You can’t believe what you read in the papers!

Weeping Bunny

Weeping Bunny

Never again will I believe >ANYTHING< I read in The Independent. I feel like a fool. And my feeling of foolishness must be mirrored by others who reflect that that they will never believe another story about Climate Change no matter where they read it.

I refer to the story I highlighted in the Independent as being unusually perceptive: their calling attention to the opening up of the North East passage from the far east to Europe through the Arctic Ocean over the top of Russia. The same story was covered in another of my least favourite newspapers: The Times. However reading the Register the other day I found Andrew Orlowski revelling in fact the newspapers had simply regurgitated a press release from a shipping company rather than doing some research. They do not even appeared to have looked up Wikipedia which must count as some kind of journalistic nadir.

I hate Andrew Orlowski’s style of writing and I hate the glee with which he debunks the mythology of the Climate Change movement. But in this case, he is right to do so. And he is also right to mock the ‘scare the children‘ adverts that are being pedalled by the government.

The truth – and that is probably what both Andrew Orlowski & I would agree is a desirable thing to know – the truth is this: we just don’t know what is going to happen to the Climate. For example, no Climate model predicted roughly stable Global Mean Temperature for the last 10 years. Its just a fact. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be concerned about: there is. Because to the best of our knowledge – limited as that is – we expect climates to change around the world over the next decades. Mostly for the worse. However, the newspaper stories based on nonsense; the association of each bad weather event with climate change; and the cheap propaganda from the government: these do us all a disservice.

3 Responses to “You can’t believe what you read in the papers!”

  1. dave Says:

    Orlowski’s position is, as I read it, “shipping along the north sea passage has been routine for decades, so this story is no evidence of changes in sea ice.” However this is not really the whole story. To support his position Orlowski cites a reference that describes the merchant ship Komet making the trip in 1940. This says the journey was made “with the assistance of the Soviets” as if they gave them some sandwiches and a map. It neglects to point out that this assistance amounted to the specially strengthened ship having a passage cleared by ice-breakers, and even then it was by no means a certainty that it would get through; it had to be released twice from the ice and damaged its steering gear in the process. It went that way at great expense and difficulty because there was a war on and the
    Germans didn’t think it would get past the Royal Navy.

    Orlowski’s himself talks about “major ports” handling “over 200,000 tons” of cargo. Cardiff docks in the 1860’s handled 200,000 tons every month (okay it was a major coal exporter but this was nearly 150 years ago). Last year Chinese ports handled nearly 400 million tons just of iron ore – that sounds major to me. 200,000 tons doesn’t sound like much. It sounds like the amount that gets transported by specialist shipping because there is no other way to move it where it needs to be – with little or no road or rail transport.

    Clearly the Indie story was a badly researched bit of tosh, but the original press release had a point. It said

    “Russian submarines and icebreakers have used the Northern Route in the past but it wasn’t open for regular commercial shipping before now because there are many areas with thick ice,”. This is from the ships owner who stands to lose a lot if he gets it wrong.

    Again quoting from the The Barents Observer:

    “The Beluga Group’s sailing along the Northern Sea Route comes amid a rapidly growing interest in Arctic shipping. Arctic warming and ice melting is making major parts of the area open for summertime shipping. That has made Russia heighten its focus on the Northern Sea Route”
    (http://www.barentsobserver.com/german-vessels-ready-for-the-northern-sea-route.4616626-16175.html)

    “A federal law on the Northern Sea Route is under elaboration by the Russian State Duma, the Russian presidential Aide on Arctic and Antarctic issues Artur Chilingarov said this week.The new law will help regulate shipping along the route, which is believed to become a possible commercial shipping route between Europe and Asia as Arctic sea
    ice melts.”
    (http://www.barentsobserver.com/index.php?id=4557561)

    Of course this was also written by journalists so perhaps it is also a bit of spin.

  2. protonsforbreakfast Says:

    Dave

    Yes, I was just so angry at the Independent that I didn’t elaborate any of the subtleties here. The point is that such bad journalism lays one open to the claim that this is all just hype. And some of it is! Just like everyone else I rarely have the time to really chase things down and get to the facts – so thank you for chasing this for all of us. The retreat of arctic sea ice in the summer does seem to be a real fact and so there may indeed be some significance in the original story. But telling the real story rather reproducing press releases is what I would like newspapers to do.

  3. Melindwr Williams Says:

    And yet, and yet … this was news published in a newspaper, and not research published in a science journal. Like the Horizon series, the writer is seeking a readership, not a peer-review. It is important to remember this difference, particularly where some sloppy journalism might have been involved, too. However, the story, as printed, is not an untruth; rather, it reports facts economically, to tell its story that climatic forces have allowed commercial vessels to achieve a Northeast passage. Of course passage has been achieved previously through Soviet and Russian forces in the form of ice-breakers. But that’s not news. Perhaps. then, it would be an over-reaction to disbelieve everything that the Independent publishes in future. It may be worth remembereing, though, that ‘truth is more of a stranger than fiction’; Mark Twain, I believe.

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