News Review by Kip Hansen – 4 March 2020
The NY Times has been at it again – this time printing bald-faced inaccuracies (some might call it lying….).
Hiroko Tabuchi, a climate reporter for The New York Times, penned “A Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research” in the 2 March 2020 online version of the Times. I have tried, but I have found it difficult to find anything true in the story.
Here is Tabuchi’s lede:
“An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.”
The official at the Department of the Interior referred to by Tabuchi is Indur M. Goklany, the nexus of Tabuchi’s bizarre climate-denial conspiracy theory, who has been a career policy analyst at Interior for 40 years. Not only is he a long-time Interior scientist, he:
“….represented the United States at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and during the negotiations that led to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He was a rapporteur for the Resource Use and Management Subgroup of Working Group III of the IPCC First Assessment Report in 1990, and is the author of Clearing the Air (1999), The Precautionary Principle (2001), and The Improving State of the World (2007).”
Indur Goklany was an IPCC insider – involved in the IPCC movement for 30 years.
[Personal Opinion: My suspicion is that he knows a great deal more about climate and climate change than our budding NY Times’ climate desk report, Tabuchi, who graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2000. ]
Tabuchi gives only a few hints as to what offense she (and her unnamed sources at Interior) believe Goklany has committed. Here is her best shot:
“In Interior Department emails to scientists, Mr. Goklany pushed misleading interpretations of climate science, saying it “may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason;” climate modeling has largely predicted global warming accurately. The final language states inaccurately that some studies have found the earth to be warming, while others have not.”
You’d think that if such language was in nine different reports, Tabuchi and the Times would simply quote the offending language. Note: None of the above appears in any language attributed to Goklany in the article and none is quoted from any document into which such language was alledgedly inserted.
Tabuchi gives what appear to be quotes – but not from anything inserted “into the agency’s scientific reports” –
“He also instructed department scientists to add that rising carbon dioxide — the main force driving global warming — is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.”
Both of the alleged “misrepresentations” happen to be True:
1. Increased atmospheric CO2 does increase plant water use efficiency. This has been clear starting in 1985, here, in Nature in 2013, here, in Crop Science, here. Google Scholar returns 314,000 links for the search “Increased atmospheric CO2 increases plant water use efficiency”.
2. Increasing atmospheric CO2 does lengthen the agricultural growing season. Google Scholar returns 18,100 links for the search “increased CO2 lengthens the agricultural growing season”. Including these examples: In Nature, “Elevated CO2 further lengthens growing season under warming conditions”. In Global Change Biology, here, “During the last three decades, the thermal potential growing season has lengthened by about 10.5 days (P < 0.01, 1982–2011), which is unprecedented in the context of the past 60 years. The overall lengthening has been stronger and more significant in Eurasia (12.6 days, P < 0.01) than North America (6.2 days, P > 0.05).”
The NY Times’ characterization of these two plain and simple biological facts as “misrepresentations” is, to be blunt about it, a lie. The Times’ Tabuchi makes the “misrepresentation” accusation because, she says “Both assertions misrepresent the scientific consensus that, overall, climate change will result in severe disruptions to global agriculture and significant reductions in crop yields.”
Let’s parse the NY Times’ misrepresentation: Tabuchi misepresents what, so far, she says Goklany asked to be inserted in reports. She says he said “rising carbon dioxide … is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.” I have just shown that both of these points are mainstream, consensus climate science – backed by scores of studies in major peer-reviewed journals. Tabuchi changes the subject and makes accusations based on (unscientific) consensus opinions about possible effects of future climate change.
Now, up to this point, Tabuchi, writing for the Times, has not quoted a single word from Goklany that has been “inserted …. into the agency’s scientific reports.”
Far down in the Times’ article, after a stream of innuendo and guilt-by-association ad hominem attacks, Tabuchi finally gives us a real quote – in fact an image (probably a mock up, not an actual scan or photo of part of a document – it is not labeled as to its documentary source):
What Goklany actually asked to be inserted:
a. “Future conditions at any particular time or place cannot be known exactly given the current scientific understanding of potential future conditions.”
b. “Likewise, it is important to recognize that the risks and impacts are the result of collective changes at a given location.”
c. “Warming and increased carbon dioxide may increase plant water use efficiency, lengthen the agricultural growing season, but may also have adverse effects on snowpack and water availability.”
d. “These complex interactions underscore the importance of using a planning approach that identifies future risks to water resources systems based on a range of plausible future conditions, …. ”
e. “…and working with stakeholders to evaluate options that minimize potential impacts in ways most suitable for all stakeholders involved.”
Each of these points are true, valid and certainly part of any sensible policy approach to problems that confront the Department of the Interior.
To call them “misrepresentations” is untrue, false, not correct, contrary to fact. We cannot know the future with any certainty, and climate science (in its current state of knowledge and capabilities) cannot predict local or even regional conditions out beyond a year or so – any attempt to deny the truth of Point “a” above is un-scientific. Point “b” is true on its face and requires no defense – but even die-hard Goklany detractors would have to admit it is at least one of a number of valid policy opinions. Point “c” contains several scientific points supported by consensus climate science. Point “d” is a mainstream plank of IPCC-type climate science. Finally, Point “e” is the purpose of policy planning by all government agencies – working out the best policy that gives the best results for all stakeholders involved – government for the people.
NY Times’ Claim: “A Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research”
FALSE – there was/is no climate denial embedded in any scientific research.
NY Times’ Claim: “An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change…”
FALSE – there was no “misleading” language inserted in any agency scientific report – everything in the “Gok’s uncertainty language” is true and/or sensible policy.
NY Times’ Claim: “The wording, known internally as the “Goks uncertainty language” based on Mr. Goklany’s nickname, inaccurately claims that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming.”
FALSE — “Gok’s uncertainty language” (as printed in the Times) says nothing whatever about a lack of consensus about warming. Nothing in the Times’ article attributed to Goklany says anything whatever about consensus on warming.
# # # # #
Where oh where is the NY Times’ Public Editor? She would have torn this piece of Junk Journalism to pieces and held the Climate Desk chief’s feet to the fire.
Even after some 150 essays here at WUWT, many which have been attempts to correct false information published in the NY Times, I am still appalled at the lack of basic high-school level journalistic values in the Times’ newsrooms. Pathetic.
My 15-year-old granddaughter would have done a better job on this story (and she wouldn’t have left out the possessive apostrophe in “Gok’s uncertainty language”…..).
# # # # #