Accuracy in Media

At last, an article about ClimateGate has graced CNN’s home page.  Not with a picture, of course, but in tiny print under the “Latest News” section.  The entire article, written by Hilary Whiteman, is worth examining.  It is a fantastic example of how far the mainstream media will go to defend liars, cheaters, and worse with whom they happen to agree.

The article begins with a defense the “scientists” behind the leaked emails; the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, is quoted as saying, “This [the emails] was purely private communications between friends, between, colleagues, they were letting off steam. I think we should see it as nothing more than that.”

Whiteman goes on to explain the concept behind ClimateGate, albeit in an admittedly bizarre manner (emphasis my own):

In late November, a substantial file including more than 1,000 e-mails either sent from or to members of the University’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in eastern England were allegedly hacked and leaked on the Internet.

Allegedly?  The University of East Anglia has confirmed that the emails were, actually, hacked and leaked—and even the New York Times recognizes this.  The “scientists” who according to Whiteman only “allegedly” sent emails about tricking the public and hiding the decline in global temperatures, have admitted that the emails actually were their own, also as seen in the New York Times.  There is simply nothing “alleged” about this.  Even if the emails were not technically “hacked,” that has been the term commonly used to describe how the emails were stolen.

Whiteman goes on to claim that ClimateGate has been “has been covered extensively in the global press under the moniker, ‘Climategate.’”  While it is true that the scandal has been operating under the term “ClimateGate,” exactly which global presses is Whiteman talking about?  Many people and organizations are talking about and researching ClimateGate, but CNN is apparently not one of those organizations, and Whiteman is apparently not one of those people—and both of them would be hard-pressed to find a mainstream source of news that were actually covering anything about the scandal “extensively.”  The only thing extensive about the global media coverage of ClimateGate is the extent to which reporters ignore they story and dismiss it when they’re forced to bring it up.

Whiteman goes on to give a one-sided report of the IPCC’s reliability:

Pachauri told CNN there was no way that unreliable climate data could have made its way into the IPCC report.

“There are so many checks and balances in the processes and procedures that we follow at the IPCC, there is not one iota of possibility that something like this would happen,” he said.

Here, Whiteman ignores multiple facts that would have aided her in accurately reporting the situation with the IPCC.

1. Climate science is still a new field.  Remember: climate scientists cannot accurately predict the weather for this afternoon.  What makes them qualified to predict the weather for ten years from now, or a century from now?  Just a few years ago climate scientists were using tree ring data as a way to measure ancient temperatures; now we realize that tree ring data is not reliable, after all—comparing tree ring data with actual temperatures, one must conclude that trees are not very accurate in their temperature records after all.  Michael Mann and Phil Jones admit this in their incriminating emails, and faulty tree ring data is the reason Mann wanted to hide the decline.”  Oceanographers admit that our limitations in information about sea temperatures alone “limit climate predictability.”  Until we learn more about the movement and temperature of the ocean, any extrapolation regarding future global climate will have to wait.

2. Across the board, climate change agencies have been known to create extremely unreliable data.  Recently, NASA issued a report claiming that arctic sea ice was “dramatically thinning.”  But Tony Pann of the Baltimore Examiner pointed out a few of the many, many problems with NASA’s assessment, including their measurements only taken during the summer, when ice levels are at their lowest, and how NASA neglected to mention the significant gains in ice.  This hardly seems an objective way for NASA or others to make reliable climate estimates.

3. The IPCC has published false information in the past.  The IPCC was the publisher of Michael Mann’s infamous “hockey stick” graph, once pointed to as the “smoking gun” of global warming.  Mann has never released the raw data for the graph, and in recent years the “hockey stick” graph has been proven completely false.  In it, Mann forgot to include multiple major climate shifts such as the Little Ice Age, and the Medieval Warm Period.  Statisticians have noted that the formula Mann used, regardless of his flawed data, would have turned out a hockey stick shape anyway, because of the way the formula works.  Again: this amazingly flawed data made it into the IPCC less than a decade ago.

4. The IPCC is called an “intergovernmental” panel because that’s what it is.  Scientists appointed to the panel are appointed by their governments.  It would be foolish to assume that these scientists go into the IPCC completely objectively: in order to stay on the IPCC, they have to please their own governments.  In the case of an American-appointed scientist to the IPCC, how far do you think such a scientist would get if he or she deviated from President Obama’s radical environmental stance?  Scientists on the IPCC are there for politics primarily, and science only secondarily.

5. Most scientists on the IPCC know very little about actual climate change.  As of 2007, America’s contribution to the IPCC included “7 economists, 13 social scientists, 3 epidemiologists, 10 biologists/ecologists, 5 engineers, 2 modellers/statisticians, 1 full-time activist (and 1 part time), 5 were in public health and policy, and 4 were unknowns.”  These economists, activists, and “unknowns” make up well over half of America’s total IPCC contribution, of 70 “scientists.”  There are shockingly few geologists, soil scientists, oceanographers, or biologists who could offer differing views on climate change based on their experiences with the actual earth and its biota.  What exactly makes economists and statisticians qualified to be creating reports on climate change?  The UK’s 2007 contribution to the IPCC was similarly terrifying:

Of the 51 UK contributors to the report, there were 5 economists, 3 epidemiologists, 5 who were either zoologists, entomologists, or biologists. 5 worked in civil engineering or risk management / insurance. 7 had specialisms in physical geography (we gave the benefit of the doubt to some academics whose profiles weren’t clear about whether they are physical or human geographers). And just 10 have specialisms in geophysics, climate science or modelling, or hydrology. But there were 15 who could only be described as social scientists. If we take the view that economics is a social science, that makes 20 social scientists.

Out of 51 UK contributors, only ten had any experience with actual earth sciences.  In other words, the IPCC is a bunch of glorified political appointees who don’t necessarily welcome the views of those who actually study the earth.  Why should we assume, like IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, that there is “no way” these ragtag “scientists” could accidentally, or even on purpose, insert false data into the IPCC report?  Climate science is rarely the specialty of anyone on the IPCC.


Perhaps Hilary Whiteman simply hadn’t done her homework on this issue before so one-sidedly backing Pachauri’s claims of IPCC infallibility.  She—and her employer, CNN—ought to be embarrassed about such a biased report regarding the ClimateGate emails.

You can contact CNN here.  Let them know that you are not happy with their biased reporting—and tell them AIM sent you.

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