At the weekend I finally lost – appropriately enough – my cool, though I can blame no one but myself. I succumbed to an old habit and picked up a Saturday paper.

Being something of a questioning soul, I have found mainstream news sources somewhat unsatisfactory in recent years – banal reporting, simplistic (and error-strewn) reporting and homages to vested interests have turned me off the commonly used channels for consuming the output of the fourth estate.

Having leafed through various fairly anodyne articles that mostly avoided the difficult questions of the day, tucked away on page 36 was a small article by the environment editor of The Times entitled “Antarctic Ice Melts to ‘Shocking’ Low”.  Intrigued – because there are some fascinating observations coming from the world’s oceans that are worthy of closer investigation – I read the article in more detail. I was genuinely astonished.

Not, I should say, by the quality of the article, or the incisiveness of the reporting. 

I was astonished by the extent – not of any ice loss – but of the twisting of facts to fit an agenda.  Bereft of nuance, we seem to be spiralling into a polarised world where broadsheet ‘journalism’ can see fit to distill context-free factoids into an easily-digestible apocalyptic pill to be popped down a reader’s gullet:

  • Antarctic sea ice is apparently at a “‘shocking’ record low for the end of June
  • There is a “missing mass equivalent to an area about five times the size of Britain
  • One reason… appears to be that the region is up to 4°C warmer than usual in some places
  • We are concerned,” says Ed Blockley of the Met Office Polar Climate Group
  • the loss comes as scientists warn that the Greenland melt has been ‘off the chart’ as the area faces a heatwave
  • Greenland records temperatures 10°C above average… melt rates were ‘punching off the charts‘”

And just to make sure you hadn’t taken the hint already, the implication is that it is bad humans that are at fault for gobbling up the earth’s resources and making all this bad stuff happen.  With a nod to natural cyclicality and a ‘get-out’ clause stating these cycles could be enhanced by global warming, Dr Blockley (PhD in applied mathematics from Exeter University) ladles on the invective to create this bamboozling logical fallacy (or should that be ‘content-free verbiage’?): “As we get this climate warming, the extremes are becoming more extreme”.

Panic! Abandon ship! Close the stand-by power station that might keep granny warm this winter!  Give orange-paint-spraying billionaire-funded cultists more coverage! Funnel more subsidies towards the (already rich) owners of estates of wind propellors and glitzy solar panels!

One can only despair, but not in agreement with Greta Thunberg’s handlers or Ben/Zak Goldsmith. I am reminded of the apocryphal tale of the child in Sunday school being asked: what is grey, has a furry tale and runs up and down trees collecting nuts?  Wide-eyed, the child answers “I know the answer must be Jesus, but it sounds like a squirrel!”.

I would normally assume there was no need to highlight the various rhetorical tools that are deployed by the environment editor, but it is worth pointing out that he has not limited himself to logical fallacies.  He uses appeals to authority (science agencies in the US and Dr Blockley from the Met Office, no less) to buttress out-of-context, generalised and cherry-picked statements without any attempt to provide a rational perspective.

Firstly, the “4°C warmer claim is qualified as being in “some places”, but that is a cherry-picked generalisation that misleads the reader.  Many of the temperature sensors on the Antarctic peninsula are outside the Antarctic Circle. For example the Orcadas Base is closer to downtown Buenos Aires than the South Pole.  Would we take readings from the Shetland Islands as being indicative of Arctic temperatures?

Much of the bulk of the Antarctic – which contains almost 90 per cent of the world’s (surface) fresh water locked in its ice cap – has in recent years been substantially colder than usual for long periods of time: “According to data kept by the British Antarctic Survey, the 2021 winter’s harsh temperatures were the lowest in more than 60 years. The research team, which is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, has been tracking temperature data in the South Pole since 1957 and had never recorded a winter this cold”. And, 2023 has also started abnormally cold.  

Second, the Greenland “10°C above averageclaim is weapons-grade cherry-picking. For much of May and early June the temperature anomaly was more like 10°C below average. But surely it is obvious to everyone that such a claim is a weather variable, akin to comparing a spot price with a long-term average?

Thirdly, Melt rates… ‘punching off the charts'” is missing critical context that makes the statement almost laughable. Consider the latest official Snow-Mass Balance (SMB) data from Greenland provided by the Danish Meteorological Institute, the Technical University of Denmark and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

I mean, what does the author expect at a time when the place gets almost wall-to-wall sunshine and the snow mass is unseasonably high (not only substantially above the 2011-2012 mean, but also at relatively high levels going back to 1981) due to exceptionally cold conditions through May and early June? Having seen a particularly unusual, and huge, net gain earlier in the month of several gigatonnes of snow mass, is it any surprise that the rate of melt is higher than usual for a few ensuing days? Might it not fit the author better to point out that the actual level of SMB (i.e. after the “punching off the charts” melt) still remains higher than normal and may well stay well above the 1981-2010 mean for the rest of the season?

Why this catastrophised reporting? Has the established news media completely lost any vestige of journalistic skill, or the desire to practice investigative reporting? Or has it just been bought off by so-called-green technology vendors? Or has an apathetic public finally been bludgeoned into submitting to these gross fantasy tales, perhaps in lieu of metaphorical bread and circuses? 

I have previously written in Reaction calling for Net Zero policies to be parked while these are more fully assessed – we are currently on a trajectory that could cause immense suffering, impoverishment and pointless deindustrialisation.  But we will get nowhere if reporting on these subjects does not become more balanced, nuanced and evidence-led.  

If the professional forecasters, and consequently journalists, can get their short-term forecasts so completely out of kilter, how can they at the same time specifically ascribe every extreme temperature and weather extreme – free of context – to anthropological climate change?

What is all the more frustrating is that these banal and polarised over-simplifications miss some genuinely extraordinary observations that are worthy of more detailed coverage, such as the possibility of unexpected oscillations in the angular momentum of the spinning earth being a sign that ‘something else’ is influencing changes in sea temperatures.  This is a genuinely fascinating area, but see what has happened? This article is already 1,000 words old, clichéd AGW discourse displacing what could otherwise have been a far more interesting exploration of exothermic core theory, i.e. a new hypothesis that might be able to help us improve our view of the world.  

So here is an appeal to the masses and the media – please can we hold crony vested interests and inept (and corrupt?) politicians to account by at least having an adult conversation about these topics? Otherwise impoverishment and pauperisation loom.  

The West needs to have this discussion urgently otherwise we risk losing not just our metaphorical bread and circuses, but also our actual bread and butter.

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