Mainstream Media Fails to Fact Check a Climate-Change Story…Once Again

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale

Someday, probably not too soon, the mainstream media will come to realize something important. They need to perform a few simple fact checks on climate change-related claims in their articles. When readily available data falsify a claim made in the story, the entire article is undermined and it falls into the great abyss called propaganda.

That brings us to the recent Reuters article China says climate change threatens major projects. The opening paragraph reads (my boldface):

Climate change threatens some of China’s most important infrastructure projects, China’s top meteorologist warned in a state newspaper, adding the country’s rate of warming was higher than the global average.

I’ll let you comment on the claims that weather events, “floods, typhoons, droughts and heatwaves,” were threatening “China’s most important infrastructure projects”, like “the Three Gorges Dam and a high-altitude railway to Tibet”.

My interest is the claim that China’s “rate of warming was higher than the global average.” It’s regurgitated later in the article:

China’s rate of warming was “at an obviously higher rate” than the global average, with the north of the country warming faster than the south and winters faster than the summer, Zheng said.

That claim is very easy to verify…or falsify.

In addition to providing global and hemispheric data, Berkeley Earth has also subdivided their land surface air temperature data by country. The China data are here. And we can run a few checks against the global data (source here). The Berkeley Earth surface temperature data for China runs continuously from July 1837 to August 2013, so we’ll compare them first over that full term. See Figure 1. The warming rates are the same.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Curiously, if we look at the China and global land surface temperatures starting in the oft-used 1979, Figure 2, we once again find the same warming rates.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Then again, when we look at the data since 2001, Figure 3, the global data show a very slight warming rate, while surface temperatures in China show a cooling, not warming, trend.

Figure 3

Figure 3

It only takes a few minutes to spot check claims about global and regional warming rates. Now, there’s no reason to cross check anything else. The credibility of the entire article is gone.

On the other hand, it could well be that when Zheng is reported to have said, “China’s rate of warming was ‘at an obviously higher rate’ than the global average,” he was referring to global land+ocean surface temperatures. In that case, the statement would of course be correct, but it would be awfully misleading. He’d then be comparing two different metrics. It is well known that land surface temperatures mimic and exaggerate the warming of the ocean surfaces, leading to higher warming rates on land surfaces than those of the oceans.

[sarc on.] I can’t imagine (1) a government official anywhere attempting to mislead the public and (2) the mainstream media giving them free rein to do so on a climate-related topic. [sarc off.]


106 thoughts on “Mainstream Media Fails to Fact Check a Climate-Change Story…Once Again

  1. A while back, JoNova had a post on how everywhere in the world is experiencing faster global warming than everywhere else. Sounds like this falls into the same category.

    • Yes everywhere is warming faster than everywhere else otherwise some places wouldn’t get their share of funding. It just needs a climate model to prove that. I’ve just written one and, before it crashed, it said It’s worse than we first thought.

      • Of note though, when you look at the graphs of Temp Increase and look specifically at the variability, China (always in Red) has a greater variability than the Global Picture. The Highs are almost always Higher and the Lows are almost always Lower. Perhaps, If Chins truly Believes that they are warming greater than the remainder of the world, they will act to reduce their Own Carbon Footprint….Or not
        Nah, they will just blame the remainder of the Developed Nations and Cry the need for increasing their own CO2 output (cheap energy to continue development)

    • Makes perfect sense that everywhere would be warmer than everywhere else, it’s that unstoppable feedback loop they’ve been telling us about for 15 years. It’s also where the missing heat is “hidden.” It’s hidden somewhere else.
      And don’t hold your breath on fact-checking, the kids coming out of journalism schools these days have enough trouble with spell-checking.

      • I think you’re confusing journalism and propaganda. There is no journalism in climate change reporting. It has been nothing but propaganda from the start.

      • There has been precious little journalism in the last 20 to 30 years, period.
        So called journalism schools have been teaching the kiddies that their job is to educate the public, not to inform them. With the “journalists” deciding what is to be taught.

