To be sure, covering climate change is difficult; and covering temperature trends is an especially perilous task. Even when Revkin wrote his March Times story about skeptics “seizing” on cold weather to rebut anthropogenic warming, he received largely unwarranted criticism from energy expert and Climate Progress blogger Joseph Romm. The same thing happened two weeks ago when Revkin covered a study in the journal Nature (a far more reliable venue than the Old Farmer’s Almanac), which predicted that the world would soon enter a prolonged cold spell. Revkin was careful to report that the study drew criticism from other scientists, and that the study’s authors agree that we need to cut carbon emissions and that humans control the fate of the climate. That wasn’t enough to preclude criticism from Romm. Of course, Romm went after Lovley, too, in a stinging review at The Huffington Post, but it does go to show that reporters are often stuck in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenario.
That said, Politico should bear full responsibility for yesterday’s terrible article. Not only did Lovley exhibit a thorough misunderstanding of climate science, she also demonstrated a pretty shocking ignorance of good journalistic practice. Every shred of information in her piece suggests that Lovley followed the playbook of the communications office (read: spin room) of Senator Jim Inhofe, the most adamant skeptic in Congress. She notes, for example, that “more than 31,000 scientists across the world have signed the Global Warming Petition Project,” which asserts that human influence on climate can’t be proven, and that “Inhofe’s staff has been steadily compiling a list of global cooling findings.” Of course, few of the 31,000 have advanced degrees in climatology. And when it comes to the science itself, one wonders if Lovley even bothered to look up a single peer-reviewed study about global temperature trends, or whether she simply took Inhofe’s word for it.
In a final act of journalistic folly (and a lame attempt at “balance”), Lovley’s last paragraph quotes Al Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider rebutting the argument against global warming. Now Gore and Kreider probably know more about climate science than Inhofe does, but they are still not scientists. And, to make matters worse (I know, it doesn’t seem possible), Lovley has a sidebar to her story that is even more asinine than the main article. It’s about “The Gore Effect,” by which severe cold sets in whenever the former vice-president is due to speak about global warming:
“While there’s no scientific proof that The Gore Effect is anything more than a humorous coincidence,” Lovley writes, “some climate skeptics say it may offer a snapshot of proof that the planet isn’t warming as quickly as some climate change advocates say.”
The vacuity is almost too much to bear.