Cavuto's flawed “global warming alert”: “It is freezing across the entire globe”

On his Fox News show, Neil Cavuto introduced a segment by saying, “This is our Fox News global warming alert for you,” and falsely claimed that "[i]t is freezing across the entire globe"; guest Ben Stein later suggested that “maybe all this talk about global warming needs to be rethought” because of recent cold weather. In fact, contrary to Cavuto's suggestion, it is not colder than average across the entire globe, and climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather bear any relevance to the global warming debate.

Cavuto falsely claims, “It is freezing across the entire globe”

From the January 9 edition of Fox News' Cavuto on Business:

CAVUTO: All right. This is our Fox News global warming alert for you. It is freezing across the entire globe. We've got frost in Florida, it's 50 below in the Midwest. You got deadly snow in London. Beijing seeing it's coldest temperatures in 40 years -- Red Square more like “white square” -- the whole nine yards. When all of this is bad news for heating bills right now, but you say the record cold spell could save us money down the road? Ben, what's going on here?

STEIN: At some point maybe somebody in the government will wake up and say, “Hey, it's colder. It's not hotter.” Maybe all this talk about global warming needs to be rethought.

Contrary to Cavuto's claim, many parts of globe experiencing temperatures “above normal”

Christian Science Monitor: “Look around and you'll find plenty of warm spots on the planet.” In a January 7 blog post, The Christian Science Monitor noted that "[s]ome parts of Northern New Zealand are sweltering in record breaking heat this week. And oddly enough, so are some places in Bulgaria, where a hot spot over the Black Sea has warmed one town to a pleasant 72 degrees. Not bad for a city at the same latitude as Portland, Maine." The Christian Science Monitor also noted, “On Christmas Day, the Australian Weather Bureau reported that Central Pacific Ocean temperatures are now at their warmest in more than a decade. For Australia itself, 2009 was a scorcher, the second hottest year on record after 2005."

U.K. Met Office: “It is not cold everywhere in the world.” The U.K. Met Office Hadley Center noted in a January 6 press release that “it is not cold everywhere in the world. North-east America, Canada, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and south-west Asia have all seen temperatures above normal -- in many places by more than 5 C, and in parts of northern Canada, by more than 10°C.”

Met Office: Cold weather “doesn't tell us anything about climate change”

Met Office: Cold snap “doesn't tell us anything about climate change.” The Met Office said in its January 6 press release that “current cold weather in the UK is part of the normal regional variations that take place in the winter season. It doesn't tell us anything about climate change, which has to be looked at in a global context and over longer periods of time.”

Globally, 2009 among warmest years on record. A January 5 U.K. Independent article reported: “The Met Office's Barry Gromett said December and January's cold weather was 'within the bounds of natural variability' within a global trend of rising temperatures -- in which 2009 is set to be the fifth warmest year on record.”

WMO: “2000-2009, The Warmest Decade.” In a December 8 press release, the World Meteorological Organization reported that "[t]he decade of the 2000s (2000-2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990-1999), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980-1989)."

Climate scientists: Short-term changes in weather have no relevance to global warming debate

NASA climatologist: “Weather isn't going to go away because of climate change.” A March 2, 2008, New York Times article reported that climate scientists -- including at least one who has disputed aspects of the scientific consensus on global warming -- completely reject the notion that short-term changes in weather bear any relevance to the global warming debate:

Many scientists also say that the cool spell in no way undermines the enormous body of evidence pointing to a warming world with disrupted weather patterns, less ice and rising seas should heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and forests continue to accumulate in the air.

“The current downturn is not very unusual,'' said Carl Mears, a scientist at Remote Sensing Systems, a private research group in Santa Rosa, Calif., that has been using satellite data to track global temperature and whose findings have been held out as reliable by a variety of climate experts. He pointed to similar drops in 1988, 1991-92, and 1998, but with a long-term warming trend clear nonetheless.


Michael E. Schlesinger, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, said that any focus on the last few months or years as evidence undermining the established theory that accumulating greenhouse gases are making the world warmer was, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a harmful distraction.

Discerning a human influence on climate, he said, ''involves finding a signal in a noisy background.'' He added, ''The only way to do this within our noisy climate system is to average over a sufficient number of years that the noise is greatly diminished, thereby revealing the signal. This means that one cannot look at any single year and know whether what one is seeing is the signal or the noise or both the signal and the noise.''


Some scientists who strongly disagree with each other on the extent of warming coming in this century, and on what to do about it, agreed that it was important not to be tempted to overinterpret short-term swings in climate, either hot or cold.

Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and commentator with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, has long chided environmentalists and the media for overstating connections between extreme weather and human-caused warming. (He is on the program at the skeptics' conference.)

But Dr. Michaels said that those now trumpeting global cooling should beware of doing the same thing, saying that the ''predictable distortion'' of extreme weather ''goes in both directions.''

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan who has spoken out about the need to reduce greenhouse gases, disagrees with Dr. Michaels on many issues, but concurred on this point.'

”When I get called by CNN to comment on a big summer storm or a drought or something, I give the same answer I give a guy who asks about a blizzard,'' Dr. Schmidt said. ''It's all in the long-term trends. Weather isn't going to go away because of climate change. There is this desire to explain everything that we see in terms of something you think you understand, whether that's the next ice age coming or global warming.''