On Climate Summit, N&O Passes Off Advocacy As Reporting | Eastern North Carolina Now

Publisher's note: The author of this post is Dr. Roy Cordato, who is Vice President for Research and resident scholar for the John Locke Foundation.

 On the front page of the November 28th edition of the Raleigh News and Observer the paper featured a report by Justin Catanoso, a Wake forest University journalism professor. The author expressed optimism that the Paris global warming conference would produce a "binding agreement to burn less fossil fuels in order to keep the Earth from heating up so fast." Oddly enough, nowhere in the piece did Catanoso tell us how fast the Earth was heating up (Warming has actually occurred at a pace far below what any of the climate models have predicted.) or by how much any agreement that was reached would actually ameliorate temperatures. It should be noted that, according to the EPA's own models, the Administration's Clean Power Plant regulations will reduce increases in temperature by an unmeasurable 1/50th of a degree by 2100. He also didn't note that nothing that would come out of Paris would be "binding" on anyone, since there was never going to be an enforcement mechanism and, for the United States, Congress would have something to say about all of this.

 The fact is that this article contains almost no real reporting or journalism. Catanoso simply repeats "facts" that are in the air without providing any sources while ignoring contradictory data. And when he does turn to an actual source it's not a climate scientist but a law professor, who provides him not with data or scientifically based causal relationships, but anecdotes and inferences.

 Setting the tone and establishing the premise for the entire article is the following statement, which occurs in the third paragraph:

 This year has already been declared the hottest on record, as were the previous 14 years. The results are with us now: Rapidly melting Arctic ice caps leading to sea-level rise. Warming oceans leading to dying coral reefs and more frequent storms of greater intensity. Persistent droughts leading to water scarcity not just in poor sub-Saharan Africa but also in wealthy California.

 Can this really be called "reporting?" I am not going to go into all of these claims, but suffice it to say that there are plenty of climate scientists who would dispute all of them. Not only was there no attempt to seek those scientists out, but oddly enough no scientist was cited on either side of these claims. For example, he states that the last 14 years "were all declared the hottest on record." Ok, by whom? What data sets were used? There is no question that satellite or weather balloon data does not show this. If these "declarations" are indeed factual, how does he square them with what has come to be known as the "pause" in warming, that is the flat trend in global temperatures over the last 18 now going on 19 years? This is according to satellite, weather balloon, and most ground based data. It should also be noted that global warming is not about data points, which is what Catanoso refers to, but trend lines, which he makes no reference to. This has been a trick pulled by global warming alarmists over the last decade. As trend lines have flattened out, they have stopped referring to warming trends and focused on irrelevant, for the purpose of measuring warming, data points. Catanoso falls into this trap.

 The next claim is that there have been rapidly melting icecaps. Again, he makes no reference to the latest (or any) data, but simply repeats the standard line put out by the Sierra Club or Greenpeace (and probably the N&O's editorial page). But recent studies suggest otherwise. According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, sea ice extant at the South Pole has been expanding for decades and, according to a recent study in Nature Geoscience, in the last two years the North Pole has experienced a huge comeback in sea ice such that it is now at 1980 levels. Again, journalistic reporting might at least ask why the discrepancy in claims; an advocacy piece doesn't need to. If the facts don't fit the narrative, ignore them.

 The final claim that I'd like to focus on is that, again with no citation, there have been "more frequent storms of greater intensity." This is simply false. I need only quote from the IPCC's own report on extremes:

 There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic [human caused] climate change...The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados...The absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses.

 How can a statement like this be ignored unless the purpose of the article is advocacy? And if it is advocacy, why is it on the front page of the paper rather than on the op ed page?

 On a personal note, I became an admirer of Catanoso a few years ago when he published what I consider to be a wonderful book titled My Cousin the Saint: A Story of Love, Miracles, and an Italian Family Reunited. It is the personal story of how he, upon finding out that a family member, Padre Gaetano Catanoso, was being canonized, went to Calabria, Italy, to investigate his saintly cousin's and his family's history. I was so taken by the book that I arranged to have him come to the Locke Foundation and give a talk on it even though it had nothing to do with policy issues of the type that we usually concern ourselves with. I just thought that it was a heartwarming family story that needed to be shared. I still cherish my autographed copy of the book, and if he writes a similar book I will most certainly buy it. If his next book is on climate change, probably not.
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