There are plenty of climate commentators with a very clear agenda, and that means that data is often used not just badly, but in a way that is deliberately misleading.
To pick on the Telegraph again, in another of their articles professor of geology Bob Carter claimed that global warming stopped in 1998. He did this by showing the temperatures from 1998 to the present. Because 1998 is a huge anomaly and the hottest year on record, it does indeed true that no year has been as hot as 1998. As a scientist he would know that any serious analysis of data allows for anomalies, and that it is the trend, not the individual figures, that matter. His use of the data is deliberately deceptive.
Why would he want to do that? Bob Carter is a founding member of the think tank and news service Tech Central Station. Over half of TCS’s funding comes from ExxonMobil. Other donors include AT&T and General Motors. When he speaks, it is not as a scientist, but a corporate spokesman.
Despite this, the claim that global warming stopped in 1998 has been repeatedly quoted and widely circulated.
We would be wrong to see oil companies behind every new report that comes out, but we do need to check motives and funding bodies, and weed out those with an agenda. Those campaigning for action on climate change need to be just as careful, avoiding exaggeration and sensationalism. Without the truth, we cannot possibly make good decisions.
(Part four of a series – introduction, humility, intelligence)