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Friday 4 May 2012

Mail Sea Level Rise Spin

The headline looks unequivocal: “'The worst case we imagined is not coming true': Greenland's glaciers are melting less quickly than experts feared” tells a piece published by the Mail today. So that’s not such bad news, then. Well, perhaps it is: a sub-heading states “Loss of ice 30% faster than a decade ago”. What, then, is the story, and where did the hacks get it?

The original article was published in the journal Science, and a summary is available online. It reveals that some glaciers have been “slowing their advance seaward in recent years, whereas others have surged in their forward march. Sea levels will continue to rise during the 21st century, as many studies have predicted, but the new findings indicate that the impact of Greenland's shedding of icebergs may not be as dramatic as worst-case scenarios had predicted”.

So the rate of melt is accelerating, but it isn’t consistent across all Greenland’s glaciers. And the Mail’s sub-heading asserting “Contribution to sea level rise will be four inches by 2100” is clarified further down the report with “when other causes of sea rise around the globe are added, the total could still be about three feet by the end of the century”. So that’s 36 inches, not four, then.

Moreover, a 2008 study, which the Mail keeps referencing, “was not designed to be overly realistic”. And these latest findings exceed estimates in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models, and those reports are the benchmark, but the Mail keeps on repeating the talk of “runaway effects”, which of course aren’t happening.

Compare and contrast with the view of CNN’s online version: “Greenland's glaciers are sliding into oceans at a faster pace than previously known, but they may contribute less to an expected rise in global sea level than feared” which is not only factually correct, but also has the necessary caveat on sea levels. The Mail is needlessly applying spin to the news.

Why that is, one can only guess, but the thought enters that Nigel Lawson is still getting good value from that meal he bought Paul Dacre. The study being reported does not invalidate anything from the IPCC, doesn’t mean sea levels aren’t continuing to rise, and doesn’t mean the earth isn’t warming.

So why not tell the readers that as well? Spin, spin and more spin.

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