Posted by: coastlinesproject | July 15, 2017

Donald and the Iceberg

Chapter 7




The Iceberg

July 12, 2017


On July 12, 2017 a million metric ton iceberg the size of Delaware calved off from the Antarctica peninsula. It floated almost as high above water as the Eiffel Tower and three times deeper. On the same day it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. had e-mailed, “I love it!” in response to a Russian lawyer’s invitation to share dirt on Hilary Clinton. Now I’m sure “I love it!” will go right down there with “I’m not a crook,” and “It depends what your definition of is, is,” as iconic defenses of presidential cover-ups.


If we were on a planet governed by Vulcans, or if “no drama Obama” were still in office, the mainstream media would be so afraid that he might start repeating his three main points about the Affordable Health Care Act that they would have run the Iceberg story front page, above the fold. And the Vulcan president would have proposed funding research on the problem and contacted all the other Vulcan nations about curtailing emissions for the long-term future of their planet.


Unfortunately, rather than being on a rerun of Star Trek we seem to stuck in the sequel of “Planet of the Apes.” And our instinct driven leaders seem more intent on short-term gain than long term survival.


So, instead of working to solve this wicked hard problem, we do what any social primate would do, concentrate on the foibles and sex lives of our leaders. We seem far more interested in why Melania wont hold Donald Trump’s hand than that pesky little iceberg floating somewhere off Antarctica.


The Trump Jr. saga will dominate the news cycles for several months, but which incident will have greater significance twenty or even fifty years from now, another scandal in this scandal ridden presidency or enough sea level rise to start threatening Boston, London, Shanghai and Miami?


That is the concern of scientists who have been monitoring the break up of Antarctica’s Ice Shelf that acts like a cork holding back the Antarctica’s land-based glaciers. The last time the planet was warming this fast was 125,000 years ago and the sea levels rose 25 to 30 feet higher than today. What they don’t know is how quickly that happened, was it over centuries or thousands of years, or over just decades like what we have just seen on the ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula?


Probably the most authoritative analysis of this problem was done by James Hansen and 19 other scientists. They calculated that due to all causes we can expect nine feet of sea level rise in 50 years and about three feet in 25 years. An earlier paper figured out that when the seas start rising more than 3 feet a century barrier beaches like Plum Island will start breaking up rather than migrating slowly landward.


Ever since the Ice Age the sea has been rising about a foot every century, but about twenty years ago that rose to about a foot and a half feet. So people have had the experience of going to a beach that they remember as being sixty to a hundred feet wide and seeing waves lapping at the dunes.


Nauset, the beach I went to as a kid has retreated so far that the town of Orleans has bought motel’s empty parking lot that they can start using when the old lot is washed away. Just this past summer they moved several of their buildings dozens of feet further back.


If the Hansen paper is correct our kids will see the retreats of whole sections of cities like Newburyport and the disappearance of beautiful barrier islands like Plum Beach in the face of this onslaught.




  1. And take a look here Bill,


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