Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal Downplays Study Confirming Global Warming

A composite of all the major global temperature records, going back to 1890 (the satellite records [RSS and UAH] only begin in the late 20th century). Via Skeptical Science.

by Shauna Theel, in a Media Matters cross-post

After ignoring for weeks a new study confirming the accuracy of previous global temperature records, the U.S. print edition of the Wall Street Journal covered the study in an article focusing on the “uncertain nature” of the temperature records.

WSJ Eventually Prints Article About Study — Only To Downplay It

Journal Published Op-Ed Announcing Results Of Study In Its European Paper. The Wall Street Journal only published an op-ed by American physicist Richard Muller, who conducted the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in its European edition and on its website. The op-ed was published on the same day the preliminary reports from the BEST study were released and stated that “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/21/11]

Journal Published Nothing In Its U.S. Paper On Study For Two Weeks. A Factiva search of the Wall Street Journal shows that the Journal‘s U.S. paper did not mention the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study for over two weeks after the results were published. The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media noted that the Journal published an editorial in the following days titled “The Post-Global Warming World” that was “dismissive of climate change” and had not “a word about the BEST study.” [Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, 11/1/11]

Journal Publishes Article Focusing On “Uncertain Nature” Of Global Temperatures. On November 5, The Wall Street Journal published an A2 article titled “Global Temperatures: All Over The Map” by Carl “The Numbers Guy” Bialik. The article focused on the “uncertain nature of tracking global temperature.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/5/11]

Journal Previously Claimed Temperature Records Were “Rigged.” In a November 2009 editorial titled, “Rigging a Climate ‘Consensus,'” the Journal wrote that the emails between scientists at the University of East Anglia — whose temperature record was reaffirmed by the recent BEST study — left the impression “that the climate-tracking game has been rigged from the start.” The editorial also suggested that we cannot know if the scientists’ work is reliable since citations and peer-review are also rigged. [Wall Street Journal, 9/27/09]

Journal Falsely Claims Satellites Show Half As Much Warming As Surface Records

Journal: “Satellites Show About Half The Amount Of Warming.” From Bialik’s November 5 article:

The [BEST] group also hasn’t made use of satellite-derived temperature readings. These show a smaller increase. The difference may reflect that some land-based weather stations aren’t well maintained.

“I’m inclined to give [satellite] data more weight than reconstructions from surface-station data,” says Stephen McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician who writes about climate, often critically of studies that find warming, at his website Climate Audit. Satellites show about half the amount of warming as that of land-based readings in the past three decades, when the relevant data were collected from space, he says.

Such disputes demonstrate the statistical and uncertain nature of tracking global temperature. Even with tens of thousands of weather stations, most of the Earth’s surface isn’t monitored. Some stations are more reliable than others. Calculating a global average temperature requires extrapolating from these readings to the whole globe, adjusting for data lapses and suspect stations. And no two groups do this identically. [Wall Street Journal, 11/5/11]

Expert: The Journal‘s Claim “Is Not Supportable From The Data.” NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt, contacted through the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, compared the land-only data from BEST with two land-only satellite sets of data from 1979 to 2009. BEST showed a trend of 0.28°C per decade, while satellite data from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Remote Sensing Systems show an increase of 0.17°C and 0.20°C per decade, respectively. Schmidt added that “the satellites and the ground stations are measuring different things, and it isn’t obvious that they should be the same. A factor of two difference though is not supportable from the data.” [Email to Media Matters, via the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, 11/7/11]

Muller: The Journal‘s Claim Is “Misleading.” Richard Muller wrote that the Journal’s claim “is misleading because he doesn’t point out that satellite measurements do not give ground measurements, but only temperatures up higher in the atmosphere. Also the satellite measurements he is referring to are, I believe, global and not land only.” [Email to Media Matters, 11/7/11]

Temperature Trend From Satellites Largely Agrees With Surface Records. The following chart complied by geographer Ole Humlum displays global temperature data derived from satellites since 1979 in blue (for lower atmosphere rather than surface) and the average of three global surface temperature estimates in red. Satellites are able to cover virtually all of the Earth.

