Too much climate change scaremongering in the media


The Listener magazine celebrated James Hansen’s lecture tour of New Zealand with some climate fiction Hansen would be proud of. Shame it wasn’t true. Air Con author IAN WISHART skewers the Listener and Hansen with the latest science

“The Land Of The Rising Sea”, screamed the Listener’s cover story on May 14. “This is no longer about future generations, this is about today. Not only has it already begun, but it is bound to get worse, even if we do everything right. We have got to prepare.”

Sound the trumpets, assemble the small children and the infirm. Rally the Ponsonby/Grey Lynn mothers’ collectives – where are Robyn Malcolm and Lucy Lawless when you really, really need them?

Valid questions, but if you were looking for answers the Listener was the wrong magazine to find them in. The Listener, you see, typifies the Chicken-Little mentality of New Zealand’s mainstream media when it comes to global warming. Journalists are so into the story they’ve actually come to believe it and suspended their checking skills.

So let’s measure some of Listener journalist Ruth Laugeson’s claims against the latest reality-checks. For the record, it’s worth noting Laugeson’s main sources were the compromised Royal Society of New Zealand , and climate scientist Martin Manning from Victoria University.

The Claim:
“I don’t see how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could survive this century,” wails visiting Chook-in-Chief, NASA’s James Hansen, in the feature. It’s sitting on bedrock 400-500m below sea level, so the entire thing can get into the ocean. There’s about 6-7 metres of sea level [rise] in that ice sheet.”

But of course, in Hansen’s fantasy world, the West Antarctic Ice sheet is the least of the problems this century:

“Sea level rise is one problem. Carbon dioxide amounts of 400 ppm (parts per million), expected in 2016 with current emissions, will cause an eventual sea level rise of about 25 metres,” Hansen wrote in a newspaper article last year.

The Reality:
If the Arctic and Antarctic were melting catastrophically, as the Listener claims when Laugeson writes “polar ice sheets are melting faster than expected”, you’d expect to see all that extra meltwater causing rising sea levels.

In reality, the latest satellite measurements show the rate of sea level increase – already small – has slowed down considerably in the past decade – the opposite of what Hansen and others are predicting. In fact, there’s been no sea level increase since around 2006. Nor is sea level rise catastrophic in longer term records.

To back this up, a just-completed Australian study of Australian and NZ tide gauges has found no evidence of rapidly rising sea levels at all:

“The Australasian region has four very long, continuous tide gauge records, at Fremantle (1897), Auckland (1903), Fort Denison (1914), and Newcastle (1925), which are invaluable for considering whether there is evidence that the rise in mean sea level is accelerating over the longer term at these locations in line with various global average sea level time-series reconstructions,” wrote Australian scientist Phil Watson in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Coastal Research.

“These long records have been converted to relative 20-year moving average water level time series and fitted to second-order polynomial functions to consider trends of acceleration in mean sea level over time. The analysis reveals a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each of these gauge sites throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000. Short period trends of acceleration in mean sea level after 1990 are evident at each site, although these are not abnormal or higher than other short-term rates measured throughout the historical record.”

So that’s the latest science on the issue – no massive sea level rise over the past century at all.

Yet despite real studies of actual tide records like these, mainstream media journalists continue to fall for the slick but untrue marketing hype being fed them by people like Hansen. How else can we explain the Listener’s claim: “New scientific estimates for how much the sea will rise have roughly doubled in the past four years.”


Imagine what it would be like if Listener journalists actually researched stories independently, instead of relying on interviews with climate scientists. If they did, they might find more research, like this:

“Without sea-level acceleration,” write US Army scientist James Houston and the University of Florida’s R G Dean in another study for the Journal of Coastal Research, “the 20th-century sea-level trend of 1.7 mm/y would produce a rise of only approximately 0.15 m from 2010 to 2100; therefore, sea-level acceleration is a critical component of projected sea-level rise.”

Take note of that. Sea levels rose an average of 17 centimetres over the past hundred years, so if they are going to rise by one to seven metres in the next ninety years there should be signs of an “acceleration” in sea levels rising. There must be such acceleration, because the Listener tells New Zealanders, “sea level rise may come faster than first thought”.

What does this next study tell us?

“To determine this acceleration, we analyze monthly-averaged records for 57 U.S. tide gauges in the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) data base that have lengths of 60–156 years. Least-squares quadratic analysis of each of the 57 records are performed to quantify accelerations, and 25 gauge records having data spanning from 1930 to 2010 are analyzed.

“In both cases we obtain small average sea-level decelerations.”

Decelerations? Not accelerations? More proof, if you need it, that the Listener article on catastrophic rising sea levels is a crock. To add insult to the Listener’s injury the US scientists double checked their findings against worldwide data, and again found “small sea-level decelerations similar to those we obtain from U.S. gauge records.”

Incidentally, this study found sea level rise in New Zealand decelerating as well. So if the last decade really was the hottest on record, there’s no evidence of it in sea level data.

In a moment of unintended irony, Local Government NZ president and Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule is quoted by the Listener complaining that “Developers try to challenge some of the scientific information, or put up people to say that climate change isn’t happening”.

The Claim:
“Some 1200 Russians seeking to escape the heat drown at the beaches in June,” says the Listener. “Russian officials, who had been climate change sceptics, suddenly change tack.”

The Reality:
There’s an old adage, repeated constantly by global warming believers when it suits them, that “weather is not climate”. What they mean is that people shouldn’t look at a cold day and assume that this disproves climate change. Yet global warming believers are inconsistent, and the Listener’s article is a classic example. The implication is that global warming caused the Russian heatwave and caused the drowning because so many people went swimming.

