On Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Rob Pollock falsely claimed that "most" of the global warming that has occurred "over the past century ... happened before 1940." In fact, according to data presented by the Climatic Research Unit, the last three decades have seen a sharper rise in global air temperature than any other period since at least 1860, including the years preceding 1940.
During a panel discussion of global warming on the May 13 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Rob Pollock falsely claimed that "most" of the global warming that has occurred "over the past century ... happened before 1940." In fact, according to data presented by the Climatic Research Unit, the last three decades (1976-2005) have seen a sharper rise in global air temperature than any other period since at least 1860, including the years preceding 1940. The panel discussion was preceded by a "sneak peek" at An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary (scheduled for release May 24) on former Vice President Al Gore's campaign to raise worldwide awareness of global warming, and an interview with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Richard Lindzen. Lindzen -- who, according to host Paul Gigot, has accused Gore of "creat[ing] a climate of fear" and "intimidating dissenting scientists into silence on the subject" of global warming -- understated the amount of warming that has occurred and the level of scientific certainty that man has contributed to that warming.
According to data* compiled by the Climatic Research Unit, the difference between the temperature in 1907, the coolest year of the 20th century, and the temperature in 1944, the warmest year in the 20th century prior to 1983, is 0.660 degrees Celsius. According to the same data, the difference between the temperature in 1976, the coolest year since 1964, and the temperature in 2005, the second-warmest year on record (the warmest was 1998), is 0.687 degrees Celsius. The chart below, also provided by the Climatic Research Unit, illustrates that 1907-1944 and 1976-2005 were the two largest periods of warming in the last 100 years**:
Lindzen claimed that scientists "agree that we've probably warmed about a half-degree centigrade in the last century," adding falsely that "there is no agreement that the warming we've seen is due to man." In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, the vast majority of climate scientists and organizations agree that human activity contributes to global warming. Further, while the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences have said that the Earth's surface temperature has risen by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius -- or 1 degree Fahrenheit -- in the 20th Century, these figures, by definition, do not include the years 2001 through 2005, which are five of the six warmest years on record, as the Climatic Research Unit noted in a December 2005 press release.
Media Matters previously noted that Gigot had distorted a study on methane on The Journal Editorial Report to falsely suggest it undermined global warming science.
From the May 13 edition of Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, which included Gigot, Pollock, Lindzen, and Journal editorial board member Kimberley A. Strassel:
GIGOT: Welcome back. That was a sneak peek at Al Gore's new global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee's movie and accompanying book are set for release later this month. But my guest this week says Gore and other global warming alarmists have created a climate of fear, intimidating dissenting scientists into silence on the subject. Richard Lindzen is a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Lindzen, welcome.
LINDZEN: Thank you.
GIGOT: We keep hearing and reading that all scientists agree about certain things on global warming, that the world is warming, that it's man-made -- the cause is man-made -- and that we must act urgently about it. You're a meteorologist, what do you think scientists really agree on?
LINDZEN: I think they agree that we've probably warmed about a half-degree centigrade in the last century. I think they agree that carbon dioxide has gone up 30 percent. I think we agree that carbon dioxide would tend to contribute warming. But there is no agreement that the warming we've seen is due to man. Moreover, the warming we've seen is much less than we would have expected on the basis of the models that produce alarm.
STRASSEL: But the other thing has to do with this is big money. You know, there's a lot of grant money and research money out there for scientists, now, who go into climatology. This has encouraged a lot of people to keep interest in this. But, in addition, companies themselves have realized that there is some way to make some bucks by getting on board of some sort of climate change program, where there's credits that they can trade. And so you have the nuclear industry, for instance, and other U.S. companies are now putting pressure on congressmen to set up some sort of system here.
GIGOT: So there is a political goal here of changing the energy agenda of the United States and energy policy. Rob?
POLLOCK: Look, what amazes me about this debate, as Professor Lindzen mentioned, most of the warming happened before -- everyone agrees there has been some warming over the past century, but most of it happened before 1940. The other thing that's important to remember is, throughout human history, you know, there have been very large swings in climate. There have been ice ages. There was a medieval warm period where it was much warmer than it is today. I think the lessons that we have to draw from this in terms of thinking about a response are, first of all, we're very likely to survive whatever comes our way. And secondly, you know, the most important thing to do is probably to stay adaptable, to stay rich to be able to adjust.
* Yearly temperature variation from the average global temperature is in the right-most column.
Correction: The original version of this item incorrectly stated that "[t]he chart below, also provided by the Climatic Research Unit, illustrates that 1907-1944 and 1976-2005 were the two largest periods of warming in the 20th century." In fact, the chart illustrates that 1907-1944 and 1976-2005 were the two largest periods of warming in the last 100 years.