that we would all need to reduce our carbon footprint to levels not seen since the 1800′s. Good luck with that.
    Past climate change preceded CO2 concentration increases, not the other way around. Something else initiated the warming, and also the cooling that followed. This has happened multiple time so it is no fluke.
    Most CO2 not trapped in coal, rocks, and oil is dissolved in the oceans. When it warms, CO2 is released. At the moment, ocean surface temperatures are cooling vs. last year, and global temperatures are at or below the average for the satellite era. Is there a climate driver other than CO2? It should at least be considered before we all move back into mud huts.
    Check the ocean surface temps (SST) vs. last year, and the 14000 ft. temp. vs average at the following NASA website.
    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/execute.csh?amsutemps

  • Anonymous

    3 Foot sea level rise? The IPCC said it was from about 40cm to the highest, and very unlikely, of 88cm. That’s still less than 3 feet, which he says is the minimum. I’ve read a lot from this guy. He is the definition of a climate alarmist. His favorite tactic us repeated ad hominem name calling. I happened to see this program and could not believe what they let him say unchallenged. I now hold everything I see on this program with skepticism.

  • http://twitter.com/ZenCushion Zen Cushion

    Republikant,

    Acid rain was/is a clear case of pollution, namely: sulfuric oxides produced by combustion combining with water in the atmosphere to create sulfuric acid. Furthermore, the causal mechanism of acid rain could be clearly demonstrated and measured.

    You ask “why is climate change more politically difficult [than dealing with acid rain]“. You are correct that attempting to take steps to change the entire climate of the planet “involves more significant change” !

    However, unlike acid rain, whose cause is clearly traced to by-products of (primarily high-sulfur coal) hydrocarbons — and which could be mitigated by specifically removing or scrubbing the pollutants from the source — “climate change” has no such directly attributable and straightforward cause. The climate of the planet has been changing, and in wide extremes, for millions of years, and without any contribution from mad-made sources.

    This is not to say that (a) average temperatures have not risen slightly over the past couple hundred years (they have), or (b) that there is not some marginal effect on climate change which is contributed to by man-made greenhouse gases.

    But the precise nature of the causal link between man-made CO2 emissions and climate change has certainly not been established. This is because of three main reasons:

    (1) the extent of temperature forcing, i.e., greenhouse effect, of marginal or proportional increases in CO2 has not been demonstrated, only theorized — and furthermore the derivation of the often-cited logarithmic temperature forcing equation was never established, simply hypothesized !

    (2) the relative impact of CO2 as a greenhouse gas compared to other known and unknown causes of long-term change in climate has not been established, and in fact is practically impossible to calibrate because of the long time frames involved and the relative absence of data;

    (3) the climate models which are predicting accelerating and dramatic rises in temperature over the next century, with concomitant dire predictions and consequences for civilization, even the survival of the species, are not proofs or predictors at all ! They are simply models which attempt to incorporate theories of marginal effects of greenhouse gases with all of the other factors involved in the ongoing evolution of climate, and the coefficients and interactions among dynamic factors are not facts but rather assumptions.

    Finally, treating CO2 as a pollutant is a gross misrepresentation and improper categorization of CO2. CO2 is part of the cycle of life. Plants need CO2 to live, and give off Oxygen in return. Animals need Oxygen to live, and exhaust CO2. In fact, contrary to the dire and alarmist predictions of demise caused by slight increases in CO2, spending huge amounts of economic capital in attempts to suppress CO2 will itself not only burden and depress the global economy, but it will also make it harder to grow food to supply increasing population.

    Your theory that bringing back ‘carbon’ into the atmosphere which was saved when the planet was ‘hotter’ would somehow recreate the climate of past geological times might be an interesting premise for a sci-fi fantasy, but it is, sorry to say, just that.

  • jb

    What reason do scientists have to support the climate change theory then? Who are you? Are you a scientist? Why not consider this phenomena, rather than dismiss it as a natural process?

  • Nrknowles

    why doesn’t we nation u.s.a. pay leve their home sea front, where land sink and sea is raising build fordtification defence rest town, of course destray home of pay leve and should vointry for people. they debt pay off ther’re mogit pay off and $112,000, for leving, and one more thing help finding new home farth inland u.s.a. if prime resident?

  • Nrknowles

    why doesn’t we nation u.s.a. pay leve their home sea front, where land sink and sea is raising build fordtification defence rest town, of course destray home of pay leve and should vointry for people. they debt pay off ther’re mogit pay off and $112,000, for leving, and one more thing help finding new home farth inland u.s.a. if prime resident?