Thursday, August 30, 2007

Another day, another scare story

The BBC's global warming scare story of the day claims that climate change 'may carry a higher risk of flooding than was previously thought'. It's a particularly un-earth shattering piece about CO2 possibly affecting the ability of plants to release excess water into the atmosphere, causing the ground to become saturated – but it does contain a couple of interesting points.

For a start, the report says: "The findings suggest computer models of future climate change may need to be revised in order to plan for coming decades." What? Are they saying that existing computer models could be wrong?

Then, a few paragraphs later: "A team led by Dr Richard Betts from the Met Office has modelled how this will affect climate change predictions."

So let me get this straight: the current, hopelessly inaccurate and widely discredited climate change models may need to be revised based on assumptions reached via more computer modelling. A case of two plus two equalling five if ever there was one.

Even if the research proves correct, however, the scientists concede that the ground-saturation effect will have benefits, as well as causing problems:

"It's a double-edged sword," said Dr Betts, "it means that increases in drought due to climate change could be less severe as plants lose less water.

"On the other hand, if the land is saturated more often, you might expect that intense rainfall events are more likely to cause flooding."

This is a recurring theme in the climate change debate: even if warming beyond that caused by naturally occurring climate and solar cycles is happening (which hasn't been proven), and even if man is causing it (which hasn't been proven either), any warming will certainly have positive consequences which will mitigate, and possibly outweigh, the negative effects.

In this case the BBC's report only concedes this fact in a single line at the end of the story, while the headline focuses purely on the flooding risk – but even this is an improvement on most of its reporting, which relentlessly hammers home the 'we're all doomed' message, and refuses to report on the dozens of studies published in the last few months that suggest otherwise.

A case in point: the BBC has largely declined to report on a number of studies that suggest the Earth's climate is largely driven by the output of the Sun (although the fairly reliable Newsnight programme and its website did feature Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark's book The Chilling Stars).

However, when British researchers published an article claiming there was no link between the sun and global warming, the BBC, and in particular environment correspondent Richard Black, jumped all over it (the report was remarkably similar to this one from a couple of years ago), with Black crowing that the new research "appears to have put a large, probably fatal nail in this intriguing and elegant hypothesis".

Since then, the report that Black got so excited about has itself been debunked in several articles, including two published by the US-based Science and Public Policy Institute.

The first article concludes: 'The authors of the paper are reported to have been “galvanized” into writing it as a response to “misleading media reports” regarding the role of the Sun. Accordingly, there is evidence of political motivation rather than objective scientific research.' The second article concludes: 'This paper is so flawed that it is remarkable that it was published.'

The BBC hasn't, as yet, seen fit to report on either article.


Lord Nazh© said...

You may like this article click on my site about the 'consensus' (also was posted at various other 'big' sites, so you may have seen it already)

Mike said...

Lord Nazh – I've seen a couple of versions of that story around, but good to discover your blog.