Friday, January 26, 2007

How the media hype climate change

Wolrd Climate Report, the longest running climate change blog, does an excellent job of exposing the way the MSM overhype and spin both the science and impact of climate change. The newspaper they cite is the New York Times - the bastion of liberal left opinion in the USA.

In VERY large type, the New York Times of January 16 proclaimed “The Warming of Greenland.” As has become increasingly typical of their reporting on polar climate, that’s about half of the “news that’s fit to print.”

The big story, of course, is the melting of Greenland’s ice, and threats of a major rise in sea level. After all, if the entire 630,000 cubic miles of it disappeared, the ocean would rise 23 feet.

The big story indeed. It's one of the AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) enthusiasts favourite fear inducers. "People! Hear me! Repent thee of your wanton expiration of CO2 - or feel the wrath of our Lord, Climate Change, for he will wreak havoc upon your ice and drown you beneath the waves of diviine retribution!!" That's all very well, but what does the NYT base this doom and gloom on?

The Times relied on an off-the-cuff estimate of ice loss, given to them by Professor Carl Boggild from the University Center at Svalbard. According to the Times, he “said Greenland could be losing more than 80 cubic miles of ice per year.” Nowhere did the Times give the amount determined by meticulous analysis of recent satellite data, which is around 25 cubic miles, published by NASA’s Scott Luthcke in Science less than two months ago.

Soooo, the NYT choose to ignore actual data and base their headlines on some "off-the-cuff" remark? Notice that the Professor in question said "could" - not would, will or is. Hmm, in theory Slough Town COULD win the FA Cup - does that make it likely to happen?

Still, Greenland potentially losing 80 cubic miles of ice a year is not really scary enough for their readers - especially when there are some 630,000 cubic miles to go. By my reckoning that would see the entire Greenland ice sheet gone by the year ..... 9882.

So the NYT find someone else to make it sound that teensy weensy bit more catastrophic.

They then quoted Richard Alley, from Penn State, who reported that “a sea-level rise of a foot or two in the coming decades is entirely possible.”

Now that's much more scary. "Coming decades" suggests the next ten to twenty years and we can all imagine what a foot or two rise would do to - say - Holland. But as World Climate Report point out, a rise of a "foot or two" is not entirely possible.

First, the current sea-level rise contributed by this amount of ice loss is probably too small to even be able to measure in coming decades. The satellite data show a reduction of 4 hundred-thousandths of Greenland’s total ice per year (while Boggild’s figure “could” be around 12 hundred-thousandths). Multiplying the satellite-based figure times 23 feet gives the annual rise in sea level of 0.01 inch per year. Averaged over three decades, that’s a third of an inch, which indeed too small to be detectable. Over a century, the rise becomes a bit more than an inch. Boggild’s guesstimate yields 3.5 inches per century.

So, not "entirely possible" after all.

In fact, there’s nothing very new going on in Greenland. While the Times pays great attention to ice-loss in eastern Greenland caused by current temperatures, they conveniently forgot to look at nearby temperature histories.

From 1930 through 1960, the average was 43.7°F. In other words, it was warmer for three decades, and there was clearly no large rise in sea level. What happened between 1945 and the mid 90’s was a cooling trend, with the period 1985-95 being the coldest in the entire Angmagssalik record, which goes back to the late 19th century. Only in recent years have temperatures begun to look like those that were characteristic of the early 20th Century.

So, not only is the NYT misleading readers with false information, they are ignoring the fact that this not even slightly unusual. Don't they believe they have a duty to inform their readers of ALL pertinent facts - or are they just a tool of the AGW brigade? You decide. WCR are not finished yet, though.

Petr Chylek, from Canada’s Dalhousie University, recently summarized Greenland’s climate history in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. He wrote that “Although the last decade of 1995-2005 was relatively warm, almost all decades within 1915 to 1965 were even warmer at both the southwestern (Godthab Nuuk) and southeastern (Ammassalik) coasts of Greenland.”

In fact, the Times could have written pretty much the exact same story in 1948, before humans had much of a hand in anything climatic. That’s when Hans Ahlmann wrote, in The Geographical Journal, a publication of the British Royal Geographic Society, that “The last decades have reduced the ice in some parts of Greenland to such an extent that the whole landscape has changed in character.” So it’s hardly something new when the Times reports, almost sixty years later, that temperatures in Greenland “are changing the very geography of coastlines.”

1948, eh? The forties were quite warm too, weren't they? And the ice in Greenland melted and then ....... it got cooler and the ice got thicker. WCR still aren't finished - they now turn their attention to the NYT and the Arctic.

This isn’t the first time that the Times has been misleading concerning climate change in the high latitudes. On August 19, 2000, based upon reports from a cruise ship floating at the North Pole, they reported that “the last time scientists can be certain that the Pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago.” The report received top, front-page billing.

In fact, during the end of summer there’s often some open water at very high latitudes. So, on August 29, buried on page D-3, the Times admitted that it had misstated the true condition of polar ice and that an ice-free North Pole is hardly unprecedented.

BIG SCARY HEADLINES. Tiny little retractions. That's how they get your attention.

Yet, in the same August 29 issue, they again misled, saying “the data scientists are now studying reveal substantial evidence that on average Arctic temperatures in winter have risen 11 degrees [F] over the past thirty years.” They claimed their statement was based upon a recent paper published in the journal Climatic Change by University of Colorado’s Mark Serreze. The average winter rise in Serreze’s paper is 2.7°F. The Times never even retracted its fourfold exaggeration of Arctic warming. Nor did they say that there was only one very small area in the Arctic where there was an 11 degree rise. The last I recall “on average Arctic temperatures” means “temperatures averaged over Antarctica,” not the change at one location.

Yeah, but then it wouldn't sound so good and scary would it.

So, the fact that the recent Greenland story ignored the historical record and the refereed scientific literature is nothing new. When it comes to reporting about polar climate, the Grey Lady has a consistent record of hiding parts of the truth that are inconvenient to whatever story it is trying to sell.

And that's the real inconvenient truth for Al Gore and the rest of the AGW crowd. Not just that all their scaremongering, guesswork, models, predictions and projections are frequently and deliberately misleading, but even if they were accurate that is still not proof that any of it is caused by the activity of man.

1 comment:

Drew said...

A member of the AGW named Australian of the year.Dr Tim Flannery. Here's a quote from his latest book "The world has 20 years at least, they say, before change is needed, and by then things will have begun to "sort themselves out". George Bush has recently recognised - at the G8 Gleneagles meeting - that climate change is caused by humans and is a problem which needs to be addressed. And in admitting that it is a problem, he is admitting to the existence of a very large problem indeed." If they say it enough times it becomes fact.