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Climate change alarmism discredits the science

Wednesday, September 2nd 2009 - 02:36 UTC
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Climate change alarmism is widespread in the media, its critics contend. (Photo: FIS) Climate change alarmism is widespread in the media, its critics contend. (Photo: FIS)

Almost every day there is a new dire warning about global warming. But some claims regarding global warming are more extreme than others overselling the issue and can potentially damage the argument.

The issue of climate change has become one of the world's most important, especially for the seafood industry where melting ice caps could affect fish stocks directly.

If one asks how much has the planet warmed up over the past century, most people would say that the figure is between two and three degrees. However, this is not even close to the real figure provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is 0.6 C.

It does not come as a surprise that people would get this figure wrong since we are constantly bombarded with alarmist media, which in many cases discredits the climate change theory through exaggeration and the use of bad science. In some cases, like the one in this article, the claims made are simply not true.

Even the most conservative estimates on climate change show that there could be serious consequences for world fisheries, even though this might not be on the same timescale as more extreme claims. So why oversell the issue?

In a recent interview with Gerd Leipold, executive director of Greenpeace on the BBC's Hardtalk, the show’s host, Stephen Sackur, pressed Leipold on these matters.

Sackur was particularly critical of claims made by Greenpeace that the Greenland icecap would disappear by 2030, referring to a 15 July press release by the organisation. The icecap, 1.6 million square kilometres in size and 3 kilometres thick in the middle, has existed for hundreds of thousands of years and has survived periods much warmer than those of today, argued Sackur.

Sackur said that “there is no way that ice-sheet is going to disappear” and that “if you (Greenpeace) use alarmism, then the public, over time, is going to get sceptical.”

Leipold then responded with “we, as a pressure group have to emotionalise issues and we're not afraid of emotionalising issues.”

This statement by Gerd Leipold gets to the root of the issue – climate activists feel the need to use scare tactics since they may not otherwise get a response from the public over the issue.

But of course, it is also the media that is to blame for publishing these press releases and not being sceptical of them. Some more sensationalist sides of the media may also choose to publish these claims to sell more papers, or higher readership for websites. After all, what use do words like “catastrophe” and “disaster” have in our media, other than to sell papers?

Another dangerous trend is to focus solely on carbon dioxide, which only makes up 0.038 per cent of our atmosphere, despite what environmentalists may say. Water vapour, which is also a greenhouse gas, makes up 1 per cent of the atmosphere. But many decide to focus on CO2 since it is one of the only gasses which humans can easily control, unlike other gasses such as methane.

Another source of this alarmism is politicians. As this issue becomes increasingly important, our political parties are increasingly using the issue to win the hearts and minds of voters.

A series of climate change adverts from the UK government have been called an “insidious propaganda campaign” by Northern Ireland's Environment minister Sammy Wilson. The minister also said that “giving people the impression that by turning off the standby light on their TV they could save the world from melting glaciers and being submerged in 40 feet of water” is simply “patent nonsense”.

Despite it being equally as important as man-made global warming, causes of naturally caused climate change, such as solar and volcanic activity are often overlooked by environmentalists and the media, despite having caused periods of equal warming to the one which we see today.

Equally dangerous is denying global warming altogether, a trend which is becoming increasingly popular around the world, particularly in the United States.

Whatever the case, the way in which climate journalism is presented certainly misleads readers and viewers, and is in many cases irresponsible and is clouding what is becoming an increasingly important issue.

By Michel Loubet - editorial@fis.com

Categories: Environment, International.

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