DeSmogBlog and the daily green on UN WMO PR No. 791

August 10, 2007 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Climate events, Extreme weather, UN, WMO | Leave a comment

For starters, this post ‘The 13 Signs of Global Warming‘ and its partner ‘U.N.: Extreme Weather is Sign of Global Warming‘, both from the daily green, incorrectly refer to the World Meteorological Organization as an Association. The rest of the claims made in ‘the 13 signs’ after that mistaken name are misleading too.

The U.N. Press Release No. 791 from which these connections are derived does not say “We are linking 13 weather events so far this year to global warming” nor does it say “Here are the 13 Signs of Global Warming”.

In fact, the U.N. release is headed:

 

Press Release No.791

 

For use of the information media. Not an official record

 

The World Meteorological Organization reports on extreme weather and climate events

I posted, without comment, the same press release from the UN as a report of extreme weather and climate events … and had to read it again closely, after seeing how it had been interpreted by the daily green and DeSmogBlog!

Yes, extreme events are coinciding or becoming more frequent. Yes, they are in line with predicted trends. But nowhere in PR No. 791 does the UN make the claim that these thirteen events are caused by global warming.

The only connections in the original Press Release No. 791 are observations relating to the past half-century observation, and a statement that projections show it is very likely that extreme events will occur more often:

The Fourth Assessment Report of the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes an increasing trend in extreme events observed during the last 50 years. IPCC further projects it to be very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.

and repeated later in the same release, as if to get the message across to the media who are meant to base stories on this information:

IPCC further notes that there has been an increasing trend in the extreme events observed during the last 50 years, particularly heavy precipitation events, hot days, hot nights and heat waves.

Climate change projections indicate it to be very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.

I admit the UN could be said to have linked extreme weather and climate events by writing about both in the same (unofficial) informational release, and talking about trends, but that is far, far from the alarmingly incorrect paragraph that leads the DeSmogBlog and the daily green posts. Donning my editor’s cap, and wielding my editor’s pen, I would have struck out plenty of words to bring us back to a more realistic reflection of that UN WMO press release:

The United Nations World Meteorological Association Organization linked reported 13 extreme weather events around the world so far this year. to global warming yesterday, saying that hHeat- and flooding-related catastrophes can be thought of may occur more often as consequences of global warming — and signs of what is to come if nothing is done to stop the runaway climate change engulfing the globe due to greenhouse gas emissions.

Bottom line: we cannot combat climate change successfully if we alarm the public unnecessarily. Readers need to trust in their sources, and the only way they can do that is for the sources to be authentic and not make stories up “because that’s what we think people want to hear …”. It is one thing to frame science, and quite another to twist it and misattribute the statements of a body like the UN WMO who have chosen their words carefully so as not to alarm.

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