Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Convenient Omission

Well, this morning Fox Nation links to a lovely bit of ClimateDepot skulduggery:
The New York Times reports that the record cold of 2009 is due to natural variations and even warned skeptics of man-made global warming not to be "buoyed" by the brutal cold. ["Brutal cold"? The temperature in NYC failed to reach 90°F in June or July. Brrr. - ed]
Ok. Fair enough, "natural variations" caused a record cold breaking summer in 2009, according to the Times. But the question looms, how did the paper explain record warmth nearly a decade ago? Surely, if natural variations in climate can cause a record-breaking cold summer, then it would stand to reason that record breaking warmth would have a natural cause as well?

Not exactly. The Times effortlessly attributed record warmth back in 2000 to man-made global warming, noting the warm temperatures were "consistent" with model predictions.
Wow, that does seem pretty bad. But there's this one problem: it's completely false. Let's skip over the fact that the "record cold of 2009" is strictly regional (much of the Pacific Northwest just finished a record-setting warm July) and concentrate on the literal truth of ClimateDepot's claim that the Times "effortlessly attributed record warmth back in 2000 to man-made global warming".

Unfortunately for ClimateDepot, the original Times article explicitly says otherwise:
But while the winter warming trend is consistent with the projections, [NCDC climatologist Mike Changery] added, "the jury is still out" on just what has caused the especially warm winters of the last three years.

Global warming aside, scientists said prime suspects were the natural phenomena known as El Nino and La Nina. These are sea-surface temperature oscillations in the tropical Pacific that touch off changes in wintertime atmospheric circulation.

In different ways, El Nino in 1997-98 and La Nina in the last two winters influenced circulation patterns that kept most of the United States relatively warm most of the time.

(Emphasis added)
This is "effortlessly blaming" global warming? "Prime suspects were the natural phenomena known as El Nino and La Nina"? Srsly?

Now, the ClimateDepot post did—belatedly—add this:
The New York Times article did—belatedly—add "the jury is still out" however on the complete causes of record warmth in 2000.
The difference is that the Times article had an honest headline:
U.S. Sets Another Record for Winter Warmth
ClimateDepot did not:
Media Spin: New York Times Blames 2009's Record Cold on Natural Factors -- But Blamed Record Warmth in 2000 on Man-Made Global Warming!

Monday, August 3, 2009

So Much For the Inhofe List

One of the climate change skeptics' mantras is, "A growing number of distinguished scientists dispute the whole idea of human-induced climate change." Most of the time, skeptics simply state this as fact, without evidence; but when "evidence" is offered, in most cases it will be either the thoroughly debunked "Oregon Petition" or, more recently, oil state Senator James Inhofe's Senate Minority Report, which supposedly lists 700-odd "dissenting scientists."

Those of us who believe that the overwhelming majority of scientists are right about global warming have long harbored deep suspicions regarding the actual qualifications of the scientists on Inhofe's list. These suspicions are now confirmed, in spades.

The Center for Inquiry, which published the wonderful Skeptical Inquirer magazine, has stepped in and done the dirty work. CFI has released The Credibility Project, an in-depth review of all of the list's signers (687 at the time of the report). The key finding, from CFI's press release:

After assessing 687 individuals named as “dissenting scientists” in the January 2009 version of the United States Senate Minority Report, the Center for Inquiry’s Credibility Project found that:
  • Slightly fewer than 10 percent could be identified as climate scientists.
  • Approximately 15 percent published in the recognizable refereed literature on subjects related to climate science.
  • Approximately 80 percent clearly had no refereed publication record on climate science at all.
  • Approximately 4 percent appeared to favor the current IPCC-2007 consensus and should not have been on the list.
Further examination of the backgrounds of these individuals revealed that a significant number were identified as meteorologists, and some of these people were employed to report the weather.
(Meteorologists, it should be noted, are not climate scientists—as smart and as competent as they might be, they study entirely different things and typically have little relevant expertise.)

Lest anyone think that CFI is pulling these statistics out of thin air, it has provided a detailed spreadsheet that lists each individual signer along with his or her qualifications.

This is yeoman work. Well done, CFI.