JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The rising catastrophe of The Pause Refugees

“Whole communities of climate modellers, activists, investors, accountants, lawyers, wind farmers, super funds and importers face oblivion…

John Spooner

Never underestimate the power of art to reach a new audience.

The best artists, of course, are those ahead of the crowd.

Source: SMH

The Pause continues:

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Big lesson for Australia from US voters. Climate change is over as an election issue.

Remember how we were told people everywhere are “waking up to the threat of climate change”? Welcome to 2014. In Charles Krauthammers words “The National Weather Service has upgraded the election from tropical storm to tsunami, especially the results of the governorships. If you look at the bluest states in the country, Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, all gone Republican.”

Australians may have missed what happened this week in the US (especially if they only watch the ABC). Climate Change is over as a voting issue.  Will Australian Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, get the message? Just last month he pledged to put carbon trading on the next election agenda (again). The conservatives across the nation must be cheering.

In the US, Tom Steyer threw $74 million into a campaign to convince voters to be very afraid and vote out the Republicans. Nearly all of Steyers favourite candidates failed. It was no accidental issue. The NextGen Climate Action Super Pac took Steyers money, and spent it all (and more) to push President Obama’s green agenda, specifically targeting coal “for extinction”. The Republicans supported energy of all kinds from coal to oil, fracked gas, and more pipelines.

This was the “biggest investment the environmental community has ever made in politics”, and yet it failed dismally:

[Washington Post] The spending plans are laid out in a document, acquired by The Post, that summarizes the activities of five top green groups — the Environmental Defense Action Fund, Steyer’s NextGen Climate, the NRDC Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and the Sierra Club – and has been circulated internally among them. Asked about the document, which is dated October 17, LCV president Gene Karpinski commented, “this is by far the biggest investment that the environmental community has ever made in politics.” Karpinski said that LCV will spend over $25 million this year, compared with $5 million in the 2010 election cycle and $15 million in 2012.

Little Green Machine (Wall St Journal, paywalled)

In Kentucky Mitch McConnell made opposition to the “war on coal” the centerpiece of his campaign. He won what was expected to be a close election by 15 points. Coal-supporting Shelley Moore Capito became the first GOP Senator in 55 years from West Virginia, where voters also ended the 38-year career of Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, who couldn’t separate himself from Mr. Obama’s energy policies.

Nearly every one of Mr. Steyer’s favored candidates—in Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine—lost. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen won, but Scott Brown had her playing defense for supporting a cap-and-trade carbon tax. A recent Gallup poll found that climate change ranked last among 16 issues that voters cared about in the midterms.

 It was about “the climate” according to the Washington Free Beacon:

Environmentalists, and Steyer in particular, stated their intention early in the 2014 election cycle to make climate change a “wedge issue” that could win tight contests for Democrats in purple states.

“It is very difficult to find an issue that voters place lower on the list than climate change,” according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

NextGen Climate Action, one of the election cycle’s most active and well-funded Super PACs, spent more than $5.5 million in the race, nearly 15 percent of all outside spending on Udall’s behalf.

The group had 68 staffers working in the state.

Imagine having 68 staffers in one state for an environmental campaign and still losing?

Has “the climate” reached the tipping point where it turns off more voters than it gains?

In exit polls 27% of Republicans think it’s a serious issue (and might be tempted to vote Democrat), but only 15% of Democrat voters are skeptical. Graph from New York Times. Have the Democrats “wedged” themselves?

Exit Polls showing the partisan divide on climate change | NY Times

Most voters rank the issue last so they aren’t going to change their vote. The Republicans who think climate change is a problem are not shifting to vote Democrat. But the Democrats who are skeptical may have already moved the other way. (I’d like to see some historic comparisons, have these proportions changed?).

For the record Steyer was involved in some way in 7 gubernatorial races losing four and winning three. In the three winning seats the Democrat candidates were already ahead in the polls before Steyers campaign began.

 What does it mean for US climate policies?

Brad Plumer, on Vox, says: The biggest loser in this election is the climate” . Obama is going around the congress with EPA regulations anyway. But there are now more conservative governors who may refuse to implement the EPA plans.

