Conservative Media Repeat Tabloid's Climate Misinformation

››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

After the British tabloid Daily Mail published a flawed article that distorted climate research to claim we could be "heading for a mini ice age," conservative media followed suit. In fact, the study did not project a decline in global temperatures.

Scientists: Solar Fluctuations Won't Offset Global Warming

Met Office: Reduction In Solar Output "Insufficient To Offset" Global Warming. Announcing the new research, the Met Office stated that a reduction in solar output "will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases":

New research has found that solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years but that will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases.

Carried out by the Met Office and the University of Reading, the study establishes the most likely changes in the Sun's activity and looks at how this could affect near-surface temperatures on Earth.

It found that the most likely outcome was that the Sun's output would decrease up to 2100, but this would only cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC's B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions).

[...]

The study also showed that if solar output reduced below that seen in the Maunder Minimum - a period between 1645 and 1715 when solar activity was at its lowest observed level - the global temperature reduction would be 0.13C.

Peter Stott, who also worked on the research for the Met Office, said: "Our findings suggest that a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases on global temperatures in the 21st Century." [Met Office, 1/23/12]

Scientist: Drop In Solar Activity "Would Be Only A Temporary" And Minimal Effect. In June, climate scientist Georg Feulner wrote at RealClimate.org about a study he conducted with Stefan Rahmstorf on what would happen if an interruption in sunspot cycles did occur. That study found that "a 21st-century Maunder Minimum would only slightly diminish future warming. Moreover, it would be only a temporary effect since all known grand solar minima have only lasted for a few decades." Representing an interruption in the sunspot cycle with dotted lines for two emissions scenarios (red and pink), the scientists' results show that such an interruption would have a minimal impact on the climate:

Source: RealClimate

[Real Climate, 6/19/11]

Scientists Dispute Whether Grand Solar Minimum Will Occur. Wired explained that while some scientists think a solar minimum might happen again, this is disputed and would nevertheless have an "insignificant" impact on our climate:

The possibility of imminent solar dormancy was raised by reports from the ongoing American Astronomical Society meeting of fading sunspots and dips in the sun's magnetic patterns. Those are considered portents of solar inactivity, suggesting that the next solar minimum -- a natural downturn in activity -- would be especially pronounced, perhaps lasting for decades.

When that last happened, between the mid-17th and early 18th centuries, northern Europe experienced a period of unusually cold weather. Known as the Maunder Minimum, or more conversationally as the Little Ice Age, it's a period historicized by accounts of ice skating on the Thames and seasonal inns built on Baltic Sea ice.

Press accounts of the new solar reports played up the Maunder Minimum angle, hinting that it might happen again. Some even implied that global warming might be counteracted.

In fact, the meaning of the latest sunspot reports is still being debated, as Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth has chronicled. But even if they really do portend a decades-long solar lull, studies already point to a minimal effect on climate.

Most Little Ice Age cooling appears to have been the result of coincidentally high volcanic activity that cloaked Earth in sunlight-blocking soot. As for the sun, a study published in 2001 in Science found that reduced solar activity produced a cooling effect of about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In other estimates, the cooling is even more insignificant. [Wired, 6/15/11]

Led By Daily Mail, Conservative Media Distort Research To Claim Earth Is Cooling

Daily Mail: "The Figures Suggest We Could Even Be Heading For A Mini Ice Age." Quoting several contrarian "experts," the Daily Mail claimed that new data released by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit "suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age":

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

[...]

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a 'grand minimum' in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food. [Daily Mail, 1/29/12]

FoxNews.com: Solar Minimum "Will Cause Temperatures To Fall, Scientists Say." Pivoting off the flawed Daily Mail article, FoxNews.com claimed: "The debate over global warming may be heating up again amid new scientific evidence that the sun's activity is cooling down -- which will cause temperatures to fall on planet Earth, scientists say." The FoxNews.com article was titled, "With sun's activity set to diminish, is global cooling coming?" [FoxNews.com, 1/31/12]

Erickson: "According To The Climate Record ... It May Be Getting Colder." On his radio show, CNN contributor Erick Erickson claimed that "most of the climate models when you actually delve into it and talk to a lot of the scientists -- the skeptics and the non-skeptics alike" -- "they all kind of point out the same thing, that the sun, you would think would have a big effect on climate, but a lot of the climate models discount the effect the sun has to the extent that it probably does have." Erickson further claimed that "according to the climate record, from not the skeptics but from the actual global warming community, the world has not really warmed since 1997 and in fact it may be getting colder." [WSB, The Erick Erickson Show, 1/30/12]

Loesch: Earth Is "More Likely Heading To A Mini Ice Age."At times reading aloud from a blog post by Jim Hoft, which quoted the Daily Mail article, CNN contributor Dana Loesch said on her radio show:

"The latest temperature data shows" that really the "planet hasn't warmed in the last 15 years" and is more likely "heading to a mini ice age. The figures suggest that we could even be heading" for this "to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames" since the 17th Century.

