As reported in Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column in the Guardian and previously on the DeSmogBlog, there was a media stampede last month to misrepresent a new piece of research as evidence that climate change is not happening – a bit of truth twisting that left the researcher in question aghast.
”Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists,” said the U.K. Sun. “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s shiplogs question climate change theories,” said the London Telegraph. But the research on ship’s logs by Sunderland Univesity Prof. Dennis Wheeler says nothing of the kind. “As I pointed out to the Sunday Times (which ran an original and accurate story), the ships’ log books I work with only give us information about wind force and wind direction, they basically do not give us information on temperatures, and if they do it’s very scant and unreliable,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We’ve simply never claimed indirectly or directly to have any direct evidence on changing temperatures.
So, imagine Wheeler’s surprise when he read this on the US website Now Public: “Captain Cook and Lord Nelson’s logs prove global warming isn’t manmade.”
“It was odd reading articles which were written as if a reporter had spoken to me,” Wheeler told Goldacre at the Guardian. “I wasn’t fully aware of the extent to which the media copy each other’s newspapers – but worse was the brazen way they distorted our work. Not a single one of the journalists from any other newspaper contacted us to see if their take on the story was correct.
In a phone conversation with the DeSmogBlog, Wheeler said the whole affair has been frustrating because of the damage that it does to legitimate scientific inquiry and debate. Researchers around England have been picking through 130,000 pre-insturmental log books from Royal Navy ships (they’ve got through 6,000 so far) trying to tease out details of past climate. They do so in part to help contribute to the accuracy of Global Climate Models – the GCMs that today give us our best chance of anticipating how our climate is likely to evolve in the future. Now, rather than being used for that good purpose, the denier press has taken his research and misrepresented it in a way most perfectly calculated to leave people even more cynical and confused.
Wheeler also pointed out the perversity of climate dissemblers who deride concern about global climate change as some kind of a socialist plot. The biggest contributor to climate change research in the UK – and one of the best in the world – is the Hadley Centre for Climate Research and Prediction, a special section in the UK Met Office that was started by (satire alert) that old socialist icon Margaret Thatcher.