        • Mark,
          “So called journalism schools have been teaching the kiddies that their job is to educate the public, not to inform them.”
          Not quite “educate”…..
          Journalism schools’, generally speaking, teach students that their role is to “change the world.”
          This is part and parcel of the Politically Correct Progressive seizure of the three transmission belts of culture–and their insertion of the anti-Normal-America payload.
          A typical mission statement (though they are not all as candid) of a School of Journalism: Northwestern University’s Medill School:
          “The leaders of the media revolution are catalysts – expert communicators who use information to ignite change.”

      • To all:
        I didn’t claim that anyone coming out of a journalism program is practicing journalism in the true sense of the profession, only that they would have trouble with spell-checking, (as well as fact checking), that’s a big difference

      • “The leaders of the media revolution are catalysts – expert communicators who use information to ignite change.”
        And if they had dynamite for brains, there wouldn’t be enough to blow their hats off …

      • Mark from the MW:
        “And don’t hold your breath on fact-checking, the kids coming out of journalism schools these days have enough trouble with spell-checking.”
        Comment of the day for me!!!! (The tragedy is it’s so true!)

      • Journalism students graduate with a double mandate. Yes, they are supposed to tell the truth, but they are also supposed to “Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted”. This latter rule is the very essence of modern liberal moral ideology. That rule is a bad one for improving society, since society must reward mutually beneficial behaviors and punish parasitic/predatory behaviors if it is to prosper. However, the ideology is a terrific tool for competitive praying in public, which is something journalists have lavish opportunities to do.
        What this means in practice is that they are supposed to focus only on those “truths” that advance liberalism. It is thus entirely unsurprising that the MSM is so biased. How could they not be?

    • There are exceptions. The nation with the most heated alarmist as leader has been cooling since 2001 at a rate of -0.34°F per decade.
      (Admittedly, that rate doesn’t include the state of Alaska—AKA “canary in the coal mine”—which has been cooling at a rate of -0.8°F per decade.)

      • Oops, scratch that Alaska trend. Latest numbers from NCDC show Alaska cooling -1.3°F per decade.

    • Of the 2 temp graphs dating back to 1840, one shows an increase of 1.5C, which is almost twice the .8C global increase, and the other shows a 1.C increase, which is .2C above the global increase..
      If you insist on spreading misinformation, it would behoove you to not provide evidence that proves that it is misinformation.
      Very sloppy.

    • China is not ocean. It’s all land.
      The point being made is that comparing ‘China’ with ‘Land and Ocean’ is comparing apples and oranges.
      You need to compare ‘China’ with ‘Land’.

  2. Is your conclusion the same if you replicate what the article actually said instead if what you interpreted it to say ?? The article said global average but you compared with land global average …..

      • Yes .. it does ,,,, but it doesn’t explain why he wrote a whole piece with a bunch of data that didn’t disprove what the article said. The article said that China’s T growth was above the global average. Superficial yes, irrelevant yes, disingenous yes, missing the point yes .. but true nonetheless. So why try and disprove it.

      • @ImranCan
        The article does NOT state that the “global average” is the Land+Ocean average. It is therefore reasonable to compare China-Land versus Global-Land.

  3. “AGW has not been disproven by any stretch, only questioned…and it isn’t complete so is still evolving.”
    someone responded to a global warming article on a news site with this line. I don’t know what to think of that. That seems to be the mentality of the scientists that support AGW however”

    • I could agree with that statement.
      It’s evolving to a point where we can note that it’s not a priority, in my opinion.
      But I certainly agree that man has some effects on the climate (land-use changes if nothing else) and that the science is definitely not settled.

    • Yes – AGW has rapidly evolved from a scientific question into a political statement of false facts. GK

    • We can truthfully say the same thing about natural forcings. Alarmists are constantly seeking to disprove that natural cycles and random events are in control. They will always be evolving also. We will see if AGW has completely played it’s role by observing what happens when the AMO and PDO become negative during a relatively low solar minimum, as that appears to be the coming scenario. It’s encouraging to see a backhanded admission that the science is not settled from one of the mesmerized, though.

