Media are pawns in IPCC extreme weather hype

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a draft summary of its upcoming report on climate change, and the media are hyping the scary scenarios.  Typical is the headline in the Arizona Daily Star: “Scientists: More weather crises are on their way.”

If you think about it a minute, that headline is  equivalent to this: “Scientists predict sun will rise tomorrow.”  Of course we have had and will continue to have weather extremes.

The headline is all too familiar.  Here is another headline from the New York Times:”Scientists Say Earth’s Warming Could Set Off Wide Disruptions.”  That headline was from September 18, 1995.

In the 1995 article, the IPCC made some predictions, one of which we can now test.  They predicted: “A striking retreat of mountain glaciers around the world, accompanied in the Northern Hemisphere by a shrinking snow cover in winter.”

It so happens that the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab keeps track of snow cover. The graph below shows that rather than a  decrease, snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has been increasing since 1995:

Northern hemisphere winter snow

We can also look at extreme high and low temperatures.  The National Climate Data Center has a map and table here, which shows that for each state, most of the extreme high and low temperatures occurred before 1950.  Of the 50 states, 29 had record lows and 35 had record highs prior to 1950.

We can also look at the trends for precipitation, drought, and hurricanes:




The United States Geological Survey studied the relationship between floods and rising carbon dioxide.  The USGS found that for most of the country during the last 100 years, there is no strong statistical evidence for flooding increasing or decreasing with rising carbon dioxide.  In the southwest however, they found that flooding has been decreasing with rising carbon dioxide.

“To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.” –Dr. Stephen Schneider

The IPCC has lost all credibility except to the credulous press and those with a vested interest in maintaining the carbon dioxide myth.

See also:

The Assumed Authority

Book Review: The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert, an IPCC Exposé


  1. Jon, The job of the press is to get eyeballs on their output. Man bites dog. The job of the scientist is to gather and study data and arrange it systematically to show the operation of general laws. Your conflating of these two roles creates more heat than light. I’ll try address some of that “heat” this evening, but I could not let your low blow to to the recently deceased Dr. Schneider go unanswered. The next six word sentence left out of your quote: “I hope that means being both”. (For a fair reading, see the journal article APS Aug/Sep, ’96.)

    Dr. Schneider’s lifetime of adding to human knowledge and understanding deserve a much fairer hearing than you have shamelessly given him here. You are better than this. John

  2. The short quote I gave is often excerpted from an interview in Discover Magazine, October 1989. According to a rebuttal article by Schneider (page 5: here is the full quote:
    “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

    In my experience, being “both” too often does not happen in climate science.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I think the job of newspapers is to print the true story when that story is not offered as a editorial. Too often, especially in environmental matters, newspapers don’t check sources, maybe because of laziness, lack of staff, or because they have an agenda and the story itself lends to their confirmation bias.

  3. Jon, Leaving aside the question of whether or not you are being naive, corporations have a legal fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value. I think we would both agree that this is at odds with the greater purpose as you eloquently expressed it. But what about you Jon, you write for a paper. Would you have us believe that you have no agenda?

    For example, you show three charts that purport to show trends but not one has a trend line. Thenyou say IPCC predicted “a striking retreat of mountain glaciers around the world”. Have we not seen just such a retreat? And nowhere did the IPCC state that we would see a decrease in N.H. snow cover within 15 years. You also mislead your readers when you suggest with your chart that the IPCC predicted an increase in overall cyclonic activity. They didn’t. They predicted an increase in INTENSE cyclonic activity which has been verified by several peer reviewed studies ( see Pew). Another, you show a chart the suggests that the IPCC predicted more wet weather. They didn’t. They predicted more wet weather in Northern Latitudes.

    I guess when you say the media has “an agenda” you’re leading by example. JP

    1. The hurricane graph I shows is a graph of ACE, “accumulated cyclone energy” which is a measure used by NOAA to express the activity of a cyclone, and is an approximation of the system’s total energy. In other words, its intensity.

      1. Jon, that’s not correct. The chart shows Global Accumulated Cyclonic Energy, not the intensity of individual cyclones (hurricanes).JP

      2. For your reader’s benefit: If one fails to respond to a point, that point is conceded. JP

  4. By the way Jon, Thank you for giving my contact info to “richardh”. You remember his bluster when he challenged me to a wager? Well he emailed today to notify me that he had “second thoughts” and was withdrawing his challenge. I want future generations to know where we stood when there was still a chance do do something about AWG. Do you ever wonder what they’ll say about you Jon?