Source: Ole Humlum

[, accessed 11/8/11]

Satellite Temperature Expert: Trends In Surface Data “Are In General Agreement With Satellite Measurements.” Dr. Carl Mears, senior scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, stated in July:

I have carried out a number of comparisons of the various surface datasets (GISS, CRU, and NOAA) with satellite estimates of the lower tropospheric temperature.  These led to two basic findings.  First, the various surface datasets are in excellent agreement with each other, suggesting that what we call the “structural uncertainty”, i.e. the uncertainty that arises from different choices of analysis method, is relatively small for the surface datasets, which increases our confidence in these datasets.

Second, the both the overall amount of warming and the spatial patterns of warming in the surface datasets are in general agreement with satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature (in this case I am talking about the lower tropopsheric temperature, sometimes called TLT) made by the Microwave Sounding Units (MSUs) and Advanced Microwave Sounding Units (AMSUs).  I am the creator of one of these satellite datasets, the Remote Sensing Systems, or RSS, dataset.  [Email to Media Matters, via the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, 7/21/11]

Journal Falsely Claims Study Has Been Corrected

Journal: “Feedback Has Led To Updates And Corrections To The Research.” From the November 5 article:

This sort of messy hashing-out of the global climate record is happening in the open because the Berkeley Earth team chose to release its data, and its papers, before undergoing peer review by scientific journals. Already some feedback has led to updates and corrections to the research. Berkeley Earth plans other work, including adding ocean temperature trends to the land records and fixing errors in its database. [Wall Street Journal, 11/5/11]

Muller: “I Can’t Imagine What He Is Referring To.” In response to that passage, Richard Muller wrote “I can’t imagine what he is referring to.” Muller noted that his team had updated data from NASA in a chart, not their own results. [Email to Media Matters, 11/7/11]

Shauna Theel is a researcher with Media Matters for America. This piece was originally published at Media Matters.

6 Responses to Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal Downplays Study Confirming Global Warming

  1. BA says:

    Is this any surprise? Murdoch, a billionaire(!) owns his own media empire in the “free world.” He and his minions can catapult the propaganda any way they choose. I live in an area where there is a 100% public supported radio station (not npr) and sometimes drive to another city with the same. In those two cities we have commercial liberal talk radio as well. during the mostly rural drive between the cities one will hear nothing but right wing blather along with a unhealthy dose of climate denial. We are told this is because of the market but what it is really about is who controls the media.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    When reality doesn’t agree with what your ideology (and advertiser interests) requires reality to be – you just ignore reality and call analysis of it “uncertain”.

    Murdoch and Co. (News Corp owns the WSJ) continuing their propaganda to the direct detriment of the future of the human race (over this century).

    Clear and present danger has rarely applied so succinctly to a single company before.

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Time For Action

    The major scientific organizations — with support from one or two folks in the 1% who are concerned about the world, future human generations, and other species — should run full-page statements in The WSJ and other major newspapers along the following lines:

    The statements should say, in essence, that The WSJ and Fox News are not giving their audiences accurate and responsible information about climate change, and that The WSJ and Fox News are indeed misleading their audiences.

    The statements should say that this problem (of irresponsible and misleading coverage of climate change, on the part of Fox News and The WSJ) is of deep concern to ALL of us. That’s because a democracy, in order to function well and to address its major problems effectively, necessarily depends on a responsibly informed citizenry. The fact that The WSJ and Fox News are misinforming and misleading the public — that they’re creating, contributing to, and fueling misunderstanding — is something that does and should concern us all.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote,

    “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

    Albert Einstein observed,

    “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.”

    Aldous Huxley wrote,

    “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

    And Bob Dylan sings,

    “So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

    I think that the leading scientific organizations — working together and speaking strongly and authoritatively, with one voice — should run full-page statements in the major newspapers, including in The WSJ, along these lines. At this point, doing anything less would be deeply insufficient and irresponsible. CAP, the major scientific organizations, and etc. should quickly find some financial support — full-page ads in the major newspapers aren’t all that expensive — to run such statements. There must be people in the “1%”, or even in the top 3% or 5%, who can afford to support such a campaign, and who would love to.

    As The WSJ spouts its nonsense and misleads folks, what are our responses? To run blog posts on-line? These posts are great, and necessary, but they are, of course, deeply insufficient.

