The Right Wing War On Science: Fox Misrepresents Another Scientist's Position

Fox Distorts Scientist's Words To Downplay Climate Change Risks

TrenberthFox News is claiming that a top climate scientist said global warming “doesn't equal warming,” when he actually pointed out that much of recent warming has gone into the oceans.

A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that much of the warming since the year 2000 has been absorbed by the ocean. In a story on the new findings, Reuters quoted Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, as saying “Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways”:

“Global warming is continuing but it's being manifested in somewhat different ways,” said Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. Warming can go, for instance, to the air, water, land or to melting ice and snow.

Warmth is spreading to ever deeper ocean levels, he said, adding that pauses in surface warming could last 15-20 years.

However, on Tuesday's edition of Special Report, Fox's flagship nightly news show, Trenberth's words were warped beyond recognition. Claiming that there may be “a breach in the wall of climate science,” Fox News played a clip of industry-funded climate misinformer Marc Morano alleging that Trenberth “is announcing that global warming doesn't mean rising temperatures. In other words, that warming doesn't equal warming.”

Actually, Trenberth noted that air temperatures make up only a small fraction of the way we measure climate change. As this chart from a study published in Physics Letters A shows, oceans have absorbed much of recent warming -- a factor that Fox News completely ignored:

Fox News is also highlighting a short-term temperature phenomena while ignoring the long-term trend, which this graphic from Skeptical Science shows can be misleading:

Source: Skeptical Science

After all, the decade between 2000 and 2009 was the warmest on record, as shown in this graph from the UK's Met Office:

Special Report claimed the temperatures during this short time period “cas[t] doubt on how the atmosphere may be responding” to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. However, while there is continuing scientific inquiry into just how much the climate will warm in response to our emissions, research continues to indicate that a doubling of carbon dioxide would likely raise temperatures by 2°C to 4.5°C, or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit, the range projected by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. 

Numerous scientists have criticized Fox for misrepresenting their research.