“Inappropriate and misleading”- Climate Denial’s Latest in Fake News

November 29, 2016


Climate Deniers were making Fake News before making Fake News was cool.

This from a reliable vector of Fakery.


Antarctic sea ice had barely changed from where it was 100 years ago, scientists have discovered, after poring over the logbooks of great polar explorers such as Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

Experts were concerned that ice at the South Pole had declined significantly since the 1950s, which they feared was driven by man-made climate change.

But new analysis suggests that conditions are now virtually identical to when the Terra Nova and Endurance sailed to the continent in the early 1900s, indicating that declines are part of a natural cycle and not the result of global warming.

Author of said study calls this interpretation “inappropriate and misleading”.
The worthwhile post is excerpted here.

Carbon Brief:

Last week, my colleague Tom Edinburgh and I published an article estimating the extent of Antarctic sea ice in the early 1900s, using sea ice observations recorded by explorers of the time.

It received an overwhelming amount of coverage in the media. This was largely because it combined a human-interest story about the conditions faced by the early Antarctic explorers with an illuminating result regarding the thorny issue of Antarctic sea ice trends.

Despite significant increases in global average temperature, sea ice in the Antarctic hasbeen slightly increasing in extent over recent decades (1979 – present).

Although much of the coverage was very well reported, there were other examples of the results being wrongfully interpreted, perhaps wilfully so. Some of the errors led to confusion, such as conflating sea ice with land ice. Others attempted to cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gases and global mean temperature, which was inappropriate and misleading.


In my efforts to communicate these points to the media last week I learnt exactly how hard it is to get these messages across, with a tendency for some reporters to reduce the message to one of no human caused climate change in Antarctica. This message in incorrect for two main reasons.

First, the actual message should have been along the lines of “natural variability may be more important in Antarctica than previously thought”. A high degree of natural variability can mask any human caused signal, so this tendency to reduce climate shifts to either being natural or manmade is not useful, even if it does simplify the message for a better story. 

Secondly, some reports confused sea ice with land ice, inferring from our analysis of sea ice extent that Antarctic climate, more generally, is not sensitive to global warming. Some outlets even used this to cast doubt on the overall science of climate change. Our examination of one variable, in one season, in one particular region of the Earth adds to our understanding of Antarctic climate variability and does not change the fundamentals of the role of greenhouse gases in the climate system.



Does this indicate that the sign of the trend in Antarctic sea ice is changing?

It is hard to tell from two months of data, but if natural variability has contributed to the positive sea ice trends in recent decades at some point in the future we would expect this to switch sign to a decreasing trend, similar to that seen in the 1970s.


3 Responses to ““Inappropriate and misleading”- Climate Denial’s Latest in Fake News”

  1. Several ice streams are flowing onto the Ross Ice Shelf with three months of record-breaking heat ahead

  2. skeptictmac57 Says:

    They never mention land ice in these stories:


    “Land Ice
    Data from NASA’s GRACE satellites show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica and Greenland are losing mass. The continent of Antarctica has been losing about 134 gigatonnes of ice per year since 2002, while the Greenland ice sheet has been losing an estimated 287 gigatonnes per year. (Source: GRACE satellite data)”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      So true, and rates of loss of both land and sea ice have been accelerating, and scientists are very concerned about “irreversibility”, and tipping points, and positive feedback loops, etc, etc.

      But one ton of real news does not outweigh one pound of the FAKE news that the deniers spout. Confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and cognitive dissonance rule!

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