Monday, July 9, 2007

Uncertainty, Science and the Press

I rely on RealClimate to untangle much of the confusion around reports of global warming and climate change. This confusion - as described in this classic case concerning the melting of the Greenland ice cap - is often generated by the biases and ignorance inherent in press coverage.

As my preceding article explained, there is alway uncertainty in forecasting, and there is definitely uncertainty in any attempt to predict the weather - whether it be for the next decade or this afternoon. But misinterpretation of scientific findings introduces even more uncertainty in the minds of citizens, who read or hear conflicting reports and then decide not to trust any of them.

A deep core sample of the ice in Greenland found the "oldest pure DNA ever" and the reports published in Science magazine included some mentions of historic ice cap melting some 125,000 years ago when the sea level was some 6 meters above what it is today. Some press accounts of the Science article interpreted those mentions as meaning that forecasts of the impact of current Greenland meltoff were overblown, exaggerated.

RealClimate provides a more accurate explanation of the original study, which is consistent with the IPCC findings regarding the ice cap. So we're back to considering the possibility that a Greenland meltoff, combined with similar melting of the Antarctic ice cap, the melting of many smaller mountain glaciers around the world and the expansion of the ocean itself due to warming may - MAY - still result in at least a 6 meter rise in sea level.

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