Tag Archives: Confirmation bias

Arctic sea-ice melt reporting: the amazing flip-flops

Two posts ago, on the subject of another claim of an ice-free Arctic published in the Guardian, the discussion arose whether the journalist realized that he quoted someone with a poor track record in that matter. Commenter Chrism56 alerted me that the journalist (Robin McKie) already had written articles in the past on this subject, so he should have known that there were issues with the credibility of this claim.

The link that was provided went to an article from 2008 in which McKie reported about the claim of an ice-free Arctic that back then was expected five years further in the future.

McKie 2008-08-10

The claim was made by Serreze, Maslowski and Wadhams. Apparently he should know about the botched prediction in the meanwhile.

I became curious whether there were more articles written by McKie on this topic and also how he wrote about it in say 2013, when it became clear that the 2008 claim didn’t hold. I found three articles in the Guardian about an ice-free Arctic and the article in 2016 was the fourth. When reading them in the sequence as these were written, it developed in something rather funny.

Let’s start with the link found by Chrism56. It was an article from August 2008 with the title “Meltdown in the Arctic is speeding up”. This speeding up was explained as (my emphasis):

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In the beginning, there was darkness

My story from believer to skeptic – part 1

20130217Dark

Only about four years ago I was a believer in anthropogenic carbon dioxide as the driver of catastrophic global warming. I heard the carbon dioxide story all over the media and most people around me had the same belief. But on the other hand, I always had the impression the claims were probably exaggerated – it most likely was less worse than the media/scientists said it was. But in general, I did believe it.

For example, the winters of 2004 and 2005 were very soft and there was a heatwave in 2006. The media was full of it. They said that this was a clear sign of global warming, that hot summers with heat waves were more common than in the past and soft winters were the new normal (by the way, they now say snowy winters are a sign of global warming too, but that’s another story).

I heard this all around me and I had no doubt that, maybe somewhat exaggerated, in essence it was true.

Looking for answers

Fast forward to 2008 when we had a lousy summer and a cool autumn. I had some time on my hand and I had the question if there was something different in the global warming story. I thought if the last warmer winters were from anthropogenic origin, maybe this cool summer and colder (normal) autumn reflected some improvement. Maybe even because of less emissions, who knows we learned something from our mistakes…

Okay, I admit it, I was really naive at that time.

I started googling and very soon came across a site called RealClimate. I found a similar question and most importantly, it was answered. I found the answer a bit harsh, something in the line of: global warming is still here, everything was still in line with global warming and it was not really smart to think otherwise. So, here I found my answer, global warming was still here, nothing changed and heat would soon resurface. That was it. I ended my search because the answer fitted my belief perfectly.

But not for long. In a way I was not satisfied with this answer. I had a problems with the tone in which the answer was given. I was very surprised that a scientist would need to give a sneer to anyone who has a different opinion. At that time I believed there was a overwhelming consensus among scientists and only a few Big Oil-ers denied the truth. But if that was true, there was no reason why anyone from the “proper” side of the debate had to defend himself against someone with an honest question!?!?

Back to square one

Normally I would have stopped there, but I had some time and I really wanted to know. In no time I found myself googling on my question again. At first it was hard, I still believed in anthropogenic global warming and without even thinking I categorized everyone who doubted global warming as chills from Big Oil or at least people with an hidden agenda. Needless to say I got nowhere, I only looked at one side of the story and ignored the other completely, because my belief that “non-believers” couldn’t be right didn’t allow for considering their views or arguments.

Then I had an idea. I knew the movie An The Inconvenient Truth of Al Gore was about global warming. I didn’t see this movie in 2006, but I knew it had quite some impact on people around me. I wanted to know the real story of global warming and the science behind it, so I thought this would be a good start for my search. Picture my surprise when I found more sites that handled the mistakes of the film than the merits! Bit by bit I saw most of the movie on line. I was prepared there would be some exaggerations in the film to give it more impact, but it was more than I could handle.

This made me more determined to dig even deeper. Slowly I started to look at skeptical sites. The more I did, the more I really got confused. Skeptical sites said temperatures are cyclical in nature and they had proof of this. But pro global warming sites said it was warming at an unprecedented rate because of us humans and they also had proof of it. It seemed both reasonable and I didn’t know what to believe.

Go to Part II