Bob Ward takes to task David Rose, author of an article in The Mail on Sunday that makes inaccurate and misleading claims about the science of climate change.
On 31 August, The Mail on Sunday published the latest in a series of articles on ‘The Great Green Con’, under the headline: ‘Exposed: Myth of Arctic Meltdown’. The series, written by David Rose, has been commissioned by Geordie Greig and Gerard Greaves, respectively editor and deputy editor of the newspaper, to persuade readers to oppose government policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Rose has not let facts get in the way of this campaign aim, consistently making inaccurate and misleading claims about the science of climate change, using any means he deems necessary. For instance, a previous article falsely suggested that the scientific community in the 1970s had promoted the idea that the Earth was in danger of an imminent Ice Age. Greenpeace revealed that Rose had used a fake cover of Time magazine as proof. Last year, he produced an article that wrongly asserted Arctic sea ice extent had “recovered” by 60 per cent in one year, but he was forced into an embarrassing admission afterwards that it was based on a typographic error which appeared fleetingly on the website of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
His latest attack on the science of climate change focuses on the Arctic sea ice extent measured on 25 August 2014, which Rose highlighted was higher than on the corresponding date in 2012 and 2013. But his article failed to mention that the figure for 25 August 2012 was the lowest ever recorded on that date since satellite measurements began in 1979. And as the NSIDC noted, even though the figure for August 2014 was only the seventh lowest on record, it was still consistent with a strong downward trend since 1979, with sea ice extent decreasing at a rate of 10.3 per cent per year.
However, Rose’s article was accompanied by a graph which only showed the data from 2004 to 2014, under the headline ‘How melt has slowed over 10 years’. As the NSIDC data shows, this was a false claim. But the article went even further, quoting Professor Judith Curry who stated: “The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed”. This was an extraordinary prediction, based solely on the fact that the sea ice extent on 25 August 2014 was slightly less than it was on 25 August 2013, which in turn was less than it was on 25 August 2012. Essentially, the “reversal” of the downward trend was defined by the data points for 2013 and 2014.
The apparent basis for Professor Curry’s claim was a paper published late last year which she co-authored with Dr Marcia Wyatt for the journal Climate Dynamics. It predicted that a “rebound” in Arctic sea ice would occur after 2006 as part of a “stadium wave signal”.
In the press release issued by Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, which accompanied the publication of the paper, Dr Wyatt said that “the sea ice minimum observed in 2012, followed by an increase of sea ice in 2013, is suggestive of consistency with the timing of evolution of the stadium-wave signal”. However, the paper was heavily criticised by other researchers who concluded that the “stadium wave signal” is an artefact of the methods used by Dr Wyatt and Professor Curry.
And this week, the NSIDC has delivered a decisive blow to Professor Curry’s claim in The Mail on Sunday that the data for 2013 and 2014 show a reversal in the decline in Arctic sea ice extent. It announced that the annual sea ice minimum recorded in September 2014 is lower than in 2013. Based on Professor Curry’s questionable logic of making predictions based on year to year variations in Arctic sea ice, the conclusion is that there was a rebound between 2012 and 2013, but this ended in 2014 with the resumption of the decreasing trend.
It is not yet clear if Professor Curry will retract her comments in the face of the new data, or whether The Mail on Sunday will publish a correction. But it is yet another humiliation for David Rose and his editors whose campaign on climate change has again been thoroughly discredited.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting. Featured image credit: Nasa Goddard Space Flight Centre CC BY 2.0
Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.