Newsweek Flubs Facts About Global Warming

Though its intentions were sound — presumably attempting to shine a light on global warming deniers and their funding resources — Newsweek made several significant mistakes and used outdated science in its cover story last week. According to John Christy and Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, the story erred in its portrayal of satellite collected global climate data — a dataset that they maintain — by misrepresenting a January 2000 report from the National Academy of Sciences.

"One of the more egregious errors in the Newsweek article is the misrepresentation of the satellite data relative to a January 2000 report from the National Academy of Sciences. That report did not 'skewer' the satellite data, as the Newsweek article contends. Instead, it found that the apparent disagreement between surface temperature records and the satellite record was not so significant as to invalidate either dataset," said Christy, who helped write the 2000 NAS report.

In addition to erroneously interpreting other results as indicative of the satellite data being wrong and the surface data right — a mistake the UA scientists attribute to the writers' lack of understanding of the scientific process' nuances — the Newsweek story wrongly stated that the satellite data didn't show signs of warming at the time the research was published.

"The other Newsweek error, which has unfortunately been widely repeated, is that the satellite data were showing no warming at the time that research was published," Christy said. "That is not correct. By 2000 the satellite temperature dataset was clearly showing a long-term global warming trend, albeit a trend that was slightly less than the warming seen in surface data. That is still true today."

Oops. As Spencer, a research scientist at the Earth System Science Center, put it: "It is troubling that a major news organization devoting significant resources to a story about an important environmental issue would choose to cite data from seven years ago rather than current data, and would still get it wrong."

UPDATE: As John Laumer, one of our writers, noted in the comments, Roy Spencer has long been a prominent climate skeptic. John Christy, though also considered to be one, did help draft a statement by the American Geophysical Union in late 2003 concluding that "natural influences alone cannot explain the rapid increase in surface temperatures..."

We would thus caution readers to take their criticisms with a grain of salt (as will we) and to take Newsweek's article in good standing nonetheless.

More global warming facts and green media coverage
10 Facts on Global Warming
The Facts About Global Warming Denial
2007 According to Jeff McIntire-Strasburg: Mainstream Green
In the Media this Week: Global Warming
Green Media: Environmental News Network

Via ::Mongabay News:
Scientists: Newsweek Erred in Global Warming Coverage
(news website)

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