The New York Times published a story earlier this week with the headline, “Sea Level Rise Seen as Threat to 3.7 Million.”
According to reporter Justin Gillis, “About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. If the pace of the rise accelerates as much as expected, researchers found, coastal flooding at levels that were once exceedingly rare could become an every-few-years occurrence by the middle of this century.”
The Times goes on to inform us that the ocean has been rising slowly and relentlessly since the late 19th century, but “the rise appears to have accelerated lately and many scientists expect a further acceleration … One estimate that communities are starting to use for planning purposes suggests the ocean could rise a foot over the next 40 years, though that calculation is not universally accepted among climate scientists.”
In reading this story I was reminded of one of Barack Obama’s more extravagant claims in 2008. You can watch a clip of it here – a speech in which Obama said future generations would look back to his election and declare, “This was the moment when … the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Many on the left will blame Republicans for opposing Obama’s policies to curb global warming (even though Democrats, even when they had overwhelming control of the House and Senate, failed to pass cap-and-trade legislation). Many on the right, on the other hand, argue that global warming is a hoax and even if Obama’s wish list had become law, it would have zero effect on rising sea levels. Whatever the case, Obama’s claim was made without caveats. Like King Canute, the tides will not recede at the command of the Great and Mighty Obama. Future generations will render a verdict on the Obama presidency — but one thing they will not say is this was the moment when Obama reversed the rise of the oceans and healed the planet.
Oh, and one other thing. According to legend, as the water rose around Canute’s throne, he told his flattering courtiers, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey.” Which leads me to believe King Canute was considerably more self-aware than President Obama.