The Australian Gets It Wrong on Global Warming

The editorial in todays Australian misrepresents the recently released summary of the IPCC AR4.
This misrepresentation forms the basis of their claim that no drastic action is required in response to climate change, and to essentially endorse the Howard government’s position. In the editorial they point out that they accept the reality of climate change, yet it seems that they get their information on it from denialists.

In particular they say

The IPCC report suggests that sea levels will rise somewhere between 0.18m and 0.59m over the coming century – hardly the sort of thing that will see skyscrapers swamped, islands sink or even low-lying poor cities inundated. To the extent that dislocations will be caused, they can be dealt with, and it is far from clear that hobbling not just the Australian economy but those of China and India is the most appropriate response. To take the IPCC’s average sea level rise of 38.5cm (which, six years ago, it tipped at 48.5cm) as a starting point, this would mean, according to some of the world’s leading scientists, that Al Gore, who in his movie An Inconvenient Truth dramatically shows what the worlds coastlines would look like were sea levels to rise by 6.1m, is off by more than a factor of 15 times.

They even use a variant of the old “global warming ended in 1998″ rubbish that has been doing the rounds in denialist circles for some time with the following comment:

The world may be getting warmer at the moment – though temperatures have been pretty stable since 1998 – but humans have thrived in hotter conditions than these and they have certainly survived colder periods

Note that they have toned it down a bit to fit in with their acceptance of global warming.

These arguments have already been dealt with by Nexus 6, who came across the same arguments elsewhere, but here’s the gist of it:

  1. The latest sea level predictions exclude the ice from Antarctica and Greenland. The previous report (TAR) did include these, so these numbers cannot be directly compared. If estimates for rise from increased ice flows are included then the numbers are similar – so they have not reduced the predicted sea level rise.
  2. Al Gore’s talked about what the sea level rise would be if either the ice on the West Antarctic peninsular or Greenland (or half of each) was to melt without giving a timeframe for this to occur. The AR4 summary predicts sea level rises by 2100 and excludes ice flows. These are completely different things and cannot be meaningfully compared. Al Gore was not wrong about rises in sea level.
  3. 1998 was an unusually hot year, those who claim that warming has stopped/stalled/slowed since then are cherry picking. This has been dealt with at length over at Deltoid. Just go there and look at the picture and see that global warming is still happening.

Also, they have a front page story which comes out in support of coal mining … coincidentally they also have a liftout (of the special advertising feature variety) with lots of stories about how we should all go to Queensland to work in the mining industry, and which, judging by the advertising, seems to be largely paid for by Rio Tinto.

Update: Nexus 6 has also written about this.

Update II: They’re at it again.

3 Responses to “ The Australian Gets It Wrong on Global Warming”

  1. The Don says:

    There’s an interesting article in the Features section published in the Australian today (20/02/2007) previously published in the (also Murdoch owned) UK Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1363818.ece

    It makes some very interesting points that the science of the Greenhouse Effect should not be read in isolation of. However it sounds like it hasn’t had much of an opportunity to be further supported / discredited by substantial research.

    I’m pretty sure expressing a bit of healthy scepticism doesn’t get greenhouse gas emmissions targets established at a time when action is needed. History proves that a full and complete media and political beat-up is required in order to get as many people as possible onside while the attention span lasts.

    Considering it’s still only a 10 to one bet on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report being wrong it should be no surprise that devil’s advocates, with or without a hidden agenda, come out of the woodwork to bask in the (perhaps unusually large) spotlight. However without considering and responding to the sceptics’ questions the human race risks misdirecting its best efforts away from the most effective path to sustainability of the planet ie. there are plenty of other urgent issues out there that don’t get ‘flavour of the month’ status like the Greenhouse Effect theory. But that’s getting outside of the scope of your post – I should be posting to _my_ blog!

  2. Stu says:

    I’m afraid that I’m not too impressed by this article, in fact it has inspired a rather long post.

  3. [...] In an earlier post a commenter mentioned an opinion piece (though it appears under News rather than Comment on the website) in The Times by Nigel Calder, which has also been printed in The Australian. I started giving a point by point response in comments but it was getting so long I decided to start a new post. Read the article first, it is here. [...]