Kiribati sinking beneath waves again

Tarawa atoll, Kiribati.

Oh, again?

Climate change sinking Kiribati – so says a Herald headline of Friday, November 12. Here we go again! More nonsense about sea levels in the Pacific rising, driven by the exhaust from our internal combustion engines and thermal power stations.

Nearly a year ago the Herald carried a similar story headed Tiny Tuvalu outgunned by oil giant which I quickly debunked. Seems they didn’t learn much that time around.

But the author this time is Bryan Walker, regular contributor to alarmist articles at Hot Topic. About two years ago he wrote (slightly edited):

The world is warming more in recent decades. Carbon dioxide and its sister greenhouse gases are responsible, emitted by human activity. Already some of the effects of this heating are being felt in the natural world and in human suffering. But there is more inescapably in the pipeline, delayed by the lag of the ocean which takes a long time to warm up. The scale of the problem could dramatically escalate, with the shut-down of parts of the oceans’ circulation, massive abrupt sea level rise following ice sheet slide into the ocean, melting permafrost triggering the release of massive amounts of carbon, or some as-yet-unsuspected danger hidden in the process. But our generation has the last chance to avoid the worst of such scenarios.

That’s most alarming; does anyone else think that’s alarming? Does anyone think, as I do, that we ought to hear some evidence for such alarming public statements? Three years ago he wrote in the Herald:

The protestations of climate change deniers are little more than silly bluster in the face of the solid scientific evidence that disaster lies ahead if we do not rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

Because he already anticipates problems with sea level in low-lying places, we should not be surprised when he finds them. But notice that even when he claims the scientific information is “solid”, he still doesn’t tell us what it is. It’s almost as though there isn’t any.

Story ignores the facts

His story in the Herald yesterday highlights the emotional elements and absolutely ignores the facts. The emotional side is that the island nation is in trouble and needs help. They’re asking for money and my guess is that they also need expertise to solve their problems. On the factual side, there is no connection between their problems and our Western lifestyles, and nor is the sea rise accelerating. Notice the curious fact that Mr Walker offers no facts himself to persuade us that what he says is true.

But it’s not surprising, because there aren’t any facts that could do that.

How do you persuade people when there are no facts to help you? Simple: you repeat yourself endlessly while becoming more and more emotional and sentimental. That appears to be Mr Walker’s approach.

He says there was a meeting at Kiribati recently. Nineteen nations attended to discuss the adverse effects of climate change on the nations uniquely vulnerable to those effects. Note the mention of plural “effects”. The nations agreed on a Declaration on “the urgency of addressing the immediate effects of climate change” and the need for funding.

Map of Kiribati.

19 leaders need no facts

Walker agrees with their aims, saying: “One has to feel for the predicament of the vulnerable states.” Fair enough; one needs a stony heart not to feel sympathy for those in trouble.

But then, without investigation and with no explanation to us of the facts, he delivers his prescription:

“What they most need, and must strongly call for, is a legally binding international agreement which will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But they also need help from the countries most responsible for emissions to enable them to cope with the changes they have begun to experience and [which] are set to get worse.”

No connection is shown between our “greenhouse gas” emissions and the problems on Kiribati. Actually, he hasn’t even told us yet what the problems are.

What the Kiribati President, Anote Tong, is worried about is the rising sea level. People on Kiribati are apparently having to move further and further inland because of the inundation of [sea] water on their produce gardens.

The single problem they claim for lovely Kiribati is the rising sea. They give no facts to help us understand the problem. There is no talk of the rate of rise, or the length of the period during which a rise has been observed. Nothing except one vague observation that people are “moving inland”. They obviously avoid any attempt to draw a connection between us and the rising sea but take it as granted. This is not good enough in a society rooted in scientific principles.

No accelerating rise for nine years

I haven’t been to Kiribati, but I have seen on the Internet the data from a sea-level monitoring project which has a station on Kiribati. Data that Bryan Walker should have found. Perhaps he found it and didn’t like it. The latest report shows that whatever is causing the problems with sea water incursion into or onto the island, it’s certainly not rising sea levels. For at least the last nine years there has been no acceleration in sea level rise at the monitoring station on Kiribati.

The station was installed in early 1993 — 17 years ago. In the sea levels recorded since then there’s little increase and no acceleration.

