Read this passage (from a Greenpeace news story):
A recent NASA study has shown that the ice cap is not only getting smaller, it’s getting thinner and younger. Sea ice has dramatically thinned between 2004 and 2008. Old ice (over 2 years old) takes longer to melt, and is also much harder to replace. As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030.
They say you can’t be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn’t apply to the Arctic sea ice. Polar bears are the first to suffer from it, but many other species could be affected as well.
Is this passage about:
A: the Greenland ice sheet
B: Arctic sea ice
If you answered “A”, then you may be Stephen Sackur, presenter of the BBC’s HARDtalk, who, despite the repeated references to “sea ice”, decided that Greenpeace was saying that the Greenland ice sheet would melt by 2030. He then ambushed Greenpeace’s Gerd Leipold in an interview, claiming that the passage was “plainly misleading” (See Youtube video). Sackur compounded his error by only reading out one sentence from the passage: “As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030.”, thus not giving Leipold a chance to explain what the passage was about. Leipold agreed that Greenland wasn’t going to melt by 2030 and that if that is what the Greenpeace story had said, then it was a mistake.
Needless to say, the global warming denial community seized on this with numerous stories on how Greenpeace admitted to being big fat liars — Michael Tobis has compiled a list along with more details.
I emailed both Sackur and HARDtalk four days ago, asking if they would make a correction and I have received no response. Nor has HARDtalk posted my comment left here. In the meantime Greenpeace has added this clarification to their story.
UPDATE August 20, 2009: The phrase “ice-free summers” in the article above was cited innaccurately on BBC’s HardTalk as suggesting the complete loss of land ice as well as sea ice from the Arctic. The phrase is used, exactly as it is in the NASA report from which it is taken, to refer to ice-free waters. Click here for further clarification.
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