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This is what we need more of: Scientists calling out newspaper hype

Posted By Joanne Nova On March 20, 2014 @ 2:35 am In Global Warming,Media-matters | Comments Disabled

Professor Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts Research, Met Office Hadley Centre, responded to an alarmist news story in the Independent, both with a comment at the article, and in a tweet (or two). If more scientists spoke out publicly, reporting would get better.

Prof Richard Betts commenting at the Independent (my bold):

Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy

Leaked draft report from UN panel seen by The Independent is most comprehensive investigation into impact of climate change ever undertaken – and it’s not good news

Climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy, a forthcoming UN report will warn.

Based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies and put together by hundreds of respected scientists, the [IPCC] report predicts that climate change will reduce median crop yields by 2 per cent per decade …

And so on– it is pretty much all there: war, starvation, floods, seas rising, and death.
Richard Betts comments (my bolding):

“I’m one of the authors of the IPCC WG2 report, and I think this article by the Independent is highly irresponsible, especially the headline.

The author of this article has chosen some juicy bits which back up the “climate doom” meme, but ignored other information. The headline writer has then done the same with the original article to come up with the headline of catastrophe.

They’ve also completely ignored all the important discussion in the report on adapting to climate change and increasing resilience.

The upshot is a very biased, alarmist headline.

The problem is this then risks damaging the credibility of the report. There’s much more to it than the impression given by this article, especially concerning other (non-climate) influences on human health, economies, etc.

Yes, anthropogenic climate change is real and poses major risks, but manufacturing scaremongering headlines by cherry-picking leaked reports is not at all helpful in informing a response to this complex situation.

I strongly encourage readers to read the actual report for themselves, and not rely on journalists who just want to get a scary headline.”

Richard Betts
Chair in Climate Impacts, University of Exeter
Head of Climate Impacts Research, Met Office Hadley Centre

While I’m not at all concerned about potential damage to the IPCC’s credibility, I share with Richard Betts a desire to see less hype and more accuracy. But if the IPCC wanted to be credible, then statements like Betts’ to pull in careless reporters would be an excellent start (shame it is 24 years too late).

He also tweeted:

I suspect that Tom Bawden, the author of the article, may be slightly more circumspect next time. So may the editor who wrote the headline.
Naturally, Bishop Hill is onto it: Academic Takedown
H/t Barry Woods.
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