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U.S. News and Greenpeace Collaborate on Global Warming

We have written here and here about the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project. The project’s goal was to carry out a comprehensive survey of recorded temperatures from as many locations around the world as possible, to develop the most accurate possible history of global temperatures from 1753 to 2011. It is still underway, but the group recently released a preliminary report, which finds that the Earth is somewhat warmer today than in 1753, and that average global temperature has increased 0.869 degree C since the 1950s.

This conclusion is something of a yawner, since pretty much everyone has long assumed that the Earth is warmer now than it was during the Little Ice Age, and that there has been some warming in the last century. There are obvious holes in the BEST analysis. Here are just a few of them:

1) The work done so far covers only land measurements, so more than half of the Earth’s surface area, the oceans, are not represented.

2) The BEST data tell us nothing new about the causes of temperature fluctuations. The report does not attempt to measure or to explain the warm temperatures during Roman times and the Medieval Warm Period, the colder temperatures during the Dark Ages and the Little Ice Age, and so on.

3) The report does not attempt to explain the fact that satellite measurements, which are taken in the atmosphere where global warming should be taking place, do not show the warming trend that appears in land measurements.

Over the coming months, scientists will analyze and critique the BEST data. Maybe their methods will hold up, maybe they won’t. But on any scenario, the preliminary BEST report does not come close to resolving the many debates over the Earth’s climate and the causes that drive its constant changes.

The Berkeley project has been funded by a number of groups or individuals, including the Charles Koch Foundation. This has caused activists and journalists who do not understand the complicated issues involved in analyzing the Earth’s climate to play “gotcha.” Thus, this afternoon Missy Cohlmia, Koch Industries’ Director of Corporate Communications, received this email from a reporter at U.S. News:

From: Flock, Elizabeth
Sent: Monday, August 06, 2012 12:55 PM
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: Request for comment from US News & World Report on climate change study

Hi Melissa,

Greenpeace just shared a letter with me that it addressed to Mr. Charles Koch regarding the recent Berkeley study that found climate change was in part man-made.

http://berkeleyearth.org/donors/

The letter hopes Mr. Koch will share whether his position on climate change has changed.

Are you able to comment on this?

Best,
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Flock
Staff Writer, US News & World Report
www.usnews.com

Note that Ms. Flock does not seem to be familiar with the Berkeley study; further, I am not sure whether Charles Koch has a “position on climate change.” I believe the Kochs’ position on climate is that public policy should be governed by solid, transparent science.

What is odd about Ms. Flock’s email is that Greenpeace had not yet sent the letter to Charles Koch. Rather, Greenpeace apparently was coordinating with U.S. News to create a “news story.” Ms. Cohlmia replied:

From: Cohlmia, Missy
Sent: Monday, August 06, 2012 2:22 PM
To: Flock, Elizabeth
Subject: RE: Request for comment from US News & World Report on climate change study

Hello Elizabeth – we have not seen the letter. Can you send me a copy? Thanks.

Melissa Cohlmia
Director, Corporate Communication
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

So U.S. News acts in the role of mailman, or spokesman, for Greenpeace:

From: Flock, Elizabeth
Sent: Monday, August 06, 2012 1:54 PM
To: Cohlmia, Missy
Subject: RE: Request for comment from US News & World Report on climate change study

Hi Melissa,

I believe Greenpeace sent the letter to your office. But below are the two questions Greenpeace Executive Director Phillip Radford asked Mr. Koch that I would like comment on, if possible:

“Do you now consider anthropogenic global warming to be on a ‘solid, firm foundation’ as Dr. Muller does?”

“Will groups that deny climate science continue to receive support from Koch Industries and its associated foundations?”

Thanks,
Elizabeth

These questions are very silly. Mr. Muller may believe that AGW rests on a “solid, firm foundation,” but that claim is vigorously and sometimes bitterly debated by scientists representing multiple (not just two) points of view on the complicated and poorly understood phenomenon of climate change. In fact, it remains to be seen whether even within its limited parameters, the BEST report represents good science. It has been challenged by another analysis, by Anthony Watts and colleagues, which concluded that in the continental United States, supposedly the source of the best temperature time series, the reported temperature increase has been “spuriously doubled” by improper manipulations of the data:

The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward.

The battle over global temperatures will continue to rage for years to come. In that debate, no one “denies climate science,” as Greenpeace and the U.S. News reporter would have it. All of the arguments in question are scientific. Ms. Flock’s approach to the topic is frankly childish; sadly, that cannot be considered surprising. Nor is it surprising that she did not wait for a response to her email from the Kochs, and instead posted this bit of Greenpeace cheerleading.

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