In the short term, the election’s impact might seem negligible. After all, the action in Washington over the next few years will center on the Environmental Protection Agency, which is crafting rules to cut carbon-dioxide emissions from US power plants. These rules don’t need congressional approval (they’re being done under the existing Clean Air Act), and President Obama is expected to veto any attempts by Congress to block them. (Conservative governors refusing to implement the EPA’s plan may be the bigger pitfall here.)

But congressional indifference is a huge problem for future climate policy.

h/t Des Moore

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Excuses Excuses! Neville Nicholls and the Stevenson screens that didn’t exist or did and were “cracked”?

Neville Nicholls and Sophie Lewis are striking back at George Christensen, MP, who accused the BOM of “wiping” the official records of heat waves in 1896 and demanded an inquiry. For some reason, despite their world class work, Nicholls and Lewis still don’t seem keen on having an inquiry — so they go to some length to explain why it’s “false” to say it was hotter in 1896 than it was in 2013. Oddly though, to come to this conclusion they don’t use BOM work, because the BOM concluded “it would be very difficult to compare the 19th-century temperature data with modern observations.” Instead that difficult task was done by Berkley. Nichols calls it “brave”, but a “fact” at the same time.

In their long article, what they don’t explain is why they almost never mention any of the hundreds of ultra hot historic temperatures in their press releases and national news. George was “wrong”, and that’s a “fact” we’re told, but most of their article  on The Conversation explains why we don’t know what the temperature was in 1896. Try not to get confused.

That old data is dodgy see — I’ll paraphrase:

  1. Satellites agree with the BOM.  (Seriously, this is their first point). Apparently Nichols and Lewis expect that the gloss of this fabulous scientific achievement, which occurs after 1979, will glow all the way back to 1896. It rather ignores the fact that the biggest BOM adjustments occur to the oldest records. (I marvel that the BOM has discovered UAH and RSS.  When those same satellites didn’t agree with the BOM’s “hottest” ever records, no one at the BOM seemed to know they existed.)
  2. Not all thermometers were Stevenson screens in 1896, therefore none of the early readings count. The presence of non-standardized records renders the others useless. Who knew?
  3. Since some thermometers were older types called Glaisher or Greenwich Screens, their data is unusable, even though there are decades of temperatures comparing the two types of screens and they are remarkably similar.
  4. Even though Stevenson screens were installed across Australia between 1880 – 1910, since they were new (ahem), they were likely to be warped and cracked, and therefore not acceptable. After that date they were better maintained (except they still needed a lot of downward adjustment).

There is a lot of data comparing older screens to newer ones. As Nicholls and Lewis mention:

The results of this 61-year experiment show that summer daytime temperatures measured using the Glaisher Stand are, on average, 1C warmer than in the Stevenson Screen.

Is it really beyond the power of the BOM to subtract 1 C from the old readings? They don’t seem to have any trouble subtracting 2C from the newer and better Stevenson screens. (Heck even 50C can vanish.)

As far as the claims of hiding things goes, the BOM carve it both ways. While they never mention the older temperatures in polite company, they publish details in graphs and tables on their site and then claim they hide nothing, as if the average person in West Wyalong will listen to the ABC news then check the depths of the climate data online.

I agree that it is a stretch for George Christensen to definitively declare “it was hotter” in 1896. It might have been, but all our surface data, even our current data is such a mess I wouldn’t put a definitive statement on anything. But Nicholls and Lewis are focusing on that, and are doing their best to avoid the real point skeptics are making. It doesn’t really matter whether it was 0.1 degree Celsius hotter or colder in 1896, what matters is that Australians no longer feel they can trust the BOM to give them the whole story about the climate. The BOM exhibit no curiosity about older hotter records, and make no effort to use any of the data — even though some of it can be used to extend some sites and some states back into the hot era of the late 1800′s. That is why skeptics are calling for an inquiry.

