Accuracy in Media

One of the enduring myths perpetuated by radical environments holds that the earth’s temperatures have been rising faster than ever before in history. They attribute this supposed increase to greenhouse gases generated by human activity. Global warming advocates repeatedly warn that temperature increases are accelerating and point to data from 2002. Scientists have claimed that global temperatures in 2002 were “the hottest since records began.” They also have claimed that the 1990s were the hottest decade in one thousand years of recorded history.

But new research refutes that claim. Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics examined so-called temperature proxies such as tree rings, ice cores, and historical accounts. These scientists concluded recent temperature increases pale in comparison with those experienced during the Medieval Warm Period. They found that temperatures recorded by proxies were “significantly higher” from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries than those experienced today.

Moreover, the Medieval Warm Period was followed by a “Little Ice Age,” which began around 1300. During that period, the earth’s temperatures cooled dramatically. About 1900, according to this new study, the earth began to warm up again, but temperatures have yet to reach those of the Medieval Warm Period.

The study also identified a significant flaw in the case put forward by global warming alarmists. They allege that climate scientists have been charting temperature changes since the end of the Little Ice Age. By starting from a period in which the Earth was relatively cold, this skews their data and exaggerates the significance of current temperature increases. In short, today’s increases seem to represent little more than earth’s recovery from a relatively cold period. As one scientist said, global warming alarmists lack a “proper sense of history.”

That conclusion has upset global warming activists. They charge that the use of temperature proxies is an “unreliable” measure of historical change. And they refuse to accept the Medieval Warm Period as a starting point to judge historical trends. One advocate said that “the present consensus of scientists on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was that the Medieval Warm Period could not be used to judge the significance of existing warming.” He didn’t explain why.

Global warming skeptics also remind us that the Medieval Warm Period was a time of plenty, but when temperatures started to drop severe famine and economic collapse followed. That would seem to undercut the alarmist scenarios used to advocate radical changes in human activity. Dailies in the U.K., Canada, and Australia covered the story well. In the U.S., however, the Philadelphia Inquirer was the only major metropolitan daily to run a news story on the study. The Scripps Howard News Service ran a wire story and that was picked up in smaller markets in Indiana, Michigan, Florida, and elsewhere. Global warming advocates, like the New York Times, ignored the story altogether.

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