Honest climate reporting, a thing of the past?

July 21 is our National holiday. While our king in his speech exhausted himself explaining that we shouldn’t be tempted to what he called, ahem, “formatted ready-made thinking, at the expense of our own ability to think”, the media seemed to be in full “ready-made thinking”-mode that day. Apparently NOAA issued their global analysis of June 2015, saying it the warmest month since the start of their measurements. Our media seem to love it and brainlessly reporting it.

Let’s first see what the Belgians got to hear that evening on the VRT television news (translated from Dutch):

Caption VRT news July 21, 2015

Caption VRT news July 21, 2015

The month of June was worldwide the warmest month since the beginning of the observations in 1880. The average temperature in June was 0,88 degrees above the average of last century. The previous record for the month of June dates by the way only from last year.

Nicely short, so I didn’t have to translate too much. 🙂 It was not clear on television, but according to their website they indeed reported on the NOAA dataset.

The VTM news was somewhat longer, but not much better (translated from Dutch):

Caption VTM news July 21, 2015

Caption VTM news July 21, 2015

News Anchor
Seek cooling and apply sunscreen often. The previous weeks were warm. And not only in our region. NOAA, a renowned climate institute in the United Staten, has calculated that it was worldwide on average 16.33 degrees in June. A new record. And the four months before that were also warmer than normal. This is the prove that our climate is changing say the environmental organizations.

Koen Stuyck (WWF)
One of the most important consequences of global warming is an average increase of the temperature. And this translates into more hot period and this is what we see now.

News Anchor
The measurements are clear. In Scandinavia it was somewhat colder than normal last month, but with us, in Australia, the United States, Alaska and South America it was never that hot. And in the United Staten and Turkey it moreover rained a lot.

Koen Stuyck (WWF)
Because there is more tension in the atmosphere, there are more heavy storms and heavy thunderstorms and so also more tsunamis.

News Anchor
2015 is on its way to become the warmest year ever. And that the Earth is warming, everybody agrees. But how fast this will go or how extreme our climate becomes, that is something the scientists didn’t work out yet.

Frank Duboccage (weatherman)
The question is what is going to happen in the future and there are studies that prove that it definitely get dramatic, that it will heat up extremely. But there are also other studies that prove the contrary.

News Anchor
Beginning of December there is a new climate summit of the United Nations. Experts call this summit the last chance to make decisions that can turn around global warming.

Yeah, right.

The news papers came with almost the same story, also originating from the NOAA . This is how Het Laatste Nieuws reported it, but other news paper seems to make the same claims (translated from Dutch):

The measured average temperature worldwide was 16.33 degrees in June, which exceeded the old record by 0.12 degrees. Normally, when temperature records with only one or two hundredths up, says Blunden.

What is wrong with this picture? Most importantly, all of them only reported on the NOAA dataset. Not even a mention that this is only one of several datasets. Also no mention how the situation looked like in the other datasets: none of the other datasets came to the conclusion that June 2015 is the warmest (probably except NASA GISS, but this is build on the NOAA data).

No word that the NOAA dataset is a surface temperature dataset and therefor not as accurate as the satellite data. No word about the many adjustments (can we be sure they got it right this time?). No word about decreasing accuracy when going back in time because of increasing scarceness of the measurements. No word about El Niño (which is a natural process). Etcetera.

But even if they have it right that June 2015 is the hottest and the year 2015 is going to be the hottest ever, that doesn’t mean humans are the cause. It is suggested that this “record” (only in the NOAA dataset) is a significant thing (normally only 0.01, now 0.12!) and caused by (anthropogenic) global warming. I think a record month (even four out of six months) is called weather, not climate. What is next? The hottest specific day of the year? Oh, damn, they all did that already … several times before …

This is especially disappointing for the VRT news. Its chief editor claimed not that long ago that he wants to bring background, insight and context to the news. I didn’t see anything of that in this news flash: they showed the least reliable and most alarmist source of them all, without background, without insight and without context. In my opinion, they failed miserably in bringing this in a balanced way.

Then there is the WWF “expert” on the VTM news who claimed that “one of the most important consequences of global warming is an average increase of the temperature” (hey, wouldn’t that be the other way around?), then continued by claiming that there were more storms, more thunderstorms and more tsunamis because of the “increased tension in the air”.


Facts are obviously not exactly his cup of tea.

Bonus point for the VTM news however, because they added at least some nuance (the part where they said that the scientists didn’t work that out yet. But on the other hand, “proving” is a bad choice of word in this regard. Nobody can “prove” it gets worse or better. One can assume things from model runs that the climate could get worse or not, but proving a thing in the (far) future in a vastly complex, not very well understood system is not really possible. Whatever, he can keep his bonus points.

Is this important? Well yes, the public thinks that the average temperature of the world is something that is measured in an exact way by the scientists. The news papers fell for this, as did the VRT news. Some bonus points for the VTM news again: they called it a calculation, which is correct. They however failed to mention that there are many ways of calculating it and then coming to a different result. We hear it is 16.33 °C on average or 0.88 °C above the average of last century. quite a precision. The reality is that we got this information from the worst, least reliable and hugely adjusted dataset and in all news reports this was brought as the only, correct and accurate number. Luckily not all members of the public are gullible or rely on the mainstream media for climate information. Thank God for the Internet.

When I was a believer I indeed thought that the average temperature was accurately measured by the scientists. It then came as a big surprise to hear that the scientists who were pushing the alarm all embraced the less accurate, surface temperature dataset and even ignored completely the more accurate satellite data…

I would have liked very much to tell this is the worst reporting I have ever seen, but, alas, this is the norm in our country and as far as I know there is no mainstream media outlet that makes any difference. 😦


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