How The Media Confuses People Regarding Climate Change

I want to highlight two stories that show how some parts of the media distort the truth on climate change.

The first comes to us via Bishop Hill and it recounts the story of an encounter between a skeptic journalist and a reporter for the Toronto Star. As can be shown in the video, the Toronto Star reporter flat out lies in the article she wrote on the subject. It turns out that the skeptic was not the bad guy and the reporter was not the good woman. The 9-year-old kid comes off okay, though.

The second example is from the Guardian, the UK’s self-appointed (or self-anointed) champion of climate activism.

Google News returns 66 articles covering a new paper in the journal Science. The paper is titled,”Sea Level Rise Due to Polar Ice-Sheet Mass Loss During Past Warm Periods.” I didn’t read them all but I read enough of them to know that the Guardian missed something that others did not.

The paper shows that in past warm periods, much of the ice melted from the polar ice caps and Greenland and contributed greatly to sea level rise, as much as six meters more than current levels. This is not exactly news–we’ve known that there were ice-free periods on Earth where the seas were much higher.

But other articles on the paper and its subject managed to provide some perspective. As CBS News reported, “The ominous aspect to this is that CO2 levels are continuing to rise, so we are entering uncharted territory,” Clark said. “What is not as certain is the time frame, which is less well-constrained. We could be talking many centuries to a few millennia to see the full impact of melting ice sheets.”

That’s something the Guardian neglected to mention. They’re happy to write, “Dutton’s analysis was able to get better estimates of the upper bounds of sea level rise. And those results don’t bode well for the world’s coastlines as they showed that sea levels were up to 42 ft higher than the present.

“These numbers are consistent with our study on sea level commitment,” Anders Levermann, a sea level rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research who authored a 2013 study, said.

But there is no mention of the time frame. This is what the Guardian says: “The big outstanding question — and the one that’s most relevant to people living along the coasts — is just how long it could take sea levels to rise to such great heights. The process isn’t linear. It’s currently accelerating and that trend is expected to continue.”

So, something that has happened repeatedly before and may happen 3,000 years in the future if nothing else interferes with the climate is presented as a man-made event that could happen at any time.

It is clear that many media organizations have made an editorial commitment to support activists advocating robust action on climate change. I have no objection to that–privately owned media companies are entitled to have a point of view,  although it is usually better off in the opinion pages rather than coloring beat reporting.

However, stories like this are at best an advertorial for activists beating the drum for an outlier view of climate sensitivity. At worst it is propaganda.

11 responses to “How The Media Confuses People Regarding Climate Change

  1. As you know, I’m convinced we lack the fossil fuel resources to put so much CO2 in the air. In recent months I stepped up my comments because I saw a surge of alarmist papers based on the RCP8.5 forecasts (the ones I think are inflated way beyond what’s reasonable).

    I’ve also found a couple of papers (one published in Science in Jan 2015), which seem written to provide “peer reviewed literature” to underpin the IPCC’s RCP8.5. They are typical for a paper about fossil fuel resources written in a scientific publication with a heavy political agenda, include nice graphs and tables but lack the underpinning logic, and it’s easy to shoot holes into the contents (so much for peer review).

    Where am I leading? If the fossil fuel resources are indeed going to run short we should see their price increase relentlessly, and this will make renewables more competitive. Overall emissions should stabilize and drop.

    And now I have a question for you: hypothetically, let’s say CO2 content is 600 ppm, and stabilizes at that level for a couple of years….this implies the carbon sinks are removing as much as is being added. But let’s say the emissions begin to drop simply because we don’t have fossil fuels at accessible prices….do the sinks continue to remove CO2 at the previous rate? And if the sinks continue removing CO2 then does the CO2 content begin to drop even though we are still burning fossil fuels, albeit at a lower rate? And if the CO2 concentration drops doesn’t the forcing drop as well?

    Has anybody modeled this using an honest model? I’m distrustful of the IPCC CMIP5 pathways, because they appear to be juiced up with methane and other gases, which allows them to jack up temperatures turning small knobs most reviewers don’t look at. Can somebody try to run an ensemble with the Russel ocean model to see what happens?

    • Fernando,
      We are no where near close to running out of carbon based fossil fuels.
      But you are right: We do not have enough carbon based fuels to radically alter the climate.

    • Wow, are you psychic or what? I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. You just wrote it up better than I would have.

      Why would a sink shrink automatically just because emissions lowered. If a sink stayed the same size for two extra years, what would that do to concentrations?

      • “Why would a sink shrink automatically just because emissions lowered?”
        I don’t know why one would think so, but there was a discussion (at Climate Etc.) with aTTP in which he held that opinion. For example, he wrote, “So, for example, we currently emit 10GtC/yr, with about 5GtC/yr going into the natural sinks. If we were to suddenly stop emitting CO2, the natural sinks wouldn’t suddenly absorb an extra 5GtC the following year, because they will also reemit some of the CO2, they absorbed in previous years.”

        Later in the thread, aTTP provided a reference to a model which he claimed supports that view. Perhaps aTTP’s comments in that thread will enlighten you as to his reasoning.

    • You can get a pretty good idea of the rate of removal of C2 from the atmosphere by inspecting a single year’s data from the Keeling curve.

      Here is a plot of a single year of the Mauna Loa CO2 trace.

      http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/esrl-co2/from:2001.1/to:2002.1

      From the drop in CO2 over the period 2001.3 to 2001.7, from ~373.8 to ~368.2 = 5.6ppm over a four month period, ie 16.8ppm per annum or ~6 years per 100ppm as a result of the growing season in the Northern hemisphere, it should be possible to get a good idea of the natural depletion rate of CO2.

  2. Many parts of the MSM are no longer ‘confusing’ people, they’re positively attempting to mislead them.

    Fortunately, with the internet and through the efforts of the likes of Ezra Levant, some ‘reporters’ such as Catherine Porter can be exposed.

  3. Tom, Joe Public is right:
    There is nothing that is confusing going on.
    It is clear that the goal is to push the hype and fear of a cliamte apocalypse, no matter the facts or lack of facts. The only acceptable perspective is one of doom. The only acceptable difference of opinion is if the doom has already started or if it might wait a few more years to start.
    *NONE* of the major “mainstream” media will interview a Curry, a Pielke, etc. on this.
    All of the major media will repeat unchallenged nearly any claim from even a kook like McKibben or Hansen.

  4. Ezra Levant’s “Readers Letter” published by the Toronto Star:

    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2015/07/07/ezra-levant-begs-to-differ.html

  5. Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
    Hopefully those on the periphery will be jolted awake by the constant stream…although I won’t be getting my hopes up.

  6. It is clear that many media organizations have made an editorial commitment to support activists advocating robust action on climate change. I have no objection to that–privately owned media companies are entitled to have a point of view, although it is usually better off in the opinion pages rather than coloring beat reporting

    .Surely in a free world you can’t stop papers from selecting their style. However, BBC, and similar broadcasting units in many western countries are part of the climate alarmism movement. How could you cope that? Our tax money is used to push activism. The journalists and commentators are pretty openly quoting and supporting Greenpeace and other environment related pressure groups. Science be forgotten, if it doesn’t suggest some dire consequences.

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