A Million-Year El Nio?

A Million-Year El Nio?
New York Times Selective in Article on Climate Studies

by Megan Alvarez
June 26, 2005

     In a Friday, June 24, 2005, article entitled Researchers Say Ocean Evidence Points to a Million-Year El Nio by Kenneth Chang, the Times reported on two conflicting studies about global warming, but only one of them was deemed worthy enough for the headline and two-thirds of the article.

     The article began, The last time the earth was warm the waters of the Pacific Ocean may have been stuck in an El Nio pattern that lasted more than a million years, making a not-so-subtle assumption that the earth today is warm and that the last time this happened, it was disastrous.

     The article focused on a new study by Dr. Michael Wara while he was a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Wara studied the changes in water temperature during a period 4-3.5 million years ago, known as Pliocene, in which global temperatures averaged about 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than todays temperatures. Thus, wrote Chang, scientists look to the Pliocene for clues about how the earths current warming trend could affect climate. Again, Chang aruged that the earth is warming, ignoring any debate about global warming.

     This debate, however, is widespread and touch on various aspects of the global warming debate, none of which Chang chose to recognize. One of the most disputed issues is whether the earth is actually warming. While many reports, like Changs simply accept this, scientists are still debating this point. One of the most notable opponents of global warming and the Kyoto Treaty, Dr. S. Fred Singer, president of The Science & Environmental Policy Project, has pointed out that data collected from weather balloons and satellites from 1979 until the present show no sign that the earth is warming.

     Chang, however, spent the bulk of his article on dangers implied from the Wara study and did not offer any reports to the contrary until deep in the article, and then only briefly. Chang then acknowledged another study published three months ago by researchers from the University of Oxford in England conducted in the same area as Waras study, using the same techniques as Waras study, that found no evidence of a million-year El Nio.

     Information on this study, however, was buried near the end of Changs article, while Waras study captured the headline and the first seven paragraphs of the story. At the end, Chang did quote Dr. David Lea, a professor of geological sciences at the University of California at Santa Barbara who did not participate in either study, but who said, I think the evidence probably is more supportive of the second paper, but I dont think its definitive.

     That meant the Times had gone out of its way to ignore one study and report another on the same topic that the expert it quoted didnt believe. Both studies had been published in Science magazine, yet the Times only found the one discussing a million-year-long el Nio to be worth reporting.

     This article is part of an ongoing trend in global warming reporting documented in BMIs special report Destroying America to Save the World. The report provided sound evidence of the slanted nature of media coverage in the global warming debate. The Times article was the latest example of this trend.

Destroying America to Save the World.