Aritist rendition - Miami city skyline with 'catastrophic' sea level rise in Miami bay. Annotated by Anthony Watts. Images licensed for use by

Today Yahoo News published a story by senior editor David Knowles, titled “Sea level is already guaranteed to rise by 5 feet, climate scientist says.” The story and the claims made by the activist/scientist are completely false.

Without checking the data, Knowles built a whole story around a single opinion from Dr. Benjamin Strauss, who leads the media lobbying group, Climate Central.

Strauss isn’t a climate scientist, he’s a biologist and zoologist. Writing opinions about sea-level rise doesn’t automatically convert him to the title.

Strauss’s claim that five feet of future sea level rise in the “next few decades” is locked-in is little more than a headline grabber, which readily available data refutes.

“It’s in that range, you know, 5 feet plus or minus. And that’s because we’ve already warmed the planet by around 2 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.1 Celsius,” Strauss told Yahoo News. “And that’s why we have all this extra sea level in the pipeline and it’s, it’s enough, I’m afraid to say, it’s hard to imagine the long-term future of South Florida, let’s say, right, with the sea level that’s already in the pipeline.”

The claims made by Strauss and trumpeted by Yahoo News are false.

Existing sea level measurements show long-term rise can’t add up to the projected 5 feet. Simple math demonstrates this.

The University of Colorado sea level page is the “go to” page cited by many climate alarmists. On that page they cite this graph, Figure 1 below, which lists a rate of global sea level rise of just 3.3 millimeters per year.

Figure 1: Global Mean Sea Level with Seasonal Signals Removed, from satellite measurements, 2021_rel2, University of Colorado

For the sake of argument, let us assume the “coming decades” of sea level rise projected by the University of Colorado out to the year 2100, a common target date cited by climate alarmists. Doing the math:

Year 2100 – Year 2021 = 79 years. 79 years x 3.3mm/year of rise = 260.7 millimeters.

260.7 millimeters = 0.85 feet.

This is 4.15 feet short of the 5-foot claim, and also well short of the 2-3 foot claim made elsewhere in the article.

One of the ideas promoted by climate alarmists is that sea level rise will accelerate drastically in the coming years, accounting for the claimed 2-5 feet of predicted rise. In fact, the University of Colorado graph (Figure1) gives a value of 0.025 mm/year for the acceleration they say has been observed. The problem is, this claim has been proven false.

As discussed previously on Climate Realism here, Willis Eschenbach has shown the purported acceleration is nothing more than artifact of switching satellites with different measurement systems, producing data sets with different rates of sea level rise that get spliced together, imitating an acceleration that isn’t there.

“There’s no evidence of any acceleration in the rate of sea-level rise in either the tide gauge or the shabbily-spliced satellite records. It’s been going up at on the order of eight inches (200 mm) per century for quite some time, and there’s no sign of any change in that rate of rise,” writes Eschenbach.

Eschenbach has backed his claim in multiple analyses including, “Munging the Sea Level Data,” “Inside The Acceleration Factory,” and “Accelerating The Acceleration.“

Indeed, as discussed here, the actual rate of sea level rise is 20 times lower than is often asserted by alarmist activist/scientists and the mainstream media.

Strauss’s claim that “…it’s hard to imagine the long-term future of South Florida, let’s say, right, with the sea level that’s already in the pipeline,” is refuted by data from the Biden administration’s own National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which indicates south Florida will not be underwater by 2100.

A check of NOAA’s official “in the pipeline” tide-gauge data for Virginia Key, not far from Miami, visually tells the story of the last 90 years, showing a gradual, non-accelerating sea level rise, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The relative sea level trend is 2.97 millimeters/year with a 95% confidence interval of +/- 0.21 mm/yr based on monthly mean sea level data from 1931 to 2020 which is equivalent to a change of 0.97 feet in 100 years. Source:

The math for that data pencils out to just 234.63 mm to the year 2100, or just 0.77 feet.

Clearly, there is no acceleration, and no sea level crisis in the making.

Climate Central is funded primarily to spread alarm about sea level rise and other climate topics. As a result, it is unsurprising Strauss ignores real world data and easy to understand, and easy to duplicate mathematical and visual proof.

After all, as Upton Sinclair once famously said:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website


  1. Even using the University of Colorado’s range of +/- .4 millimeter per year, you get a range of sea level rise by 2100 of only 9 inches to 11.5 inches. To get 5 feet of sea level rise, you’d need 19.3 millimeters per year, or nearly 6 times the average rate.

    I suggest everyone read about the Little Ice Age. You might then want to embrace global warming, not fear it.

    • We have much more to fear from global cooling than global warming. Instead of throwing so many tax $ at a phantom problem, we should continue to develop ways to adapt to our changing climate. After all, adapting is what we humans do best.


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