Stanford Scientist Criticizes Fox Distortion Of His Climate Study

With what must be one of their more obtuse headlines, Fox Nation misrepresented a recent study on the impact of climate change on the world's crops, proclaiming that it showed “No Global Warming In North America”:

Got that? The globe is not warming in North America -- just like the United States doesn't have an unemployment problem in North Dakota.

What's more is that the study Fox Nation refers to doesn't actually contend that there have been no global warming effects in North America. Here, Fox is echoing an Ottawa Citizen headline which stated: “Climate change hardly visible in North America: Canada U.S. buck trend, scientists say.” This too is a misrepresentation of the research.

In fact, the study examined only crop-producing regions and only during the growing seasons of corn, rice, maize, and wheat.The research indicated that those specific regions in the U.S. have not seen the same warming trend evident in global average temperatures over the past 30 years. (Indeed, no climate scientist would say the planet is expected to warm uniformly).

Stanford's David Lobell, one of the authors of the study, explained in an email that he was “disappointed” in both the Fox Nation and Ottawa Citizen coverage, which “do not accurately portray our findings.” He added:

The study was only focusing on one aspect of climate change (impacts on agriculture) and looked only in the parts of the countries where and times of year when certain crops are grown. for example, if one looks at winter temperatures in these regions, it would paint a different picture. also, the lack of trend in any one region has very little bearing on whether global warming is happening.

Moreover, responding to an inquiry submitted to the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, Dr. Jacqueline Mohan of the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology explained in an email that “modern crops and the vast majority of natural ecosystems are fundamentally different.” She explains that annual crops used in agriculture “do not ”track" climate as closely as perennial plants which have much longer lifespans" and are more vulnerable to changes in climate. Mohan also points to recent research on ecosystems in North America that “has shown profound responses to changing climate.”

Of course, Fox Nation is notorious for finding bogus evidence in an attempt to disprove the fact that the Earth is warming. In this case, the site is pushing the notion that if global warming isn't happening in America, it's not happening anywhere. Unfortunately, it's just not the case that climate change isn't happening here and around the world.

In fact, both the U.S. and Canada have seen rising average temperatures in recent decades, with Northern Canada undergoing particularly dramatic changes.

Presumably, Fox Nation paid little attention to a report that actually does examine the impact of climate change on the U.S. as a whole. That report, commissioned by the Bush administration and released in 2009, serves as “the most complete federal look yet at the effects of a changing climate,” according to USA Today. It features a compilation of both federal and independent research and includes “analysis of impacts on various sectors such as energy, water, and transportation” at both a national and regional levels. Among its key findings are that “Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow” and that “Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.”

Indeed, regions all over the world are observing trends that foretell a changing environment. According to University of Minnesota scientist Peter Reich, also contacted through CSRRT, Fox Nation is completely missing the important point of Lobell's study, saying via email that “if there is evidence that on average, around the world, agricultural output was already impacted by climate change, that is important, and a 'canary in the coal mine' kind of signal.”

Indeed, Lobell's study concludes that communities across the globe are encountering the very real consequences of climate change on the production of vital crops. The very research that Fox Nation uses to sow doubt about global warming found that “Climate trends were large enough in some countries to offset a significant portion of the increases in average yields that arose from technology, CO2 fertilization, and other factors.”

Additionally, while there is significant evidence that climate change is occurring right here in the U.S., many other studies have shown that the geographies of other regions make them even more vulnerable to the negative effects of a changing climate. An analysis by World Bank economist David Wheeler projects a median loss of agricultural productivity in Central Africa of 19.8% by 2050. He also forecasts that 14 other regions, including significant portions of South America and Asia will see decreases of 10% or more, whereas North America's median losses are around 1.65%. British firm Maplecroft, which specializes in risk analysis, rated the United States as a “medium risk” country, less vulnerable than 128 other countries in the world.