Can you write a story about this year’s record-setting global warmth and never mention the primary cause, indeed never mention human emissions at all?
Can you spin Arctic sea ice loss that is faster than every IPCC climate model as somehow evidence that computer model predictions of sea ice loss “seem to have been too extreme”?
You can if you are Richard Black, environment correspondent for the BBC News.
The bar for climate journalism has dropped so low — even for the few remaining serious science and environmental reporters — that people have become blas© about the kind of misreporting Black does in his piece, ” ‘Rapid’ 2010 melt for Arctic ice – but no record.” But this kind of stuff is just inexcusable:
The last 12 months have been unusually warm globally — according to Nasa, the warmest in its 130-year record.
This is partly down to El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which have the effect of raising temperatures globally.
With those conditions changing into a cooler La Nina phase, Nasa says 2010 is “likely, but not certain” to be the warmest calendar year in its record.
Yeah, it is friggin’ unusual. Who would have guessed the planet was going to keep warming to record levels decade after decade? Not the BBC these days (see The BBC asks “What happened to global warming?” during the hottest decade in recorded history!)
Memo to Black: For decades the leading climate scientists have been telling us that if we keep pouring heat trapping gases into the atmosphere the planet would set records for warming (see NASA: “We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s.”). For the record, NASA predicted in January 2009 that 2010 would likely set a record. Heck, if you Brits don’t like U.S. predictions, a 2007 Hadley Center paper in Science: “Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model” (see “Climate Forecast: Hot “” and then Very Hot“) also concluded:
Our system predicts that internal variability will partially offset the anthropogenic global warming signal for the next few years. However, climate will continue to warm, with at least half of the years after 2009 predicted to exceed the warmest year currently on record.
So there is precisely nothing whatsoever “unusual” about the last 12 months setting a record — except that the environment reporter for the BBC can identify no actual cause for this besides El Ni±o, which is an “oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific” that does not cause long-term warming.
Is it too much to ask for even a single sentence from one of the most prestigious new services in the world explaining to the public that human emissions are the primary cause for the record warmth?
Black’s spin on the sharply declining Arctic sea ice is almost as bad.
Researchers say projections of summer ice disappearing entirely within the next few years increasingly look wrong….
But computer models projecting a disappearance very soon — 2013 was a date cited by one research group just a few years ago — seem to have been too extreme.
Whose projections (plural) and whose models (plural) is he talking about?
This is reporting from someone who has gone out of their way to mischaracterize the scientific literature to push a pre-determined narrative.
“The recent sea-ice retreat is larger than in any of the (19) IPCC [climate] models,” as Tore Furevik, Vice director at Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, pointed out in a May 2006 talk (big PPT here) on climate system feedbacks. And that was before another staggering drop in Arctic sea-ice area in 2007 (see “Arctic Ice shrinks by an Alaska plus a Texas“). And then we hit a record low volume in 2008 (see here). But the Fourth Assessment merely says, “Sea ice is projected to shrink in both the Arctic and Antarctic “¦ In some projections, Arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century.” Pretty damn extreme.
Black is, of course, talking about one outdated and superseded (and, I think, misrepresented) prediction by Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School from a few years ago. Now Maslowski revised/clarified that prediction a long time ago — as was reported in the British media (though Maslowski tells me that story misquoted him, also!) — and has a clearly stated prediction as of March this year [see Arctic death spiral: Naval Postgrad School's Maslowski "projects ice-free* fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs)"].
Black would know this if he did the most basic reporting and called Maslowski — the BBC was, after all, among the few to report Maslowski’s earlier prediction (here). But that would blow the “look at those exaggerating climate scientists” narrative. As an aside, if you talk to Maslowski, as I have, I’m sure he will say that he never said we’d be ice-free in 2013. He said we “could” be. I heard him give a talk in May 2006, and as I reported it in my book Hell and High Water, Maslowski said of the sharp drop in ice volume from 1997 to 2002, “if this trend persists for another 10 years — and it has to 2005 — we could be ice free in the summer.” So he was really talking about 2016 (+/- 3) years in 2006, just as he was this year.
Equally important, Black never explains to the reader that while his article is entirely focused on two-dimensional sea ice cover, which did not set a record this year, Maslowski was of course focusing on the far more important metric of volume, which probably did set a record this year (see “Exclusive: Scientists track sharp drop in oldest, thickest Arctic sea ice: 2010 likely sets the record for lowest volume”), and which is in a death spiral, as NSIDC director Serreze put it last week.
Finally, Black never mentions at all that human emissions are the driving force behind the sharp decline in Arctic ice in recent decades (see Major analysis finds “less ice covers the Arctic today than at any time in recent geologic history”). No, Black’s entire message to readers seems to be that what’s happening now is unusual and scientists have overestimated the trends — when the reverse is true in both cases.
It is sad to see what has happened to the once venerated BBC:
- BBC’s Panorama falls into ‘balance as baloney’ trap in half hour climate show, “What’s up with the weather?”
- BBC asks CRU’s Phil Jones the climate version of “When did you stop beating your wife”
Note: Black lists his e-mail address at the end of the article as Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk because he presumably wants feedback.
A commenter points out that feedback can also be sent here.