In latest attack on climate science, conservative media distort BBC interview with CRU's Phil Jones
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG
Following a February 13 BBC Q&A with Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, several conservative media outlets have distorted Jones' comments to suggest that they undermine the consensus that human activities are contributing to warming global temperatures. These media outlets have seized on Jones' statement that since 1995, the warming trend "is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level" to falsely suggest that temperatures since the mid 1990s disprove global warming and to falsely claim, in Jim Hoft's words, that Jones "admit[ted] there is no global warming."
CLAIM: Jones' "admission" that there hasn't been statistically significant warming in 15 years damages case for global warming
Right-wing blogs seized on Daily Mail article stating: "Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995." As Media Matters' Brian Frederick noted, right-wing blogs have cited a February 14 Daily Mail article on Jones BBC interview. The Daily Mail headline stated that Jones "admits" that "[t]here has been no global warming since 1995" and the article said that Jones "admitted that in the last 15 years there had been no 'statistically significant' warming, although he argued this was a blip rather than the long-term trend."
Daily Caller: "The global warming movement is facing a one-two punch today." From a February 14 post by The Daily Caller headlined "Scientist admits there has been no global warming since 1995":
The global warming movement is facing a one-two punch today, as a key figure of the Climategate scandal admitted that there is no evidence the earth has warmed recently and new research suggests existing records aren't sufficient support for global warming claims.
Hoft cites statement there has been no global warming since 1995 to claim Jones "Admits Man-made Global warming Is a Farce." From a February 14 Gateway Pundit blog post:
Top Climate Scientist Admits Man-made Global Warming Is a Farce-
* Data for vital 'hockey stick graph' has gone missing
* There has been no global warming since 1995
* Warming periods have happened before - but NOT due to man-made changes
Fact: Longer-term data establishes warming trend
Jones: Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms" is "less likely for shorter periods." When asked, "Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming," Jones stated:
Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.
Met Office: Climate shows "continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages." The Met Office states: "In 1998 the world experienced the warmest year since records began. In the decade since, however, this high point has not been surpassed. Some have seized on this as evidence that global warming has stopped, or even that we have entered a period of 'global cooling'. This is far from the truth and climate scientists have, in fact, recognised that a temporary slowdown in warming is possible even under increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions." [Met Office, accessed 9/22/09]
The Met Office further notes:
After three decades of warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, why would there suddenly be a period of relative temperature stability -- despite more greenhouse gases being emitted than ever before? This is because of what is known as internal climate variability. In the same way that our weather can be warm and sunny one day, cool and wet the next, so our climate naturally varies from year to year, and decade to decade.
Before the twentieth century, when man-made greenhouse gas emissions really took off, there was an underlying stability to global climate. The temperature varied from year to year, or decade to decade, but stayed within a certain range and averaged out to an approximately steady level.
In the twentieth century we have had continued variability, but an underlying trend of warming in the previously steady long-term averages. This is what we observed in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Now we have seen a decade of little change in the average global temperature -- but that doesn't mean climate change has stopped, it's just another part of natural variability.
2000-2009 was warmest decade on record. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The U.K. Met Office, and the World Meteorological Organisation have all stated that 2000-2009 was the warmest decade on record for the globe.
CLAIM: Jones revealed "that whole global warming thing may never have existed"
Hoft: "Climategate Scientist Admits There Is No Global Warming." Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft asserted in a headline on February 14, "It Was All a Lie: Climategate Scientist Admits There Is No Global Warming."
Johnson Jr.: "Talk about a U-Turn, that whole global warming thing may never have existed." During the February 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, teasing a segment on Jones' BBC interview, Peter Johnson Jr. stated: "Talk about a U-Turn, that whole global warming thing may never have existed. What a key scientist is now saying that could debunk the whole theory."
Fact: Jones said "I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed" and "there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity."
From the February 13 BBC Q&A with Jones:
E - How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?
I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 - there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.
CLAIM: Jones said "the recent warming trend that began in 1975 is not at all different than two other planetary warming phases since 1850"
From a February 13 NewsBusters post:
In a lengthy Q&A published at BBC.com Saturday, Jones also said: the recent warming trend that began in 1975 is not at all different than two other planetary warming phases since 1850; there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995, and; it is possible the Medieval Warm Period was indeed a global phenomenon thereby making the temperatures seen in the latter part of the 20th century by no means unprecedented.
Fact: Jones said causes of recent warming differ from previous warming phases
From the February 13 BBC Q&A with Jones:
D - Do you agree that natural influences could have contributed significantly to the global warming observed from 1975-1998, and, if so, please could you specify each natural influence and express its radiative forcing over the period in Watts per square metre.
This area is slightly outside my area of expertise. When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system). Natural influences (from volcanoes and the Sun) over this period could have contributed to the change over this period. Volcanic influences from the two large eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991) would exert a negative influence. Solar influence was about flat over this period. Combining only these two natural influences, therefore, we might have expected some cooling over this period.
H - If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?
The fact that we can't explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing - see my answer to your question D.
Right-wing media relentlessly attack climate science with misleading claims
The distortions of Jones interview with BBC are the latest in a line of misleading attacks on climate change science. For instance, right-wing media have recently suggested that winter storms disprove global warming, falsely suggested that accusations of errors in the IPCC report undermine the climate change consensus, forwarded the conspiracy theory that NASA, NOAA manipulate data, and distorted a climate scientists' work to claim he predicts a "mini ice age."