The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project (SPSLCMP) was developed as an Australian response to concerns raised by the member countries of the South Pacific Forum over the potential impacts of global warming on climate and sea levels in the Pacific. Support was provided for the installation of SEAFRAME monitoring stations across the South Pacific Forum region.

So here are the facts

The sea level monitoring stations have been operational for 17 years, which is not considered very long when you’re measuring climate data. Still, what they tell us is worth knowing. The September report says that the average sea-level trend at the station on Kiribati for the last 17 years has been a rise of 3.2 mm per year. That’s 32 mm per decade, and 320 mm per century. A little higher than normal, but hardly catastrophic. Considering coral atolls have kept pace with 140 metres of sea level rise since the last ice age, it’s hardly catastrophic.

Globally, sea level rise for the past 8000 years, as the ice melted from the Ice Age, has been about 1.8 mm per year. So at the moment it’s high. But is it increasing?

Below are two graphs. On the left is the graph of sea levels from the September SPSLCMP report; on the right is the graph of sea level increase (the rate of change).

South Pacific sea levels thumbnail

South Pacific sea level trends thumbnail

Figure 11 shows natural fluctuations in sea level, but there is little trend.

Figure 13 shows quite stable sea level since about 2001 for all the stations. Kiribati actually shows a slight decline for the last six years.

These are facts. The sea is not threatening to overwhelm Kiribati.

So if it’s not rising sea levels causing the problem on Kiribati, then it’s not caused by anything the evil Western societies are doing. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t give them a hand. However, it is to say that we can give them a hand without either suffering from a guilty conscience or giving in to emotional blackmail.

Although we can, and are happy to, help them, we have not been harming them.

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The Seaframe study showing that the oceans around Kiribati are rising at an imperceptibe level, suggests that the current rate of rise should engender no rational fear of inundation for at least 250 years.

But even then, if the seas have risen by about 2 metres from current levels, the coral reef which surrounds and protects the island will have grown to the same extent.The corals grow to the waterline. So the effect is homeostasis rather than CAGW.

All this seems fairly comfortable. So what’s the problem? Is there some undisclosed reason to panic – or to inform the islanders that the traditional rate of sea rise will undergo drastic change (in the wrong direction) at some specified future time?

Richard C (NZ)

What disturbs me most is that the NZ Herald Editors are unable to discern the difference between opinion and fact-based news reporting.

Walkers opinion piece is found in “Environment” “News” – not in the appropriate “Opinion”.

Apparently the Hot Topic/SciBlogs source immediately bestows scientific credibility on the article, no fact checking required.

I’ve pointed this out in comments and asked for editorial oversight – worth a try.

I agree with the implied scientific credibility and you’re right to complain about it — if nobody points out errors or inconsistencies, nothing can change.

Accusing the editors of an inability to discern opinion from fact is a bit harsh. The article started with this advice:

This post originally appeared on

Then at the end they give an intro and plug to Walker:

Bryan Walker is a Hamilton-based science writer and contributor to Hot Topic. View his work and that of 35 other scientists and science writers at Sciblogs, New Zealand’s largest science blogging network.

So the reader gets told right at the start this is from a blog, which these days is the same as announcing an op-ed (to use that nasty US contraction).

Note the big plug for Hot topic and Sciblogs, with links. Nice work if you can get it. Shows which way the Herald’s sympathies blow right now.

I’ve asked the Herald if the link to last December’s Tuvalu article has been changed.

Richard C (NZ)

“So the reader gets told right at the start this is from a blog, which these days is the same as announcing an op-ed (to use that nasty US contraction).”

Yes but it’s still in News. Even the NY Times has Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth Blog under Opinion in the Science section nowadays after an editorial epiphany.

Yes, good point.

Mike Hutcheson

Bryan Walker is a science (fiction) writer!!! It would be obvious to most level headed people, that if the sea WAS rising, then it would have a uniform effect on all the islands in the pacific region, many countries, like NZ and Aus and for that matter, everywhere else on the planet. Only a sci fi write could dream up a “fact” that the sea is rising in the Kiribati Region ONLY!! I bet he believes Godzilla lives too!!

Unfortunately, his misguided ramblings in newsprint, DO influence some peoples judgement, including Julia Gillard and crew, who then try and make money out of the situation.

Richard, I like your report very much and recommend it be published in as many areas of the media as possible.