The BOM can’t churn out press releases announcing record after record and yet hide the historic heat of the Federation Drought. They slice and dice the permutations of every version of hottest autumn weekend, or warmest winter night since 1953, yet few Australians know that often hotter temperatures were recorded, all across Australia, back in the 1800′s.  That too is why skeptics are objecting — the imbalance in the public declarations. The BOM never admit that in some towns and some places it probably was hotter.

See more of the historic heat, strange adjustments well as these other related posts:

 

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Political bias in peer reviewed science

An excellent article in The New Yorker: Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?

It’s an article about the failings of peer review and research design in psychology due to the dominance of one particular political ideology (rather than having a spread more representative of the total population). You won’t be shocked to find there is a dominance of liberal left-leaning views in the profession. The paper it discusses is by Jonathan Haidt and co-authored by our friend Jose Duarte — the psychology PhD candidate and blogger who entertainingly and comprehensively dissected Lewandowsky on his blog: Do we hate our participants?

It will be no surprise that controversial psychology papers (which disagree with the reviewer’s world view)  are usually treated harshly — no matter if the data is as strong. So, thinking of another field we know, what does it mean for research design and peer review when 97% of certified climate scientists hold one world view? (They not only agree on the scientific hypothesis but on the political action as well — and they boast about that?)  What chance does a “controversial” paper have? Has anyone done a study on the political diversity of official climate scientists? There are plenty of studies claiming general opposition to climate action is split on political lines.

However much psychology is slowed by its political bias, climate science is surely doubly so. Indeed, the whole field would make a case study. It’s a long but good article in the New Yorker, though I see no solutions to the problem suggested. It needs more than checklists. It needs incentives. Some fields of science are 100% dependent on big-government funds, and if there was also a large sector of independent philanthropic research funds competing, then it would not be so difficult to find independent thinkers who held the big-government world views to the fire.

The New Yorker: Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?   By

Most academic social psychologists are in favor of big-government

A 2012 survey of social psychologists throughout the country found a fourteen-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans. But where were the hard numbers that pointed to bias, be it in the selection of professionals or the publication process, skeptics asked?

… Tilburg University psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers published the results of a series of surveys conducted with approximately eight hundred social psychologists—all members of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. In the first survey, they repeated a more detailed version of Haidt’s query: How did the participants self-identify politically? The question, however, was asked separately regarding social, economic, and foreign-policy issues. Haidt, they found, was both wrong and right. Yes, the vast majority of respondents reported themselves to be liberal in all three areas. But the percentages varied. Regarding economic affairs, approximately nineteen per cent called themselves moderates, and eighteen per cent, conservative. On foreign policy, just over twenty-one per cent were moderate, and ten per cent, conservative. It was only on the social-issues scale that the numbers reflected Haidt’s fears: more than ninety per cent reported themselves to be liberal, and just under four per cent, conservative.

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Fact Checking the ABC — the Big-Myth about the “World’s Scientists”


The ABC bias is now so obvious, everyone with an open mind and an Internet connection knows that the ABC report the parts that suit, and hide the rest. They even edit the words of skeptics to produce sentences that were never actually spoken. But what I saw last night was a flagrantly wrong statement, counter to the truth, reported as if it were so above question it did not even need explanation, qualification or substantiation. It’s time to squeeze the ABC for accuracy.

One of the Big-Myths in this debate is that the opinions of “climate scientists” equals the opinion of “scientists in general”. All over Australia last night hundreds of thousands of Australians heard this statement as narration in the main news bulletin:

“World’s scientists reckon the climates never felt anything like them in close to a million years…”  – 4:40mins ABC News report Nov 3, 2014

Ignoring the point that the sentence is grammatically incoherent, it is misleading and demonstrably false. The “World’s Scientists” don’t reckon anything, they have never been surveyed, have not voted for a spokesperson, and inasmuch as anyone could estimate the “world’s scientists” opinions,  actual surveys show that skeptics would outnumber and outrank the believers.