    • It has not been proved either. Natural change would hide and smoother any human input. Past climates have changed at very varying rates. We cannot make any claim based on any current alteration, and to base any claim on the “models say it happens” response is sophistry in the extreme.

  4. April 29, 2015
    PMEL and Oregon State University(OSU)/CIMRS scientist Bill Chadwick and Scott Nooner at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) have successfully forecast the latest eruption of Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano located about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon. Based on a swarm of earthquakes and large vertical movements of the seafloor, the eruption started on April 24, 2015. While instruments at the site clearly picked up on these signals, the activity is not strong enough to be felt by anyone on land or large enough to produce a tsunami. In the fall of 2014 the scientists posted a blog predicting that Axial would erupt within the next 15 months. They based their prediction on a repeated pattern of seafloor elevation changes before, during, and after eruptions since 1998.

  5. I refuse to call then “mainstream media” . They do not represent the mainstream, they are just mouth pieces for the select few. I use “national media”, only because of their reach, the machine built up over the years. Thank God for the internet and for people like Anthony, the national media do not know what to do about sites like Anthonys, so they just try to ignore him.

    • Actually, I think the DO represent the mainstream. They’ve created their own herds that rely completely on them for their only source of info. Ask anyone on the street if they believe in “climate change”…ask them if they feel that Hillary’s been “unfairly targeted”…
      It’s a very precise minority that DOESN’T rely on MSM, IMHO.

    • MIke,
      Good call on the importance of terminology. Allowing our opponents to set the terms of the discussion loses the battle before it even begins.
      The best term for what you’re calling the “National Media” is “Legacy Media.” Legacy Media captures the fact that they are left-overs from the old days of total Politically Correct Progressive control of the national discussion.
      There are many “National Media” outlets that are NOT part of the Legacy Media.
      In fact, the Alternative National Media outlets, like WUWT, Drudge Report, RealScience are just as National as the Legacy Media.

    • One of the FCC commissioners has predicted that the bureaucrats will soon try to use the new net neutrality rules to regulate internet content.

      • An old cowboy saying, often attributed to Will Rogers, comes to mind: “Always drink upstream from the herd.” The mainstream media fills their canteens downstream from the herd, after it is all full of muck, and they try to pawn it off as clean and pure. I call them the downstream media.

  6. The global standard of journalism is incredibly poor. No journalist seems to do any research anymore. I see lots of links on Google News about some climate change story, and when I go to the link it is often either a cut’n’paste, regurgitating the same nonsense, or they have quoted some random person whose expertise evidently isn’t in climate science. Shame.

    • The new “global standard of journalism” is simple, and it is this:
      1) If your story makes you feel good about yourself and the people you like, it’s “true.”
      2) If your story pours contempt on the people who you don’t like, it’s “true”.
      3) If your story supports your “enemies” in any way at all, it is False, and must not be printed.
      4) if your story makes you or your friends feel bad in any way, it is False, and must not be printed.
      Think about recent stories, and you can easily see that those 4 rules cover every mainstream story on every topic that you’ve been reading.

  7. The mainstream media will continue to write what they think will sell copy, within the instructions given by the editor or owner. They will only start fact-checking global warming stories when it suits them or their editor/owner.
    [The BBC isn’t even accountable to an owner, so don’t include them in that.]

    • A problem with government-run news organizations is that they often set the tone for the non-government media, since “journalists” may be hesitant to criticize BBC, CBC, ABC because they may eventually want to work there.

    • The BBC has an owner. The govt. The BBC always takes the side of the govt against the citizens.

  8. “China’s rate of warming was “at an obviously higher rate” than the global average, with the north of the country warming faster than the south and winters faster than the summer, Zheng said.”
    This analysis does not really check the specifics of Zheng’s claims. Plus, bet he wasn’t using BEST, and I bet he was going against global not land.
    “”The first decade of this century was the hottest in the past 100 years,” he added.”
    That would be easy to check, but it’s true.
    The bottom line, even if Zheng is wrong on one count and not others, then, by omission, your analysis is just as bad.