But here’s what really happened, according to Reuters:

“Dozens of Russians, unduly fond of their national tipple, are drowning daily as they stream to water to escape the record-setting scorching heat, a senior emergencies ministry official said on Wednesday.

“Vodka-drinking groups — some with small children — can be seen at lakes and ponds in and around the Russian capital where the current three-week heatwave may set a new all-time record of 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) this weekend.”

So there you have it, the Russian heat-wave isn’t so much to blame as the Russian drinking habits, which have been a major cause of death through illness, accident and Darwin Awards style activities for decades in that country. The Listener also forgot to mention that the 1200 drowning deaths at the height of summer formed part of around 17,000 drowning deaths per annum in Russia – just another day at the office, in effect. Russia has the world’s highest drowning rate, nearly double its nearest competitor, and four times the drowning rate in New Zealand.

Not content with its glib coverage of the Russian heatwave, the Listener’s Ruth Laugeson waxed eloquently on Pakistan experiencing “its worst floods in 80 years”, again, implying climate change was the cause. But the first giveaway is the “in 80 years”. Eighty years ago a massive flood hit the country causing river levels to rise up to 26 metres. It was caused by a glacial lake breach, and it killed 408 people that we know of. The 2010 flood killed more than three times as many people.

Proof of climate change? The population of Pakistan was less than 30 million in 1929. Today it is six times higher at 170 million. Per capita, the 1929 floods were worse.
Incidentally, the catastrophic floods in Pakistan are a frequent and well-documented phenomenon:

“Thirty-five destructive outburst floods have been recorded in the past 200 years,” reported one scientific study. “Thirty glaciers are known to have advanced across major headwater streams of the Indus and Yarkand Rivers. There is unambiguous evidence of large reservoirs ponded by eighteen of these glaciers. Meanwhile, a further thirty-seven glaciers interfere with the flow of trunk streams in a potentially dangerous way.”

So the floods are caused by the regular ebb and flow of glaciers, damming and un-damming rivers. Nothing to do with rising CO2 at all.

Still obsessed with floods as proof of climate change, the Listener then documents China’s floods last year which “killed more than 3000 people and forced the evacuation of 15 million,” according to Laugeson.

This, too, sounds impressive and ‘scary’, until it is placed into a little historical perspective. Flooding of the Yellow River in 1887 killed more than 900,000 Chinese. For the record, 1887 was a very cold year, not a hot one. Floods in North China in 1939 killed 500,000 people. Again, manmade CO2 had nothing to do with either event. The 2010 floods were a drop in the bucket in terms of China’s fairly regular serious floods.

By the time NASA’s James Hansen wraps up his New Zealand visit, undoubtedly you’ll have heard every climate scare story known to humankind, brought to you by gullible journalists who know little about the darker secrets of the climate change lobby and even less about climate science itself. If you want an antidote, I can recommend a very good book…

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  1. The difference is, Alan, I quote science, and given that we’ve now had a decade of no statistically significant warming while CO2 levels have continued to shoot up, I’m sure you can tell me why that is.

  2. Notwithstanding your sneering scepticism, total lack of scientific credibility, and head-in-the-sand denial Mr Wishart, to anyone with eyes to see AGW is happening and the effects are more obvious with every passing day.

    You may be making a buck from your crusade of ignorance, and you may convince enough of the ignorant of you misinformation to ensure that the eventual catastrophic outcome is worse than it may otherwise have been but in the end, you’ll be exposed as a charlatan, a dupe, or just a fool.

  3. You are right. If it is the media and deniers who should be believed, there is too much scare-mongering. If it is the degreed scientists that should be believed, there is not enough.

  4. Ah, John. That would be like hard data this week that shows the Russian heatwave in 2010 was a “weather scare” not a “climate scare”?


    Several studies show that the anomalous long-lasting Russian heat wave in summer 2010, linked to a long-persistent blocking high, appears as a result of natural atmospheric variability.

    This study analyzes the large scale flow structure based on ERA-Interim data (1989 to 2010). The anomalous long-lasting blocking high over Western Russia including the heat wave occurs as an overlay of a set of anticyclonic contributions on different time scales: (i) A regime change in ENSO towards La Niña modulates the quasi-stationary wave structure in the boreal summer hemisphere supporting the eastern European blocking. The polar Arctic dipole mode is enhanced and shows a projection on the mean blocking high. (ii) Together with the quasi-stationary wave anomaly the transient eddies maintain the long-lasting blocking. (iii) Three different pathways of wave action are identified on the intermediate time scale (~ 10-60 days). One pathway commences over the eastern North Pacific and includes the polar Arctic region; another one runs more southward and crossing the North Atlantic, continues to eastern Europe; a third pathway southeast of the blocking high describes the downstream development over South Asia”

    As for ocean acidification, how about this “hard data”:

    You’re right, the flat earth types don’t like the science. But you and I clearly do.

  5. Sadly….no matter how convincing global warming data is….from rising carbon dioxide to acidification of oceans (here in Oregon our mussel populations are trying to move into colder water and our oysters are suffering from thinner shells (lower pH water)…..the flat earth types don’t like the science. It doesn’t fit their own world/economic views). And that is very sad.

    And…why is hard data a “climate scare?”

  6. Too much smear and disinformation and outright lies on the internet concerning Global Warming. This article is an example.

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