The Tarawa Climate Change Conference, recently held in Kiribati:

The Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) seeks to support the initiative of the President of Kiribati to hold a consultative forum between vulnerable states and their partners with a view of creating an enabling environment for multiparty negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC. The conference is a successor event to the Climate Vulnerable Forum held in November 2009 in the Maldives. Based on the lessons learned in the COP process to-date, the TCCC proposes a more inclusive format of consultations, involving key partners among major developed and developing nations.

Case studies:

Over the past 40 years the villagers have seen the sea rise, storm surges become more frequent and spring tides more forceful. Eventually the erosion was so great that the village had to be abandoned.


From the Radio Australia interview linked from the Herald article:

TONG: Well they will actually be seeing it because the venue of the conference will be a small island in the middle of the lagoon. So they will have the sea all around them. Unfortunately the very high tides have passed away during the full moon, but the tides will still be high enough for them to appreciate the very marginal difference between the high tide and the land elevation.

Such is the power of persuasion.

Richard C (NZ)

Walker also pointing out at Hot Topic that Environment Waikato has swallowed the climate change meme, hook, line and sinker.

val majkus
val majkus
Bob D

The main issue in Kiribati is over-population, leading to depletion of the freshwater lens galleries. As these are pumped out, salt water incursions cause the fresh water to become brackish and ultimately unusable.

These issues are well known and are well summarised here and here.

Note the desalination plant donated by the Chinese government. However, as Kam Rabwa points out, the cost of operating it is prohibitive.

On the other hand, it has been known since Darwin’s time that coral atolls grow with sea level rise, even with extreme sea level rises we’ve had in the geologic past. The current 2-3 mm/yr is well below these past rates, so sea level rise presents no problem at all to Kiribati. The over-population issue, however, is a huge problem, and presents the Kiribati government with large problems. I suppose it’s just easier to blame the industrialised nations for your problems than it is to deal with them.

Richard C (NZ)

I saw a report from DWTV on regional Central TV that explored a similar situation in Egypt near the coast. Massive irrigation projects tapping underground aquifers are being used to grow potatoes for the European markets. An academic (hydrologist I think) showed how over time the aquifer will be polluted by salt water. The argument was that although the Egyptians were able to supply fresh potatoes and the European suppliers were not, it was unethical for European consumers to purchase the Egyptian potatoes because the water would be better used for drinking as the Nile drinking water source was so polluted and the aquifer would not be drawn down as radically. I think there was also an element of European protection as DWTV is the equivalent to BBC or CCTV. This is an issue in NZ with all major water users (especially irrigaters) being required to meter and restrict usage in accordance with consents. There’s also fines handed out to dairy farms that allow effluent to pond and possibly leach into aquifers. The lakes are in distress from leaching too. There’s some aquifer pollution horror stories around the world and water issues will… Read more »

(not so) Silent

” View his work and that of 35 other scientists and science writers ”

Note the implied reference that Walker is a scientist. Isnt he a retired English teacher?
Heck even on his own Blog HT they discuss the BOM measurements of sea levels being only 3-5mm pa.
I think they really really believe that the ice is going to melt and flood the world. But will it?


Does anyone know anything in this game?

Check out this little pearler from the emails

Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I
almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will
show that we can probably say a fair bit about 100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know
with certainty that we know f**k-all).

val majkus

very funny Andy


point (7) was quite good too

Publish, retire, and don’t leave a forwarding address

[…] and Ian Wishart have devoted uncomplimentary posts about the article on their respective websites. Treadgold is fully satisfied that the sea level rise is very moderate, within the range that a coral island […]

Richard C (NZ)

Bryan Walker Clutching at straws November 16, 2010 Hot Topic I’d like to return briefly to the fate of Kiribati as sea levels rise, following up my recent post on the conference of the Climate Vulnerable Forum held there last week. The post made its way through Sciblogs to the NZ Herald website where a number of people offered comments. The vigour of denial is as evident as always. The sea isn’t rising, or if it is it’s rising slowly enough for coral islands to adjust. The islanders aren’t looking after their environment — they’re blasting their coral reefs and leaving themselves open to the ravages of the sea. They should use their tourist income to do some reclamation to make up for erosion. Salt contamination is due to over-extraction of fresh water by a rising population. The islanders are playing this up in order to get money. At greater length than the comments in the Herald, Richard Treadgold and Ian Wishart have devoted uncomplimentary posts about the article on their respective websites. Treadgold is fully satisfied that the sea level rise is very moderate, within the range that a coral island can… Read more »

