The oceanographer Nils-Axel Mörner challenges the IPCC and warnings about sinking islands
Mr. Mörner, you have recently visited the Fiji islands in South Pacific several times in order to research changes on the coasts and sea levels. Why Fiji?
Nils-Axel Mörner: I knew there would be a science conference in New York in June 2017 that focused on sea level changes in Fiji. In addition, it was known that the island nation would chair the 23rd World Climate Conference, which took place last November in Bonn. Thus, Fiji moved into the focus of interest. It was said that the rising sea level had done a lot of damage there. I wanted to check with my own eyes if that is true.
What made you sceptical?
I have been researching sea-level changes my entire life, traveling to 59 countries. Hardly any other researcher has so much experience in this field. However, the IPCC has always misrepresented the facts on this topic. It exaggerates the risks of a sea level rise enormously. The IPCC relies in particular on questionable computer models rather than field research. However, I always want to know what is going on. That is why I went to Fiji.
However, according to ProClim, the Swiss climate research platform, there are a series of measurements in Fiji that show a sharp rise in sea level in recent decades. Specifically, the sea level has increased by 5.4 millimeters annually since 1990, which is twice as much as the global average.
Yes, I know these measurements. These are two series of tide heights, that is, water levels at low tide and high tide. We checked these data – with the result that they are of very poor quality. One series has been influenced by the fact that port facilities were built on loose sediment soil near the measuring station, which could have changed tidal heights. For the other series, the measuring station was even moved. The researchers who rely on such data are office workers. They are not specialized in coastal dynamics processes and sea level changes. Many of them have no idea of the real conditions.
How did you go about getting better data?
On the one hand, we have been following the given examples, where sea level rise is said to have led to coastal erosion. The result was that erosion has been caused by human intervention – such as new coastal structures altering water currents or increased harvests of sea cucumbers, which could have destabilized the seabed. To prove sea level changes over the past 500 years, we have dated sand deposits to see when they came into being. In addition, we have researched the spread of coral in recent centuries. Typically, coral reefs grow in height when sea levels rise and in width when they remain constant. If the level drops, corals die off. Corals do not lie; they are a reliable indicator – much more reliable than tidal measurements.
What was the result?
We were able to prove that the sea level in Fiji from 1550 to about 1700 was about seventy centimeters higher than it is today. Then it sank and was about fifty centimeters lower in the 18th century than it is today. Then it rose to about the current level. In the last 200 years, the level has not changed significantly. For the past 50 to 70 years, it has been stable.
Were you surprised?
Not really. It was not the first time that the claims of the IPCC turned out to be wrong.
Fiji is only a single archipelago. Maybe the situation is different in other places.
There are also data from many other places in the world. These by no means confirm the picture that the IPCC draws. In some places, the sea level is indeed rising, but in other places, it is stable, and elsewhere it is even dropping. For example, sea levels are constant in the Indian Ocean and on the Atlantic coast of South America. On South Pacific islands such as Tuvalu and Kiribati measurements do not confirm the constant warnings about the sinking of these archipelagos. The sea certainly erodes the shores here and there, but islands grow elsewhere as well. It has always been like this.
Why do many climate researchers warn then about sinking islands?
Because they have a political agenda. They are biased towards the interpretation that man is causing climate change, and that it is a threat. The IPCC was founded with the purpose of prove man-made climate change and to warn against it. His goal was thus fixed from the beginning. It sticks to it like a dogma – no matter what the facts are. As a specialist in sea level developments, I have consistently found in recent years that the IPCC team does not include a single expert on this issue.
Is there no problem with the rise of the sea level at all?
No danger that islands could sink?
The doomsday scenarios usually refer to the year 2100. I estimate that the sea level will then rise by five centimeters on average, with an uncertainty of 15 centimeters. The change might go from plus 20 centimeters to minus 10 centimeters. This is not a threat. Anyone who claims that there will be a threat of an increase of one meter or so has no idea of physics.
However, a lot of meltwater from glaciers and ice shields flows into the sea.
Much less than you think. In Antarctica, no ice melts in total. When ice melts in the Arctic, it does not change the sea level – because floating ice does not affect the water level when melting according to the laws of physics. In essence, only melting ice on Greenland contributes to a level increase. However, this amount is small.
Seawater heats up and expands, increasing sea level.
That is true, but only by a few centimeters, not by decimeters or even meters. There are much more important influences, which affect the sea level, especially solar activity. There are also significant horizontal water shifts, from one ocean to another. Like the data in Fiji, those of the Maldives also show that levels were clearly higher in the 17th century than they are today. Significantly, this was the time when it was cold on the northern hemisphere; this period is called the Little Ice Age. At that time solar activity was lower than today. It was the big solar minimum. It seems that low solar activity is associated with high sea levels in the tropics – and vice versa. The sea levels seem to depend mainly on the oscillation of solar cycles and hardly on melting ice.
You are among the most distinguished critics of the IPCC. Why have you distanced yourself from the warnings of manmade climate change?
In 1991, I gave a scientific presentation at a conference on sea level changes in the U.S. The representative of the IPCC present there responded with great anger to my point of view. This reaction surprised me. Because in science circles, it is usual that you listen to each other and debate about different points of view. Later, I noticed more and more that the IPCC was disseminating false information and adhered to obvious mistakes. I then published a paper on the influence of the sun on the sea level, which was supported by 19 recognized experts. However, the IPCC attacked the paper with outrageous claims and caused the scientific journal, in which it was published, to be discontinued.
So do they want to stop you?
They cannot stop me. I have published about 650 scientific papers to date. However, young colleagues, who think critically, have no chance given these kind of manipulations. In principle, most editors of science magazines no longer accept papers that are contrary to the IPCC’s claims, regardless of the quality of the papers.
However, 97 percent of climate researchers are convinced that global warming is man-made?
This is nonsense. This number is based on dubious polls. In fact, the majority of researchers reject the claims made by the IPCC, depending on the field between 50 and 80 percent. Only meteorologists agree almost 100 percent with the IPCC. However, these people are financially dependent on the IPCC.
However, doesn’t it make sense to reduce the CO2 in principle?
Why? It is obvious that CO2 is not the main driver of temperatures. It is noteworthy that the IPCC itself has repeatedly reduced the warming trend in recent years. If a temperature increase of only 1.5 degrees Celsius is to be expected, that is not important.
Why do we hear so many warnings about climate change then?
Some people have exposed themselves heavily with their claims and obviously cannot go back now. In addition, public research money flows almost exclusively to climate alarmists. We are dealing here with a quasi-religious movement that claims to protect the environment. The fight against global warming is now set against the fight to alleviate poverty.
Which would be the right priorities?
It would be important to protect people from natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. In addition, 25,000 people die every day because they have no access to clean drinking water. The food supply is often just as catastrophic. However, Nigeria, for example, is discouraged from using coal and thus from advancing economic development and prosperity that would reduce hunger and poverty. There are today efficient technologies to filter out air pollutants in coal use. Effectively, the fight against climate change harms people very much.
What will happen next?
Solar activity is expected to decrease over the next few decades and there will be cooling as a result. By then it will probably become clear how wrong the warnings of global warming are.