Someday, probably not too soon, the mainstream media will come to realize something important. They need to perform a few simple fact checks on climate change-related claims in their articles. When readily available data falsify a claim made in the story, the entire article is undermined and it falls into the great abyss we call propaganda.
That brings us to the recent Reuters article China says climate change threatens major projects. The opening paragraph reads (my boldface):
Climate change threatens some of China’s most important infrastructure projects, China’s top meteorologist warned in a state newspaper, adding the country’s rate of warming was higher than the global average.
I’ll let you comment on the claims that weather events, “floods, typhoons, droughts and heatwaves,” were threatening “China’s most important infrastructure projects”, like “the Three Gorges Dam and a high-altitude railway to Tibet”.
My interest is the claim that China’s “rate of warming was higher than the global average.” It’s regurgitated later in the article:
China’s rate of warming was “at an obviously higher rate” than the global average, with the north of the country warming faster than the south and winters faster than the summer, Zheng said.
That claim is very easy to verify…or falsify.
In addition to providing global and hemispheric data, Berkeley Earth has also subdivided their land surface air temperature data by country. The China data are here. And we can run a few checks against the global data (source here). The Berkeley Earth surface temperature data for China runs continuously from July 1837 to August 2013, so we’ll compare them first over that full term. See Figure 1. The warming rates are the same.
Curiously, if we look at the China and global land surface temperatures starting in the oft-used 1979, Figure 2, we once again find the same warming rates.
Then again, when we look at the data since 2001, Figure 3, the global data show a very slight warming rate, while surface temperatures in China show a cooling, not warming, trend.
It only takes a few minutes to spot check claims about global and regional warming rates. Now, there’s no reason to cross check anything else. The credibility of the entire article is gone.
On the other hand, it could well be that when Zheng is reported to have said, “China’s rate of warming was ‘at an obviously higher rate’ than the global average,” he was referring to global land+ocean surface temperatures. In that case, the statement would of course be correct, but it would be awfully misleading. He’d then be comparing two different metrics. It is well known that land surface temperatures mimic and exaggerate the warming of the ocean surfaces, leading to higher warming rates on land surfaces than those of the oceans.
[sarc on.] I can’t imagine (1) a government official anywhere attempting to mislead the public and (2) the mainstream media giving them free rein to do so on a climate-related topic. [sarc off.]