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FACT CHECK: National Review’s Cover Story Distorts Facts On Global Warming

By ThinkProgress on May 25, 2006 at 2:12 pm

"FACT CHECK: National Review’s Cover Story Distorts Facts On Global Warming"

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The National Review’s June 6 cover story, Scare of the Century by Jason Lee Steorts, has several serious errors and omissions. By distorting evidence, Steorts misleads his readers about the threats of global warming. Here’s a debunk of some of Steorts’s inaccurate claims:

CLAIM: “[T]here is wide disagreement about the extent to which carbon-dioxide emissions are responsible for the warming we’ve seen so far.”

FACT: In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that the recent warming trend “is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years”¦due mostly to human activities.”

FACT: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program concluded that humans are driving the warming trend through greenhouse gas emissions, noting that “the observed patterns of change over the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural processes alone, nor by the effects of short-lived atmospheric constituents such as aerosols and tropospheric ozone alone.”

FACT: Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus the earth’s temperature is rising due to human activity.

CLAIM: “When it’s not even clear that the warming we’ve seen is hurting us “” many argue that it’s a boon, citing its benefits to agriculture and its potential to make severe climates more hospitable “” such draconian solutions should be unthinkable.”

FACT: The 2001 report by the IPCC finds that global climate change’s “negative health impacts are anticipated to outweigh positive health impacts.” Assuming that current emission levels continue, an increase in heat waves and a deterioration in air quality “will increase the risk of mortality and morbidity, principally in older age groups and the urban poor.” Additionally, any “regional increases in climate extremes (storms, floods, cyclones, etc.) associated with climate change would cause physical damage, population displacement, and adverse effects on food production, freshwater availability and quality, and would increase the risks of infectious disease epidemics, particularly in developing countries.”

CLAIM: “Various studies show that warmer temperatures are causing the ice sheet there to lose mass at the margins. But, as in Antarctica, higher sea temperatures are also causing greater snowfall and building up ice in the interior…In fact, Science had earlier published a study by Ola Johannessen that used satellite measurements to determine how much the ice sheet was growing. Johannessen found that, between 1992 and 2003, it was gaining on average 5.4 centimeters of elevation per year.”

FACT: The study (by Johanessen et al.) did find there was an increase in snow accumulation on Greenland’s interior. This is exactly what you’d expect as the earth gets warmer. The climate scientists at realclimate.org explain: “However, Johanessen et al. were not able to measure all of the coastal ranges. Indeed, the thinning of the margins and growth in the interior Greenland is an expected response to increased temperatures and more precipitation in a warmer climate. These results present no contradiction to the accelerated sliding near the coasts.”

CLAIM: “If today’s temperatures are causing Greenland’s coastal ice to slide into the sea, it must have been positively galloping there 80 years ago. That’s significant, because the warming period in the early 20th century took place well before fossil-fuel burning could have triggered global warming.”

FACT: According Climatic Research Unit data, the last three decades (1976-2005) have seen a sharper rise in global air temperature than any other period since at least 1860.

CLAIM: How much ice has Antarctica gained? In a 2005 study published in Science, Curt Davis used satellite measurements to calculate changes in the ice sheet’s elevation, and found that it gained 45 billion tons of ice per year between 1992 and 2003. Far from flooding the coasts, that’s enough to lower sea levels by roughly 0.12 millimeters annually.

FACT: Davis has criticized the global warming skeptics’ misuse of his data. The whole story, according to Davis, is that increased precipitation in the interior of Antarctica is “predicted consequence of global climate warming.” Warmer temperatures mean more participation and more snow on the interior of the continent. Meanwhile, “Growth of the ice sheet was only noted on the interior of the ice sheet and did not include coastal areas. Coastal areas are known to be losing mass.”

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