Accuracy in Media

Here is a news item you may well have missed this week: A massive coalition of environmental organizations, activists and think tank leaders signed a letter to President Trump urging him to move forward with his proposed Presidential Commission on Climate Security and supporting the work of William Happer, the distinguished scientist the president had tapped to run it.

The coalition letter, signed by almost 40 leading policy organizations and more than 100 leaders and experts, said an independent review of federal global warming reports is “long overdue,” that serious problems identified in past climate reports have been swept under the rug and that Happer, a Ph.D. physicist, professor emeritus at Princeton University and adviser to Trump on climate and national security, is the right person to run it.

“An underlying issue that we hope the commission will also address is the fact that so many of the scientific claims made in these reports and by many climate scientists are not falsifiable, that is, they cannot be tested by the scientific method,” read the letter, which was not covered in any major newspaper except the Washington Times.

An example of just such overreach emerged Thursday, when Reuters published a story by Timothy Gardner headlined, “Climate change’s fingerprints are on U.S. Midwest floods: scientists.”

Gardner’s lead read: “Climate change played a hand in the deadly floods in the U.S. upper Midwest that have damaged crops and drowned livestock, scientists said on Thursday, while a Trump administration official said more homework was needed before making that link.”

“Manmade greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the oceans and making the air above them more humid. When a storm picks up and eventually spits out that moisture, it can be devastating for people caught below.”

Big storms “like the bomb cyclone and Hurricane Harvey, which smacked Houston in 2017 with record downpours, are where the impact of climate change can most clearly be seen.”

Michael Wehner, a senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said that “climate change’s fingerprints were all over the recent storm.”

“‘I don’t think it’s a starring role, but it’s a strong supporting role,’” in part, according to Gardner, because the “bomb cyclone was carrying vast amounts of moisture from the Pacific up to 1,500 miles away,” Wehner told Gardner. All significant amounts of moisture that fall on the Midwest came from the Pacific 1,500 miles away. This has always been the case, and it is not related to global warming.

In fact, the entire concept of bomb storms has been questioned by numerous scientists who study them.

Ryan Maue, a meteorologist in Atlanta, took to Twitter after the Gardner story to state: “Article on climate ‘fingerprints’ on floods seems to omit any evidence. Why not do some analysis instead of the appeals to authority? Why did climate change make the floods worse & how much? Should be simple questions if links are so clear.”

He wrote that Gardner identified an employee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as a “Trump administration official” in an attempt to discredit his statement that “Trying to link the role of climate change to an individual event is a ‘fool’s errand’ akin to trying to determine the cause of a car crash while the wheels are still spinning.”

Maue pointed to a more likely cause for the flooding.

“Saturated ground was frozen solid b/c of prolonged extreme cold in Midwest. Ground also covered in snow … a deep snowpack. Warmer air arrived to melt some of the snow. It rained on top of the snowpack over frozen ground.”

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