Scientific American, between bouts of wokery like claiming sex is not binary in mammals, tells us “Melting sea ice is opening new pathways through the Arctic such as the famed Northwest Passage.” And of course it’s terrible in every way including “Less ice means more fog, making it harder and more dangerous for ships to navigate the thawing sea.” More dangerous than what? Navigating intact ice? But the main point is that their claim that “Arctic sea ice is rapidly vanishing as the world warms, opening up potential new shipping routes across the top of the world” is just plain wrong. The Northwest Passage was open in the early 20th century and again in the 1940s, though not during the Little Ice Age when Henry Hudson went looking for it and didn’t come back. But since 2013 it has been rebounding, not “rapidly vanishing” as so often and confidently predicted. And if you make a prediction and it doesn’t come true, it’s not decent to assert that it did.
Of course the good people at Scientific American are not lying on purpose. They just don’t have the old-tyme journalistic instinct that “If your mother says she love you, check it out.” Instead if they have a gut feeling, especially one they developed independently just like everyone around them at exactly the same time, it becomes true for them. (Until, that is, you actually try to paddle through your imaginary open water like two groups of zealots last year.)
OK, let’s be fair. Increasingly the staff at Scientific American don’t write about their feelings, let alone science, they reprint the feelings of environmental activists and call it science, including this item which originated with E&E News which in turn is owned by Politico, so no need to have editors scrutinize it for carelessness about facts driven by zealotry.
Instead you just hit “Publish” when the piece says that “as Arctic sea ice continues to melt away, fog is likely to increase over the new stretches of open ocean.” Which is, to nitpick, not a description of what has happened or is happening, it is a speculation about what might happen. And you can guess where it comes from:
“The researchers used historic data on Arctic fog conditions, combined with model simulations, to investigate how these conditions might affect shipping routes in the future.”
Oh really? A computer model? Gosh. And dare we ask which scenario was used? Oh, don’t worry, “a moderate future climate scenario”. Not further identified, except that it’s the one “in which the world warms by as much as 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century”. So it would be RCP4.5. Which not even the IPCC calls “moderate” but hey, we have a cause to advance here and some strong feelings about it.
Also some clichés to unload on you. Including, naturally, that “The Arctic is among the most rapidly warming regions of the planet, with temperatures rising at around three times the global average, and it’s already facing a vast array of consequences.” Which include that “Many organisms depend on Arctic sea ice, including polar bears, who use the ice as a hunting platform.”
Actually Arctic ice has been rebounding since 2013, with the usual cyclical fluctuations one finds in the real-world climate, to the point that Reuters felt compelled to “Fact check“ the wretched stuff and reach the usual conclusion that while true it was “Misleading” in that it might make people think it wasn’t vanishing just because it was still there. Check for yourself here. (And see also this week’s first “Science” item.)
Still, if at first you don’t succeed, right? So Scientific American/E&E repredicts:
“Currently, much of the Arctic Ocean remains frozen for the entire year. But with sea ice dwindling, scientists have warned the Arctic is likely to begin experiencing ice-free summers within a few decades – and potentially as soon as the 2030s.”
Sure. Just ask Al Gore.
P.S. Reuters also fact-checked Gore’s claim of an ice-free Arctic summer by 2013 and found that his critics were being meanies. And Snopes wriggled to get him off the hook with the preposterous “Gore did not himself make these predictions but said (in some cases erroneously) that others had”.