Reuters Ignores Its Own Accurate Reporting On Rapid Warming Of Oceans

Reuters Also Struggles To Find Climate Scientists Who Have Become Less Worried About Climate Change, So They Quote Bjorn Lomborg!

Why are so many climatologists now speaking out about global warming? As Lonnie Thompson explained a couple of years ago, “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.”

But you’d never know how increasingly concerned climate scientists have become from reading Reuters’ absurdly-headlined piece, “Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown.” Amazingly, the piece doesn’t actually quote a single climate scientist struggling to explain this “slowdown” — perhaps because it doesn’t exist (see “Global Warming Has Accelerated In Past 15 Years, New Study Of Oceans Confirms“).

Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012).

Even more amazingly, by which I mean, even more likely to cause your head to explode, the same Reuters reporter reported on new studies of ocean warming just last week in an article headlined, “Oceans may explain slowdown in climate change: study“!!!

Kind of hard to square that story with “Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown.” But then rather than quoting any struggling climate scientists, the new Reuters piece starts with Bjorn Lomborg:

“The climate system is not quite so simple as people thought,” said Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” who estimates that moderate warming will be beneficial for crop growth and human health.

Who ever thought the climate system was simple? Nobody. Heck, if it were simple, reporters would have noticed that Lomborg, who has been repeatedly debunked by actual climate scientists, has also repeatedly flip-flopped his position and doesn’t merit a quote in an article about what climate scientists do or do not think.

When people began to be concerned about global warming, Lomborg downplayed the threat. Then in 2010, when the deniers were ascendant and action had stalled, he flip-flopped to assert, “Climate change is undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today.” Now concern about warming is rebounding, so naturally his concern is declining again. How the media loves a contrarian.

Again, we don’t face “moderate warming” on our current emissions path:

  • Study: We’re Headed To 11°F Warming And Even 7°F Requires “Nearly Quadrupling The Current Rate Of Decarbonisation”
  • Shocking World Bank Climate Report: “A 4°C [7°F] World Can, And Must, Be Avoided” To Avert “Devastating” Impacts
  • Memo To Media: “Climate Sensitivity” Is NOT The Same As Projected Future Warming, World Faces 10°F Rise

But what does the World Bank know compared to Bjorn Lomborg?

While it’s true that very recent trends in surface air temperatures have appeared to be slower than some expected, 90% of global warming was always expected to go into the oceans and scientists now have published multiple studies analyzing observations of ocean heat content to show that warming continues apace (see figure above). At the same time, other aspects of climate change —  including the loss of Arctic sea ice and the disintegration of the great ice sheets — are occurring many decades faster than expected. Some impacts, like the bark beetle devastation of North American forests, were barely foreseen a decade ago.

In a 2010 presentation, the late William R. Freudenburg discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“: New scientific findings since the 2007 IPCC report are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.”

Freudenburg concluded with this still-unlearned lesson for the media:

Reporters need to learn that, if they wish to discuss “both sides” of the climate issue, the scientifically legitimate “other side” is that, if anything, global climate disruption is likely to be significantly worse than has been suggested in scientific consensus estimates to date.

Reuters, oblivious to the recent science, writes:

Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had to correct a 2007 report that exaggerated the pace of melt of the Himalayan glaciers and wrongly said they could all vanish by 2035.

Yes, one admittedly dumb mistake from the IPCC 6 years ago (!) apparently overwhelms the fact that, since then, 20 times as many studies are more worrisome versus less worrisome!

Who are these “some experts”? Again, no climate scientists. In fact, rather than have even one scientist explaining why climate disruption is likely to be worse than expected, Reuters follows up its Lomborg quote with a quote from Richard Tol — an economist whom Lomborg invited to participate in his efforts several years ago!

And here is how they quote Tol:

“My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years,” said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England.


