Justin Gillis, the New York Times most alarmist environmental reporter, eagerly "undermined" "climate-change contrarians" (the paper stopped calling it "global warming" when temperatures failed to cooperate) in Saturday's edition. The Times put a version of the story below on Saturday morning's front page, under the headline "2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics," after initially posting it online.
But Climate Depot has a roundup of skeptical scientists, all but of whom were ignored in Gillis's story, who emphasize that the "record high" temperature readings claimed by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are based on a temperature difference of a few hundredths of a degree, well within the margin of error. Some scientists also find a "warming bias" in the land portion of the surface temperature data.
On Saturday Gillis wrote:
Last year was the hottest in earth’s recorded history, scientists reported on Friday, underscoring scientific warnings about the risks of runaway emissions and undermining claims by climate-change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.
Extreme heat blanketed Alaska and much of the western United States last year. Several European countries set temperature records. And the ocean surface was unusually warm virtually everywhere except around Antarctica, the scientists said, providing the energy that fueled damaging Pacific storms.
In the annals of climatology, 2014 now surpasses 2010 as the warmest year in a global temperature record that stretches back to 1880. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997, a reflection of the relentless planetary warming that scientists say is a consequence of human emissions and poses profound long-term risks to civilization and to the natural world.
Notice how climate-change skeptics can't win with Gillis's loaded-dice journalism. If temperatures rise, it's due to climate change, and when they fall, as they did last year over the Eastern United States, that's also a sign of climate change.
Of the large inhabited land areas, only the eastern half of the United States recorded below-average temperatures in 2014, a sort of mirror image of the unusual heat in the West. Some experts think the stuck-in-place weather pattern that produced those extremes in the United States is itself an indirect consequence of the release of greenhouse gases, though that is not proven.
Longstanding claims by climate-change skeptics that global warming has stopped, seized on by politicians in Washington to justify inaction on emissions, depend on a particular starting year: 1998, when an unusually powerful El Niño produced the hottest year of the 20th century.
“Obviously, a single year, even if it is a record, cannot tell us much about climate trends,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, head of earth system analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “However, the fact that the warmest years on record are 2014, 2010 and 2005 clearly indicates that global warming has not ‘stopped in 1998,’ as some like to falsely claim.”
It took nine paragraphs for Gillis to admit that the 2014 temperatures set a record only by a few hundredths of a degree, and even that argument was made by a scientist first tarred with the red flag of "skeptic."
Such claims are unlikely to go away, though. John R. Christy, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is known for his skepticism about the seriousness of global warming, pointed out in an interview that 2014 had surpassed the other record-warm years by only a few hundredths of a degree, well within the error margin of global temperature measurements.
This isn't the first time Gillis and the Times trumpeted an alleged milestone in the advance of perilous climate change. In May 2013 Gillis wrote a lead story about a record amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that turned out to be false: "Heat-Trapping Gas Passes Milestone, Raising Fears." In fact, a revised calculation showed that the "milestone" of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere had not been reached.