[…] I remain unconcerned about criticism he got from the pugnacious Ian Wishart at The Briefing Room, along with “others” on the Herald web site. I believe that Ian correctly quotes from Kiribati’s marketing material, but now I comment on what Walker says about our post here at the Climate Conversation, Kiribati sinking beneath waves again. […]

Glad you saw this folly by Bryan Walker in the Herald as I had also commented on it. The Herald pushes propaganda just like Russian Pravda! (Bit scary)


The BBC is the source of all Pravda propaganda

Try this from Biased BBC on our beloved Roger Harrabin.

Thanks for the link to the Biased BBC, Andy… interesting.


[…] first riposte made use of the very accurate data from the Seaframe measuring site on Kiribati, relying on the […]

There’s plenty of up-to-date scientific evidence that shows that indeed climate change is happening and increasing at a very fast rate, and yes, people in those islands and all over the world are going to have a very hard time.

Please, practice what you preach and research scientific papers.

Just Google: “NASA Study Shows Role of Melt in Arctic Sea Ice Loss”

Thanks, Kathryn, I will follow your suggestion. However, first I will point out that my post quoted the islanders saying they were suffering from sea level rise right now. Considering the Seaframe data show no untoward increase in the rate of rise, I question whether their problems should be ascribed to rising seas. Before presenting predictions of future rise, you should address the present contradiction between the islanders’ claims and the scientific readings. For if no acceleration is yet evident, your predictions might need modifying. When you say climate change is “happening” I agree with you. It is, in fact, impossible to accept the reality of the climate changing and at the same time to deny that it is happening. For change, in becoming a reality, must of necessity, happen. Your assertion that climate change is happening provides as much enlightenment as explaining that the surface of the wind-blown sea is in motion. It does not need to be said. But when you say climate change is “increasing at a fast rate” I must ask you: how on earth can climate change “increase”? The various components of the climate change constantly, and some… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

“But when you say climate change is “increasing at a fast rate” I must ask you: how on earth can climate change “increase”?”

That there is climate change “increase” coming out of the LIA is demonstrated by this plot by Dr. Syun Akasofu;

But the same plot also demonstrates the fallacy of the “increasing at a fast rate” notion as projected by the IPCC.. I suspect that it is the IPCC projection that Kathryn is referring to (and the projection that has not played out over the last decade).

Bob D

Interesting, Kathryn. You make a statement that climate change is happening at an accelerating rate, then you point to the island peoples and declare they will have a very hard time as a result. You then provide us with scientific “proof” of this by referring to a study conducted on Arctic Sea Ice. How do you propose that changes in Arctic Sea Ice area will affect islanders in the South Pacific, exactly? Bear in mind that melting or otherwise of Arctic Sea Ice has no impact whatsoever on sea level (Archimedes Principle). But let’s check your other statement. If global warming was accelerating, it must follow from basic physics that sea level rise would be accelerating. This is because the steric component of sea level rise is proportional to the temperature of the ocean. So what’s happening to sea level rise? Sea Level Rise – University of Colorado If you look at the link, you’ll see that sea level is not, in fact, accelerating. Rather, it is decelerating. Now, there are two possible reasons this could be happening. First possible reason: global warming is accelerating, but glacial melt (eustatic change) is decelerating at… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

Kathryn, no-one is denying that climate change is happening and speaking for myself I’m not even denying that it has been increasing since the Little Ice Age (LIA). I happen to believe that the climate will be considerably warmer come 2050. What has been lost in the current global warming scare (except to those with long memories) is that there was a global cooling scare in the 1970’s. The very same evidence that is presented to prove climate change is happening also shows that overlaid on the warming trend coming out of the LIA is a warm-cool cycle. It was the bottoming out of the cool phase of that cycle that prompted the global cooling scare. Neither am I denying that there has been loss of ice from ice melt in the Arctic but when we refer to the NASA study that you cited we see “Since the start of the satellite record in 1979, scientists have observed the continued disappearance of older “multiyear” sea ice that survives more than one summer melt season.” So satellite study commenced just after the bottom of a cool cycle and it follows that there will be… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

I will concede that man has an effect on precipitation due to land use changes but nuther story.

Richard C (NZ)

Alternative SSL plots for Tarawa, Kiribati, 1° Lat and 172° Lon from University of Colorado Interactive sea level wizard.