But here is the amazing thing, by which I mean the thing that shouldn’t be read without a head vise. Media Matters, in their debunking post, reports that Reuters left out Tol’s key point:

Indeed, in an email to Media Matters, the economist quoted in the story, Tol, stated that he told Reuters that higher uncertainty actually leaves him “more concerned about climate change”:

“Lower confidence means greater uncertainty. The probability that nothing much is the matter has gone up, but so has the probability that things could be much worse. Therefore, I am actually more concerned about climate change now than I was.”

So Reuters, in a piece whose (mistaken) point seems to be that we should be less worried about climate change, quotes an “expert” in a manner that implies he is less worried, when in fact he is more worried. That would be journalistic malpractice.

Richard Tol, it’s worth noting, is a long-time downplayer of the climate-change threat. And there is no reason why anyone’s confidence in the data should have declined in the past five years. We have so much more data, and they have strengthened the key conclusions that manmade emissions are warming the planet. The probability that “nothing much is the matter” is vanishingly small.

It bears repeating that just last week, this same Reuters reporter, Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle, wrote an article discussing not one but two recent studies in which climate scientists actually explain that they now know where the “missing heat” has gone — and why it is cause for more worry, not less:

Climate change could get worse quickly if huge amounts of extra heat absorbed by the oceans are released back into the air, scientists said after unveiling new research showing that oceans have helped mitigate the effects of warming since 2000.

Heat-trapping gases are being emitted into the atmosphere faster than ever, and the 10 hottest years since records began have all taken place since 1998. But the rate at which the earth’s surface is heating up has slowed somewhat since 2000, causing scientists to search for an explanation for the pause.

Experts in France and Spain said on Sunday that the oceans took up more warmth from the air around 2000. That would help explain the slowdown in surface warming but would also suggest that the pause may be only temporary and brief.

“Most of this excess energy was absorbed in the top 700 meters (2,300 ft) of the ocean at the onset of the warming pause, 65 percent of it in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans,” they wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change….

“Global warming is continuing but it’s being manifested in somewhat different ways,” said Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Warming can go, for instance, to the air, water, land or to melting ice and snow.

Warmth is spreading to ever deeper ocean levels, he said, adding that pauses in surface warming could last 15-20 years.

“Recent warming rates of the waters below 700 meters appear to be unprecedented,” he and colleagues wrote in a study last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

But the new Reuters piece never quotes any of these studies or any of these scientists. All it says on the matter is:

Theories for the pause include that deep oceans have taken up more heat with the result that the surface is cooler than expected….

Ya think?

You may wonder how the same reporter could write both pieces a mere week apart. Is it amnesia — or something else?

Here’s one clue. The first piece says, “Reporting by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent; Editing by Peter Graff” whereas the second says, “Reporting By Alister Doyle, extra reporting by Gerard Wynn in London; editing by Janet McBride.”

Climate Progress has said many times that it is probably editors — not reporters — who are the most to blame for flawed coverage and false balance.

31 Responses to Reuters Ignores Its Own Accurate Reporting On Rapid Warming Of Oceans

  1. In a comment to the April 16 News post today, I suggested that there be an anti-Pulitzer to balance the real Pulitzer won by InsideClimate News. It seems that Reuters might be in the running.

  2. My interest in the science of climate change has lead me to be very cynical of journalists. The story is and getting it printed is more important than the accuracy of the content. For years I read the Telegraph in the UK, mostly for their international and political news. Now when I read their reports on climate change I find that they take an extreme anti view and distort basic science. Looking back, how accurate were they on Politics and international news?
    You need to be very careful about where you get facts from and who to believe.

  3. M Tucker says:

    Reuters is entertainment. They have to enhance the controversy, the controversy that we have a “warming slowdown.” The deniers will love it. They will post that headline everywhere.

    You must apply critical thinking skills when reading this stuff. “Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics” What make him an expert in climate change? Because the story says so? So, his comments can be ignored.

