Sea level rise skeptics plentiful across Florida

By GateHouse Florida staff


Many people across Florida don’t believe scientists’ dire predictions about the potential impact of sea level rise on the state’s coast. Nor do they agree on the cause of sea level rise.

GateHouse Florida reporters from Sarasota, Daytona Beach and Fort Walton Beach collected viewpoints from sea level rise skeptics around the state. Here’s what some of them said.

(Photo / Herald-Tribune Archive)

Lee Wetherington, Sarasota homebuilder:

Having long built homes he says are water- and energy-efficient, Wetherington regards himself as “a strong environmentalist.” But when it comes to warnings about climate change or sea level rise, “color me skeptical, very skeptical,” he said.

Wetherington remembers the 1980s, when the political left insisted the planet would be out of oil by the early 2000s. Today, the supply of fossil fuels keeps flowing.

He does not doubt climate change is occurring. “There has been climate change ever since the Earth has been here.”

He is aware of flooding in low-elevation locations such as Miami. “But Miami was built on a swamp,” he said.

He strongly disagrees with those who insist “you can’t sell waterfront property without a disclosure that it will someday be underwater. I don’t believe that for a millisecond.”

“I’m not a scientist,” Wetherington said. “I know there is a lot of scientific work going on. Most reports are coming from government-funded sources.” But researchers have an interest in presenting outcomes their funding sources expect, he said. “They need those grants.”

He suspects the debate is largely politically motivated. The term “climate change” is “a rallying cry for liberals to get behind something,” Wetherington said. “Just like there are buzzwords that are rallying cries for conservatives.”

(Photo / Herald-Tribune Archive)

Steve Vernon, president of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club in Manatee County and a former candidate for the state Legislature:

“Essentially, we do not dispute there is climate change. What we say is since no scientist can tell us the amount of effect humans have on the climate, any drastic measures with economic implications are unwarranted. Nobody can say whether it (human impact) is 10 percent, 20 percent, 1 percent. The climate has always been changing. It gets cold and we have ice ages, and then it gets warm. It happened long before man was around.”

Vernon believes staying in the Paris climate agreement would have resulted in “dire economic repercussions” for the United States, while nations such as China and India continue to generate considerably more air pollution. President Trump recently announced the United States will pull out of the agreement.

Leo Belill, Sarasota resident:

“It is an established fact that the oceans are rising at the rate of 6 to 8 inches per century — the same as for many centuries and there has been no increase this century. The oceans, however, do experience oscillations, which push waters up in some places, down in others.

“More common than that, however, is the process of subsidence, which occurs when water is extracted from underground and the land then sinks to replace the water. This is common in many parts of the country and is the primary cause of flooding in Miami.”

Bruce Zeitlin, Sarasota resident:

“As a scientist (applied low-temperature physics), one has to be skeptical of any new theory such as man-induced climate change. If one reviews climate history, the medieval and the Roman warm periods indicated similar climate change without CO2 as the cause. Climate history shows that there has been much variation and, if anything, we are fortunate to be in a relatively stable climate environment.

“The fear of catastrophic climate change is all based on climate models, imprecise computer simulations. Clouds, one of the most important aspects of how much of the sun’s energy is reflected versus absorbed by the earth, are very poorly modeled. The models make assumptions with adjustable parameters to fit the observation. CO2 as a greenhouse gas is small compared to water vapor. Models make assumptions as to the magnification effect of this on water vapor.

“A theory gains acceptance by the predictions it makes. As of today, almost 20 years have passed with a significant increase in CO2 but no really meaningful temperature change observed by the satellites, the only truly worldwide view of temperature.

“Sadly, billions have been spent on one theory instead of doing research on all the components of climate change, both natural and man-made. If our models can’t explain the past then how can we be sure that natural variations aren’t the cause of what we call climate change today?”

Stan Escudero, Daytona Beach Shores, former U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, 1997-2000:

Courtesy photo

“Sea levels do appear to be rising, but slowly and unevenly. And the cause of the rise, or of any temperature change which may be taking place, has not been proven. The seas have risen and fallen many times. Twelve thousand years ago there was no English Channel, and the ruins of Neolithic habitations have been found on the Channel bottom. At Mahabalipuram in eastern India the seas rose 3,500 years ago and submerged several temples, and at Dwarka in Northwestern India an entire city was inundated. There are many other sunken cities. Humans caused none of these things.

“Today’s computer models based on the belief in anthropogenic climate change are notoriously wrong.

“It is possible, but not confirmed, that some sea level rise/ground subsidence in Florida may be caused by excessive use of ground water and construction of rows of high-rise buildings on what is basically a seafront sand bar, as in Miami. If the seas are rising and the global temperature increasing, the Paris Accord would have failed to halt or even significantly delay either. But it would have caused enormous economic disruption in the United States and other developed countries while facilitating unmonitored transfers of vast amounts of wealth to Third World governments justly famed for their corruption.

