Newsweek Science Editor on Global Warming: This Year’s Weather Extremes ‘Reached Biblical Proportions’

Posted on Tue 05/31/2011 by

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Noel SheppardBy Noel Sheppard

NewsBusters readers are quite familiar with the frantic hyperbole that often come from the keystrokes of Newsweek’s so-called science editor Sharon Begley.

On Saturday she penned another breathless doozy with the Hitchcockian sub-headline “In a world of climate change, freak storms are the new normal. Why we’re unprepared for the harrowing future”:

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,000 tornadoes have ripped across the heartland, killing more than 500 people and inflicting $9 billion in damage. The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years, forcing the Mississippi to flood thousands of square miles, even as drought-plagued Texas suffered the driest month in a century. Worldwide, the litany of weather’s extremes has reached biblical proportions. The 2010 heat wave in Russia killed an estimated 15,000 people. Floods in Australia and Pakistan killed 2,000 and left large swaths of each country under water. A months-long drought in China has devastated millions of acres of farmland. And the temperature keeps rising: 2010 was the hottest year on earth since weather records began.

From these and other extreme-weather events, one lesson is sinking in with terrifying certainty. The stable climate of the last 12,000 years is gone.

The climate has been stable for the last 12,000 years? Yeah, that Little Ice Age between the 16th and 19th centuries was the picture of stability.

And though this has been a very active tornado season, it’s hardly biblical as well as likely caused by this year’s La Niña according to a majority of meteorologists on both sides of the global warming debate.

Alas, science really isn’t important to this “science editor” who also seemed to miss an obvious point with her hyperventilation “The Midwest suffered the wettest April in 116 years.” That means 116 years ago, when there was far less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the planet was a bit cooler, the Midwest suffered a wetter April.

But such inconvenient truths weren’t getting in the way of Begley’s paranoid delusions:

Picture California a few decades from now, a place so hot and arid the state’s trademark orange and lemon trees have been replaced with olive trees that can handle the new climate. Alternating floods and droughts have made it impossible for the reservoirs to capture enough drinking water. The picturesque Highway 1, sections of which are already periodically being washed out by storm surges and mudslides, will have to be rerouted inland, possibly through a mountain.

Wow. So in just a few decades, all the orange and lemon trees in my state will be gone, there won’t be enough drinking water, and much of the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway will be kaput.

That’s going to wreak havoc with property values.

But on a more serious note, what should really bother readers – as well as Newsweek’s real editors if they care about facts – is how fast and loose Begley played with them.

Consider the following:

Scientists disagree about whether climate change will bring more intense or frequent tornadoes, but there is wide consensus that the 2 degrees Fahrenheit of global warming of the last century is behind the rise in sea levels, more intense hurricanes, more heat waves, and more droughts and deluges.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the entire rise in global temperatures between 1850 and 2005 was 0.76 degrees Celsius. That’s 1.37 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that Begley overstated the increase by almost 50 percent.

Did I mention that she’s Newsweek’s science editor?

But there’s more:

Because of the CO2 that has already been emitted, we’re on track for an additional 5 degrees of warming…New York, which is looking at an average temperature increase of up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2020, is planning to paint 3 million square feet of roofs white, to reflect sunlight and thus reduce urban heat-island effects.

It took 155 years for temperatures to rise 1.37 degrees Fahrenheit. If we continued at this pace it would take 565 years for us to rise another five degrees.

Yet this so-called “science editor” claimed New York could see its temperatures increase by as much as three degrees in only nineteen years.

It’s this kind of mathematically-challenged forecasting that gives junk science a bad name.

Which is why Newsweek should be ashamed of itself for allowing such nonsense to be published.

If only the folks associated with this publication possessed such a thing called shame.

Noel Sheppard is the Associate Editor of NewsBusters.

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