    “Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties.” My BS meter is now spiking into the red. Unnamed experts is a dead giveaway that the writer is now completely BS’ing the reader. So, basically this whole article is a complete waste of time for the reader. It has no actual truth to tell. It is designed to entertain those who are looking for evidence that the warming has slowed or stopped or there was never any warming to begin with. Utter crap.

  4. Syd Baumel says:

    Predictably, the Reuters story is feeding the deniers in the Comments section, but then any story on climate change evokes the same paranoid narratives from them.

    In addition to everything else pointed out by Joe, I cringed a little when Pachauri said (at least was quoted as such):

    “According to Pachauri, temperature records since 1850 ‘show there are fluctuations. They are 10, 15 years in duration. But the trend is unmistakable.'”

    We’ve seen much longer cooling trends (never mind warming shy of statistical significance as we’re seeing now) as recently as 1940-1980. P. is inadvertently setting himself up (and by association “the IPCCC”; and by association “all alarmists”) to be rhetorically “proven wrong” by deniers if the surface temperature goes flat (statistically) or even cool for longer than 15 years. The message should be that the planet’s surface temperature is always the result of a composite of influences (climate forcings) and, as the ocean research shows, a reflection of where the heat has been going lately. The test of “are we still warming, and is it because of us?” always is “are our best scientific descriptions and explanations of where the temperature and the heat are heading and going, respectively – and why – still consistent with the theory that it’s down to anthropogenic global warming/climate change?”

    So far, through both hindcasting and forecasting, the science is unequivocally clear that the answer continues to be yes, despite the recent dampening in the rise of surface air temperature. Foster and Rahmstorf, for example, show ( that applying this kind of analysis to the raw, noisy surface temperature data – take 1998 to 2011, for instance (2011 is as far as their data goes; the 1998 super el Nino year is a favourite starting point of deniers) – i.e. adjusting the raw data to remove the effect of non-anthropogenic forcings like ENSO (El Nino and La Nina fluctuations, which I believe reflect a lot of that variation in how much heat goes to the oceans instead of the air) – changes a statistically insignificant NASA GISS warming trend of 0.133 ±0.182 °C/decade for 1998 to 2011 (this, by the way, is what “no warming” often looks like in the rhetoric of deniers) to a statistically very significant and truly alarming trend of 0.212 ±0.097 °C/decade (employing the trend calculator that uses Foster and Rahmstorf’s raw and adjusted data:

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    We just keep getting battered by mainstream media. The occasional good article, with Reuters as with NYT, Wapo, CBS etc is inevitably followed by crappy ones.

    They won’t change without serious outside pressure, in the form of organized advertiser boycotts. I don’t know why none of the green groups go that route- or maybe I do, unfortunately.

  6. Syd Baumel says:

    P.S. Adjustment is bias-free and works both ways. The exaggerated warming trend from 1993 to 1998, for example, is cut almost in half after adjusting to remove a preponderance of warming due to natural variation at the time.

  7. Mimikatz says:

    It sounds like the editors may be under pressure from ownership to downplay the climate crisis. It seems the powers that be don’t want the public to appreciate how bad it is going to get. Perhaps they think they will be able somehow to control the reaction and stave off chaos for as long as possible?

  8. Sasparilla says:

    Excellent skewering of the Reuters article – so disgusting..Bjorn “Gadfly” Lomberg…what a total farce.

    Quite the follow up to the NOAA headlines of a couple of days ago. Anyone with their heads in the news and not actively digging on climate change could be forgiven to think there’s nothing pressing to worry about…keep the natives quiet and the fossil fuel advertisers and lobbyists happy.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Joe, just a thought here…you might want to do it, you might not.

    There’s a blog I follow and the author there keeps a record of ridiculous articles or predictions and follows up several years later with “claim chowder” – publicly showing things up for what they were. This might be an effective and somewhat fun tool – the author of this article (Alister Doyle) obviously deserves such follow up attention as things get worse in the future.

