See Comments down arrow

Not climate science

10 Jul 2024 | News Roundup

At CDN we have a bit of a habit of mocking the credentials of climate writers. It’s not because we ourselves scorn the informed lay person (quite the contrary) but because of the press obsession with who is and is not a “climate scientist”. Which mercifully seems to be fading a bit. But we do have to mention an absolutely astounding piece of gibberish from the “Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital”, equipped with a Bachelor of Laws and LPC diploma, who wrote in a Reuters “Sustainable Switch” email that “More than 300 million people live in the world’s 20 most populous capital cities, where they are uniquely vulnerable to rising temperatures fueled by climate change, as asphalt and buildings absorb and retain heat.” Uh no. That’d be the Urban Heat Island effect that distorts temperature readings to create a misleading impression of climate change. How does she not know it? Has she never been in a city? And regardless of her education, doesn’t she follow this debate for a living?

Well, let us count the ways:

“Using surface temperature data from airport weather stations, researchers from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) found that from 2014 to 2023 there were nearly 6,500 cumulative days when one of the 20 cities reached temperatures of 35 C or higher. In the decade from 1994 to 2003, there were just 4,755.”

Which proves… that big cities got big by growing. But if you want to measure climate change, urban airports are the worst places imaginable to the take temperature readings because as cities grow, airports that may once have been outside the municipal area get bigger, busier and more surrounded by all that city asphalt, buildings and concrete that traps heat.

Perhaps we should not be too hard on her, except for “Sustainable Switch” retaining the incomprehensible habit of emailing newsletters they don’t actually post anywhere, because she was just paraphrasing a piece by her colleague, “an award-winning journalist specializing in environmental reportage and foreign correspondence” with an MA in “Environmental Journalism” rather than the skeptical kind of journalist like those your correspondent learned the trade from who insisted that if your mother says she loves you, check it out; peddling a study by “the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)” without citing a single dissenting or even independent voice in the spirit of journalactivism.

She doesn’t go about seeking someone who might, for instance, read this remarkable passage and raise questions:

“‘We know that hot weather is not felt evenly across cities,’ said Tucker Landesman, a researcher with IIED. ‘Pockets of extreme heat are more likely in certain types of neighborhoods and commercial districts. This is tied to inequality and how we design buildings and public infrastructure.’”

Exactly right and yet incredibly obtuse. Some places are urban hotspots even within an urban heat island. And if you measure temperature primarily in those places, which to an astounding degree is true even in the United States (to say nothing of the supposed all-time record in Britain set at a Royal Air Force base right after three jet airplanes landed) then you get a distorted temperature record. Duh.

Now of course we shouldn’t be mean about the hapless Reuters journalists who have no clue about this basic issue with temperature measurement. After all, what of the IIED researcher? What indeed of the IIED, described by Wikipedia as “an independent policy research institute” that gets funding from (of course) dozens of government agencies plus the World Bank?

It is clearly totally independent-minded and unbiased, hence the statement on its welcome page that:

“IIED and partners participated in a range of events during this year’s London Climate Action Week, from social networking for the adaptation community to highlighting the lesser-known obstacles preventing climate action”.

Oh, and the first item in its “Publications Library” is called “Creatively queer: a creative writing guidebook”.

We actually went to that page looking for its Annual Reports to see how much of its money comes from governments seeking confirmation of their alarmist views and policies and after a struggle through the links and search bars found that it is, predictably, well over half.

As for this particular researcher, he calls himself “an action-researcher working at the nexus of urban development, climate change, and inequalities.” So totally unbiased. Also he has a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Buenos Aires and a PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies from the LSE. So totally a “climate scientist”. Moreover:

“This story is part of our hidden handbrakes campaign, which is designed to expose and explain the unseen blockers of action on climate change. IIED has launched an interactive platform to enable these obstacles that are holding us back on addressing the climate and nature crises to be highlighted and shared.”

Oddly, we could only find a press release about the findings, including the note immediately above, not the actual study. But there was a note saying “To allow for comparability of data across multiple cities, airport site data was used. Airports are often used as official sites for measuring temperatures. According to the UK Met Office, monitoring equipment is set at an internationally-agreed distance from the runway to ensure no external factors can influence readings.” Other than being at an airport, obviously. Plus how would the Met Office know how they do it in Jakarta?

4 comments on “Not climate science”

  1. "Airports are often used as official sites for measuring temperatures."
    Not exactly. Temperature measuring stations have often been at the same location for many years, predating any airports. Originally placed on open land far from any urban centres or industial activity, it was these very same sites that were later developed as airports, and for the same reasons - open land far from urban centres and industrial activity. The temperature station locations haven't changes, just their surroundings.
    Does anyone know if any reputable meteorological organization has ever made a systematic comparison between temperatures within airports and within similar locations outside airports?

  2. Roger, I think you're splitting hairs. "Airports are often used..." means just that. That they are often used for measuring temps. That the temp stations at these airports may previously been on "open land" does not change that. But I would also be interested in seeing a "systematic comparison" as you mention.

  3. Temperature readings at airports are legitimate, because pilots need to know the air temperature on the actual runway, as warmer air is less dense, leading to the double whammy of less power from the engines, and less lift from the wings. These factors affect the Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) However, such readings should be excluded from climate-related data, as they are taken for a specific purpose unrelated to climate.

  4. There was an article about a regional temperature study around the Ottawa region posted a while ago here on CDN. Unfortunately I can’t find it to link here as the CDN search function is abysmally bad to the point of being useless. It was surprising how wide the temperature range was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *