Stuff stuff up (another bloody ice age)

There’s a major fail today for the new science section of the news web site — the web portal for Fairfax NZ, home to The Press (Christchurch) and the Dominion Post (Wellington) newspaper web presences. A front page teaser — “Could cooling sun cause ice age?” (see image at left) — leads to a page with a headline that screams ‘Solar minimum’ could trigger Ice Age [Web Cite]. It’s a short piece that originally began thus:

The world could be heading for a new ‘solar minimum’ period, possibly plummeting the planet into an Ice Age, scientists say. Researchers say the present increase in sun activity with solar flares and storms could be followed by this minimum period.

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of global-warming alarmists.

This alarming introduction, helpfully archived by morgue, has since been rewritten to change the final sentence:

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of further global-warming.

Two small problems for Stuff: “scientists” aren’t saying anything at all about a coming ice age, refuting predictions of global warming, or projecting new solar minima. The paper they’ve based the story on is a lot less exciting, suggesting that there may be a plausible link between changes in solar activity and regional climate a few thousand years ago as measured by varves from a German lake. The story — one of the day’s “top stories” on their iPad app — is made up nonsense. And there’s a second problem: it may have been lifted in part from an earlier item in Britain’s Daily Mail

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Cranking it out: NZ papers conned by denier media strategy

My inbox in the last month has filled with emails about denier articles in leading New Zealand newspapers. It’s been a veritable crank central across the country. They include the ridiculous opinion piece by Jim Hopkins in the Herald late last year, a similar feature by Bryan Leyland  published in both the DomPost and The Press, then, last week, a piece by Chris de Freitas in the Herald, arguing that desertification in Africa isn’t caused by climate change.

Did Leyland and de Freitas, both leading lights in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, take advantage of newspapers’ lack of feature material over the holiday break and provide some copy to fill the gap?

An insight to the strategy behind our newspapers’ fairly regular publication of our local deniers can be gained from reading a document I came across recently: the Canadian-based International Climate Science [denial] Coalition’s (ICSC) media strategy, originally posted on the front page of its website last year (pdf here).

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Rebuilding on a rising tide

It’s been a shaky week in Christchurch and Canterbury. Another M6.3 shock hit the city on Monday afternoon — renewing the misery for many in the city’s eastern and seaside suburbs, but thankfully not adding to the death toll. Attention has now turned — with some force — to the question of which suburbs should be rebuilt, and an excellent feature by David Williams in last Saturday’s Press on sea level rise and its implications for the rebuilding of Christchurch should cause some pause for thought. Williams interviewed James Hansen during his visit to the city last month (shortly before I did, in fact), and uses Hansen’s views on sea level rise to kick off his discussion:

Hansen says a multi-metre sea level rise is possible this century if greenhouse gas emissions, caused by things such as coal-fired power plants, vehicle engines and agriculture, are not reduced.

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This perfect storm of calamities…

This guest post is by David Round, lecturer in environmental law at the University of Canterbury. It first appeared in the Christchurch Press on March 18.

It was once a truth universally acknowledged that good times never last. But we now seem to consider ourselves immune from the laws of nature and history. Times have been good and getting better for most of our lifetimes. All but the very poorest of us enjoy comforts beyond our grandparents’ wildest imaginings. We cannot imagine anything but the good life.

But actions have consequences, and if even half the articles we read in this newspaper every day are actually true – and surely The Press does not lie – then chickens are rapidly coming home to roost. We face the end of cheap and abundant oil, on which our entire civilisation and way of life depends. Oil we cannot afford is, for most purposes, little different from no oil at all. No adequate substitute exists. How will we manage if we cannot even get to work in the morning, and bring the groceries from the supermarket, let alone send our goods to the other side of the world and bring large numbers of tourists here?

There is no doubt significant global climate change is happening. The “challenge” to climate change science recently whipped up by vested interests is only a quibble over a couple of footnotes. We will inevitably see more extreme weather events, crop failures, famine, economic collapse, mass population movements and war. The earth’s human population increases each year by some 90 million, all of them wanting not just life but a life as good as ours. As all of this happens, we are running out of the most basic resources; not just oil, but water, soil and fresh air.

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Mother nature’s sons

homer.jpgYesterday, two of NZ’s leading newspapers — Fairfax stablemates The Press and the Dominion Post — featured an exciting story by Press science reporter Paul Gorman. The Press headlined it Climate change down to nature, while the Dom Post opted for the slightly more accurate Nature blamed for warming. Big news, obviously, as Gorman explained in the opening sentence in the DP version:

Nature, not mankind, is responsible for recent climate change, according to new peer-reviewed research likely to send ripples around the world.

The first ripples showed up at Hot Topic on Friday morning, alerting me to this apparently ground-breaking piece of research — a paper in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research titled Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature . And then I saw the author list: McLean, J. D., C. R. de Freitas, and R. M. Carter. That’s Bob “big lie” Carter, inexpert witness Chris de Freitas, and Aussie “climate analyst” John McLean, as good a cross-section of the southern hemisphere climate crank coterie as you’re likely to find in one journal at one time. And guess what, the paper’s available free of charge from the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition web site [PDF (link now broken, see Update 4 below)], although the AGU want to charge for it. All sorts of interesting questions popped into my mind…

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