  9. It is in China’s state interest to further the climate change meme. Keep in mind, they are given a pass by the court of world opinion as a developing economy. Remember also that anyone “speaking out” officially is first approved by the state.

  10. That would be China positioning itself for the upcoming handwringing and finger-pointing Fest in Paris, aka COP21. As long as their rivals are willing to shoot themselves economically, and they don’t have to do much of anything until 2030, by which time the whole (s)cam will have long been over and done with, of course they are on board with it. Why wouldn’t they be?

  11. “Someday, probably not too soon, the mainstream media will come to realize something important.”
    The MSM already knows what is important: selling disasters and reporting on which celebrity is baring more flesh. Everything else is noise.

  12. China has made its position very clear. The industrialized countries created the CO2 that caused the damages, and thus the industrialized countries must pay. Expect to see many more news stories painting China as the innocent victim and the industrialized west and the villain in the run up to Paris.
    Forget mitigation, that is simply the excuse. Climate reparations are the prize.

    • When I see the words ‘pollution’ and ‘China’ in the same sentence, I get all choked up …

  13. google “extreme weather” and click “news” & u get well over a million results.
    how best for a CAGW sceptic to write an accurate rebuttal? suggestions would be welcomed.
    5 May: CBC: A lesson in flash floods, big tornadoes and preparing for extreme weather
    Coulson: We’re due for more flash flooding, more lightning, and more snow
    Those under 30 years old will have no idea that fatal tornadoes are not uncommon in Ontario. Geoff Coulson, Environment Canada’s Warning Preparedness Meteorologist, knows that the province is due for “the big one,” noting the F4 tornado is well overdue.
    About 15 years overdue.
    “On May 31, 1985, there were 13 tornadoes across southwest and south-central Ontario, two of those events were rated as F4 events,” said Coulson, who led a weather preparedness seminar for Hamilton emergency services, city workers and school board delegates. “We have not seen the like in terms of an event that intense since that time, and we feel that we are, intact, overdue for a tornado of that intensity in Ontario.”
    We’re also due for more flash flooding, more lightning, and yes, more snow as a result of climate change. Those won’t come in May, which is as far as Coulson would give a forecast for…
    Of the tips, many were common sense. Here are a few:…READ ON
    below is a an example of how CAGW advocates attempt to defend the “extreme weather” meme.
    critiques would be appreciated.
    30 April: The Extreme Weather-Warming Connection
    FactCheck is a Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
    Rep. Lamar Smith made several incorrect claims in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece regarding connections between climate change and severe weather.
    Smith wrote that a connection between worsening storms and climate change has been “widely debunked,” and that the United Nations doesn’t believe that warming is related to “more severe weather disasters.” Both claims are incorrect. There is some evidence linking climate change to worsening hurricanes, droughts and other disasters.
    He mentioned an oft-repeated claim that there has been a “lack of global warming over the past 15 years.” Though the rate of warming has slowed, the world does indeed continue to warm, and cherry-picked data underlie the claims that warming has stopped.
    Smith quoted an InterAcademy Council report as saying the U.N.’s climate reports had “significant shortcomings in each major step” of the U.N.’s assessment process. That’s misleading. The report found that though there is certainly room for improvement, the U.N.’s process has been “successful overall.”

  14. btw the FactCheck/Extreme Weather piece i just posted is lengthy, so it would be necessary to read it all in order to critique it.

