Writer Paul Joseph Watson accuses, in his article here, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) of using deception and fear mongering in a scientific study evaluating the potential effects of climate change.
At first glance, Watson’s argument may seem compelling, but a close analysis exposes the writer’s research as fundamentally flawed and misleading.
Watson’s arguments are reproduced below in bold and critiqued in regular font.
“Global warming fearmongers the World Wildlife Fund have been caught in a new act of deception after citing shrinking Arctic ice coverage to suggest climate change is ‘faster and more extreme’ than first thought, while failing to acknowledge that Arctic sea ice expanded over an area bigger than the size of Germany during the year of 2008.”
“For the WWF and the London Telegraph to use 2007 data and completely discount a gigantic 30 per cent increase in Arctic sea ice coverage from August 2007 to August 2008 is not only misleading, it is completely dishonest and atypical of the politicized agenda-driven global warming lobby.”
There are several basic aspects of the Arctic environment Watson is not taking into account. Before evaluating scientific research, one should be familiar with the basics of the material.
Ice in the Arctic goes through an annual cycle of melting and expanding. The ice has ‘expanded over an area bigger than the size of Germany’ numerous times, not just in 2008. This does not, in any way, discredit the theory of global warming. Climatologists are fully aware of this cycle and use it analyze environmental changes.
The ice usually reaches its annual peak in March and its annual low in September. The following chart, utilizing satellite data dating back to 1980, illustrates this cycle and shows a very clear pattern of steadily decreasing ice levels in the summer time.
Watson accuses the World Wildlife Fund of omitting critical facts in an attempt deceive the public. In reality, Watson is the one presenting incomplete and misleading information.
Watson acknowledges the last two years, but decides to discount the past thirty. As the above chart shows, the ice extent has been getting consistently lower in the summer for almost three decades. While it is true 2008 did not break the 2007 record, the overall downward trend continued just as climatologists predicted. In fact, many studies now suggest the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer within five years, decades ahead of many original projections.
Watson also fails to mention the difference between the loss of seasonal ice and the loss of older, thicker perennial ice. As summarized this March by the Washington Post, “the very old ice, which remains in the Arctic for at least six years, made up more than 20 percent of the Arctic in the mid- to late 1980s, but by this winter it had decreased to 6 percent.”
“Because we had a cold winter, the public might think things have gotten better," said Walter Meier of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “In fact, the loss of the perennial ice makes clear that they're not getting better at all.”
According to collated data from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Illinois, Arctic ice extent was 30 per cent greater on August 11, 2008 than it was on the August 12, 2007. This is a conservative estimate based on the map projection.
Here Watson uses old, incomplete and largely irrelevant information.