“Click for a table of values” (top plot) gives Surface height anomaly data (cm)

1992.9595 – 2010.5786

2009.5741 12.58 [End of June 125.8mm above 1993-1999 mean]
2009.6013 16.58
2009.6284 12.91
2009.6555 13.34
2009.6827 11.75
2009.7098 17.10
2009.7371 17.40
2009.7642 20.63
2009.7913 14.81
2009.8185 19.51
2009.8456 17.92
2009.8728 12.27
2009.8999 9.51
2009.9270 18.11
2009.9542 19.89
2009.9813 12.04
2010.0084 6.32
2010.0356 5.84
2010.0627 10.91
2010.0900 8.86
2010.1171 7.48
2010.1442 6.46
2010.1714 -1.14
2010.1985 -0.06
2010.2257 -2.45
2010.2528 -6.10
2010.2799 -2.81
2010.3071 -3.82
2010.3342 -3.99
2010.3615 -6.16
2010.3885 -7.33
2010.4156 -7.17
2010.4429 -6.43
2010.4700 -5.45
2010.4972 -5.14
2010.5243 -3.21
2010.5514 -1.08
2010.5786 -7.16 [End of June 71.6mm below 1993-1999 mean]


MEAN SEA SURFACE – 1993-1999 (7 years)

Richard C (NZ)

Saw this in comments below the Guardian article “Cameron refuses to attend UN climate change talks”


29 November 2010 10:10PM




and Nauru:

How inconvenient.

The world (in millimetres):

Meanwhile, China is racing to build nuclear/gas/coal fired power stations so it can produce all the green stuff we have to swallow – it’s the law – and polluting (as in real pollution not production of the gas that feeds us all) without regulation to constrain profits.

Richard C (NZ)

And on a humourous note from the same comments thread.


29 November 2010 10:46PM

Recent months have seen a significant reduction in Monbiot. If present trends continue then this winter could be the first ever completely free of Monbiot.

Expectations that temperatures would rise, leading to an increase in Monbiot, appear to have been unfounded.

Publishers report an impending ‘tipping point’ with more unsold books than ever before going to the tip.

Also (while I’m at it)

A man who had collided with a cow while driving his car answered “Horn” to Norwich Union Insurances question “What warning did you give?”

And answered “Moo” to the question “What warning did the other party give?”.

val majkus

I’m sure this has been mentioned before because the story’s been around for a while but for those who may not have seen it: IPCC Sea Level Nature Trick by Steve Goddard quoting a couple of paras: The rise in global mean sea level is accompanied by considerable decadal variability. For the period 1993 to 2003, the rate of sea level rise is estimated from observations with satellite altimetry as 3.1 0.7 mm yr1, signi?cantly higher than the average rate. The tide gauge record indicates that similar large rates have occurred in previous 10-year periods since 1950. It is unknown whether the higher rate in 1993 to 2003 is due to decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend. That last sentence is a classic. They avoided the obvious answer that the higher rate from 1993-2003 was due to using a different methodology to generate the numbers. The older measurements are from tide gauges, and the newer ones are from satellite altimetry. They failed to mention that tide gauges dont agree with the satellite altimetry. They failed to mention that we dont see much if any increase in rates from… Read more »

Richard C (NZ)

Another “IPCC nature trick” was the Hong Kong “corrective factor” (not sure if this has been verified anywhere)

Rise of sea levels is ‘the greatest lie ever told’

“One of his most shocking discoveries was why the IPCC has been able to show sea levels rising by 2.3mm a year. Until 2003, even its own satellite-based evidence showed no upward trend. But suddenly the graph tilted upwards because the IPCC’s favoured experts had drawn on the finding of a single tide-gauge in Hong Kong harbour showing a 2.3mm rise. The entire global sea-level projection was then adjusted upwards by a “corrective factor” of 2.3mm, because, as the IPCC scientists admitted, they “needed to show a trend”. ”

WillS (AU)

A mention of satellite altimetry poses the question as to whether Kiribati is actually sinking or the sea is rising.
I have seen no data on the tectonic movement of Kiribati and how this affects the problem with encroaching sea water.

Your question, Will, is so obvious, yet it so often goes unasked.