  15. Bob
    Your article brings out the fundamental problem with our current media new reporting . They do not check the facts a presented in climate science articles . They just repeat what the alarmists say . Nowhere is this more apparent than in United States itself where global warming alarmism is proclaimed by most liberal media outlets , yet the facts show that , the opposite has been happening the last 17 years .
    Regional trend of US Annual temperature anomalies since 1998
    8 out of 9 climate regions show a cooling trend
    • OHIO VALLEY -0.9 F
    • UPPER MIDWEST -1.5 F
    • NORTH EAST -0.1F
    • NORTHWEST -0.1 F
    • SOUTH -0.5 F
    • SOUTHEAST -.03 F
    • SOUTHWEST -0.1 F
    • WEST +0.7 F

  16. Don’t believe that Journalism’s main focus is “Social Change,” or “Changing the World?” Still confused, and think that media is about “profit?” (If so, you clearly don’t know about CNN or MSNBC’s business model.) Then here’s some proof for you.
    They’re quite brazen about it.
    Note that their “Social Change” is NOT opening capital markets, or exposing Communist dictators’ crimes, or bringing sanity back to the fraudulent science world. Their Social Change is exactly the tenets of Politically Correct Progressivism:
    A MOOC offered by UC-Berkeley:
    “Journalism for Social Change
    “J4SC101 has been designed for students who are interested in the intersection of public policy, journalism and social sciences and who are looking to use their expertise and careers to drive positive social change.”

  17. The idea that “Climate change threatens some of China most important infrastructure projects” is nonsense.
    China does not care about climate change.
    What is now their biggest threat is air pollution as you can see here:

    This is not a Michael Moore documentary and you don’t need fancy analytical techniques to evaluate air pollution in China.
    You can see it.
    You can smell it.
    You can taste it.
    You can cough it.
    The reporter should have asked the Chief Meteorologist of China about air pollution problems and what they are doing about it.
    They are doing something by going to nuclear energy in collaboration with Canada and with some from the USA. However this will take some time. China still has a number on coal burning power plants under construction or in planning.
    The other huge problem is water pollution.

    • Chinese air pollution has reduced daytime solar incoming radiation by between 2% and 5% annually averaged.
      “Annual mean clear sky TOA DRF (including daytime and nighttime) of total and absorbing aerosols was about −6.9 and +4.5 W m−2, respectively.”
      “The satellite based clear-sky estimates for median instantaneous and diurnally averaged ADRE over the study area were −8.8 W m−2 and −5.1 W m−2 , respectively. Over heavily industrialized areas, the cooling at TOA was 2 to more than 3 times the median value, and associated with high AODs (> 0.5).”
      “During the most intense period (1–16 January), ARF (anthropogenic Radiative Forcing) at the surface
      exceeded −50 W m−2, −180 W m−2, and −200 W m−2 at rural, suburban, and urban sites, respectively. The ARF readings at the top of the atmosphere were approximately −30 W m−2 in rural and −40–60 W m−2
      in urban areas”

      • Thank you for these articles. Not an area I know much about and certainly China is the area of the world for such studies to be undertaken. Will give me something more to read about.

  18. Thanks, Bob.
    So now Global Warming -> Anthropogenic Global Warming -> Climate Change turns to be warming land temperatures in China?
    China is big, it might have helped, it’s a pity (for warmunistas) that nature disagreed.

  19. If you go to the Chinese Meteorological Administration’s web site, there is an article that was put out in March by Zheng, who is the administrator of CMA. From the article “Since the mid-20th century, China’s climate changed remarkably. The average surface temperature increases 0.23℃ per ten years, which is nearly twice than the global warming process. The extreme weather and climate events such as heatwave, drought, rainstorm, and typhoon are on the rise.”
    So he did say nearly twice, and he said surface temperature, not sea+surface. He does not mention which data set was used for the comparison.

  20. Remember China’s recent agreement…”you developed economies control now and we promise to control later.” This announcement is the second punch, “…oh my, we are warming more than everyone else.”
    Obama and Kerry will then work it into their narrative.
    The knockout punch comes when it is time for China to control…
    Then ” no deal”.

  21. “[sarc on.] I can’t imagine (1) a government official anywhere attempting to mislead the public and (2) the mainstream media giving them free rein to do so on a climate-related topic. [sarc off.]”
    That’s the only positive feedback loop I know of that has gone past the “tipping point”

  22. Read your local paper – anywhere. Note that most non local stories carry the “Reuters” or “AP” tag. So the same message goes out everywhere and local papers do not have resources to check the big brother stories. It’s pretty simple. In Canada for example, the Thompson family, Rogers, Bell, Shaw and the Communist Broadcasting Corporation/sarc control most of the media. No one has time to fact check especially when it would be against the editorial policy anyway. (The Thompson family holding company owns 57% of Reuters.)
    Thank goodness for blogs.

