The reason why big league journalists have to try much harder than they have been to get the climate story right is that when they get it wrong, it opens the door for the deniers to quote them and glom on to their (supposed) higher credibility, dragging the journalists down to their level in the process.

http://grist.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/5955.jpgThe latest media version of the children’s game Telephone is uber-denier George Will quoting Andy Revkin.  I and others thoroughly debunked the latest piece of misanalysis from the one-time paper of record — NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation.  In particular, I showed that Revkin’s primary source, the UK’s Met Office found “the past 10 years has seen only a 0.07°C increase in global average temperature” — a 0.13°F increase — more than 10 times the rate of warming Revkin asserted in the original version of his piece and around which he based almost his entire argument that temperatures had plateaued.

In fact, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which I have argued is a better temperature record, finds a 0.19°C (0.34°F) warming over the past decade (see Deep Climate for details).  Indeed, the GISS data shows that the 2000s, easily the hottest decade in recorded history by far, warmed much faster than the 1990s (which had been the hottest decade in recorded history).

That is not a plateau — and it certainly isn’t cooling.  Temperatures are, if anything, accelerating — but not in a monotonic fashion.  The facts, however, have never gotten in the way of George Will and the fact-checkers fib-approvers of the Washington Post (see “Memo to Post: If George Will quotes a lie, it’s still a lie” and “The Post, abandoning any journalistic standards, lets George Will publish a third time global warming lies debunked on its own pages“), who published yet another mistake-riddled, disinformation-pushing piece, “Cooling Down the Cassandras,” which opens by quoting the erroneous NYT headline and lede:

 

Plateau in Temperatures
Adds Difficulty to Task
Of Reaching a Solution
– New York Times, Sept. 23

In this headline on a New York Times story about the difficulties confronting people alarmed about global warming, note the word “plateau.” It dismisses the unpleasant — to some people — fact that global warming is maddeningly (to the same people) slow to vindicate their apocalyptic warnings about it.

The “difficulty” — the “intricate challenge,” the Times says — is “building momentum” for carbon reduction “when global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.” That was in the Times’s first paragraph.

As one of my physics professors at MIT used to say of such nonsense, “Precise, but inaccurate.”

I am not going to debunk this again, although I am going to return to this cooling nonsense later today.  I wrote above that Revkin “based his entire argument that temperatures had plateaued” around the original misquoting of the Met Office.  Revkin did rely on one other source, Mojib Latif, a scientist that Will also quotes — and misquotes.  I interviewed Dr. Latif today, and he confirmed my interpretation of his work — and made some very strong statements about the misuse of his findings — which is to say that Revkin didn’t get it right and Will got it very, very wrong.

For now let me note two other inanities in Will’s piece:

Warnings about cataclysmic warming increase in stridency as evidence of warming becomes more elusive. A recent report from the United Nations Environment Program predicts an enormous 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit increase by the end of the century even if nations fulfill their most ambitious pledges concerning reduction of carbon emissions. The U.S. goal is an 80 percent reduction by 2050. But Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute says that would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the 1910 level. On a per capita basis, it would mean emissions approximately equal to those in 1875.

That will not happen. So, we are doomed. So, why try?

Yes, the new delayer two-step, dancing straight from denying the problem to saying it can’t be solved.

I wonder what the per capita use of slide rules is today — probably well below 1910 levels.  And what is the average U.S. household’s horse ownership per capita?  I’m guessing that would be pre-Columbian levels.

In fact, the United States is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 levels either proactively starting with the passage of a climate bill in the next several months or desperately starting some time after that.

America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence about climate change. Alarmists will fight this because the first casualty would be the carefully cultivated and media-reinforced myth of consensus — the bald assertion that no reputable scientist doubts the gravity of the crisis, doubts being conclusive evidence of disreputable motives or intellectual qualifications.

This is the same as the luddite U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeking “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century” on global warming — except Will is smart enough not to ape the Chamber by bringing up Scopes.

In fact, back in 2001, Bush tried this commission trick as
a delaying tactic.  He asked for a report by the National Research Council (NRC), which reported:

“Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities… “The IPCC’s conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.”

Now it’s eight years later, and the evidence is even stronger.  As the Union of Concerned Scientists writes today:

But, oddly, Will ends his column with a suggestion: “America needs a national commission appointed to assess the evidence about climate change.”

Huh?

Will seems not to be reading his own paper. As Union of Concerned Scientists climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel wrote in a Washington Post letter to the editor, “Mr. Will should take a look at the federal government’s recent report ‘Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States’ to find out the facts.”

If Will had read the report, which was produced by a consortium of scientists at 13 federal agencies and several major universities and research institutes, he would have found among its key findings:

  • Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
  • Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
  • Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
  • The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles.
  • But Will only reads the New York Times, not actual scientific reports — and that is not much better than playing the children’s game of Telephone.

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