2008 ends in climate change media confusion

The Dominion Post continued its climate change sceptic-friendly run of articles today with a re-print of Daily Telegraph writer Christopher Booker’s summation of why he believes man made global warming was “disproved” in 2008.

With grumpy indignation and quoting reports of record levels of snow at some ski resorts, Booker wrote:

“…2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a “scientific consensus” in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world’s most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that ‘consensus’ which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.”

Someone else from the Telegraph helpfully summarised the main arguments but forward by climate change sceptics.

Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal, quoting significant studies of temperature trends in 2008, was looking at the same data and coming to an entirely different conclusion.

“Despite the ups and downs of annual temperature swings, though, the planet has grown steadily warmer in recent decades, affecting everything from New England winters and the Siberian spring to western droughts and tropical cloud cover. That’s according to eight new government and university climate studies presented last month during a meeting in San Francisco of the American Geophysical Union, an international scientific society of 50,000 researchers who study Earth and its environment.”

NASA’s glacier expert Eric Rignot seemed to put it well when he told the Journal:

“I wouldn’t run for the hills. But it might be time to start walking.”

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist James R. Lee was looking beyond the current squabble to one grim outcome of climate change – war.

“We’re used to thinking of climate change as an environmental problem, not a military one, but it’s long past time to alter that mindset. Climate change may mean changes in Western lifestyles, but in some parts of the world, it will mean far more. Living in Washington, I may respond to global warming by buying a Prius, planting a tree or lowering my thermostat. But elsewhere, people will respond to climate change by building bomb shelters and buying guns,” he writes.

So definitely mixed messages from the major media organisations the public relies on for much of its information about climate change issues.

Given the confusion and the diverging views of opinionated columnists, it may be worth having a look at the data yourself – it’s not so daunting now that it is all laid out nicely on the web:

US Climate Change Science Programme

Reanalysis of Historical Climate Data for Key Atmospheric Features: Implications for Attribution of Causes of Observed Change

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Global Temperature Trends: 2008 Meteorological Year Summation

U.S. National Climatic Data Center

The Climate of 2008: (US and Global Climate Perspectives)

World Meterological Organisation: 2008 among the ten warmest years