Last week, the National Academies of Sciences' National Research Council (NRC) released a report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. The apparent intent of the report was to raise global warming alarm by projecting rapidly rising seas-some 2-3 times higher than recent IPCC estimates-along the California coast and elsewhere. Based on the news coverage, the NRC was successful.
Successfully handling the media does not equate to successfully handling the science, if scientific success is judged by scientific accuracy.
The NRC was quite adept at sidestepping the inconvenient scientific literature which would have tempered their conclusions and which would have replaced alarm with prudent vigilance. Sure, global sea level will continue to rise, but the rate of future rise will likely be closer to the rise observed during the 20th century, about 8-12 inches-a rate to which coastal residents have easily adapted-than to the NRC's upper bound which approaches some 4-5 feet by the year 2100.
How the NRC came up with a global sea level rise by the year 2100 of some 50 to 140 cm (20 to 55 inches)-is an example of using only a careful selection of available data and turning a deaf ear to warnings (made by the scientists themselves) of its unreliability for long-term projections.
Let's review how the NRC came to make its future projections of sea level rise.
They independently extrapolated the two major components of sea level rise-ocean thermal expansion from increasing ocean temperatures and water input from the melting of ice-and then added them together.