    Doesn’t CP have close connections with/to the major scientific organizations, some of which are headquartered right there in Washington?? If so, why the heck are the scientific organizations doing so darn little?? What is the PROBLEM in Washington??? Here, I’m not merely talking about the politicians, or even mainly about them. Instead, I’m talking about everyone — every think-tank, progressive organization, scientific body, self-proclaimed thinker, and etc. — in Washington DC and within 50 miles of it. What is the PROBLEM?? Why is nothing getting done??

    Unless I start seeing some actual PROGRESS achieved by the so-called progressive organizations, I’ll be giving up on them until they change their own leadership. We are presently in the midst of the biggest leadership failure in the history of the galaxy, and that’s putting it mildly.



  4. EDpeak says:

    On the one hand: it would be foolish to leave such WSJ distortions and fabrications unanswered.

    On the other hand, this illustrates yet again how easily those who believe in science and protecting the environment get sucked into a game we CANNOT win since just the time/energy that gets used up plays into changing the subject from the massive evidence and the need to act.

    Quick! They just said the IPCC’s head has sex with dogs! Ok, now ClimateProgress and 100 other pro-science pro-environment blogs spend a HUGE effort, time, and energy, to prove that the lies are, well, lies…

    Not just our own time and energy but the attention span of the public.

    No, we should not ignore all such false claims, see first “on the one hand” point above.

    But we need to do it judiciously not just “picking our battles” but even the battles we get into, need to repeat a minimalist argument for immediate action, ever. single. time. Or darn near close to every single time. The “other side” is an Energizer Bunny of repetition (of lies like the top 10 in Skeptical Science among other examples) but they know the key is repetition.

    I’ve written a longer proposal for Minimalist Argument, can share with folks (econdemocracy atgmail dot com) it’s based on CO2 graph, not temp records. The short version:

    1. CO2 is the highest it’s been in at least 800,000 years (and compelling evidence it’s highest in 15,000,000 or so years as reported on this blog)

    2. Not only that, but the RATE of increase is the highest in 800,000 years and not just the highest, but about SIXTY times faster than the _fastest_ (pre-industrial) rise in those 800,000 years, as reported in 2006.

    3. Third ingredient: The Precautionary Principle.

    Mix these three and stir: Q.E.D. for the need for immediate action rather than sleepwalk while continuing this massive experiment whose parameters (per items 1 and 2) show we are clearly changing the “settings” of planet Earth on a massive and unprecedented way.

    Don’t get me wrong: keep talking about feedbacks, about summer arctic ice cover, keep debunking lies, keep mentioning the cooling stratosphere, etc..but always tie back to the above (or similar) minimalist argument the general public can grok easily and which can be explained very quickly (and which also has fewer straw men that can be used against it. Fewer, not ‘none’. They will play the “but CO2 was higher 200 million years ago” card but that’s easy to reply to)

    Ooops! Some “skeptic” just published a report claiming Al Gore _also_ has sex with dogs, got to spend hours and hours debunking that on our top 100 climate science and environmentalist blogs…! ;)

    Yes, we should debunk (most) such lies, but always, always end with and tie back to a minimalist argument like the above 3-point (or just items 1 and 3 if shorter still on time)

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This is the same Evil Empire that hacked the mobile ‘phones of thousands, spreading discord, suspicion and distrust amongst the victims. They deleted the messages of a murdered school-girl giving the impression that she still lived. They hacked the computers of business rivals. They had scores of private thugs following people, even the children of lawyers representing their victims,seeking out dirt with which to intimidate. They have intimidated and bullied politicians in several countries for decades, seeking advantage and pushing Murdoch’s anti-human far Right ideology. And they have led the climate destabilisation denial campaign, with near total bias, lies, misrepresentation and distortion, plus vicious character assassination of scientists and environmentalists. All in all, one of the most evil organisations in the world today, in my opinion at least.

  6. squidboy6 says:

    I’ve seen comments by CEOs in WSJ denying evolution and claiming that bankers were doing “God’s biding” in their deeds (what god do these people worship?).

    I was someplace waiting and the WSJ was there so I read it. Won’t happen again. I wouldn’t buy their rags nor pick one up out of curiosity again. Not surprised by these people.