One of the favourite tactics employed by the Australian in its war on science is quote mining. See, for example, Kininmonth’s effort this week. Not surprisingly the Australian‘s Cut and Paste column is a big on quote mining. For example
Environment Minister Peter Garrett, on ABC1′s Lateline on Monday, forecasts sea level rises of 6m:
TONY Jones: The report of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research will be released today.
It says that in west Antarctica the attribution of ice lost to human-driven warming is now strong, and it warns that a number of climate influences could amplify this ice loss and accelerate future sea level rises. The most scary thing it says is the upper level of those rises in global sea level could be as much as 6m – 6m – by the end of the century.
Garrett: Look, I haven’t seen that report yet, Tony, but I don’t think there’s any doubt those kinds of projections and scenarios are consistent with what the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change brought forward over the last couple of years. And as more scientists do more work on potential climate change impacts, we’re likely to be presented with these kinds of scenarios.
Note that Cut and Paste misrepresents Garrett — he did not forecast a 6m sea level rise, merely that a 6m rise was consistent with the IPCC reports. Cut and Paste proceeds to manufacture a gotcha by quote mining the IPCC report:
What the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet predicts:
GLOBAL sea level is projected to rise during the 21st century at a greater rate than during 1961 to 2003.
Under the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios A1B scenario, by the mid-2090s, for instance, global sea level reaches 0.22 to 0.44m above 1990 levels, and is rising at about 4mm (a year).
Cut and Paste did not quote the part of the paragraph which was about the thing that Jones asked Garrett about:
An important uncertainty relates to whether discharge of ice from the ice sheets will continue to increase as a consequence of accelerated ice flow, as has been observed in recent years. This would add to the amount of sea level rise, but quantitative projections of how much it would add cannot be made with confidence, owing to limited understanding of the relevant processes
While the Summary for Policy Makers says about sea level rise:
Larger values cannot be excluded, but understanding of
these effects is too limited to assess their likelihood or
provide a best estimate or an upper bound for sea level
If a negative surface mass balance were
sustained for millennia, that would lead to virtually
complete elimination of the Greenland Ice Sheet and
a resulting contribution to sea level rise of about 7 m.
The corresponding future temperatures in Greenland
are comparable to those inferred for the last interglacial
period 125,000 years ago, when palaeoclimatic
information suggests reductions of polar land ice extent
and 4 to 6 m of sea level rise.
So the IPCC report does not rule out a 6m rise this century. (Though they imply that it is more likely to take millenia to rise that much).
But did the SCAR report say that a 6m rise was possible this century?
Well, the first thing to note is that it is a draft report and we really should wait for the final version before discussing it, but chapter 5 does say:
Rates of sea level rise at least twenty times the current 3.1 mm/yr sustained over more than a century have been measured for the transition to the current warm period following the termination of the last ice age and during some of the warmer intervals of the last ice age. Until improved predictive capability is achieved, this can be regarded as a reasonable upper bound of Antarctica’s potential contribution to global sea level. This maximum rate (62 mm/yr) would lead to a 6-meter sea level rise by 2100, but such rates occurred when there was considerably more ice on the planet.
This isn’t entirely clear – although it says that 6m is reasonable upper bound, the last sentence says that it must be less than that. Oh well, it’s only a draft.
Now Cut and Paste is limited by having to quote people, but if you are a news reporter for the Australian you have the freedom to make things up. Greg Roberts wrote this:
Revealed: Antarctic ice growing, not shrinking
Ice is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap. …
Last week, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett said experts predicted sea level rises of up to 6m from Antarctic melting by 2100, but the worst case scenario foreshadowed by the SCAR report was a 1.25m rise.
Mr Garrett insisted global warming was causing ice losses throughout Antarctica. “I don’t think there’s any doubt it is contributing to what we’ve seen both on the Wilkins shelf and more generally in Antarctica,” he said.
Dr Allison said there was not any evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap was melting. “The only significant calvings in Antarctica have been in the west,” he said. And he cautioned that calvings of the magnitude seen recently in west Antarctica might not be unusual.
And that story led to another Cut and Paste column
Peter Garrett, on ABC1′s Lateline on April 6, has sea levels rising way over his head, aided and abetted by Tony Jones
JONES: Here is something that is new: the report of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. The most scary thing it says is the upper level of those rises in global sea level could be as much as 6m – 6m – by the end of the century.
Garrett: Look, I haven’t seen that report yet, Tony, but I don’t think there’s any doubt those kinds of projections and scenarios are consistent with what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought forward over the last couple of years. And as more scientists do more work on potential climate change impacts, we’re likely to be presented with these kinds of scenarios.
Ian Allison, glaciologist, head of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate Program, on the ABC’s Radio National Breakfast yesterday:
FRAN Kelly: Peter Garrett said last week that Antarctic melting could see sea level rises of up to 6m by 2100. Does that tally with your research?
Allison: That figure of 6m was taken out of an unfinished report by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. It was quoted as a potential upper limit based on what’s happened in the past. I don’t personally believe that’s a realistic upper level. I think the upper level over the next century, and I’m not saying this is what actually is going to happen, the upper level over the next century is less than 2m.
But if you listen to all of what Allison said, you will find that Cut and Paste left out some rather important stuff.
Fran Kelly: Today, some positive news. Rather than melting, the science shows that ice is expanding in much of Antarctica and that in parts is getting thicker. …
Ian Allison: We have now new evidence that confirms that on average we are losing ice from both Greenland and Antarctica which is contributing to sea level …
Kelly: … but you found something that suggests its perhaps not as rapid a melt as we once thought. Can you tell us about what you’ve found, the difference in the East and West in Antarctica.
Allison: … In East Antarctica there might be a slight increase due to increased snowfall. … on average West Antarctica is losing more ice that the East is gaining
Kelly: but we can say … that the East is thickening?
Allison: … it’s close to being in balance or gaining a bit. …
Allison: The Wilkins shelf [collapse] is related to warming …
Kelly had been seriously misled by Roberts’ story and Allison had to set the record straight. The fact that Antarctica is losing mass does not appear anywhere in Roberts’ story and the story is carefully written to create the impression that Antarctica is gaining mass. The person who compiled Cut and Paste must have listened to the whole interview and learned this, but rather than correct the misinformation in Roberts’ article by quoting that part of the interview, chose to go for another gotcha on the same Garrett quote as in previous Cut and Paste.
Greg Roberts and Cut and Paste are not interested in informing their readers. Instead they see themsleves as advocates for the position that global warming isn’t happening.