Sunday, January 20, 11:43 a.m. EST, update: Andy Revkin kindly took the time to make sure the right set of eyes fell on a third letter I wrote, and the Times has fixed the piece and issued a formal correction. To Andy I offer my sincere thanks. With my book focusing in part on a century-long habit of promulgating climate fear at the Times it is gratifying to have the paper catch an accurate glimpse of its own reflection in the blogosphere mirror, if even for a moment. By the way, a screencap of the original article with the mistake is below (beneath that the original blog post can be found).
When I found a rather major error in a New York Times article about climate change, I took the trouble to write the editors. I did so via two channels. One of the two ways was sending a letter to the editorial page editors; the other was writing the Times‘ public editor. As I have not heard back from either, I have decided to publish my own letter below. I will add that it has been my experience that if I don’t hear back quickly from editors then I don’t hear back from them at all.
There is a tendency among those declaring the seriousness of global warming to equate small pieces of the climate puzzle, when those pieces support a narrative of disaster, with the whole picture, but this is neither good science nor good journalism.
In the Jan. 15 online edition Jada Smith falls prey to the temptation: “With record-breaking global temperatures in 2012, severe droughts and several storms and hurricanes on the East Coast, some members of the American clergy are saying that human decisions that contribute to the extreme weather associated with climate change can no longer be left in the hands of politicians.”
The year 2012 was not a record-setting one for global temperatures. The United States, 1.5% of Earth’s surface, did experience record temperatures, and indeed clicking the first link for “global temperatures” brings one to another Times article about the American record.
The United States is a wonderful country, but it is not the world.Harold AmblerEast Greenwich, RIp.s. The global temperature ranking for 2012 is available here:
Now, letters to the Times have a 150-word limit, thus my effort to be concise. But I don’t have the same limitations on my own blog.
And I confess that even knowing the extent to which the Times distorts climate information I am astounded that equating the U.S. temperature record with the world temperature record, when brought to the paper’s editors’ attention, does not merit a correction. It has come to this.
I expect non-experts driving in their cars on the way to work and who catch a story about record temperatures on NPR would frequently just assume that the temperatures in question were global. But the fact that a reporter at the most prestigious newspaper in the United States would not have a higher standard of discernment than the distracted and half-listening commuter is bracing. The fact that the reporters’ editors would fail to consider such an error worthy of correction is … wait for it … the single most glaring proof of the bias in American journalism regarding climate that I have seen.
I know, I know. Most of my readers will be surprised that I am surprised.