  23. This is not the fault of the reporter. Zheng’s statement was true, as any “simple fact check” would reveal. It is also misleading, as anyone with a detailed knowledge of the subject would realize. But you can not expect that from a reporter. The most you can reasonably expect is that the reporter to check with another expert. If he did so, it is likely that the second expert would have gone along with the deception.

  24. Brad Rich is spot on with ‘downstream media’. I’ll start using it.
    It reminds me of awarded book ‘Shipping news’ by Annie Proulx in 1993. Her fiction borders documentary in our new millennium. One of my favorite passages in Lasse Hallström’s movie based on it is Pete Postlethwaite teaching Kevin Spacey how to write weather related news:
    No. No. It’s not some clouds in the horizon. Imminent Storm Threatens the Village!

  25. What do the reference dates mean on these graphs? Ie, 1951 to 1980. The average temperature during this period?

    • 26south, those are the reference years for the temperature anomalies. That is, they average the data for each month over that time period and then use them as references so they can determine the deviations from those averages.

  26. I’m often inclined to compare this kind of thing with the treatment of Pons and Fleischmann, who were basically kicked-out of mainstream science for making nothing more than a controversial claim. A claim which was later shown to have been correct, at least in principle.
    Now, if mainstream science is so draconic when it comes to anything with the slightest whiff of unorthodoxy about it, how come these climate scientists get to do the full and unabridged snake-oil sales pitch without the slightest repercussions? If the same standards were applied, this whole climate change theory would have been shunted into the same pigeonhole as perpetual motion machines one day after Climategate, and the perpetrators henceforth ignored completely no matter what they said.

  27. Fact checkers are in fact a very good indication of the state of journalism. They were invented simply because the credibility of journalists and the various news organs they work for has been gauged by a significant portion of the population to be generally poor.
    The fact is that if journalists were doing their jobs there would be no need for “fact checkers”. And that now, as people have caught on to their scam, the credibility of the “fact checkers” is as questionable as that of the journalists and news organs they were invented to lend credence to.

  28. So China, having refused to limit its carbon emissions for 20 yers, is suddenly trying to sing ‘global warming songs’.
    Says to me that there must be financial reasons for them to start singing a new song.
    It’ certainly won’t be principles, it will be money.
    Who in China wants to make big bucks from ‘global warming’??

  29. Just wonder why Bob’s elected to use the adjusted BEST data, when both the adjusted and raw GHCN data are available for 416 stations in China:
    In the adjusted GHCN data, since 1979 the trend globally is 0.227C/dec, versus 0.300 for China. In the raw GHCN data, the global trend is 0.216 C/dec versus 0.245 C/dec in China.
    Is the adjusted BEST data preferable to the unadjusted GHCN data for China? If so, is this also the case globally?

  30. it’s us people who order and pay:
    The MSM writes what the MSPeople want to buy.
    The polititians promise / grant what the people vote for.
    The ‘elites’ SERVE the MSP with a narrative the distracts from everydays gray. And transports elevated self esteem.
    Needs time for /the majority/ of us to shift.
    Regards – Hans

  31. The climate system of earth is a most unpredictable, complex and chaotic system. Yet it has proven to be a system that miraculously maintains equilibrium and stability, which allows life to exist on earth. Just because of a small increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide, and just because of a very slow rate of increase in global temperature since the Little Ice Age, the United Nations wants the world to believe in coming climate catastrophes and doomsday scenarios, that quite frankly will never happen.
    Today’s climate is not unprecedented. Today’s weather patters are not unprecedented. Only propagandists will tell you otherwise. They are the alarmists who make meaningless pathetic statements like “Climate change is real”.

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