Study the Climate or study a Computer Screen?

Picture: Dan Himbrechts Source: The Australian
The Australian (link in title) reports:
Charles Finkl, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Coastal Research, which published a peer-reviewed study by NSW researcher Phil Watson that rekindled a fierce debate about sea level rises, said modelling was necessary but should be taken with a grain of salt. CLIMATE researchers should spend less time in front of computer screens building predictive models and more time in the field observing and interpreting "hard or real data", an internationally recognised coastal science expert and publisher has warned. 
The Journal of Coastal Research recently published a peer reviewed paper by Phil Watson, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change's coastal unit team leader. Watson's paper called into question one of the key criteria for large-scale inundation around the Australian coast by 2100 -- the assumption of an accelerating rise in sea levels because of climate change.
Based on century-long tide gauge records at Fremantle, Western Australia (from 1897 to present), Auckland Harbour in New Zealand (1903 to present), Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour (1914 to present) and Pilot Station at Newcastle (1925 to present), the analysis finds there was a "consistent trend of weak deceleration" from 1940 to 2000.
 In the Australian report Charles Finkl is quoted as saying: "The CSIRO more or less agrees with Watson but does not want to admit they have have not got it quite right previously. I am not in favour of models for many reasons. They get better over time, and we need to use them, but with a grain of salt. We should instead use our brains and hard or real data to make interpretations. Many researchers do not even go into the field any more because they think the world exists on their computers. Big mistake."

Professor Finkl does not believe global warming and sea-level rises are caused by human activity but publishes the peer-reviewed work of researchers who do. He said the debate - and implications for coastal planning laws - was not whether sea levels were rising, but how quickly. "The real problem with the models is they show an exponential rise in the rate of sea-level rise, the so-called hockey stick approach," he said.
UPDATE: 2GB's Chris Smith talks to Charles Finkl HERE

Charles FInkl's details:
Marine Geology Surveying, Research and Development
Work Areas
Consulting Services in the General Areas of Coastal Engineering, Coastal Planning, Coastal/Marine Geology, Coastal Surveying (Geomatics), Environmental Science, and Regulatory Permitting
Education Degrees
Ph.D. in Geology, University of Western Australia; Master of Science in Natural Resources, Oregon State University; Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources, Oregon State University
The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association; Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association; AMIE, SMME