Friday, May 16, 2014

PolitiFact continues climate change smear of Rubio

I noted over at Zebra Fact Check last year how PolitiFact has enlisted itself to aid in tarring various Republican politicians as "climate change deniers."  PolitiFact continued that effort this month:
Scientists have been issuing more new reports on the irreversible effects of climate change in recent weeks. Two groups reported on May 12, 2014, that the global sea level will rise at least 10 feet, accelerating to a dangerous pace after the next century.

Just a day before those reports were released, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sat down with ABC’s Jonathan Karl on This Week. Talk turned to climate change, where the possible Republican presidential candidate denied a link between humans and the changing environment.
PolitiFact wasn't alone in its interpretation of Rubio's remark.  Unfortunately, PolitiFact didn't included enough context to make clear what Rubio was talking about.  Lucy McAlmont, writing at Patterico's Pontifications, took note of the cyclone of media spin and provided that context (bold emphasis carried over from McAlmont's transcript):
KARL: Miami, Tampa, are two of the cities that are most threatened by climate change. So putting aside your disagreement with what to do about it, do you agree with the science on this? I mean, how big a threat is climate change?

RUBIO: I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions that we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity. I do not agree with that.

KARL: You don’t buy that.

RUBIO: I don’t know of any era in history where climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving and natural disasters have always existed.

KARL: Let me get this straight. You do not think that human activity, the production of CO2 has caused warming to our planet?

RUBIO: I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. That’s what I do not — And I do not believe that the laws we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.
Reading Rubio's responses to Karl, it should be obvious that PolitiFact reports falsely when it says Rubio denied a link between humans and the changing environment. Rubio acknowledges people contribute to climate change but questions some of the more extreme claims.

PolitiFact provided a great example of an extreme claim.  We assume PolitiFact did this unknowingly.

The Ice Sheet

PolitiFact led the Rubio fact check with this:
Scientists have been issuing more new reports on the irreversible effects of climate change in recent weeks. Two groups reported on May 12, 2014, that the global sea level will rise at least 10 feet, accelerating to a dangerous pace after the next century.
That rise in sea level is a result of the irreversible effects of climate change?  And relevant to Rubio's skepticism regarding the size of mankind's role in climate change?

The hotlink embedded in PolitiFact's story leads to an article in The New York Times, where we find this:
Scientists said the ice sheet was not melting because of warmer air temperatures, but rather because relatively warm water that occurs naturally in the depths of the ocean was being pulled to the surface by an intensification, over the past several decades, of the powerful winds that encircle Antarctica.
The Times' story goes on to note that (unnamed) researchers think global warming may have contributed to the wind pattern affecting the ice sheets.

For PolitiFact, somehow the tenuous scientific link between global warming and the collapsing ice sheet makes a perfect intro to its Rubio fact check.

That's irony.

A 97.1 Percent Consensus and a PolitiFact Correction

The original version of the Rubio fact check claimed 97.1 percent of scientist disagreed with Rubio.  We looked forward to dissecting that blunder.  Now we find PolitiFact buried it with the following correction:
CORRECTION: This story was updated on May 15 to clarify that 97.1 percent of the studies that took a position on global warming agreed that there's been a negative human impact on the atmosphere; more than half the studies did not take a position. Also, the story clarifies that the 2013 report looked at studies, not individual scientists.
That's how to do a dishonest correction.  PolitiFact buried its inaccurate reporting by clarifying that the 97.1 figure was a select group of science papers, not scientists.  And simply eliminates the inaccurate reporting, pretending it never happened.

See Also

James Taylor of Media Trackers Florida also brought some attention to PolitiFact's smear of Rubio. We've picked out a section that includes some of PolitiFact's pre-correction malfeasance:
PolitiFact Florida is flat-out wrong regarding its scientific assertions. PolitiFact Florida justified its “False” ruling by claiming, “A May 2013 report analyzing all scientific papers that address the causes of climate change showed 97.1 percent of scientists agree that there’s been a negative human impact on the atmosphere.”
Taylor's quotation makes clear the magnitude of some the false reporting PolitiFact covers up with its correction spin.

Also See

Zebra Fact Check has an article that helps sort out what various studies show about the consensus on climate change.

PolitiFact could have benefited by consulting it before publishing its Rubio smear.

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