Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

31 January 2009

Chicken Little at the Washington Post

On Sunday, 25 January 2009, the Washington Post ran an article called Warming Trends Alter Conservation. It filled most of page A3 with a large picture of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore and two maps of the refuge showing the marsh boundaries now and as projected in 2100 using a conservative estimate for sea-level rise, or so the large font text above the maps claims. Of course, little of the marsh land remains under their projection. The alarm bells ring violently for most readers, I am sure.

I had observed this article because my wife was reading it. I asked, "How much sea-level rise are they projecting in their 'conservative estimate'?" Anna: "I don't know. It has not been mentioned yet, but I am still reading the article." Charles: "I'll bet it is not actually conservative." Anna, with some annoyance: "Oh, you don't believe anything in the Post." It is dangerous to disagree with the Post or all sources of the conventional wisdom. People, even those you love and who love you, will resent your being a know-it-all. But, what can I do but judge the media on their track record? I am doomed to being resented!

Sure, enough, in paragraph 18 of this long 21 paragraph article by Juliet Eilperin the Wildlife Federation turns up as the source of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge maps. These were based on the "conservative" sea-level rise of 27 inches by the year 2100. They said that the Chesapeake Bay region would lose 90% of its tidal fresh marsh, tidal swamp, and brackish marsh.

This is interesting. The IPCC's Third Assessment Report of 2001 estimated sea-level rise by 2100 to be at most 27 inches, equalling the 'conservative' estimate of the Wildlife Federation. One would have thought that in 2002, the Wildlife Federation would have used the mid-range or bottom limit projection of sea-level rise as a conservative estimate, not the maximum limit rise of the 2001 IPCC report! Moreover, the long-since available IPCC Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 revised this estimate, along with temperature estimates, drastically downward. This report estimates sea-level rise to be between 8.5 and 18.5 inches. The middle of this range is 13.5 inches. This mid-range sea-level rise is half of that which the Wildlife Federation claimed to be 'conservative.' Apparently, the Wildlife Federation is neither competent in keeping up with the IPCC reports nor able to comprehend the meaning of the word 'conservative.'

After the cut-off date for the IPCC report of 2007, G. B. Woppelmann and colleagues published a paper in Global and Planetary Change using GPS satellite data to measure sea-level rise and continental landmass rise, which may have caused the 2007 IPCC report to project even lower sea-level rise estimates. The land masses covered with ice in the last ice age are still rising due to the loss of weight of crushing ice which melted long ago. The relaxation of the continental masses in response to the loss of weight on them is a very slow process, but one with important consequences for the usual sea-level measurements which reference sea-level to the land. Correcting for the rise of land, the sea-level rise over a one hundred year span is less than 5.5 inches!

So, a conservative estimate of the rise of sea-level by 2100 should be 5.5 inches, not 27 inches, which was the upper end range of the estimate by the 2001 IPCC report, which upper limit was reduced by the 2007 report to 18.5 inches. That 2007 report had a lower range limit of 8.5 inches sea-level rise, which might have been taken as a 'conservative' estimate prior to the important work of Woppelmann and colleagues in 2007. The map of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge would surely look less dismal for a projected conservative sea-level rise of 5.5 inches!

Who is Juliet Eilperin? Obviously, she is not a very competent staff writer. She does not check her facts. This would be true if she were just a general topic reporter given an out-of-the-blue assignment to write up an article on nature conservancy and global warming. According to the Huffington Post she is:
A born-and-bred Washington [sic], Juliet Eilperin graduated in 1992 magna cum laude from Princeton University, where she received a bachelor’s in Politics with a certificate in Latin American Studies. In the fall of 1992 she went to Seoul, South Korea on a Luce Scholarship, which allowed her to cover politics and economics for an English-language magazine. Returning to Washington, Ms. Eilperin wrote for Louisiana and Florida papers at States News Service and then joined Roll Call newspaper after the Republicans seized Congress in 1994. In March 1998 she joined The Washington Post as its House of Representatives reporter, where she covered the impeachment of Bill Clinton, lobbying, legislation, and four national congressional campaigns.

Since April of 2004 she has covered the environment for the national desk, reporting on science, policy and politics in areas including climate change, oceans, and air quality. In pursuit of these stories she has gone scuba diving with sharks in the Bahamas, trekking on the Arctic tundra, and searching on her hands and knees for rare insects in the caves of Tennessee.

During her first year at the Post Ms. Eilperin was the most prolific writer on the news staff, writing more than 200 stories. In the spring of 2005 she served as the McGraw Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, teaching political reporting to a group of undergraduate and graduate students. This spring Rowman & Littlefield has published her first book, “Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship is Poisoning the House of Representatives.”
It does make it easier and faster to be "the most prolific writer on the news staff" if you do not bother to learn anything about your subject or to check your facts! Can you imagine all the harm and falsehoods this writer has spread through her many articles in the Washington Post? Apparently, Princeton thought she had all the necessary tools to be an effective socialist propaganda generator and made her a magna cum laude graduate in recognition of those skills. Critical thinkers need not apply! After her track record was well-established, they further encouraged her by making her McGraw Professor of Journalism at Princeton and allowed her to warp the minds of younger Princeton students. Sorry, but I am very unimpressed by both Ms. Eilperin and Princeton University.

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