Monday, September 8, 2014

Myth vs. Reality

It's particularly difficult to get a straight answer from the media.

For Example

* Journalists have reported the following about the science behind climate change:

• Miles O'Brien of CNN on whether "the Earth is melting because of carbon emissions": "The scientific debate is over."[1]
• Bill Blakemore of ABC on the "debate" over whether global warming is "man-made or natural": "After extensive searches, ABC News has found no such debate."[2]
• Katie Couric of CBS on whether "the world faces a 'planetary emergency' over climate change": "The scientific consensus is clear … [that it does]."[3]
• Jeffrey Toobin of CNN on whether global warming is a "problem": "[I]t's like acknowledging gravity. It is a scientific fact."[4]

* As of August 2011, 9,029 Ph.D. scientists including 3,805 atmospheric, earth, or environmental scientists have signed a petition stating:
There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.[5] [6] [7]  The legitimacy of the petition was later challenged.
As annoying as the scientific community can be, they do (usually) provide objective facts and analyses for us to consider rather than unhelpful exaggeration.

On rising sea levels

An Inconvenient Truth is an Academy Award-winning documentary about "Al Gore's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it."[8] In this documentary, Al Gore shows a computer simulation of what would happen to the shorelines of Florida and the San Francisco Bay if sea levels were to rise by twenty feet, while providing no timeframe for such an event to occur.[9]

* A 20-foot rise in sea level equals 8 to 34 times the full range of 110-year projections for sea-level rise in the 2007 IPCC report.[10]

* In his 1993 book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore wrote:
About 10 million people in Bangladesh will lose their homes and means of sustenance because of the rising sea level, due to global warming, in the next few decades. Where will they go? Whom will they displace? What political conflicts will result? That is only one example. According to some predictions, not long after Bangladesh feels the impact, up to 60 percent of the present population of Florida may have to be relocated. Where will they go?[11]
* Between 1993 and 2011, the population of Bangladesh increased from 119 million to 159 million people (34%),[12] and between 1990 and 2006, the coastal population of Florida increased from 10.1 million to 13.8 million people (37%).[13] [14]

* The average global sea level has been generally rising since 1860 or earlier, which is about 45 years before surface temperatures began to rise and 75 years before man-made emissions of CO2 reached 1% of natural emissions.[15] [16] [17]  

Myth vs. Reality, and public opinion:

* In a 2007 New York Times/CBS poll, 32% of Americans said "recent weather had been stranger than usual" and global warming was the cause. Ten years earlier, this view has held by 5% of Americans.[18]

* Along with the IPCC,[19] the following journalists or people given a platform by the media have linked warm or snow-free winter weather to global warming:

• Multiple reporters of the CBS Early Show: Bryant Gumbel: "We never get any snow." Mark McEwen: "Do you think it's global warming?" Bryant Gumbel: "Yes, yes." Mark McEwen: "Do you, Jane?" Jane Clayson: "Yeah." Mark McEwen: "We're unanimous, we all think it's global warming."[20]
• Reporter Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News: "Just before we left the United States for Italy we learned that January was the warmest January ever in all the recorded history of the U.S. And suddenly now, in this region, global warming is a hot issue as well."[21]
• Environmental lawyer and professor Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the Los Angeles Times: "Snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don't own a sled. But neighbors came to our home at Hickory Hill nearly every winter weekend to ride saucers and Flexible Flyers."[22]

* The following journalists or people given a platform by the media have linked cold or snowy winter weather to global warming:

• Atmospheric scientist Judah Cohen in the New York Times: "The reality is, we're freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it."[23]
• Political strategist Robert Creamer in the Huffington Post: "What's more, it turns out that global warming does in fact cause more frequent, more intense storms of all sorts -- including snow storms."[24]
• Agence France-Presse: "Counterintuitive but true, say scientists: a string of freezing European winters scattered over the last decade has been driven in large part by global warming."[25]

* The following journalists or people given a platform by the media have cited cold or snowy weather as evidence that global warming is not happening:

• Commentator Eric Bolling on Fox News: "Sixty-three percent of the country is now covered in snow, and it's breaking Al Gore's heart because the snow is also burying his global warming theory."[26]
• Geophysicist David Deming in the Washington Times: "Al Gore says global warming is a planetary emergency. It is difficult to see how this can be so when record low temperatures are being set all over the world. In 2007, hundreds of people died, not from global warming, but from cold weather hazards."[27]
• Reporter Katie Rook in the National Post, quoting a fisherman: "We've had such cold weather, -40C, -35C. That's not normal cold for us. We listen to the people calling for that global warming and they said there was going to be no ice and our seals were going to drown and all this stuff."[28]

* The following journalists or people given a platform by the media have linked warm summer weather to global warming:

• Environmental scientist Stephen Schneider on ABC's Good Morning America: "While this heat wave, like all other heat waves, is made by Mother Nature, we've been fooling around by turning the knob and making it a little bit hotter."[29]
• Commentator Kate Shephard in the U.K. Guardian: "[I]f you care to listen to climate scientists, we're in for a whole lot more days of skyrocketing heat in the future, not to mention heat-related deaths. So maybe this should serve as a good reminder that climate change has deadly consequences."[30]
• Reporter Mark Rice-Oxley in the Christian Science Monitor, quoting weatherman Paul Mott: "Global warming could well be contributing to this current hot spell."[31]

* The following journalists or people given a platform by the media have stated that global warming isn't evidenced by hot or cold spells:

• Atmospheric physicist Fred Singer in the Washington Times, quoting geography professor Charles H.V. Ebert: "Patterns of relatively wet, dry, hot or cold weather usually run in six- to-eight-year cycles. But media attention, combined with our poor memories of past weather, tend to generate unjustified alarm for our climatic future."[32]
• Agence France-Presse: "[E]stablishing a link between climate change and extreme weather is a controversial matter. … [S]cientists caution there is not enough evidence to blame global warming for recent extreme weather, and there are those who say there is no proof that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent."[33]
• Reporter Randolph E. Schmid of the Associated Press, quoting meteorologist Alexander E. MacDonald: "People can get deceived. Every time there is a warm spell doesn't mean global warming is here, and every time you get a cold spell doesn't mean it's disproven. There are changes over daily or monthly or yearly or even decadal time scales that have always been occurring. So if you want to understand what's happening with climate, you have to put it in the context of normal variabilities."[34]

Myth vs. Reality, a parting shot

* In 2000, James J. McCarthy, a Harvard oceanographer and IPCC co-chair,[35] saw a mile-wide stretch of open ocean at the North Pole while serving as a guest lecturer on an Arctic tourist cruise. He informed the New York Times, which ran a front-page story stating that the "North Pole is melting," the "last time scientists can be certain the pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago," and this "is more evidence that global warming may be real and already affecting climate."[38]  Other media outlets such as the Associated Press did likewise.[36] [37]

* Two days after the New York Times article was published, the London Times quoted a Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge stating, "Claims that the North Pole is now ice-free for the first time in 50 million years [are] complete rubbish, absolute nonsense."[39] [40] Eight days later, the New York Times published a correction stating that the original article "misstated the normal conditions of the sea ice," a "clear spot has probably opened at the pole before," and 10% of the "high Arctic region" is "clear of ice in a typical summer."[41] [42]

* This picture shows two U.S. submarines surfacing at the North Pole in August of 1962:
There's more, of course, but we can't count on the media to be a particularly useful source of information, can we.

Thanks and a hat-tip to for their detailed inquiry on a variety of concerns.