"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….
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.