Media Misrepresent Senators’ Global Warming Trip to Greenland

As NewsBusters reported Monday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) was quoted in an Orange County Register article as saying about a recent trip by Senators to investigate Greenland's glaciers, "I think everyone who has seen this is changed."

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported:

"There is absolutely no disagreement that the greenhouse gas emissions are adding to climate change and global warming," [Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland)] said. "No one disagrees that it would be a healthy thing for our world to have less greenhouse gas."

Sadly, neither of these articles chose to get opinions from the two Republican senators on the trip. If they had, another picture might have been presented, as reported by the Associated Press Monday (emphasis added):

Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia traveled to Greenland over the weekend to get a firsthand glimpse at the effects of global warming.

The first-term Republican said the trip reinforced his belief that the United States should gradually move away from fossil fuels like oil and coal. But it didn't convince him that more urgent steps are needed.

Isakson said he remains unconvinced that the current warming is a departure from long-term natural cycles.

E&E News offered more of Isakson's views Monday (emphasis added, subscription required):

"Senator Isakson believes it's premature to start talking about any carbon cap proposal since we have not fully addressed the development of all renewable resources, especially nuclear and cellulose-based ethanol," Isakson spokeswoman Joan Kirchner said today. Isakson's office also released a statement that noted climate change "is natural and has occurred before."

Isakson added, "The question is: To what extent is carbon accelerating the changes? The answer to that question is: No one knows for sure."

Understand why the Post and the Register chose not to quote Isakson?

Not interviewing Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), the other Republican on the trip, was also a wise decision (also from E&E News):

"We're digging in to understand this issue in great detail so that we can play a meaningful role as it is debated," Corker said. "We don't want to react impulsively and enact something that we can't reverse in the future if there are unintended negative consequences or our understanding of this issue evolves."

The Shelbyville Times-Gazette published more of Corker's skeptical views Tuesday that the Post and the Register certainly wouldn't have been interested in (emphasis added):

Getting an energy policy in place "that is right" regardless of the impact climate change has is a goal that Sen. Bob Corker expressed upon returning from a trip to Greenland this past weekend.

But while they viewed glaciers and ice sheets that make up 10 percent of the world's fresh water, nothing he saw surprised him, saying instead it was the scientists that were the most informative.

"I am at the same place [opinion] when returning from the trip than I was going on the trip," Corker said.

That certainly wouldn't have supported Boxer's "I think everyone who has seen this is changed" claim highlighted by the Register, would it? Nor would the following:

"I don't think there's any question that our climate is changing, but that's been going on for thousands of years," Corker explained. He also reminded reporters that the country was first called Greenland by Viking explorers who farmed there.

Yes, the global warming alarmists all seem to conveniently forget that fact, don't they?

But, that's not the only thing ignored in this discussion, for in her press release concerning this trip, Boxer stated the following (emphasis added):

Here it is, straight from Arkalo Abelsen, the Greenlandic Minister of the Environment, who spoke to us on Saturday morning:

"Looking back at my own life, I can only confirm that the climate in Greenland today is very different from the time when I was a child. I was born and raised in the southern part of Disko Bay. The sea ice closed the bay... from December until the end of May. The hunters went on the sea ice with their dog teams to catch food. These days the sea ice is formed in March, and disappears just a few weeks later. Some years it is not possible to go by dog team on the ice at all."

"Until 15 years ago, the hunters in the Thule region could hunt walrus on the sea ice during a period of 6 months each year - today if they are lucky they can hunt on the sea ice for just 2 months. [W]e have had to give permission to kill polar bears, and polar bears with cubs, because they have wandered into towns and villages to seek food, because they cannot hunt on the sea ice."

Nothing like the views of locals that have been alive for about 60 years to impact a debate about centuries of climate data, wouldn't you agree? After all, according to the Greenland government's website, Abelsen was born in 1946.

Maybe Boxer would have gotten a better perspective of climate change in Greenland if she spoke to Abelsen's father and grandfather, assuming they're still alive.

After all, not knowing when Abelsen started working for the federal government, which is located in Nuuk, the average temperature in that part of Greenland - as seen in the following chart of readings from the GISS's Godthab Nuuk station - are still not as high as they were in the mid-1970s, the early 1940s before he was born, as well as parts of the '20s and '30s:

Of course, global warming alarmists such as Boxer never like looking at temperature records this far in the past, for they just don't support the hysteria they're trying to elicit.

Unfortunately, from what I can tell, there aren't any GISS stations close to Disko Bay where Abelsen grew up to give us a true picture of how temperatures have varied in that region. The following chart is from Jacobshavn, but that apparently was shut down in 1980:

As for the Thule region that Abelsen referred to, there used to be a weather station there, but it was closed in 1981:

However, nobody is arguing the point that the globe experiences warming and cooling periods. In fact, Sen. James Inhofe's (R-Oklahoma) communications director Marc Morano made this point in his article on the Greenland trip Monday (emphasis added):

Recent research has found that Greenland has been warming since the 1880's, but since 1955, temperature averages at Greenland stations have been colder than the period between 1881-1955.

One such study was done specifically in the area that Abelsen grew up in. As reported by Agence France-Presse in August 2006 (emphasis added):

Greenland's glaciers have been shrinking for the past century, according to a Danish study published on Monday, suggesting that the ice melt is not a recent phenomenon caused by global warming.

Danish researchers from Aarhus University studied glaciers on Disko island, in western Greenland in the Atlantic, from the end of the 19th century until the present day.

"This study, which covers 247 of 350 glaciers on Disko, is the most comprehensive ever conducted on the movements of Greenland's glaciers," glaciologist Jacob Clement Yde, who carried out the study with Niels Tvis Knudsen, told AFP.

Using maps from the 19th century and current satellite observations, the scientists were able to conclude that "70 percent of the glaciers have been shrinking regularly since the end of the 1880s at a rate of around eight meters per year," Yde said.

Not something Boxer and her global warming alarmists care to address, for to them, the only thing that matters is what's happened in the past twenty years or so as this current warming phase has reached temperatures that aid the hysteria.

This brings up another issue: if Congressional delegations had been sent to Greenland to examine glacial melts in the '20s, '30s, and '40s when temperatures at Godthab Nuuk were higher than today, what kind of recommendations might have been made to counter what appears to be a natural event?

Might tighter restrictions have been placed on a variety of industries seventy and eighty years ago - from coal to automobiles to electric utilities and railroads - that would likely have made our economy and our lives much less advanced than they are today?

How many more people would be living in poverty in America if Senators were sent to Greenland during America's Dust Bowl period to examine how "global warming" was impacting glaciers? Might we all still be driving horse-drawn carriages if climate hysteria back then had destroyed the automotive industry?

Interesting questions the alarmists don't want to address as they consider legislative changes that could be equally devastating to our children and grandchildren seventy and eighty years from now.

Just a thought.

Finally, kudos are due for ABCNews.com, as an article published Monday on this Senate trip gave a fairer picture of the events than any other media account so far, including quotes from Corker and Morano.

I highly recommend it as an example of what journalism should be.

Special thanks go out to NB member "danbo" who assisted me with researching the GISS weather stations. Keep up the great work, Dan!

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.