The fact is (and any genuine reporter would find this out easily) almost half  of meteorologists — fergoodnesssake — are skeptics, survey after survey shows that two-thirds of geoscientists and engineers are skeptics, and most readers of skeptical blogs (who chose to respond to surveys and list their qualifications in  comments^) have hard science degrees. Dan Kahan conducted a survey of 1,500 people and found people who knew more about maths and science were more likely to be skeptical. In other words, skeptics were better informed about science^. If we had to name a list of skeptics versus believers, the skeptics number 31,000, yet there is no list of named scientists who believe that comes close — let alone a list of 300,000 which would imply some truth to the statement that the science is settled, and the world’s scientists agree.

A tiny percentage of total scientists would call themselves “climate scientists”. They have never been able to convince the tens of thousands of other scientists with their bizarre theory about a trace gas being the dominant driver of our climate. Around the world climate scientists say one thing, but tens of thousands of physicists, engineers, mathematicians, chemists, and medical science leaders disagree. Skeptical scientists have won Nobel Prizes in Physics* (and we don’t count “Peace” as a prize in science) and they’ve walked on the Moon, flown around it, and returned to Earth. Unskeptical scientists have wasted billions of dollars, predicted warming that didn’t happen, asked for desalination plants that were not needed, and told everyone to stop the storms by building windmills.

Only 62 scientists reviewed the chapter that mattered in the IPCC Assessment Report 4, and presumably the numbers wouldn’t be that different in the latest report. The ABC’s careless attitude to reporting accurately portrays the opinions of a few scientists (who have a bad record of predictions) as if they represent the opinions of an entire profession numbering in the order of 10 million. The ABC staff are reporting what they would liketo be true.

Science is not a set of discrete subjects with separate rules

The same laws of logic, reason and physics and the same limits of statistics apply to every sub-branch. If one tiny group of scientists has a theory they should be able to convince the rest. If they can’t explain and verify their theory with nuclear physicists or geologists and atmospheric chemists there is something wrong with the theory. The ABC’s Catalyst program, supposedly produced by a “science unit”, made the same mistake a few weeks ago.

The ABC has become a naked propaganda unit for big-government. It is beyond saving. The sloppy research standards and the culture of gullibility regarding government and official press releases are endemic. Sell if off for the good of the nation. (We can pay off some big-government debt.)

In the meantime, for entertainment, people can write to the ABC asking them to provide substantiation of their statements that the “world’s scientists” believe the IPCC pronouncements. If they name scientific associations, ask them whether that association actually surveyed its members. Almost none of them do. Members of the largest and most influential associations have risen up in protest at the official declarations produced by “committees of six” self-appointed association fellows. See the American Physical Society, The Royal SocietyAmerican Chemical Society, and Aust Geological Society.

If we have to have a public broadcaster (and I don’t see why we do) they can start again with people who meet the low bar of being able to speak in accurate English, with defined terms, and who can substantiate everystatement or issue a correction and apology.

PS: your support makes a big difference via Paypal or Direct Deposit and Chq

to put more public pressure on sloppy and unskeptical science commentators. (Thank you!)

________________

* Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize in Physics 1973, Robert Laughlin, Nobel Prize in Physics 1998. NASA Apollo Astronauts, Buzz Aldrin, Harrison (Jack) Schmitt , Walter Cunningham, Charles Duke, Richard Gordon.

^Added the brackets. Fair point. Thanks to Dry in comments. Respondents to surveys and people who chose to make comments are self selecting. I added the note about the Dan Kahan study which also supports the theory that skeptics are better with numbers than believers. His was not self selecting.

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IPCC recycles global doom and wants a small part of everything you own

Gullible journalists are swooning today with more and glorious prophesies of disaster.

This from the team that relies on simulations that not only fail on global scales1, but they can’t predict regional2, local3, short term, continental, or polar effects4 either. They are also wrong about humidity5, rainfall6a,6b,6c, drought7 and clouds8, as well as the all-important upper tropospheric patterns too.9, 10

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Dr Pachaudri said today’s announcement was, categorically, the “strongest, most robust and most comprehensive” document that the IPCC has produced.  — BBC

They are robustly, comprehensively, and consistently wrong.  But it’s OK, they only want 0.06% of GDP (for now).

