An iceberg as big as Delaware has broken off from the West Antarctic ice sheet. According to the researchers who for years have studied the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, the rift was almost certainly not caused by climate change. But that didn’t stop irresponsible advocates from delivering their usual breathless spiel.
The Guardian informed its readers that the “Imminent collapse of a portion of Larsen C ice shelf hammers home reality of climate change.”
Al Gore called it a “jarring reminder of why we must solve the climate crisis.”
The Larsen C ice shelf has broken away from Antarctica, a jarring reminder of why we must solve the climate crisis. https://t.co/3ddOminhX3— Al Gore (@algore) July 12, 2017
Both are slippery and misleading. As Adrian Luckman, the professor of glaciology who has long studied Larsen C, explains, “In satellite images from the 1980s, the rift was already clearly a long-established feature, and there is no direct evidence to link its recent growth to either atmospheric warming, which is not felt deep enough within the ice shelf, or ocean warming, which is an unlikely source of change given that most of Larsen C has recently been thickening.”
Nor will it even contribute to sea level rise, as The Guardian alleged. Luckman writes that there is “unquestionably no direct effect on sea level because the iceberg is already afloat and displacing its own weight in seawater.”
Some researchers think that Larsen C may eventually collapse, but Luckman makes clear that the collapse would not be imminent and that other researchers “are confident that Larsen C will remain stable.” He concludes that “What is not disputed by scientists is that it will take many years to know what will happen to the remainder of Larsen C.”
Luckman therefore writes that his research team “has been surprised by the level of interest in what may simply be a rare but natural occurrence.”
Luckman seems to be a dedicated scientist, but he should no longer be surprised by knee-jerk attributions of natural events to climate change. I mean, does that really sound out of character for hype-men like Al Gore? For The Guardian?