Category Archives: journalism
Climate change deception is real
Proponents of the theory of human-caused global warming say that misinformation spread by skeptics is widespread, and that the general public is being purposely deceived by them about the growing threat.
The public is being deceived, but not by the skeptics. The public is frequently misled in the opposite direction by regular media reports from trusted international news services. A Reuters story out of Beijing titled “Climate change fuelled storms, rising seas cost China $2.6 bln in 2013” is a typical example.
Reuters reports on a 2013 storm damage report released March 19th by China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA).
Reporters Stian Reklev, Kathy Chen and editor Michael Perry then added new facts and altered others they inaccurately claim are from the SOA report.
Climate change-linked rising, warmer seas cause more frequent storms and typhoons, flood coastal areas, contribute to coastal erosion and salinate farmland, said SOA
– Reuters, Rising seas cost China $2.6 bln in 2013, 4/20/2014
Reuters wrongly credits these claims to the new SOA report:
- Human-induced climate change causes more frequent Chinese typhoons
- Climate change made 2013 storm waves worse
- 2013 sea level changes were caused by climate change
- China coastal temperatures have risen +0.34°C per decade since 1980
- Sea surface temperatures rose by +0.18 degrees per decade
Some of these statements, no doubt, are true. What isn’t true, though, is that those claims were made in the SOA report, as stated by Reuters.
The original SOA report, “The 2013 sea level and ocean disasters bulletin” (in Chinese), provided the source material for Reuters’ globally distributed story. Bloomberg and Tech Times, unlike Reuters, include a link to the Chinese-language report in their republications.
SOA’s report can easily be translate into English using Google Translate.
The SOA report is a standard central government nothing-but-the-facts annual storm damage report. It doesn’t say human-induced global warming caused any of it. Reuters added all that. In fact, SOA never even mentions the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’.
Reuters and the SOA report do agree on these details:
- 2013 storms in China caused property damage costing 16.4 billion yuan
- 2013 storms killed 121 people
- Guangdong province was hardest hit, causing 7.4 billion yuan in damage
- Storm surge caused 94 percent of the destruction
- China has averaged 2.9 mm per year of sea level rise since 1980
What causes Chinese lowland sea level changes?
Reuters includes only one direct quote from SOA. It reads, “Sea temperature, air temperature, air pressure and monsoons are the main causes of the irregular sea-level changes“. The last part translates slightly differently in Google Translate as “important causes (of) abnormal changes in sea level“.
The subtle difference is important for two reasons:
- SOA reports both falling and rising sea levels in its report
- Land deformation is a major cause of Chinese lowland sea level changes
Contrary to popular belief, not all sea level rise is caused by melting ice caps, glaciers and warm oceans. Most is, but not all. Sinking landmasses, called ‘subsidence’ by scientists, is an underreported cause in some regions, including China.
A landmark 1995 national assessment by three Chinese scientists at Beijing University concluded that in China “Natural subsidence occurs in all coastal plains and this is often exacerbated by excessive withdrawal of groundwater”.
They point out that from 1983-1988 the Tianjin lowlands east of Beijing sank 350 mm (50 mm/year) due to subsidence. That is over 15 times more change than caused by global warming.
The researchers further said that in 20 to 40 years time there could be one meter of relative sea level rise in the Tianjin lowlands without any change in global ocean levels at all. In other words, Tianjin is sinking into the ocean!
Other lowlands are sinking to. Subsidence is why Chinese lowland sea levels are rising faster than the global average. How much of China’s sea level rise is due to subsidence and how much due to global warming remains an open question.
Oceans account for about three mm/year of sea level rise globally, according to satellite measurements.
The SOA reports both rising and falling lowland sea levels in 2013. In some places sea level rose as much as 180 mm above 1980 levels. In other places lowland sea level receded as much as 45 mm in 2013 alone. That’s consistent with land deformation being a major driver of Chinese sea level change instead of global warming.
Coastal temperature rise suspiciously high
Despite Reuters’ claim, the SOA did not report that coastal temperatures increased by 0.34°C/decade. SOA didn’t provided any temperature data at all. That number came from somewhere else.
If true, China’s coastal temperature increase since 1980 is +1.12 degrees. That’s double the amount of warming of the rest of the earth in the same time span.
Coastal warming amounts to 32 percent more than the whole earth experienced over the last 133 years since 1880. It’s regionally possible, but unlikely due to global warming. Urban heat island effect in the densely populated lowlands is a more likely cause.
Reuters converted a dry Chinese government storm damage report into yet another global warming warning that made international headlines. It’s a typical example of media-hyped climate change exaggeration.
The SOA does not blame 2013 storm damage and/or sea level changes on human-caused global warming. SOA reports 2013 was an above average year for damages, but nearly half of it came from just one typhoon named Usagi.
According to TropicalStormRisk.com, 2013 was a slightly below average storm season with an ACE of 268 compared to an average ACE of 295, even including super-typhoon Haiyan that killed over 6,500 in the Philippines.
To make it seem like China is scrambling for a response to massive 2013 damages Reuters’ concluding paragraph reads, “China also aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP to 40-45 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.”
The statement is factually correct. It’s an old, unkept promise China made at the 2009 UN Copenhagen climate summit. China’s greenhouse emissions have increased by 25 percent from 8 to 10 billion tons since 2009. China’s greenhouse emissions today are double 2005 levels. China has done little to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The general public is being deceived about climate change, but not by skeptics. Instead, the public is being hoodwinked by conventional news outlets in order to add more sizzle to their science stories.