The Paris climate conference is only about six weeks away, and evil Republican “climate deniers” are looking to slash federal funding of what passes nowadays for climate science. So what’s an agency like NASA to do?
Call in the New York Times for a junk science-fueled airstrike.
“Greenland Is Melting Away” is certainly, as Times columnist Nick Kristof tweeted, “a visually amazing piece,” featuring impressive aerial and satellite imagery of the Greenland ice sheet. The underlying story, on the other hand, is much less amazing.
The article spotlights the efforts of a group of researchers who are collecting data on summertime melt of a river in Greenland. Readers are told:
[The] scientific data could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades.
This, the Times worries, could raise sea levels by … 20 feet.
Stunning visuals and melodrama aside, what’s really melting faster than a river during summertime is the Times’ credibility. The notion that these “researchers” are doing anything close to collecting data that could predict future melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is absurd.
These researchers are taking measurements at a single river. One.
They claim they can then somehow extrapolate this data into a prediction of the fate of the entire ice sheet. But thousands and thousands of these summertime rivers appear on the Greenland ice sheet, which is 660,000 square miles in size.
Four times the size of California.
Data from one section of one 60-foot wide river is going to tell us precisely zero about anything related to the ice sheet’s future.
“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions,” one of the researchers told the Times, but it was time to get out there and collect some actual data on the ground. Somehow, they progressed from that noble idea to this Quixotic effort — a three-year study costing taxpayers $778,000 — to measure one river among thousands and to somehow derive accuracy from that.
Of course, that earnest researcher hasn’t though this through. This pointless experiment would nonetheless require them to … sit at computers and use climate models.
The Times avoids cluttering up its drama with any historical perspective on Greenland, such as why it is called “Greenland.” About a thousand years ago during a period known as the Medieval Climate Optimum, a period thought to be warmer than today, the Vikings colonized Greenland and remained there until the onset of the Little Ice Age in the early 15th century.
Today, the Greenland ice sheet covers about 80 percent of the surface of Greenland. But the ice sheet was smaller 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, according to a National Science Foundation-funded study published in November 2013.
The Times article implies that manmade global warming is responsible for any melting that is occurring, but the inconvenient truth is that the Greenland ice sheet can expand and contract as dictated by Nature. The ice sheet may very well at some point shrink substantially, or even “collapse,” sending sea levels rising dramatically. But it’s not clear if or when that will happen, or what the cause will be, or that wrecking the global economy with half-baked anti-fossil fuel policies will have any beneficial impact.
The Times also omits the fact that Greenland’s average temperature has been paused for almost 19 years now, just like the entire planet’s average temperature. Greenland was just as warm in the 1850s and 1930s as it is today, but back then, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were much lower. Moreover, ice core data reveal that Greenland has been gradually cooling for about 10,000 years.
The Times then turns its guns on those nasty Republicans that would deny these researchers their money. They do attempt to salvage the notion of journalistic balance with one sentence near the end of the article:
[The researchers] might even learn … that the water is refreezing within the ice sheet and that sea levels are actually rising more slowly than models project.
Yes, they may find that. But if they do, I doubt the Times will report it.