    Here’s the blog with a claim chowder example from today’s entry:

  10. Jack Burton says:

    Main Stream Media has been mostly silent for the past decade. Before that they moved to mimic FOX’s “Fair and Balanced” approach. This meant more and more dubious climate science deniers filled the broadcasts, and every new data point on global warming was countered by a denier’s rebuttal of the findings.
    Even PBS went full on into the “Fair and Balanced” climate reporting. The corporate media was mostly silent, as I suspect their advertisers demanded such from them in return for corporate millions. After all, he who pays for the commercials is going to want to pay for favorable coverage. Since real climate science can not be denied by the use of evidence. The MSM made corporate America happy by being silent, or when silence was not an option, they opened the airwaves to lots of denial rubbish.
    I even remember a few PBS segments on extreme weather events in which 2 0r 3 deniers would sit at the table with 1 really wishy washy so called climate scientist.
    The climate scientists themselves have proven to be very timid the last 10 years or so. No matter the data or evidence, they didn’t open their mouths with out optimism that with reduced emissions of CO2, we could prevent the bad effects. Like they still babble about 2C, Ha! Now that is a hoax. If we went to Zero right as I write this, we would still BLOW past 2C. Why is everyone, including the scientists down playing what we are in store for??

  11. Lore says:

    “If we went to Zero right as I write this, we would still BLOW past 2C. Why is everyone, including the scientists down playing what we are in store for??”

    Because everyone is subject to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. It’s instinctual to grasp for hope where none really exists. Part of the self preservation mechanism. How many people do you think would volunteer for combat if they didn’t believe that it’s the other person that will get it?

  12. Bruce S says:

    How about a 6 Sv decrease( 60%) in Antarctic deep water formation or a .03 degreeC increase per decade in southern hemispheric abyssal water temperatures. The Argo floats only go so deep(2000meters) but there is heating of southern hemisphere abyssal waters also.

    Is this a trend or a new normal?We are playing catch up with instrumentation and funding to document large changes in earths heat budget but there is a much larger effort to distort and minimize the ramifications of the data that continues to come in. 1984 and the pigs are in control.

  13. Mark E says:

    To emphasize Freudenburg’s remark about the “other side” of the debate, let’s see more frequent reprints of this awesome Tobis/Ban graphic (which you printed before)

  14. Think you’ve nailed it, editorial pressure. Doyle is a very good jurno and knows climate science. The Economist piece of a couple of weeks ago has prompted some media navel gazing…’hmm maybe its all a bit complicated’.

  15. David Fogarty says:

    I agree. I believe this story was substantially changed in the editing process. I should know, since I worked for Reuters until end-January this year and saw many stories ruined by heavy-handed subeditors, including my own. Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn are very good journalists and have great track records. I worked with them for years. It’s easy to attack people but, like everything, there are two sides to a story.

  16. Syd Baumel says:

    We’re not necessarily blowing past 2 degrees in the unlikely event that we stop emitting next week. Experts like NASA ( and the folks at estimate we have at least 0.6 more degrees locked in, which could bring warming to a stop at less than 1.5 degrees. But it would be suicidal to count on it. And, of course, 0.6 degrees doesn’t include the “value added” effects of serious positive feedback action or tripping a tipping point. So, we’re playing Russian roulette, but we’re not doomed yet.

  17. Lance Parker says:

    I know that when you add heat to ice, it will warm up until 0 degrees C and then all the heat will go towards melting the ice. Only when all the ice is melted will temperature rise again. Where is the heat of fusion and heat of vaporization in this discussion of “heat content”? Also, if a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, on balance there is more vaporization than condensation going on, so some of the heat is going toward vaporization. Melting has been going on at a higher pace this century than last, perhaps this is part of the “slowing warming trend” in atmospheric temperature of the last ten years?

  18. Spike says:

    And the editors of course will be strongly influenced by the proprietors who will be strongly influenced by their advertising clients.

