The media owe us better coverage on the climate than alarmism.
As 2010 draws to a close, do you remember hearing any good news from the mainstream media about climate? Like maybe a headline proclaiming "Record Low 2009 and 2010 Cyclonic Activity Reported: Global Warming Theorists Perplexed"? Or "NASA Studies Report Oceans Entering New Cooling Phase: Alarmists Fear Climate Science Budgets in Peril"? Or even anything bad that isn't blamed on anthropogenic (man-made) global warming--of course other than what is attributed to George W. Bush? (Conveniently, the term "AGW" covers both.)
Remember all the media brouhaha about global warming causing hurricanes that commenced following the devastating U.S. 2004 season? Opportunities to capitalize on those disasters were certainly not lost on some U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change officials. A special press conference called by IPCC spokesman Kevin Trenberth announced "Experts warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense activity."
But there was a problem. Christopher Landsea, a top U.S. expert on the subject, repeatedly notified the IPCC that no research had been conducted to support that claim--not in the Atlantic basin, or in any other basin. After receiving no replies, he publicly resigned from all IPCC activities. And while the press conference received tumultuous global media coverage, Mother Nature didn't pay much attention. Subsequent hurricane seasons returned to average patterns noted historically over the past 150 years, before exhibiting recent record lows with no 2010 U.S. landfalls.
Much global warming alarm centers upon concerns that melting glaciers will cause a disastrous sea level rise. A globally viewed December 2005 BBC feature alarmingly reported that two massive glaciers in eastern Greenland, Kangderlugssuaq and Helheim, were melting, with water "racing to the sea." Commentators urgently warned that continued recession would be catastrophic.
Helheim's "erratic" behavior reported then was recently recounted again in a dramatic Nov. 13 New York Times article titled "As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas." Reporters somehow failed to notice that only 18 months later, and despite slightly warmer temperatures, the melting rate of both glaciers not only slowed down and stopped, but actually reversed. Satellite images revealed that by August 2006 Helheim had advanced beyond its 1933 boundary.
According to two separate NASA studies, one conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the other by the Langley Research Center, the oceans now appear to be heading into another natural periodic cooling phase within a typical 55- to 70-year dipolar warm/cool pattern. Although Greenland has recently been experiencing a slight warming trend, satellite measurements show that the ice cap has been accumulating snow growth at a rate of about 2.1 inches per year. Temperatures only recently began to exceed those of the 1930s and 1940s when many glaciers were probably smaller than now. (We can't be certain, because satellites didn't exist to measure them.)
A recent study conducted by U.S. and Dutch scientists that appeared in the journal Nature Geoscience concluded that previous estimates of Greenland and West Antarctica ice melt rate losses may have been exaggerated by double. Earlier projections apparently failed to account for rebounding changes in the Earth's crust following the last Ice Age (referred to as "glacial isostatic adjustment").
Nils-Axel Morner, head of the Paleogeophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden, argues that any concerns regarding rising sea levels are unfounded. "So all this talk that sea level rising, this comes from the computer modeling, not from observations. ... The new level, which has been stable, has not changed in the last 35 years. ... But they [IPCC] need a rise, because if there is no rise, there is no death threat ... if you want a grant for a research project in climatology, it is written into the document that there 'must' be a focus on global warming. ... That is really bad, because you start asking for the answer you want to get."
Studies by the International Union for Quaternary Research conclude that some ocean levels have even fallen in recent decades. The Indian Ocean, for example, was higher between 1900 and 1970 than it has been since.
Other world climate alarm bells chimed when it was reported in the media that September 2007 satellite images revealed that the Northwest Passage--a sea route between the U.K. and Asia across the top of the Arctic Circle--had opened up for the first time in recorded history. (This "recorded history" dates back only to 1979 when satellite monitoring first began, and it should also be noted that the sea route froze again just a few months later (winter 2007-2008).
The Northwest Passage has certainly opened up before. Diary entries of a sailor named Roald Amundson confirm clear passage in 1903, as do those of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Arctic patrol crew that made regular trips through there in the early 1940s. And in February 2009 it was discovered that scientists had previously been underestimating the re-growth of Arctic sea ice by an area larger than the state of California (twice as large as New Zealand). The errors were attributed to faulty sensors on the ice.
But these aren't the sorts of observations that most people generally receive from the media. Instead, they present sensational statements and dramatic images that leave lasting impressions of calving glaciers, drowning polar bears and all manner of other man-caused climate calamities.
Many intentionally target impressionable young minds and sensitive big hearts with messages of fear and guilt. Take, for example, a children's book called The North Pole Was Here, authored by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin. It warns kids that some day it may be "easier to sail than stand on the North Pole in summer." Imagine such images through their visualization: How warm it must be to melt that pole way up north. Poor Santa! And Rudolph! Of course it's mostly their parents' fault because of the nasty CO2 they produce driving them to school in SUVs.
Lots of grown-ups are sensitive people with big hearts too. Don't we all deserve more from the seemingly infinite media echo chamber of alarmism than those windy speculations, snow jobs and projections established on theoretical thin ice?
Weekly columnist Larry Bell is a professor at the University of Houston and author of Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax, which will be released on Jan. 1, 2011. It can be previewed at: www.climateofcorruption.com..