Wednesday, April 15, 2009 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Bird migration and warming: an example of media manipulation



Today, various news agencies such as

AP, Reuters, The Telegraph
informed about one of those typical papers showing the "catastrophes" caused by global warming.

Some guys in England tried to calculate new favorite trajectories for 17 migratory bird species in a hypothetical warmer world, as projected by the most extreme warming scenarios, between 2071 and 2100. The result was that some of the species won't be affected. Half of them will face longer flights - and a few of them by as much as 250 miles.




Well, even though the conclusions are modest - some species would move their homes while others would not - it is a very speculative piece of work.

First of all, it is unlikely that the assumed warming will ever occur. Second, it is unlikely that they exactly know what the birds would be doing in such a different world. The most obvious reasoning says that even if the world gets warmer, then the birds will gradually move both their summer homes and winter homes somewhere further to the North (or away from the equator) by approximately the same distance and the length of their flights therefore won't change much.

As far as annual mean temperature goes, 250 miles is a big distance, corresponding to whole degrees Celsius. One can't expect "man-made climate change" to change the differences between temperatures on two places by whole degrees because the predicted warming is essentially uniform.

My argument about the uniform shift of their homes to the North (or South) is OK as long as the birds don't cross the equator or the warmest circle on the Earth. But doing so is useless because the temperature on corresponding places on both hemispheres is equal so there's no temperature-induced reason for vacations on the other hemisphere.

The positive feedback in the media

Fine, so this is another paper by which certain "researchers" abuse the confusion of a brainwashed part of the society that wants to hear new and new "horror stories" about climate change. But what I want to analyze is the dynamics by which this still relatively innocent paper gets amplified by the sensational and politically correct media.

The first point to notice is that the media pick the "sensational" parts of the papers only. More seriously, they create titles that heavily overstate the text of their own articles. So the titles of the articles we mentioned at the beginning are:
  • Warming pushes bushed birds to migrate farther
  • Birds face longer migrations due to climate change
  • Migrating birds have to fly 250 miles further due to climate change
Note that none of them makes it clear that the claimed change only affects some birds, according to the article. More seriously, none of the titles makes it clear that the statement is actually a hypothetical projection attempting to describe the years 2071-2100 - about the far future - rather than an observation of reality.

Obviously, many journalists in less important media outlets are not reading other articles too carefully; they don't have to. Some of them only read the titles in their entirety - so guess what their readers and listeners "learn". In the Czech Republic, almost no one cares about global warming. But there are journalists who translate similar reports, anyway.

The first one was Mr Hana Kracíková from Radio Impuls. Here is her article:
Migratory birds confirm warming

Czech president klaus [spelled with lowercase "k"] is short on the migratory birds [they outfox him; "we're short on the birds" is also a well-known Czech song]. They deny his words about the non-existence of climate change. Ornithologists at British universities have noticed that they have moved their breeding places further to the North because the continent is getting warmer. Because of that, some feather guys [birds] have flown by 400 kilometers more than they did in the past.
Suddenly, the birds have already moved their breeding places: welcome to the year 2100, as predicted by the IPCC.

Update I: I've asked her, and she just took it down. Maybe I have used a cannon against an ant. ;-)

Update II: After some time, she has returned the lies on their website.

At any rate, you can see that the distortion industry of this "science" has many layers. Each single of them makes the situation "more alarming".

First, the researchers try to write similar articles because the hypothetical bad effects of "climate change" are a hot topic that some people want to hear: so such work will be funded, approved, accepted, and it will be feeding the writers. Without this portion of the bias, the article would have never been written. Needless to say, the qualitative goals are predetermined: something bad is going on, isn't it?

Second, their article is chosen - out of many other articles that are being published every day and that describe "less alarming" science - by the top-tier journalists because it is a hot topic for them.

Third, these journalists deliberately invent misleading titles that overstate the hypothetical threats and that completely hide that the threats are speculations about the future, not observations of the present.

Fourth, other journalists from less important outlets expand these titles by the top-tier journalists to full-fledged articles that are misleading and untrue even in the bulk. They add unjustifiable comments about birds outsmarting President Klaus, too. ;-)

Fifth, be sure that many stupid people read or hear this stuff and they inform their families that all the birds will go extinct this year. :-)

This is roughly how it works and the distorting filters are so powerful and so numerous that what most of the families in the society hear has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality.

And that's the memo.

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reader aaron said...

Realclimate non-sense on GCR and clouds.

Conclusion: Because average changes in CCN only vary .1% globally, they aren't significant.