Collapse in the Rutland, VT, Herald

There’s a very nice mention of the Collapse of Western Civilization in an Op Ed by Elizabeth Courtney in the Rutland, VT, Herald. Vermonters are justly proud of their efforts to move off fossil fuel, as shows in this letter.

I have to mention a quibble, though.

The image caption says the West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s disintegration would raise global sea level by ” several inches.” Well, 5-7 meters is the correct range, which translates into a range of 197 inches to 275 inches. Typically Americans use the word “several” as a substitute for “four to six,” not 197. That’s a lot of inches (it would, for example, drown the Back Bay region of Boston where @NaomiOreskes teaches), and stating it the way the Herald has works to downplay the true risk. Who’s afraid of a mere “several inches”?

Here’s glaciologist John H. Mercer’s famous 1978 paper on the potential collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (abstract free, text paywalled). And here’s historian of science Will Thomas’s discussion of that paper’s legacy. (Part I, Part II).


  • Share on Tumblr