No the Pacific islands are not drowning because of climate change – and all the media outlets who insist on claiming otherwise really need to get a grip.
This is the highly unusual message in the normally eco-hysterical Guardian from a scientific researcher evidently disgusted by the way any new paper even remotely connected with climate change is seized on by the usual media suspects as further proof of imminent “man-made global warming” catastrophe.
Dr Simon Albert, a researcher at the School of Biological Sciences at University of Queensland, was speaking out in irritation at the way a paper he had published in Environmental Research Letters on the Solomon Islands had been misrepresented by alarmists.
Among the offending newspapers which had used it to generate hysterical headlines was – you guessed it – the Guardian. ‘Five Pacific islands lost to rising seas as climate change hits‘, it reported last week. The New York Times, the Washington Post and Think Progress covered the story in similarly apocalyptic terms.
Albert was not impressed. He told the Guardian:
All these headlines are certainly pushing things a bit towards the ‘climate change has made islands vanish’ angle. I would prefer slightly more moderate titles that focus on sea-level rise being the driver rather than simply ‘climate change’
According to the original report by the Guardian, the paper was further evidence of ongoing climate disaster:
Five tiny Pacific islands have disappeared due to rising seas and erosion, a discovery thought to be the first scientific confirmation of the impact of climate change on coastlines in the Pacific, according to Australian researchers.
But actually, the paper didn’t say this. Yes five Pacific islands had disappeared but mainly due to sea level rise (which the paper did not attribute to ‘climate change’) and extreme wave action.
The report, published on Friday, tracked the shapeshifting of 33 reef islands in the Solomon Islands between 1947 and 2014. It found that five had been washed away completely and six more had been severely eroded. The study blamed the loss on a combination of sea-level rise and high wave energy.
Sure, Albert conceded, climate change might play its part. But reports on its influence in Pacific island erosion were greatly exaggerated.
Albert told the Guardian:
“I understand why these more dramatic titles are used and it does help bring attention to the issue that I firmly believe will become a major issue for the islands in the second half of this century from climate change.”
Which, actually, rather undermines what he told the Guardian earlier and you wonder why he felt it was necessary to say it, other than to spare the Guardian its blushes, because the point he is making here is a political and emotional one, not a scientific one.
Even so, we should be thankful for small mercies. It’s not often a scientist is prepared to call bull on the way the left-wing press routinely hypes up global warming scares. Albert has done the world of science a favour.