However, in the case of Kiribati, it’s answered with “nothing much is happening.” If you click on the two graphs near the end of the article you’ll see that the sea levels recorded for Kiribati have fluctuated about 200mm up and down, but the trend is very low, perhaps 2mm per year, or 200mm per century. The coral will easily keep up with that rate of rise. As with Tuvalu, if salt water encroachment is a problem, it’s being caused by local man-made interference, such as over-enthusiastic earth-moving or reef blasting. Whether there’s a tectonic influence I don’t know, but the magnitude of sea level rise is clearly observed.

Mike Hutcheson

Kiribati was the scene of one of the most devastating battles of the Pacific war in WW2. It was bombarded by aircraft and battleships for days. Being a coral atoll it may even be possible that the base on which it rests has been damaged and the islands ARE in fact sinking. Having a fragile structure being pounded by thousands of tonnes of bombs, it must be considered a possible cause. ….at least it has more plausibility than Walkers theory, me thinks!!!!

Mike Hutcheson

All the BS about carbon dioxide gives me the willies!! We NEED CO2 as much as we need oxygen. Without CO2, we don’t get oxygen, right??? How do we get oxygen? From TREES. Trees give us oxygen and eat carbon dioxide. What happens when greedy nations and stupid governments allow natural rainforests to be decimated? No trees, means no oxygen. Have a Google look at the Amazon Basin rainforest and the Sumatra and Java rainforests, or what’s left of them and only when the smoke has been blown away from all the fires. Bare earth is what is left.

I’m stating this as simply as I can for the Dummies! Can we forward this to Julia Gillard and Bob Brown???


You’ve misinterpreted the images posted. Image 13 in particular doesn’t show sea level, but rate of change in sea level per year. Anything above the the 0 black line indicates increasing sea levels. Nearly every place on the picture has been in that position of having a trend of rising sea levels for a number of years. The amount of rise is obviously small, but consistent across many islands.

Image 13 in particular doesn’t show sea level, but rate of change in sea level per year.

I haven’t misinterpreted them. My commentary says: “on the right is the graph of sea level increase (the rate of change).”

Kindly read it.

Mike Jowsey

….. [crickets]


You there Jeremy?

Something else to note from your silly comment: You say the rate of rise is small, but consistent across many islands. This is a strawman. The discussion is about Kiribati. “Kiribati actually shows a slight decline for the last six years.” Point is, no need for the alarm Bryan Walker spews across the Harold pages.

Nice article, RT – well researched, unlike Walkers emotive missive. Thanks to Jeremy, I got to read it all over again!

Thanks to Jeremy, I got to read it all over again!

Nice. Thanks, Mike.


Just to be clear, Kiribati still shows increasing sea level. Only the rate of increase has slowed.

Mike Jowsey

Hi Nick
Just to be absolutely clear, here is the graph from the SPSLCMP site:

No appreciable sea level rise since records began in 1993. So, no, Kiribati has no increasing sea level. Sorry about that. I know it’s a poster child for alarmists, but the data don’t lie.


I’ve always wondered if people who make baseless statements like Nick’s ‘increasing sea level’ are truly ignorant of the facts due to a certain naivety and gullibility to believe anything they’re told, or whether they are the ones who intentionally spread misinformation in an effort to deceive. Are they ignorant pawns or dishonest liars, or maybe a bit of both?


From the same report, page 25:

“As at December 2010, based on the short-term sea level trend analyses performed by the National Tidal Centre using the Tarawa SEAFRAME data, a rate of +2.9 mm per year has been observed. Accounting for the inverted barometric pressure effect and vertical movements in the observing platform, the sea level trend is +2.6 mm per year. By comparison, the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4, 2007) estimates that global average long-term sea level rise over the last hundred years was of the order of 1 to 2 mm/yr”

Richard C (NZ)

Must be an anomalous build-up of aGHGs around there somehow imputing heat to the ocean. Not sure how that works exactly, perhaps you can enlighten us Nick?

BTW, the IPCC have only come up with “air-sea fluxes….expected to be the anthropogenic mechanism” (that’s against the prevailing thermal gradient note) after 22 years and 5 assessment reports so don’t feel too bad if you don’t know either.

Mike Jowsey

From the same report:
Figure 4 shows how the trend estimate has varied over time. In the early years, the trend appeared to indicate an enormous rate of sea level rise. Later, due to the 1997/1998 El Niño when sea level fell 25 cm below average, the trend actually went negative, and remained so for the next three years. Given the sea level record is still relatively short, it is still too early to deduce a long-term trend.
So, while it is too early to deduce a trend, Bryan Walker spews alarm, as does the Kiribati government, and the alarmists ride the gravy train for all it’s worth.

