Contrary to prevailing scientific opinion, a Climate Change conference organised by the University of Mumbai and the Liberty Institute, New Delhi, and INSTUCEN India study centre on Friday claimed that the sea levels were not rising and carbon dioxide did not pose a special threat to the climate. Sea levels in the Indian Ocean were not rising and cities like Mumbai, islands like Maldives or Tuvalu would not be affected at all, speakers stated.

The audience clapped at every statement made by Professor Nils-Axel Morner, retired professor from Stockholm University, who enlightened a large group of appreciative students and professors on the perils of the estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He attacked Maldives president Mohammed Nasheed's claims that his island nation was drowning and said this was totally unfounded in observational reality. The one-day conference, “Shifting science and changing policy,” was hosted by the Centre for Extra Mural Studies at Mumbai University.

Stable for decades

He said the tide gauges of Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam recorded a significant sea level drop during 1955-1962 followed by stable sea level in the next nearly five decades. In Lakshadweep, the locals were quite aware of the fact that sea level was not at all in a rising mode today; rather new land had been added. In conclusion, he said there was no rise in sea level in the Indian Ocean. Referring to the myth of sea level rise as the “Greatest Lie Ever Told” in a booklet, Professor Morner said ignorance was terrible but exaggeration was dangerous. “Computer modelling by persons not having visited the sites in question is not good enough.” “In the year 2000 we started an international sea level project in the Maldives where several distinguished experts took part,” he said, and he had been on six of those expeditions. “There is no ongoing rise in the sea level at all and since 1970, it fell by about 20 cm and has remained quite stable for the last 30 to 40 years.” The team had investigated several different shore environments, including open coasts, rock cut platforms, sandy shores in erosion and such an overwhelming mass and quality of observational facts must outdo idle talk, he said, with reference to the IPCC reports.

However, a research paper by A.S. Unnikrishnan from the National Institute of Oceanography, K. Rupa Kumar, Sharon E. Fernandes and G.S. Michael and S.K. Patwardhan, published by Current Science in February 2006, said the estimates for Mumbai, Kochi and Visakhapatnam showed a sea level rise of 0.78, 1.14 and 0.75 mm/year respectively, whereas the estimate for Chennai showed a decrease in sea level (– 0.65 mm/year). Mumbai has tide gauge data for over 100 years for sea levels. The estimates of sea level rise along the coast of India were made by analysing the past tide gauge data. The present estimates are consistent with the global mean sea level rise estimates1, though lower in magnitudes, the paper said.

Professor Morner also dismissed sea level rise in the Sunderbans area in Bangladesh after a visit in 2009. He said there was clear evidence of strong coastal erosion but no rise in sea levels. Nils Finn Munch-Petersen of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies too said Maldives was marketing its sea level rise and this had led to a significant income for the island nation in the form of foreign aid while huge international resorts were being built there. “The presumed sea rise does not deter foreign investors.” He said saline intrusion into the islands' fresh water sources were cited as sea level rise effects.