    Big fleas have little fleas…

  19. Spike says:

    Susan Solomon’s paper on irreversible climate change did make the point that oceanic heat content will be largely responsible for the irreversibility of temperature rises along with the long life time of CO2. In my simplistic way I think of the oceans as Earth’s great storage heater, currently fuelling up ready to release that heat over millenia. To quote her abstract:

    “This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years.”

  20. Spike says:

    Interesting to read Hansen’s latest statement which I have just received:

    “I was recently at a meeting that included many of the top researchers in climate
    change. There was universal agreement about the urgency of the climate crisis.

    Certainty of our predicament follows from basic considerations including: (1) huge
    inertia and thus slow response of key parts of the climate system, especially the ocean and ice sheets, and improving observations by Argo floats and gravity satellites that confirm trends and the existence of further change in the pipeline, (2) long lifetime of any ocean warming that is allowed to occur, (3) millennial time scale that fossil fuel CO2 will stay in the climate system, (4)
    paleoclimate confirmation of the magnitude of the eventual climate response to large CO2

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You need to read ‘Manufacturing Consent’ by Chomsky and Herman. It shows quite convincingly how the Western MSM is a propaganda system designed to protect and advance the interests, predominately monetary and political/ideological,of their owners and their caste, the global capitalist elite. Environmentalism is the greatest threat to capitalism since communism was seen off, so the anti-Green bias is great, growing and de rigeur for the presstitutes if they wish to stay on the gravy train.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What you say is true, but there is also the factor of ideological zeal. The rightwing MSM doesn’t tolerate dissent or free-thinking, particularly of red or green varieties. The ‘journalists’ are carefully vetted on employment, and rigorously disciplined if Thought Crime is committed. Kissing the Bosses’ ideological posterior is always appreciated, so the ‘cream’ floats to the top. You are left with hardcore Rightwing True Believers and opportunists, for whom principled, moral and more intelligent people than they, eg climate scientists and environmentalists, are the enemy to be dismissed, vilified, lied about and crushed.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The power elite includes most Big Green groups, who enjoy the better class of wine they get at elite piss-ups. They know which way the wind blows in capitalist economies. You accommodate to power, you get a reward. You make trouble, and environmentalism is the biggest trouble for capitalists, ever, and you get crushed. They crush ’em good in the Amazon, or Colombia or the Philippines.

  24. prokaryotes says:

    Maybe even a ranking system, which gives points for bad and good reporting?

  25. Superman1 says:

    Yes, the journalists are vetted ideologically, but they also are like any other business group that deals with the public. If you want to ‘succeed’, ‘get ahead’, you give the customer what he/she wants. What the bulk of the customers want is to be able to continue their fossil fuel-profligate lifestyles, and point to articles like that to assuage their conscience.

  26. Andy Lee Robinson says:

    It’s clear that mainstream media has been nobbled.

  27. prokaryotes says:

    Observational estimate of climate sensitivity from changes in the rate of ocean heat uptake and comparison to CMIP5 models

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Scientists on the whole have been derelict in their duty to humanity. One can appreciate their reticence, because talking out of turn is severely punished in the ‘Free World’, and ‘going along to get along’ much preferred as the essence of ‘freedom of conscience’. However, this is the biggest problem in human history, and, if we survive, those who laid their careers and reputation on the line in the battle with the Forces of Darkness would become real heroes.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They nobble themselves. It’s in their very nature as propaganda and indoctrination systems.

  30. Raul M. says:

    What do the experts say about the response of climate experts to the findings of climate science in regard to climate?
    It would seem that they could point to emotional response by climate scientists to the findings of how the climate is responding to forcings as evidence of an weakness in the scientists ability to do the science.

    Course mom used to get emotional when I used to go out in severe weather cause she thought that I might get hit by flying debrie. So thrilling in the weather is another weakness in doing the science.