The IPCC says that the cost of taking action to keep the rise in temperature under 2 degrees C over the next 76 years will cost about 0.06% of GDP every year. Over the same period, world GDP is expected to grow at least 300%.  –  BBC

The religious leader has returned from the mount, for he hath heard the word of the God:

“BAN KI-MOON: Science has spoken.” – ABC

Who knew the name of God was “science”?

What do we call the people who get nearly every prediction wrong? What else  –  “the world’s top scientists”  (Jake Sturmer, ABC) The only rule when reporting IPCC predictions is to never ask a hard question.

It’s all about power in Paris in 2015. How much of the world’s GDP will they grab?   — As much as we let them.

Can’t wait to get your hands on the “new” IPCC Synthesis Report? Download a copy here.  It has all the same politically picked factoids and projections of storms, plagues, pestilence and doom you’ve come to expect.

What you won’t find is an verified explanation for The Pause (or what might really be The Plateau), or the reason the world warmed up for the Medieval Warm Period or cooled down for the Little Ice Age.  (CO2 levels were constant for the 2,000 years before 1750, yet the climate changed!). You won’t find out why Antarctic Sea Ice hit record highs, or where the missing heat has gone. Nor will you see an upfront admission that the models expected (depended on) humidity levels rising at 10km above the equator but that 28 million radiosondes found humidity decreased instead. This detail — like all the inconvenient ones that matter — will be disguised somewhere deep in a subclause. It may contain the best observations about the most important feedback there is, but don’t expect the IPCC to say so in the “summary for policy makers”.

Don’t expect the IPCC to mention that their models don’t include solar magnetic effects, lunar atmospheric tides, or that humans poured out 30% of their total emissions during a time when the Earth did not warm as expected.

Help warn the ABC about the IPCC’s scientific ability. Vote here.

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Depressed Climate Scientists advised to use F-word

What do you get when you believe a failed theory? Climate Depression

Instead of being a bad thing, climate depression is a normal healthy response when the data doesn’t match the theory. Either the theory has to change or the scientist has to stop pretending to be a scientist. Too bad there is a whole industry of depressed “journalists” propping up depressed scientists. They award them with pretend Nobel Prizes they don’t really have, and extend their pain and confusion by making out that researchers on good salaries who produce models that don’t work are the victims.

Naturally, those who don’t understand climate reality don’t have a grip on psychological reality either. Their fantasy-world is collapsing.

As Tony Thomas says — it’s so bad it’s beyond satire:

Reporter Madeleine Thomas (no relation), writing for Grist, has described how climate scientists are driving themselves into depressed states over their climate forecasts. One solution she suggests is that relieve their incredible stress by shouting out “F—k!” and other dirty words*.

My message to depressed scientists is to wake up and see through the weak excuses. Stuff like Madeleine Thomas’ Grist wailing:

And a dose of honesty may be more than just therapeutic. Some real talk about how we’re all screwed may be just what the climate movement needs.

Oh yessity yes. Honesty is needed, but lets start with honesty about the data. In science, any other kind of honesty is a waste of time if we don’t first have data honesty.

Back in March, Grist’s Brentin Mock wrote that in order to really drive home the urgency of global warming and not just view “climate change only as that thing that happened one year on television to those poor communities in Brooklyn,” maybe it’s OK, when appropriate, to ditch a very limited “just the facts” vocabulary in favor of more emotional language. In other words, he argues that scientists should start dropping F bombs. “Forgive my language here, but if scientists are looking for a clearer language to express the urgency of climate change, there’s no clearer word that expresses that urgency than FUCK,” Mock writes. “We need scientists to speak more of these non-hard science truths, no matter how inconvenient or how dirty.”

If you think the answer to your science problem is swearing out loud, it’s time to get out science.

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George Christensen, Australian MP, calls for an inquiry into the BOM: The media finally notices

Momentum is growing. In Federal Parliament this week George Christensen (Nationals party, Qld) gave an excellent summary of questions Jennifer Marohasy and I have been raising about the Bureau of Meteorology, and announced he would be calling for an inquiry.

