On the top left of Monday’s Washington Post came an eye-opening report acknowledging the continuing series of scientific problems from the United Nations in its dire forecasts about the impending doom of global warming. The headline was "Missteps weigh on agenda for climate."
Reporters Juliet Eilperin and David Fahrenthold suggested a "scientific consensus" remains about drastic human-caused global warming, but sloppy work and overstatement can "give doubters an opening." (It sounds a little like the way reporters started blaming Bill Clinton for feeding the haters.) The story began:
With its 2007 report declaring that the "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Prize -- and a new degree of public trust in the controversial science of global warming.
But recent revelations about flaws in that seminal report, ranging from typos in key dates to sloppy sourcing, are undermining confidence not only in the panel's work but also in projections about climate change. Scientists who have pointed out problems in the report say the panel's methods and mistakes -- including admitting Saturday that it had overstated how much of the Netherlands was below sea level -- give doubters an opening.
The Post should be credited for putting this controversy at the top of Page One, and not for the first time (see December 5). The story raises serious questions about the science being peddled to the public, which is what skeptical journalists should do.
Eilperin and Fahrenthold referred to the Massive Consensus as a shield to balance out the eroding credibility of some UN claims:
There is still a scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change. But in the past year, a cache of stolen e-mails, revealing that prominent climate scientists sought to prevent the publication of works by their detractors, has sullied their image as impartial academics. The errors in the U.N. report -- a document intended to be the last nail in the coffin of climate doubt -- are a serious problem that could end up forcing environmentalists to focus more on the old question of proving that climate change is a threat, instead of the new question of how to stop it.
The Post account failed to note the BBC’s new interview with climate scientist/activist Phil "Hide the Decline" Jones, who called his "trick" of merging tree-ring data with thermometer data was "’a convenient way of achieving something’, in this case joining the earlier valid part of the tree-ring record with the recent, more reliable instrumental record." In other words, "reliable" is defined as "whatever proves my drastic-warming thesis."
Is that the scientific method, or a political method? Are these overpanicked forecasts "missteps" -- or dishonest baiting of the public?
The Post noted Sens. James Inhofe and John Barrasso called for an independent probe into the the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since it influences our own government’s regulation policies. "On Friday, a coalition of conservative groups filed a petition to overturn the EPA's finding on the same grounds," they added.
But when they quote a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists, there was no "liberal" label. At least the UCS man was pressed to note sloppy UN work. The Post duo also played the conservatives-versus-advocates imbalance as they explained that a "link to an advocacy group instead of a peer-reviewed paper infuriated conservatives."
If nothing else, the Post duo should have used a liberal label for former Sen. Tim Wirth, who was very ideological in his remarks:
U.N. Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth, whose nonprofit group has highlighted the work of the IPCC, said that the pirated e-mails gave "an opening" to attack climate science and that the scientific work "has to be defended just like evolution has to be defended."
It's too bad the IPCC is making monkeys out of the eco-panic lobby, and it's sad for them that the public is evolving away from their "consensus."