May 18, 2010

Boston Globe - Worst News Story on Global Warming, Ever?

Joe Romm, a well respected climate scientist states that the front page article written by Beth Daley in the May 16, 2010 Sunday Boston Globe "qualifies as one of the worst news articles ever published on global warming.

Problem 1 - The Globe article starts with the headline - A cooling trend 

When the headline is a blatant lie, you know the article can't be good no matter what else is said. The facts are we've had consistent warming now for decades. The last decade 2000 - 2009 was the warmest decade ever, warmer than 1990 - 1999, which was warmer than 1980 - 1989, which was warmer than 1970 - 1979. On top of that, we have set all time records this year for global temperatures with January through April being the hottest January through April on record. Here is the data from NASA

Of course the Globe will claim that the headline is really about the cooling of the relationship between two MIT scientists, but then that claim and the headline are both intentionally deceptive. What newspaper could seriously believe that a strained relationship between two professors was worthy of a front page headline article? 

Problem 2 - The subheadline "... shows how hard climate consensus will be"
is also deceptive. The author's main point throughout this article is that if 2 MIT scientists can't reach agreement on this topic, then there can be no hope of consensus on climate change. Nothing is farther from the truth, but the author does not mention the many statements representing thousands of scientists of scientific consensus on climate change, only a few of which are listed here including

There is compelling, comprehensive, and consistent objective evidence that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten our societies and the ecosystems on which we depend.

We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. 

The scientific evidence is clear: global climate 
change caused by human activities
is occurring now, and it is a growing 
threat to society.

Problem 3 - Creating a false impression of balanced reporting

When an article presents two "experts"  on opposite sides of a debate, it presents a false picture to the public that the scientific community is evenly split on this issue. The truth is that scientists are not evenly split on this issue. E
very national academy of science in the world has come to the same conclusion. 
There are 100 peer-reviewed, published, scientific articles that have found greenhouse gas emissions are causing climate change for every 1 paper that doubts that conclusion.  

The author also fails to point out that 12 other MIT scientists have published a paper that states that the effects of global warming are likely to be double that of previous estimates. The facts are that the vast majority of Lindzen's colleagues at MIT disagree with his position quite strenuously. 

Problem 4 - The author chooses a known climate skeptic Roger Pielke as the tie breaker for this debate. The following link is Foreign Policy's list of climate skeptics, which they state is designed to allow you sort out legitimate concerns from the nonsense. 

Pielke is certainly spouting nonsense in his quote in the Globe article, which implies that we need to wait for consensus of all 6.5 billion people on the planet before taking action on climate change. "If these two guys can't agree... how can we expect 6.5 billion people to?" 

Problem 5 - Near-libelous attacks on Kerry Emanuel. I'll quote Joe Romm here. 

Really, has journalism sunk so low that a reporter for a major newspaper simply reprints any charge, no matter how outlandish, against a highly respected scientist like Emanuel, with not one single substantiating fact or independent quote?
Shame on Beth Daley and shame on the Boston Globe for running this piece.  They should quickly run an apology to Emanuel.

UPDATE:   Since I have interviewed Emanuel in the past, I sent him an e-mail requesting a quote for the record, responding to this outrageous charge by Lindzen that the Globe stenographer reprinted.  He answered:
"The only group that has really profited from the denial of global climate change is the media, who have a strong vested interest in keeping a debate going. You are correct that I never said to Lindzen or anyone else that we should take advantage of the situation for the benefit of the department; this is pure fabrication."
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