It’s long past time. Why does the BOM have so little curiosity about the burning Australian heat before 1910? Why do older thermometers seem to need correction 90 years later for reading “too warm”? Why do so many hot or dry empirical measurements remain invisible in our national conversation about the climate? And with so many questions, why do the Bureau insist they are 95% certain they know what they are talking about?

The Transcript from Quadrant — Wanted: Straight Answers from the BoM.

“I rise to paint a picture of climate change — a picture where Camden, just to the south-west of Sydney, is sweltering in 50-degree heat. Over in the west it is 51 degrees in the shade at Geraldton. Perth is 44, Geelong is 43, Wilcannia 48, Carnarvon 49½ and Southern Cross is 50 degrees. The death rate is 12 in 100,000 from heat-associated deaths—435 dead over the summer!

This is not a Greens scare campaign but the Federation Drought, 118 years ago. It has never been as hot since.

See our post about the extreme heat of 1896 for the original links to the news archives that underlie what Christensen is talking about. Much of this work is fueled by the number crunching and research of Ken Stewart, Chris Gilham, Lance Pidgeon and others on the independent BOM audit team. See also the heat map of Australian 50+ temperatures, and all my posts on Australian Temperatures. It’s great to see this material being spoken in Parliament yet again.

The Media — the gatekeepers

As I watched his speech, I wondered if anyone in Parliament was listening. Speeches like this can disappear. Cory Bernardi, I and others called for an independent audit in 2011, and Dennis Jensen called for an audit of the BOM and the CSIRO in March 2014. But perhaps the time is right. The story was picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the Daily Mail Australia. Don’t miss my message, this time the media is paying attention. (Finally). But the Media IS the problem. Politicians have little power if the media ignore them. We need to fix the media first. The rest will follow. Improve the journalists, and we’ll get better policies, better politicians, and better bureaus too.

The mysteries of the  Bureau of Meteorology:

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“Modern seas unprecedented”: An insult to geology and sea level research

Is the latest sea-level rise unusual? Kurt Lambeck said it was, based on his version of the Holocene seas, calculated with modeled crustal movements (to try to guess the rises and falls of the beaches where the sea levels were changing). Obedient science reporters broadcast his message to the world without asking a single hard question. But when the error bars are 2 meters wide and the dating estimates range over hundreds of years, I thought it beyond silly to think we could estimate 100-year average sea level rises in the time of Moses. Nils-Axel Mörner agrees, and shows data below from 50 years of research which demonstrates that sea levels are always oscillating, and that in Europe, the US, the Indian Ocean past changes are larger than the current ones. Nils has published nearly 600 papers on observations of sea-levels around the world. He calls the Lambeck paper an “insult” to geologists and sea-level researchers.  — Jo

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An insult to geology and sea level research

by Nils-Axel Mörner

Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics, Stockholm, Sweden, (morner AT pog.nu)

In the 60s, there was a vigorous debate whether the postglacial sea level rise occurred as a smooth rise (Shepard, 1963) or an oscillatory rise (Fairbridge, 1961). My own low-amplitude oscillations sea level curve (Mörner, 1969) came as some sort of intermediate solution (Fig. 1). It was derived by the isolations of the isostatic and eustatic component in the spectrum of 40 individual shorelines recorded over 300 km in the direction of tilting in the periphery of the Fennoscandian uplift and dated by numerous C14-dates (Mörner, 1969, 1971). Numerous subsequent records from places scattered all over the world indicate that, indeed, the postglacial rise in sea level occurred in a mode of low-amplitude oscillations (e.g. Pirrazoli, 1991). This is even true for the Late Holocene and the last millennium (e.g. Mörner, 1980; van de Plassche, 2000; Hansen et al., 2012).

Fig. 1. Regional eustatic curve for northwest Europe according to Mörner (1980).

In a recent paper, Lambeck et al. (2014) claim – with respect to the Holocene to present sea level changes –

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