“We need to be certain exactly what is happening and why before deciding on drastic measures to deal with it. One day we may be faced with the Hobson’s choice of building vast dikes to protect valuable seacoast properties like Manhattan, or abandoning to the sea less valuable areas like my house in Daytona Beach Shores. But until we know for sure what we are doing, let’s not be stampeded into any irreversible measures which harm our country.”

(News-Journal / Nigel Cook)

Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley:

Kelley believes the projections for sea level rise and ocean warming are incorrect.

“They used four levels and translated those results to the others,” he said. “They were using temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean in four locations and extrapolated that to the other measures being exactly the same.”

He questions the data used to draw sea level rise conclusions. “I think there are weather people, climatologists, people that are for sure scientists, not the ones that are reading data, who are saying it’s not true. That’s what I’m basing (this belief) on.

“Even if it is true that the sea levels are rising at some level, there’s absolutely no proof that it’s caused by man. The projected level of rise is based on assumptions that are not proven. If it’s rising, there’s nothing man can do to prevent it.

“Lake Okeechobee is higher than it used to be. Water retention areas could a part of it. If you try to cut back on the amount of withdrawal there’s no place for it to (percolate).”

He said the projections are made using unproven assumptions. “No one really knows, and if the ocean rises by the year 2100 by a foot, are we really going to notice it? What else could happen between now and then? If you could guarantee that’s going to happen — but you can’t. There’s just too many other things that could impact any of the assumptions.”

John Eskald, Shalimar:

(Courtesy photo)

“Earth’s climate has always changed in cycles that are tied to sun activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and volcanic activity. But global warming enthusiasts are willing to ignore solar activity and focus on fossil fuels as the primary driver.”

Eskald continued, “All sea level rise is not attributed to global warming, ignoring the 18,000-year history since the Ice Age and the 120 meter rise in sea levels.”

He predicted there will continue to be sea level rise, right up until the next Ice Age. “But no proof has been shown that it is man and not nature that is causing the rise.”

(Republican Party of Okaloosa County)


Steve Czonstka, Niceville, Okaloosa County Republican State Committeeman:

Czonstka has trouble buying into the argument that mankind, “a species in its infancy” is burning up a planet that has been around for 4.5 billion years.

“There is no evidence to substantiate the assertion that humans are frying the planet. In fact, even more modest claims about the causes, scope and very reality of global warming haven’t the evidence behind them that the claimants make.”

He acknowledges there is “some truth” to the argument that man has impacted the atmosphere and that Earth is going through a period of global warming. But he sees a conspiracy in the climate change argument, an effort to push for “the governments of the world to unite to assume that much more control and power over the resources and lives of citizens in order to avert Armageddon.”

“Climate change is Earth’s natural state; climate stability is science fiction,” Czonstka said.

(Photo / Northwest Florida Daily News Archive)

Steve Duke, Shalimar:

Duke said the theory of global warming “failed to produce the dire consequences that many environmentalists (originally) predicted,” so it was re-labeled by Al Gore and “his cut man” Michael Moore as climate change.

“With Al as its champion, I felt the same way as I did when Al claimed to have invented the Internet — hogwash,” said Duke.

“Mother Nature is cyclical. She has a way of balancing things over time. We have been in a very temperate period for almost 10,000 years, 2,000 years longer than normal. The Earth is overdue for a shift in weather. Those scientists who are preaching climate change have been given millions in grants to keep up that drumbeat. It is a colossal waste of public and private monies.”

On that note, Duke signed off on an email by typing that he thought he might retire to his backyard and build a fire, just “to add a little more carbon to the atmosphere.”

(Wakulla Board of County Commissioners)

Ralph Thomas, Wakulla County Commissioner:

“Serious personal observations and questions from a simple man regarding climate change and the Paris Accord:

“As the crow flies (or seagull), I live approximately five miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Just a few minutes ago, I spent only five minutes searching my property to take these photos of shell and coral fossils. I could take thousands more in a day’s time. This evidence shows me that my property was once underwater. The shoreline is now five miles away.

“Now I’m being told the shoreline is moving back toward my property.

“Questions: If the people of the United States are responsible for making the shoreline rise toward my property, who was responsible for making the shoreline move away from my property? If the Industrial Revolution is responsible, what caused my property to be underwater the first time, before the Industrial Revolution? Some scientists are concerned about a rise of fractions of an inch. What was so powerful that caused the shoreline to move 5 miles away from my property?”

Compiled by Dale White, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Tom McLaughlin, Northwest Florida Daily News; and Dinah Pulver, Daytona Beach News-Journal.