Yesterday I emailed a reporter for the Portland Oregonian that writing a story about global warming and including a mention about how some are skeptical the planet is getting hotter is akin to ending a story about a fossil discovery with "but some scientists doubt evolution is real."
That would be absurd. Evolution is a scientific truth. So is global warming. There's no doubt among the vast majority of reputable researchers in either field about these facts.
So it bothered me when the reporter, Scott Learn, tossed in this sentence near the end of a story about how a national assessment shows the Pacific Northwest will be adversely affected by global warming.
Global warming skeptics note that temperatures in the nation and in the Northwest have remained fairly flat since 1998, a hot year, despite increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Well, creationist crazies also doubt that transitional fossils exist, but they do.
Global warming crazies are equally deluded when they seize on some irrelevant aspect of the vast corpus of scientific evidence supporting human-caused climate change and claim this proves their otherwise unprovable point.
In my email I told Learn:
l appreciated the reporter's prompt reply, where he acknowledged that my point about the limitations of short-term data is a good one. For sure.
That's why I can't understand why Learn mentioned the 1998-2012 time span at all, especially since this is the new battleline global warming skeptics have retreated to in their fight against the facts -- which keep on winning.
Last month Phil Slait, the Bad Astronomy blogger, wrote a great piece for Slate: "Doubling Down on Climate Change Denial." It starts off with:
Oh, those wacky professional climate change deniers! Once again, they’ve banded together a passel of people, 90 percent of whom aren’t even climatologists, and had them sign a nearly fact-free opinion piece in the Financial Post, claiming global warming isn’t real. It’s an astonishing example of nonsense so ridiculous I would run out of synonyms for “bilge” before adequately describing it.
The Op-Ed is directed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has recently, and thankfully, been vocal about the looming environmental catastrophe of global warming. The deniers’ letter takes him to task for this, but doesn’t come within a glancing blow of reality.
The letter itself is based on a single claim. So let’s be clear: If that claim is wrong, so is the rest of the letter.
Guess what? That claim is wrong. So blatantly wrong, in fact, it’s hard to imagine anyone could write it with a straight face. It says:
“The U.K. Met Office recently released data showing that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years.”
This is simply, completely, and utterly false.
Let's absorb that scientific saying again: "simply, completely, and utterly false." Yet that falsehood was repeated in the Oregonian's story about how global warming will affect the Northwest. It shouldn't have been.
Here's how the United Kingdom's official climate researchers responded to the false claim of no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years.
The linear trend from August 1997 (in the middle of an exceptionally strong El Nino) to August 2012 (coming at the tail end of a double-dip La Nina) is about 0.03°C/decade, amounting to a temperature increase of 0.05°C over that period, but equally we could calculate the linear trend from 1999, during the subsequent La Nina, and show a more substantial warming.
As we’ve stressed before, choosing a starting or end point on short-term scales can be very misleading. Climate change can only be detected from multi-decadal timescales due to the inherent variability in the climate system. If you use a longer period from HadCRUT4 the trend looks very different. For example, 1979 to 2011 shows 0.16°C/decade (or 0.15°C/decade in the NCDC dataset, 0.16°C/decade in GISS). Looking at successive decades over this period, each decade was warmer than the previous – so the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s, and the 2000s were warmer than both. Eight of the top ten warmest years have occurred in the last decade.
Over the last 140 years global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.8ºC. However, within this record there have been several periods lasting a decade or more during which temperatures have risen very slowly or cooled. The current period of reduced warming is not unprecedented and 15 year long periods are not unusual.
Now, I realize that newspaper reporters are overworked and underpaid.
But it only takes a few minutes a day to follow the latest science on global warming through Climate Progress and other reputable scientific sources. If I can do that, Scott Learn and other reporters who write about this subject can also do it.
Knowing the difference between responsible scientific difference of opinion and climate change denying bullshit is key for anyone reporting on global warming. It's highly irresponsible to pretend there's a genuine controversy among climatologists about whether the planet is warming because of humans.
There isn't. The Earth is getting hotter. Because of greenhouse gases. End of story.
Yet Learn sent me a link to an earlier piece he'd written in April 2012, "Global warming hiatus in recent years spurs skepticism."
Now, 2012 turned out to be the hottest year in United States history. Even Oregon, which along with Washington missed most of the heat that scorched almost all of the other states, had its 13th hottest year in the last 118 years.
The skeptics quoted by Learn in his stories are simply wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. They shouldn't be given any print space in Oregon's largest newspaper. Or any newspaper, except on the opinon and comics pages.
Chuck Wiese, for example, is utterly unqualified to opine on global warming. He's a meteorologist with a B.A. degree. He's an accomplice of right-wing radio's Lars Larson, as I wrote about in "Lars Larson's lies about global warming."
I survived ten minutes or so of Larson a few days ago, but just barely. The combined scientific ignorance of Lars and a global warming-denying sidekick he had on, Chuck Wiese, was astounding.
And intensely disturbing.
Three years ago I criticized Larson for joking about how global warming is going to be good for Oregon. He's still up to his head-in-the-sand tricks. Now his brain-dead theory is that the Earth is cooling rapidly, so if big bad government limits our nation's carbon footprint, people are going to freeze to death when their furnace fuel is rationed.
Or something like that.
It was hard to follow the logic of Larson and Wiese, since they didn't use any in their blathering about how climate change/global warming science is a fraud.
I'll close with some opinionating which, unlike Wiese and other global warming skeptics, I'll admit rests only on my own subjective impression.
The Oregonian seems to have changed, both editorially and journalistically. I'm a long-time daily reader of the Oregonian. I used to view the newspaper as a highly credible news source, with a moderately liberal-leaning editorial stance.
Now the opinion pages have gotten much more conservative after the arrival of editor Erik Lukens, whose previous job was with the way-right Bend Bulletin. And I sense a similar change of tone in the news section. Perhaps not to the same degree as in the Oregonian editorials, but noticeable nonetheless.
My "conspiracy theory," which, again, I'll admit as such, is that the Oregonian (like most newspapers) is having a tough time making money in this increasingly digital age. It seems reasonable that Oregonian executives would conclude that expanding readership is necessary.
Which means looking beyond fact-based liberals/progressives, and feeding right-wingers some unscientific, evidence-free red meat on both the editorial and news pages of the sort that excites Fox News viewers.
Hey, I could be wrong. I just keep reading stuff in Oregonian stories and opinion pieces that make me think, "Wow, that doesn't make any sense."
Like, there's a possibility global warming has stopped because of recent temperature data. Huh? Recently the U.K.'s "Guardian" newspaper editorialized, "Now no one can deny the world is getting warmer."
Except for a few crazies, who shouldn't be quoted in the Portland Oregonian. I wish Scott Learn and other reporters would take this excerpt from the Guardian editorial to heart:
From this perspective, it might be tempting to sneer at the US over its response to the challenge of climate change. Britain has little to be smug about, however, a point that was demonstrated last week by media coverage of the Met Office's updated forecast of likely global warming over the next five years.
In revising downwards, albeit slightly, its previous expectation for temperature rises from now until 2017, the Met Office found itself at the midst of a PR shambles. In their dozens, climate change sceptics charged forwards to claim this data showed that global warming has stopped, a completely misleading suggestion that was not properly challenged by journalists.