[...]

Unbelievable. Science, huh? Facts, right? [KFTK, The Dana Show, 1/30/12] [Gateway Pundit, 1/29/12]

Daily Mail's Misinformation Has Been Furthered By Others In Conservative Media. [Washington Times, 1/31/12] [Newsmax, 1/30/12] [WND.com, 1/29/12] [BigGovernment, 1/30/12] [Powerline, 1/30/12] [The Right Sphere, 1/29/12] [American Thinker, 1/29/12]

Conservative Media Attempt To Use 12 Years Of Data To Refute Long-Term Trend

Daily Mail: University Data "Confirms That The Rising Trend In World Temperatures Ended In 1997." The Daily Mail claimed that new data released by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit "confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997." This claim was echoed by Erickson and Loesch:

The supposed 'consensus' on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997. [Daily Mail, 1/29/12]

Met Office: 'No Warming' Claim Is "Entirely Misleading." The Met Office took the reportedly unusual step of responding to the Daily Mail article, which it said contained "numerous errors" and did not "fully include the answers we gave him." The Met Office said the argument that there has been no warming in the last 15 years is "entirely misleading." [Met Office, 1/29/12]

The Last Decade Was The Warmest On Record. Discovery News reported on November 29:

Thirteen of the warmest years recorded have occurred within the last decade and a half, the UN's World Meteorological Organization said on Tuesday.

[...]

The 2002-2011 period equals 2001-2010 as the warmest decade since 1850, the report said.

2011 ranks as the 10th warmest year since 1850, when accurate measurements began.

This was true despite a La Nina event -- one of the strongest in 60 years -- that developed in the tropical Pacific in the second half of 2010 and continued until May 2011. [Discovery News, 11/19/12]

The following chart from NOAA shows decadal averages since the beginning of the instrumental temperature record:

[NOAA, accessed 8/26/11]

Independent Temperature Study: We Can't Make Conclusions About Long-Term Trends Based On "Periods As Short As 13 to 15 Years." The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which independently verified the long-term warming trend in land temperature data, concluded:

Some people draw a line segment covering the period 1998 to 2010 and argue that we confirm no temperature change in that period. However, if you did that same exercise back in 1995, and drew a horizontal line through the data for 1980 to 1995, you might have falsely concluded that global warming had stopped back then. This exercise simply shows that the decadal fluctuations are too large to allow us to make decisive conclusions about long term trends based on close examination of periods as short as 13 to 15 years. [Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, accessed 1/30/12]

Conservative Media Repeatedly Promote Tabloid's Climate Misinformation

Following Another False Mail Article, Conservative Media Previously Claimed "Climate Scientists Predict Mini-Ice Age." On January 10, 2010, the Mail on Sunday -- the sister paper of the Daily Mail -- ran an article by David Rose headlined, "The mini ice age starts here." Rose claimed that climate scientist Mojib Latif's work "refutes" the view "that the big chill was merely short-term 'weather' that had nothing to do with 'climate', which was still warming." That day, popular conservative blogger Jim Hoft claimed "climate scientists warned" of a "mini ice age." The next day, Fox Nation linked to Hoft's post with the headline "Now Climate Scientists Predict Mini-Ice Age" and FoxNews.com wrote an article that claimed that Latif "says we're in for 30 years of cooler temperatures -- a mini ice age, he calls it." Latif responded that the Mail had misused his research and that he predicts "nothing that would constitute a little ice age." Sean Hannity later distorted Latif's work on his Fox News show, as did Cal Thomas in his Washington Examiner column. [Media Matters, 1/12/10] [Media Matters, 1/13/10] [Media Matters, 1/14/10]

After Mail Distorted Climate Scientist's Quote, Conservative Media Followed. On February 14, 2010, the Daily Mail distorted a BBC interview with climate scientist Dr. Phil Jones. Jones explained that while there was a positive warming trend from 1995 to 2009 it was not statistically significant at the "95% significance level," although it was "quite close." Jones added, "Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods." The Daily Mail published an article titled "Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995." That same day The Daily Caller and Jim Hoft promoted the Mail's distortion. The next day, Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr. adopted the Mail's language and further distorted Jones' quote saying "Talk about a U-Turn, that whole global warming thing may have never existed. What a key scientist is now saying that could debunk the whole theory." The next week, George Will used Phil Jones' claims to suggest that there has been an "absence of warming." [Media Matters, 2/15/10] [Media Matters, 2/15/10] [Media Matters, 2/22/10]

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