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Humans Can Survive Underwater

Alarming media stories that twist the facts about rising sea levels are dangerous because they scare people unnecessarily and push policymakers toward excessively expensive measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The real solution is to lift the world’s poorest out of poverty and protect them with simple infrastructure.

DALLAS – The latest alarming news about climate change is that huge swaths of densely inhabited land will be underwater by 2050, with their cities “erased.” These reports – which appeared in The New York Times and many other media outlets – are based on a good research paper by scientists at Climate Central, but they get the story wrong.

This is part of a damaging pattern. Climate change is a man-made problem that we need to tackle, but many of the news stories about its purported effects are scaring us without justification and misleading us about how to act.

The paper, published last month in Nature Communications, shows that past estimates of the impact of rising sea levels were wrong, because they relied on measurements of ground level that sometimes mistakenly included the heights of trees or houses. In other words, vulnerability to sea-level rise has been underestimated. That’s important.

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