I agree, Mike, but I suspect the alarmists probably don’t need data to confirm their fears.

btw, did you mean to include a link at “Kiribati government”? If you’ve lost the edit function, email me with it.

Mike Jowsey

yes, I did intend a link- must have missed a tilde or something. Here’s the link:

Last March Kiribati was in the news a lot. No facts, just lots of arm-waving.

Mike Jowsey

Guys, check this quote from the report:
Later, due to the 1997/1998 El Niño when sea level fell 25 cm below average,
Twenty-Five centimetres below average in 1997. So, with this degree of annual fluctuation, is the trend, whether it be zero, minus 3mm or plus 3mm per annum, at all concerning?

Now, if I was an astute academic in 1998 I would have applied for funding to study the effect of a 10-inch drop in sea levels on the emotional state of bored Kiribatians. And their government. And maybe some weird slime-slug thingy from the rock pools.


I didn’t quote from that report but from the Seaframe project web site.

Be aware, too, that in every monthly report (in the latest, June 2012, it’s on page 4) is a statement like this: “Please exercise caution in interpreting the short-term trends in the table below – they will almost certainly change over the coming years as the data set increases in length.”

So when it states that the trend at Kiribati is now +3.1 mm/yr one must accept that it is imprecise. Precisely how imprecise is unknown.

Sea level can be affected by geological processes and the Seaframe project is installing GPS equipment to isolate these. The latest report (p 14) seems to indicate that GPS equipment was installed at Kiribati in October 2011, though it might have been just a comms link for the data.

In any case, we should be careful in case tectonic processes, for example, are affecting results.


Hi Richard T,
I think you and I are largely in agreement about what the data says. Our interpretation of what it means may differ but no surprises there.

What I find surprising is the ability of some of the commentators here to look at the data and see something totally different, for example the +2.6mm/yr trend since records began in 1993 is interpreted by Mike Jowsey as “no increasing sea level”.

I wouldn’t go so far as to describe anyone as naive and gullible, ignorant pawns or dishonest liars as Magoo is happy to do but I would be interested to know how +2.6mm/yr over 20 years can be interpreted as no increase.

Hi Nick,

Yes, though Mike’s no fool. It’s likely he means there’s no acceleration in sea level rise.

I’m glad to agree with you about an approximately 50 mm rise over 20 years. Two inches doesn’t mean that Kiribati is being much endangered, does it? And that’s the point of this post. The alarmism over sea level rise doesn’t translate into actual present peril for Kiribati.


Well I’m sure Mike will be around eventually so I look forward to his further clarification. As you say he his no fool and the data very clearly shows that the sea level around Kiribati is increasing.

Perhaps he and Magoo misspoke.

I will be surprised if either of them admit it though.

Mike Jowsey

Hi Nick I said: Just to be absolutely clear, here is the graph from the SPSLCMP site: No appreciable sea level rise since records began in 1993. I’m no statistician, but simply eyeballing the graph it doesn’t look like an alarming increase or rate of increase. That was my point. Okay, reading through the report uncovers an estimated increase over 20 years of 2.6mm/yr, but it also says that 20 years is too short a time to determine a long-term trend. So while you can get all huffy about my interpretation of a miniscule increase as “no discernible increase” (and yes you have a point which I cede, although the margin of error may exceed this small measurement) the point of this entire article was to show the alarmism and dire predictions of Bryan Walker against the actual reality of the situation, which is far from alarming and is simply business as usual. Or more correctly, nature as usual. As Richard Treadgold says in the article: “Story ignores the facts”. That is the point I was trying to underscore by showing you the graph, which displays no obvious trend or acceleration of… Read more »


This post is now almost 3 years old. Since then, Christchurch NZ CBD has been almost completely flattened, and today Russia has had a meteor storm that has caused quite a bit of damage.

The USA has added $1 trillion/per year to its national debt.

Several countries have had revolutions.

Dictators have been toppled and killed.

Meanwhile, we worry about a few mm of sea level rise….


I try to keep my worrying to things I can change. Hopefully Mike and Magoo’s failure to correctly identify the rising sea level around Kiribati falls into that category.


