The climate-denial blog-and-twitosphere -- also known as the "Denyosphere" -- is abuzz with the news: Greenpeace admits live on the BBC that it lied about arctic melting.
That's not true, it's being promoted by the handful of global warming skeptics still standing, and we're hitting back. You can help us by tweeting, blogging, and sharing this clarification on Facebook.
Here are the facts. Gerd Leipold, our Executive Director, appeared on BBC's "HardTalk" the other day and got blindsided with a challenge by journalist Stephen Sackur. Sackur selectively quoted from a Greenpeace "press release" (actually, it was a web story) from July 15th to claim we were misleading the public by exaggerating the impact of climate change on the Arctic. This is the paragraph he referenced:
Ice free Arctic
Bad news is coming from other sources as well. A recent NASA study has shown that the ice cap is not only getting smaller, it’s getting thinner and younger. Sea ice has dramatically thinned between 2004 and 2008. Old ice (over 2 years old) takes longer to melt, and is also much harder to replace. As permanent ice decreases, we are looking at ice-free summers in the Arctic as early as 2030.
Sackur claimed that we were predicting that all the ice in the Arctic -- including the massive Greenland ice sheet, which is on land, would be gone by 2030. That's NOT what we said. When we talk about "ice-free summers" in the Arctic, we're using the term the same way that NASA and climate scientists the world over use the term: to describe an Arctic free of sea-ice. And Sackur, or his researcher, would have known that if they read the entire article, including the next sentence:
They say you can't be too thin or too young, but this unfortunately doesn't apply to the Arctic sea ice.
But here's how he poses this question to Gerd:
As a climate scientist himself, (Dr.) Gerd Leipold rightly knows that no scenario currently predicts the collapse of the entire land-based ice sheet as early as 2030, nor have we ever made that claim.
Now, it's fair to say we could have been more precise. We could have inserted three letters into the offending sentence: S-E-A, to make it crystal clear to the casual reader. But the term "ice-free" to refer to an absence of ice on the ocean came straight from the NASA report we were citing, and is the common description you'll find in scientific publications as well as among journalists. If you Google "ice free summers" and "arctic" you get about 230,000 hits. Oh, and gosh, look what the first article is: a story from the BBC itself talking about the retreat of SEA ice, but what's the headline? "Arctic summers ice-free by 2013"
Is the BBC scarmongering and suggesting the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet? Or are they reporting the facts?
Now HardTalk is all about difficult questions. We have no problem with difficult questions or a fair fight. Because in a fair fight, our arguments generally win. Gerd handled the rest of the interview with his customary flair.
But this wasn't a fair fight. This was Gerd being asked to defend a distortion of what our web story said. Bottom line: there's nothing to repudiate -- just something to clarify.
The climate skeptics are trying to turn this into a victory, undercut our reputation for accuracy, and further their ‘flat earth’ position of climate denial.
So it's up to us, as citizen journalists to restore the balance across the social networks: Please help us make sure the whole story gets told. Tweet this story.
Share this story on Facebook.
And encourage people to follow the ongoing voyage of our ship the Arctic Sunrise around Greenland with a crew that includes world renowned glaciologists who are doing groundbreaking science to discover just how much of an impact climate change is having on the region.