    1. Jon,
      I decided not to follow through on that wager because I had gut feeling about you.  You just confirmed it. 

  5. Jon, You wanted some empirical evidence that human CO2 emissions have a significant impact on Earth’s climate. Here’s a small sample to begin our discussion:
    Our planet is suffering an energy imbalance and is steadily accumulating heat (Hansen 2005, Murphy 2009, von Schuckmann 2009, Trenberth 2009)
    Animal and plant species are responding to earlier springs. Eg – earlier frog breeding, bird nesting, earlier flowering, earlier migration of birds and butterflies (Parmeson 2003)
    The distribution of tree lines, plants, birds, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, marine invertebrates are shifting towards the poles (Parmeson 2003)
    Arctic permafrost is degrading (Anisimov 2006) plus warming at greater depths in the permafrost (Stieglitz 2003)
    Global sea level rise is accelerating (Church 2006)
    Antarctic ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009), even from East Antarctica which was previously thought to be too stable to lose ice mass (Chen 2009)
    Greenland ice loss is accelerating (Velicogna 2009, van den Broeke et al 2009)
    Glaciers are shrinking globally at an accelerating rate (WGMS 2008)
    Arctic sea-ice loss is accelerating with the loss rate exceeding model forecasts by around a factor of 3 (Stroeve 2007).
    The height of the tropopause is increasing (Santer 2003, press release)
    Jet streams are moving poleward (Archer 2008, Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
    The tropical belt is widening (Seidel 2007, Fu 2006)
    There is an increasing trend in record hot days versus record cold temperatures with currently twice as many record hot days than record cold temperatures (Meehle 2009, see press release).

    Direct observations find that CO2 is rising sharply due to human activity. Satellite and surface measurements find less energy is escaping to space at CO2 absorption wavelengths. Ocean and surface temperature measurements find the planet continues to accumulate heat. This gives a line of empirical evidence that human CO2 emissions are causing global warming.

    This is a start, Jon. Care to rebut? John

  6. While I could rebut many of these observations (see my posts on climate in the Article Index), they all speak to a warming cycle, but none address the cause of the warming.  There is nothing to rebut warming from natural causes and much evidence to support natural cycles.  Sea level rise is in fact decelerating, CO2 wavelengths are nearly saturated, and the conerstone of CO2 warming model: a warming tropical troposphere, is in fact not warming.  There is nothing in these observatons that would support a significant influence for CO2 over natural variation.

    1. Oh, I beg to differ Jon, there definitely is work that shows that the warming we see is caused by human activity—the burning of fossil fuels. I will present that evidence soon. JP

  7. Letter received:
    To the Editor,
    Jonathan DuHamel is right. Most main stream media have completely skewed the extreme weather issue.
    If the world warms significantly due to man-made greenhouse gases (GHG), temperatures at high latitudes are forecast to rise the most, reducing the difference between arctic and tropical temperatures. Since this differential drives weather, we should see less extremes in weather, not more.
    GHG emissions are not the cause of recent extreme weather either. The August 29 report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC – concluded “the data reveal there have not been any significant warming-induced increases in extreme weather events.” The report’s authors showed that this was the case whether the phenomenon being studied was precipitation, floods, drought, storms, hurricanes, fire, or other weather-related events.
    No extreme weather records have been set for the state of Arizona since 1994 and most were long before that. According to the National Climatic Data Center, here is when state-wide records were set:
    Maximum Temperature – 1994
    Minimum Temperature – 1971
    24-hr Precipitation -1970
    24-hr Snow Fall – 1967 and 1987
    Maximum Snow Depth – 1967
    Tom Harris
     Executive Director
     International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC)
    Ottawa,OntarioK2A 4E2


  8. Jon, Your insistence that the media is totally out of control regarding AWG is correct. Your denial of the existence of AWG is patently incorrect. If you make a statement like “….the troposphere…is in fact not warming.” without some attribution, am I to assume that is from your own research? If that statement is based on the the long dead Christy/Spencer work your readers should know that. The canard about the sea level rise decelerating is the same one denialists use every time any data show variability. The long term trend line remains unbroken. Your Canadian acolyte is talking about weather. I’m here to persuade you that to deny AWG is folly. The “saturated atmosphere” argument is another “oldy but goody” (Jon, you need some new material) that has been repeatedly debunked [Philipona 2004 and Evans 2006 and many others]. Next, episode I’ll explain how scientists know that these effects we see are not natural variability. This is where the last of the denialist holdouts are putting up their last stand, like those Japanese soldiers they found on a deserted island 25 years after the war was over. JP

  9. “Maybe I’m naive, but I think the job of newspapers is to print the true story when that story is not offered as a editorial. Too often, especially in environmental matters, newspapers don’t check sources, maybe because of laziness, lack of staff, or because they have an agenda and the story itself lends to their confirmation bias.”
    Yes, you are being naive. The purpose of newspapers is to sell newspapers, and sensationalist headlines are the vehicles that drive it.

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