[Rintoul] brought to national attention research by NSW researcher Phil Watson showing that sea levels around Australia over the past 100 years haven’t risen as quickly as scientists would have expected them to as a result of global warming.
This isn’t true. Watson did not compare the sea level rises with expected sea level rises as a result of global warming. As Kathleen McInnes of the CSIRO told Media Watch:
The study by Phil Watson does not call into question the projections of the IPCC nor CSIRO and so there is no basis for anyone else to make such assertions.
Media Watch pointed out the News Ltd’s own Professional Conduct Policy states:
2.1 Individuals or organisations that have been criticised…should be given a fair opportunity to respond.
Rintoul did not talk to the CSIRO. And in his follow up article Le Grand does not either.
Le Grand writes:
Phil Watson was carpeted by his employer, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, and prevented from giving interviews. … Watson was not quoted by Media Watch or by the various sites and blogs that paved the ABC’s way into the story.
Le Grand has no evidence whatsoever that Watson was reprimanded by his employer. Media Watch quoted Watson’s department:
Mr Watson does not agree with the use of his findings to infer future projections of sea level rise nor does Mr Watson agree that his research casts doubts on the future modelling undertaken by CSIRO.
Not surprisingly, Le Grand does not mention this inconvenient statement.
Le Grand continues:
Dr Houston agrees the weakness of The Australian’s report was the prominence given to the views of Dr Brady, a palaeontologist rather than climate scientist. “Leave out everything that Howard Brady said, and it is OK,” he said.
Yes it would be, and you also have story that would not be on the front page of The Australian, since it was Brady who provided Rintoul with the statements that Watson’s paper showed that CSIRO projections were “dead in the water” and there would be only 15cm of sea level rise this century.
Le Grand continues on Brady:
Yet like many articulate amateurs who have risen to prominence in the climate change debate — fellow palaeontologist Tim Flannery, economist and former diplomat Ross Garnaut, Malcolm Turnbull and most of the federal Labor front bench — a lack of formal qualifications is no barrier to having a say. Nor is it evidence of a deliberate attempt to misrepresent scientific findings.
I don’t think Rintoul deliberately set out to misrepresent Watson’s paper. It just that he has no background in reporting on science and has no way of judging scientific expertise. I think he really thought Brady was a climate researcher and had no idea that Brady was retired and had never published in that area. What Brady had was a message that fit in with The Australian‘s campaign against climate science so Rintoul accepted it. The same apples to Le Grand and the other journalists at The Australian who write about climate science. The Australian‘s science reporter doesn’t get to report on stories like this one because … well you figure it out.
[Sea levels have] also risen steadily, rather than accelerating in the second half of the 20th century as carbon emissions spiked.
Untrue. Sea level rise accelerated last century.
Wait! There’s more! Would you believe Le Grand has another story in the same paper on this issue? He hasn’t talked to CSIRO for this one either, but he does at least quote from CSIRO sea level expert Kathleen McInnes letter to Media Watch. Just not the most relevant bits. Le Grand:
The CSIRO agrees with Mr Watson’s findings showing a deceleration of sea-level rises in Australasian coastal waters in the second half of the 20th century but argues they have no bearing on IPCC projections of global sea rise this century.
Compare with McInnes:
The data that Mr Watson published show some similar features to
global data analysed by CSIRO scientists, which show a strong rate of
rise in the latter part of the 20th Century. Indeed CSIRO observations
published in 2011 in Surveys in Geophysics show global sea level rise
since 1993 has been between 2.8-3.2 mm/year. The confusion around the
Watson study appears to have arisen from the particular statistical
curve that he fitted to his data. This quadratic curve does not
represent the behaviour of the observations in the latter part of the
record when sea levels have been rising particularly quickly, and in
fact this curve shows a decelerating trend whereas the data itself
show an accelerating trend
Which is kind of the opposite of what Le Grand said. And you can easily see this yourself with this graph from Watson’s paper:
Le Grand quotes Charles Finkl:
“I am not in favour of models for many reasons. They get better over time, and we need to use them, but with a grain of salt. We should instead use our brains and hard or real data to make interpretations.”
The decelerating trend is in the model. It’s not in the real data.
Update The next day *The Australian adds an editorial to the pile:
The climate change debate is too often treated as a zero-sum game where every scientific development or weather event is measured as a loss or gain for the activists or the sceptics.
This approach is best exemplified by the reporting in The Australian.
Climate science is growing faster than our emissions. Thousands of experts around the planet continue to research the geological record for lessons past, monitor current events for evidence, influences or clues, and recalibrate their modelling for greater certainty about their predictions. Classic scientific method continues to rely on initial observations in order to deduce hypotheses, and measurement of data to test experiments or theories. This is how we amass and expand our bank of knowledge — which is why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has constantly revised its predictions. The sea-level observations of NSW researcher Phil Watson, the global average temperature readings of NASA, even the daily records of our own weather stations, must all nourish this process. They each should be accorded their appropriate weight in the scientific and public debates; nothing more and nothing less. But data should never be ignored or censored because it does not fit the models. The models must continually be open for testing against measured reality. If we are keen to understand why public scepticism about some of the climate modelling seems to be on the rise, best not look to the scientists working on accurate measurement and records, but to the activists who often have made implausible exaggerations about climate change impacts. In climate change, as in so many fields, cool heads must prevail.
“Appropriate weight” for Watson’s paper, published in a minor journal, apparently being a front page story in The Australian. Something not given to more important scientific papers on climate change because they can’t be spun to support The Australian‘s agenda.