Blocked sea-level research probed


The Australian

December 05, 2011 12:00AM

NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker has asked department officials to explain why they put the lid on internal research that questioned catastrophic predictions of sea-level rises as a result of climate change.

A former senior researcher in the department, Doug Lord, said yesterday two papers he co-authored with colleagues and was due to present at conferences were suppressed because they suggested sea-levels on the east coast are rising at only one 10th of the rate estimated by the federal government, based on data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Mr Lord said long-term data gleaned from gauges in Sydney Harbour suggested sea levels were rising at the rate of about 1mm per year. This would lead to a rise of about 90mm by 2100, not the 900mm rise predicted by the IPCC.

"We can't identify an acceleration of the rate, which doesn't mean that it's not there," Mr Lord told The Australian. "But if it's going to reach those levels, it's got to accelerate at some time in the future."

Mr Lord, who does not question the science of climate change, said the papers were pulled by the department at the last minute, after they had been accepted and peer-reviewed.

"It's very odd that they left that until the last minute and withdrew both papers at the latest possible opportunity," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Parker said the minister had "asked for a thorough explanation" and wanted more information.

In a statement, the Office of Environment and Heritage said it "fully supports the analysis of tide gauge records to estimate historical sea-level rise trends and the publication of these analyses for discussion and debate".

But the agency insisted "historical trends of sea-level rise recorded by tide gauges do not necessarily provide a good indication of future sea levels because trends are expected to change with continued global warming".

The agency said the papers were withdrawn over "concerns raised by an independent statistician about the statistical analysis of tide gauge records".