Thursday, September 21, 2017

Clarifying Recent Press Coverage Misrepresenting a '1.5 degrees' Paper in Nature Geoscience

The media and anti-science lobbyists have once again grossly misrepresented a scientific study. The authors of that study have issued a statement to clarify:

A number of media reports have asserted that our recent study in Nature Geoscience indicates that global temperatures are not rising as fast as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and hence that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is no longer urgent.

Both assertions are false.

This sort of misrepresentation is common in the mass media. Lobbyists lie about the study, and the science-deficient reporting staffs of mainstream media focus more on creating sensational headlines than on getting the science right. These misrepresentations - both intentional and unintentional - then get saturated across the blogosphere, thus spreading the false information wider than the original study.

Which is why scientists have to always be sure to keep control of their message.

The authors go on to state that their results confirm the IPCC prediction. When media and blogs claim it doesn't, they are either unintentionally misleading the public or, sadly, outright lying.
Our results are entirely in line with the IPCC’s 2013 prediction that temperatures in the 2020s would be 0.9-1.3 degrees above pre-industrial....
Their study looked at the project CO2 emissions based on the goals set in the recent Paris agreement. They clearly state that to meet that goal "emission reductions would need to begin immediately and reach zero in less than 40 years’ time."

To repeat, to meet the goals set by the Paris agreement, emissions reductions would have to start NOW and emissions would have to be completely eliminated no later than 40 years from now. That's an ambitious goal, and actions to reach it must begin immediately if it is to be accomplished. suggest that this means that measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are now unnecessary is clearly false.

Indeed, action to reduce - and then eliminate - carbon emissions is required to start immediately.  Those arguing that the study suggests we can sit around and do nothing are at best misrepresenting, and often intentionally lying, about the study. Clearly, we must take substantial action, and take that substantial action now and for decades to come.

This is yet another example of how the media often fails to communicate the science accurately, and how some ideological and lobbying outlets intentionally misrepresent studies. This is why scientists, whether we like it or not, must always be aware of how our science is being communicated - and miscommunicated - by others in the real world.

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