February 16, 2010

Fox's War on Global Warming continues.

Yesterday, both Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity featured segments on their Fox shows jumping on the climate-change denialists' latest fake controversy: the bogus claim that climate scientist Phil Jones' interview with the BBC somehow included admissions that global warming isn't real.

Beck's teaser called it "the biggest scam of the generation," and wondered: "Anybody seen Al Gore?"

Beck himself claimed that Jones suggested that another warming period recorded in Europe during the Middle Ages was as deep as the current period, but that there was no consensus on whether the warming was global:

Phil Jones admits, yes, no real consensus on this one. Too much debate on whether an event known as the medieval warming period, yes, was global in nature and hotter than it is like right now.

So, to quote, obviously, the late 20th century was not unprecedented. Oh, good.

Beck also argues that the Jones interview should cause every government in the world to halt their efforts toward curbing greenhouse gases: "If this were about science, wouldn't science matter just a little bit?"

Hannity repeated all of Beck's claims. Hannity sneered that Al Gore should be happy that he doesn't have to feel guilty about "hopping on that private jet anymore."

But as Media Matters points out, their characterizations of Jones' BBC interview are typically misleading.

Most of the points they cite are distorted: Jones, for instance says that the Middle Age cooling is only significant it could be shown to have been global in nature.

Moreover, he also says that the cause of previous warming periods differs from "recent warming," which is "predominantly manmade":

During his Q&A with BBC, Jones stated that "the warming rates" of previous warming periods after 1860 are "similar and not statistically significantly different" from the most recent warming period. Jones was later asked, "If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the WMP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?" Jones responded, "The fact that we can't explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing." He further stated that it would not be reasonable to conclude that "recent warming is not predominately manmade" from the evidence that there have been previous periods of warming since 1850.

His remarks that there has "been no statistically significant global warming" are importantly qualified within a scientific context:

[BBC:] B - Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

[JONES:] Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

In other words, the data on global warming is within a hair's breadth of being quantifiably established, and that within the next few years its "statistical significance" will have passed the ironclad scientific threshold. Rather the opposite of what Beck and Hannity tried to claim, eh?

In fact, here's what Jones actually says about global warming:

[BBC:] E - How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

[JONES:] I'm 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 - there's evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

Indeed, it turns out that the "scam of the generation" isn't the "conspiracy" of scientists to promote global warming, but rather the right-wing talking heads' claims that it's all a scam.

Deep Climate has been reporting that the one of the denialists' chief totems -- the "Wegman Report," a right-wing congressional "investigation" of the so-called "hockey stick" climate data -- was itself riddled with likely plaigiarism and dubious scholarship.

But then, when Fox News declares war, truth is always the first casualty.

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