UN feared today's global warming report media panic

Believe it or not, the specter of media overreaction to this morning's IPCC Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers was actually dreaded by one of the committee's leaders.  The executive director of the U.N. Environment Program spoke out on Wednesday against the likely ensuing headlines predicting a global warming "catastrophe", "disaster" or "cataclysm."

Achim Steiner explained that while scientists would never use words such as "crisis," "terrifying" or "Armageddon," the media's over-hype may damage public willingness to act by making the problem seem all but insurmountable:

"I'm a bit preoccupied that the media, having contributed to every day making another doomsday news headline, then in six weeks time will declare it hysteria and move on."
Of course, the media failed to disappoint. The headlines being cranked out at full-speed today have been quite harrowing indeed.  Just a few examples:

  • Climate Report: Poor Will Suffer Most (CBS News)
  • UN Warns of Extinction, Flooding From Global Warming (Bloomberg News)
  • Panel: Global Warming a Threat to Earth (ABC News)
  • Results Of Global Warming: Hunger, Disease, Extinction (AP)
  • U.N. Report: Climate Change Poses Bleak Future (NPR)
While each and every one of these represents either a broad generalization or a gross exaggeration, this particularly bold one from The Australian caught my eye with its "The end is even nearer" message (emphasis added throughout):
Reef gone in 20 years if warming continues declared Leigh Dayton, Science writer.
"THE Great Barrier Reef - one of the natural wonders of the world - could be gone in 20 years unless global warming was slowed, scientists warned last night."
Wow!  One score and zero years from now, our children's fathers will have brought forth to the Australian continent a bleached reef?  Well, not exactly.

The actual report states that there is a greater than 66% chance that:

"Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically-rich sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics."
Interpreting a 66% chance of a significant loss of biodiversity with "could be gone" seems a stretch even by enviro-mental-case standards, doesn't it?

Of course, it's a busy day and early in the WG2 cycle; they'll no doubt be unbounded rubbish to digest and excrete in the coming days.

So as you go about your weekend braving constant doomsday bombardment from all manner of media, remember to take most of the hyperbole with more than a grain of rising sea salt. And hey ... let's be careful out there.
Believe it or not, the specter of media overreaction to this morning's IPCC Working Group 2 Summary for Policymakers was actually dreaded by one of the committee's leaders.  The executive director of the U.N. Environment Program spoke out on Wednesday against the likely ensuing headlines predicting a global warming "catastrophe", "disaster" or "cataclysm."

Achim Steiner explained that while scientists would never use words such as "crisis," "terrifying" or "Armageddon," the media's over-hype may damage public willingness to act by making the problem seem all but insurmountable:

"I'm a bit preoccupied that the media, having contributed to every day making another doomsday news headline, then in six weeks time will declare it hysteria and move on."
Of course, the media failed to disappoint. The headlines being cranked out at full-speed today have been quite harrowing indeed.  Just a few examples:

  • Climate Report: Poor Will Suffer Most (CBS News)
  • UN Warns of Extinction, Flooding From Global Warming (Bloomberg News)
  • Panel: Global Warming a Threat to Earth (ABC News)
  • Results Of Global Warming: Hunger, Disease, Extinction (AP)
  • U.N. Report: Climate Change Poses Bleak Future (NPR)
While each and every one of these represents either a broad generalization or a gross exaggeration, this particularly bold one from The Australian caught my eye with its "The end is even nearer" message (emphasis added throughout):
Reef gone in 20 years if warming continues declared Leigh Dayton, Science writer.
"THE Great Barrier Reef - one of the natural wonders of the world - could be gone in 20 years unless global warming was slowed, scientists warned last night."
Wow!  One score and zero years from now, our children's fathers will have brought forth to the Australian continent a bleached reef?  Well, not exactly.

The actual report states that there is a greater than 66% chance that:

"Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically-rich sites including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland Wet Tropics."
Interpreting a 66% chance of a significant loss of biodiversity with "could be gone" seems a stretch even by enviro-mental-case standards, doesn't it?

Of course, it's a busy day and early in the WG2 cycle; they'll no doubt be unbounded rubbish to digest and excrete in the coming days.

So as you go about your weekend braving constant doomsday bombardment from all manner of media, remember to take most of the hyperbole with more than a grain of rising sea salt. And hey ... let's be careful out there.