Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beeb's "Own Goal"

Well, the BBC is at it again. Last year, it published a poorly-written and widely-misquoted piece claiming that temperatures had not risen globally since 1998. Now, in a blog post, the Beeb's Tom Feilders makes the above claim. Unfortunately, in order to do so, he has to twist what climate scientist Mojib Latif actually says into something totally unrecognizable.

Professor Latif has been looking into the North Atlantic Oscillation and thinks that we're going to see a period of cooling before it starts getting warm again. Not everyone agrees with him, but fine. Such disagreements are part of how science works. The key is that even Latif thinks it's strictly temporary.

But the BBC's Feilden grabs the ball and kicks it into the wrong goal:
The global warming narrative - that mankind's addiction to burning fossil fuels is rapidly changing the climate - may be about to go seriously off message.
With apologies to Al Gore, professor Latif's finding is something of an "inconvenient truth" for the global warming debate.
Not only is this a completely wrong interpretation of the science, it's flatly contradicted by what Latif himself says in the same blog post. Feilden quotes Latif:
"The strong warming effect that we experienced during the last decades will be interrupted. Temperatures will be more or less steady for some years, and thereafter will pickup again and continue to warm".
That's pretty clear, right? AGW hasn't gone away, and it isn't wrong; it's just being temporarily overwhelmed, in Latif's opinion, by natural factors. This isn't going to surprise any climate scientist.

There's a lovely bit of irony in the post, too:
Professor Philip Stott believes climate sceptics may seize on the research as evidence that the whole global warming hypothesis is fundamentally flawed: If natural cycles can interrupt, or even reverse climate change, maybe we don't need to take it so seriously.
Ya think, Professor? Is it possible that some yahoo will take what Latif says and write a headline like, oh, "An inconvenient truth about global warming"?

Predictably, FOX Nation takes the ball and runs with it:

But, just so we can take some comfort from knowing that not everyone is insane, here's how a real publication headlines its version of the story:

Update (October 2, 2001)

It turns out that in the portion of his talk that everyone is quoting ("It may well happen that you enter a decade, or maybe even two, when the temperature cools, relative to the present level"), Prof. Latif wasn't predicting cooling at all. If you listen to the audio of his presentation, this is just a hypothetical. The only actual prediction in the talk is a brief reference to earlier work by Keenlyside et al. For more, see DeepClimate's spectacular deconstruction of how Latif's presentation has been abused by the contrarian faction.

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