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Friday 1 January 2010

Broadsheet Watch – 1

The average hack – even in supposedly upmarket papers – cannot be expected to command an in depth knowledge of climate change science. Thus it is refreshing to see the Maily Telegraph’s Christopher Booker not so trying: instead, he is attempting to discredit climate change by smearing reputations, notably that of IPCC Chair and Nobel laureate Rajendra Pachauri. Booker’s latest hatchet job appeared in the paper’s Boxing Day edition.

Unfortunately, Booker displays an elementary failure to distinguish between weather patterns and long term climate change: he starts his article by telling of “Blizzards sweeping across Europe”, thus pitching his attack at the same level as Sean Hannity, “star” of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) who asserted that climate change wasn’t happening because “it snowed yesterday in Houston”.

As I’ve posted previously, anyone with a basic grasp of meteorology will know that an established north easterly airflow at the coldest time of the year will produce very cold weather across the UK. But this does not detain Booker: he then asserts that “the northern hemisphere was plunged into its third freezing winter in succession”. Sounds dramatic, you might think. It’s also at variance with those inconvenient things called facts.

A look at Met Office figures shows that the winter of 2008-9 was indeed colder than average: it was the coldest for a decade across the UK. However, the winter of 2007-8 was much milder than average, thus debunking Booker’s claim. Moreover, the winter of 2009-10 isn’t over yet, so we don’t know whether it will go down as an especially harsh one.

So to sum up: Christopher Booker can’t tell global warming from transient weather patterns, can’t stand up his assertions, and wants his audience to believe that climate change isn’t happening because he doesn’t like the cut of the IPCC chair’s jib.

There’s quality journalism for you.

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