Debunked: CNN’s Never Ending Story Of Glacier Retreat

REUTERS/British Antarctic Survey/Handout
REUTERS/British Antarctic Survey/Handout

The glaciers are disappearing. Again. At least according to CNN they are. The slew of evidence presented in support of this disaster includes citing a single scientist and the author visiting a location where the glaciers happen to be in retreat. Neither is a particularly convincing line of evidence.

For starters, the cited authority is one Atsumu Ohmura. He claims that not only are “95%” of Earth’s glaciers in retreat but that they are retreating “20 times faster” than they did before human influences became visible. Is such certainty over hysterical claims justified by “the consensus”? No.

Ohmura’s best known contribution to the climate change debate is the theory of global dimming. He is cited only once in the IPCC’s chapter on the cryosphere (which includes the findings on glaciology) and is not one of the lead or contributing authors. Why didn’t CNN cite the IPCC instead of a single irresponsible scientist who supports their narrative?

The IPCC expresses significant uncertainty regarding the accurate measurement of glaciers globally. It states that the actual area covered by glaciers “was only roughly known” in the previous 2007 report and that improvements since have been relatively minor. How uncertain, exactly? Well the uncertainties themselves are “large and difficult to quantify” according to the latest 2013 report.

In numbers this boils down to a possible range of 114,000 and 192,000 Gigatonnes for estimated glacier mass.  That’s a difference of 78 Gigatonnes. The actual mass could therefore be 68% higher than the lowest estimate. The only thing that is certain about this data is that it should not be used to make irresponsible statements about the world’s glaciers imbued with confidence.

Secondly, as Paul Homewood notes, glacier retreat is and always has been a normal behaviour throughout natural history. Moreover, many of the glaciers used as examples to unnecessarily worry people had already gone through significant observable melts by 1950 (the decade from which human effects supposedly overtake natural variation according to the consensus narrative).

CNN’s article unfortunately forms part of a continuing pattern of unwarranted doom-mongering in the mainstream media. It consistently departs from what the supposed gold standard of “the scientific consensus”, the IPCC, actually says. The 2013 report, for example, is particularly temperate regarding “extreme weather” stating that most observations indicate no distinct trend. Yet the Guardian consistently publishes fire and brimstone pieces claiming that “extreme weather” continues to worsen, in direct contradiction to the evidence.

Similarly, almost all the major climate related disaster scenarios envisioned by alarmists were classified by the last IPCC report as being unlikely to happen, or there being low confidence in model projections that they would happen. Is the impression you are left with by watch the coverage on CNN, the BBC, or reading the Guardian?


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