Is it a news story that Greenland didn’t melt and inundate us all? Actually yes, because as Paul Homewood just observed, the good old Guardian told us it was going to do so soon. Indeed that it faced a “tipping point in 10 years”. But the news here is that the 10 years are up, because that story ran in August 2010.
The actual news story was a bit more tentative than the headline, as has been known to happen, with “may pass that tipping point” and some “ifs”. But the general direction was clear: “Greenland shed its largest chunk of ice in nearly half a century last week, and faces an even grimmer future, according to Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University”. And “‘What is going on in the Arctic now is the biggest and fastest thing that nature has ever done,’ he [Alley] said.” And “The stark warning was underlined by the momentous break-up of one of Greenland’s largest glaciers last week, which set a 100 sq mile chunk of ice drifting into the North Strait between Greenland and Canada. The briefing also noted that the last six months had set new temperature records.”
The result was meant to be the annihilation of cities like New Orleans. Instead, Homewood notes tersely, “The article was written in 2010, which was the warmest on record. Since then, however, Greenland’s temperatures have returned to normal, and are no higher than they were in the 1930s.”
Now anybody can make a mistake. But ought there not to be some harm to one’s reputation from making ones like this one in such profusion as to constitute self-parody? Ought there not, indeed, to be some harm to one’s self-esteem, some embarrassment and some effort to restore nuance to one’s journalism?
After all, it’s not a small point that instead of melting, Greenland is back to the temperatures from the 1930s. Especially not when the Arctic is meant to be warming twice as fast as other parts of our planet. (Not counting Antarctica which was long acknowledged to be doing nothing much but now the South Pole is suddenly “warming more than three times more rapidly than the rest of the world.”) Just as it’s not a small thing that so many reputable organisations, media and otherwise, have been promising us an ice-free Arctic for years and yet even the “doom looms” crowd have to admit the white stuff is still all over the place.
Doom still looms, apparently. In response to an unverified possible record temperature in Verkhoyansk, Russia on June 20, MSN declared sententiously that “This record high temperature is a signal of a rapidly and continually warming planet, and a preview of how Arctic warming will continue in an increasingly hot future, scientists say.” And if in fact we see a long run of temperatures over 100°F in places like Verkhoyansk, and others less prone to extreme temperatures over many years, it will have some significance to the debate. But if we don’t, it will also have some significance to the debate. And we’d like MSN to acknowledge that fact, unlike say the Guardian.