Nick, so you think you can change the rate of sea level rise at Kiribati.

Tell us about this


Hi Andy, I’m sure nothing we do or say will affect the rate that the sea level is increasing around Kiribati. However I do believe it is important to be honest about the fact that the sea level actually is increasing.


By we of course I mean you and I. Actions on a national or global scale will very likely have an affect on the future rate of sea level rise.

Richard C (NZ)

>”Actions on a national or global scale will very likely have an affect on the future rate of sea level rise.”


Mike Jowsey

Yes, RC, how indeed?

As Ken Ring points out:
Try putting an element that only warms to two degrees (a fluorescent bulb would do) above a big bowl of water and see if the water warms above room temperature.

A lot of us have aquariums with tropical fish. Presumably they can feel extra warming – so is that why they all want to get closer to the tank’s heater? What is that about?

Richard C (NZ)

That’s the thermosteric rise driver question Mike, but I think Nick will point to ice sheet melt contributing dangerously to SLR (even that’s not necessarily anthropogenic). I’ll be interested if he does because latest research has thrown that idea into doubt:-

‘Greenland ice sheet probably more stable than we thought’,-but-antarctica-probably-isn%E2%80%99t

And dangerous ice sheet melt is not showing up in the SLR metric:-

‘Sea Level Rise Has Slowed 34% Over The Last Decade!’

Re the thermosteric driver in the Ocean Heat Content thread. I’ve written up the first article on Skeptical Science. Moving on now to the second on what the IPCC, Rahmstorf, Schmittner and Nuccitelli are saying – all very bizarre.

Richard C (NZ)

Recent short-term sea level trends in the project area based upon SEAFRAME data through June, 2006 Location Installation Date Trend (mm/yr) Kiribati Dec 1992 +5.7 Recent short-term sea level trends in the project area based upon SEAFRAME data through June, 2012 Kiribati Dec 1992 +3.1 Over the last 6 yrs to the latest Jun 2012 data, Kiribati’s linear SL trend has fallen from +5.7 to +3.1 mm/yr. But one look at the Figure 11 2012 SL offset plot (page 26) shows that a linear trend is hardly representative of the data. For example, the first five years of Kiribati offset data is little different to the most recent five years of offset data in terms of absolute level. The rising linear trend is completely misleading and merely the influence of the middle five years 2001 – 2005. The longer the series extends, the less influence 01 – 05 has on the linear trend hence the fall from +5.7 to +3.1 mm/yr from 2006 onwards. But the influence of 01 – 05 will continue to maintain a positive linear trend for years even if the offset stays at present levels over those… Read more »


Vincent Gray’s paper, ‘SOUTH PACIFIC SEA LEVEL: A REASSESSMENT’ (2009) has a bit to say on this. He removes the noise from the data to show the correct sea level rises. The section concerning Kiribati is on page 7 & a summary of the study is on page 17. I stand by my previous comments, and I realise they are pointed but they are true nonetheless.

Richard C (NZ)

Gray re Kiribati, page 10:-


“There was a depression in 1998 which was obviously caused by the El Niño event of that year. Otherwise there was no sea level change whatever between 1993 and 2008. 15 years. The claim that there was a “trend” of +5.1mm/yr is completely unjustified.”

That is exactly what I pointed out in this comment up-thread:-


I noticed that Richard.

Mike Jowsey

Hi Magoo
Thanks for that link – pretty straight forward conclusion:
There is no evidence from this work that the sea level in the 12 Pacific islands is increasing. It is to be hoped that the GSPS installation from 2007 will help to correct any future disruption by extreme events.
As I said in my reply to Nick above, one has to question the margin of error in these datasets. Dr. Gray delves into this in detail, plus the dubious trends asserted by the faceless authors of the 14 reports.


I see the Marshall Island have their hand out in an attempted bludge at the UN in todays tabloid journalism courtesy of the NZ Horrid:

Looking at the lack of a trend for the Marshalls in Vincent Gray’s paper they’re shamelessly making it up as they go along. Again, are they naive, gullible pawns or are they blatantly dishonest?


The wiki page for the Marshall Islands tells us that between 1946 and 1958 the US conducted 67 nuclear bomb tests in the area, including the largest test ever conducted, called Castle Bravo

Maybe there is the slightest possibility that this has had some contribution to environmental degradation on the islands, rather than the spectre of climate change.

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