The climate science denial eco-chamber was loud and proud this week with claims that a new “international study” found no evidence of a climate emergency in extreme weather records.
The Australian was so impressed with the work that he posted an uncritical cover on pages one and two.
Using algorithm-compatible headlines such as “Report Finds ‘No Evidence’ of Climate Emergency,” Sky News Australia amassed more than 400,000 YouTube views across two story segments.
Yet a closer look at the publication, which appeared nine months ago in the European Physical Journal Plus – a journal not known for climate studies – reveals something very different.
The authors – three Italian physicists and an agricultural meteorologist – did some unoriginal work, but instead looked at selected articles by other scientists. This was an article, not a study.
Climate scientists told Temperature Check that the work was selective and had misinterpreted the results of some studies while leaving others out.
But why is the article getting coverage now, when it appeared in the paper in January?
It was featured last week in online outlets known for posting stories promoting climate denial. A UK-based climate skeptic group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, included the article in its Net Zero Watch newsletter.
The report in Australia, environmental editor, Graham Lloyd, described the article as “a long-term analysis of heat, drought, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and ecosystem productivity” that had not found “a clear trend. positive of extreme events “.
Dr. Greg Holland, a senior scientist emeritus at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, coordinated several reviews of extreme weather conditions.
He told Temperature Check that the newspaper article “appears to have taken the default view that there have been no changes – and therefore selected the evidence to prove it.”
Holland said there are many uncertainties in understanding the impact of fossil fuel burning on extreme weather conditions, but a clear picture has emerged across many different approaches.
“As a result, over 70% of all recent research studies on extreme weather conditions found that climate change increased the frequency and / or intensity of the event; 20% were indeterminate; and 9% saw a decrease, most of which related to extreme cold or the like. “
Professor Lisa Alexander, a climate scientist and extreme rainfall expert at the University of New South Wales, said sections of the rainfall article misrepresented the state of the science.
“There is definitely an increase in extreme rainfall,” said Alexander. “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] also says this. Not only have we seen an increase, but it is also attributed to human activity. ”
He said the article claimed to have found little or no trend in extreme rainfall, which “totally misrepresented” some of the conclusions of his own articles.
“They all show a significant trend,” he said. “It’s not everywhere [in the world] but we wouldn’t expect to see it anyway.
The finding that 8% of quality-controlled rain gauges globally showed an increase in extreme rainfall was provided as a passing reference in the article. But Alexander said in the climate statistics that this was a big change.
She described the article as “selective and partial” and said that if it was sent to her for review, she would ask for it to be rejected by the magazine or for it to undergo major reviews.
On drought, the article refers to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report from 2013 which stated that “conclusions regarding global drought trends increasing since the 1970s are no longer supported.”
But the most recent round of UN assessments said the studies found “growing trends in agricultural and ecological drought on all continents” and some regions have seen an increase in hydrological drought.
That report – compiled by more than 60 scientists – stated that there was “high confidence” that heatwaves and droughts had occurred more often over the past century “on a global scale due to human influence.”
Professor Steve Sherwood, a climate scientist at UNSW, said the article considered only a handful of studies.
“The IPCC report released last year, for example, looked at over 60 tropical cyclone studies, while this new paper cites only five, one of which is itself a review paper,” he said.
As for cyclones, the IPCC concluded that tropical cyclones were likely to be becoming more extreme. A more recent study, also not covered in the article, said there was a clear increase in the number of stronger and more destructive cyclones.
A spokesperson for the magazine said the article was peer-reviewed.
On Sky News Australia, Lloyd told Chris Kenny that the article was an “interesting study that appeared in an international magazine this month”.
In the sense that all journals are international, that part is correct. But the article appeared in January.
In another segment of Sky, presenter Chris Smith said: “These writers are not climate deniers and in fact they say that we should prepare for a possible increase in disasters and they do not say that no action should be taken on climate change. They are not deniers “.
But three of the paper’s four authors have previously shown that they are skeptical of the science of human-caused climate change.
Renato Ricci, a long-retired nuclear physicist, and Franco Prodi, a well-known climate science skeptic, signed a statement earlier this year saying there was no climate emergency.
That statement stated that “enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial”, net zero policies were “harmful and unrealistic” and the planet was warming naturally.
Among the ambassadors of that statement were Lord Christopher Monckton, who said global warming is a hoax, and Professor Ian Plimer, who rejects evidence that CO2 causes warming.
The lead author of the article, nuclear physicist Prof Gianluca Alimonti, said in 2014 that there was no consensus among climate scientists that human activities are causing warming.
Professor Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Temperature Check that the journal’s article is “another example of scientists from totally unrelated fields entering and naively applying inappropriate methods to data that does not exist. include “.
“Either the consensus of the world’s climate experts that climate change is causing a very noticeable increase in many kinds of extreme weather is wrong, or a couple of nuclear physics guys in Italy are wrong.”