Identify the Source
Scientists released information today on the results of a NASA study of melting ice on Earth. Here is one story from the press:
NASA mission calculates global ice melt and rising sea levels
From 2003 to 2010, NASA satellites systematically measured all of Earth’s melting glacial ice–the results added up to 4.3 trillion tons of water and a global sea level rise of half an inch.
Put in perspective, that’s enough ice to bury the entire U.S. 1.5-feet deep.
These calculations are detailed in a new study released today by a team of scientists at the University of Colorado. The scientists used satellite measurements from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), which launched in 2002 and focused on how melting ice from glaciers and ice caps is adding to global sea level rise.
“Earth is losing a huge amount of ice to the ocean annually,” said professor John Wahr, who helped lead the study. “These new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change.”
Now, here’s the headline and first four paragraphs from the exact same story, but from a different source:
Himalayan glaciers have lost no ice in the past 10 years, new study reveals
The U.N. got it wrong on Himalaya’s glaciers — and the proof is finally here.
The authors of the U.N.’s climate policy guide were red-faced two years ago when it was revealed that they had inaccurately forecast that the Himalayan glaciers would melt completely in 25 years, vanishing by the year 2035.
Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and director general of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Dehli, India, ultimately issued a statement offering regret for what turned out to be a poorly vetted statement.
A new report published Thursday, Feb. 9, in the science journal Nature offers the first comprehensive study of the world’s glaciers and ice caps, and one of its conclusions has shocked scientists. Using GRACE, a pair of orbiting satellites racing around the planet at an altitude of 300 miles, it comes to the eye-popping conclusion that the Himalayas have barely melted at all in the past 10 years.
Guess which one is from Fox News?
Not hard to figure out, is it? Right away, you have a pretty serious problem: if your reporting can be identified purely by it’s specifically slanted perspective, then there is no question but that it has a heavy bias and a penchant for intentional distortion. Odds are that I could show you this story as reported by any other major media source and you would be completely unable to identify the exact source just by reading the beginning of the piece. Fox News stories are the only major outlet (note that I am studiously avoiding calling it a “news” source) which can be easily picked out by evaluating the skewed and heavily lopsided perspective it generates.
Not only that, you might note that the Fox story blatantly lies right there in the headline–claiming no ice melted from the Himalayas–when even in their own story (albeit in the fourth paragraph) they note that the mountains have indeed lost ice. They claim that the Himalayan ice “barely melted at all,” but the actual figure is in the billions of tons per year–hardly “none.”
So, what’s with the Himalayan deal which Fox zeroed in on? The first story (written by a journalist at CNet, by the way) explains in context:
Some of the study’s results are unexpected, such as the ice melt in Asia’s Himalayan, Pamir, and Tien Shan mountain ranges. Previously estimates were as high as 50 billion tons of ice loss a year in the three ranges combined, but calculations from GRACE put it closer to 4 billion tons annually.
“The GRACE results in this region really were a surprise,” Wahr said. “One possible explanation is that previous estimates were based on measurements taken primarily from some of the lower, more accessible glaciers in Asia and extrapolated to infer the behavior of higher glaciers.”
Although some of the findings in this study are lower than prior estimates, NASA warns that melting glacial ice and sea level rise are still a deep concern regarding climate change.
Fox News simply focused on a statement from the U.N. Climate Panel a few years ago which correctly reported global ice depletion but mistakenly attributed more melting to higher-altitude ice. Reading Fox’s story, you would think that ice is hardly melting at all; indeed, Fox buried any mention of global melting rates to the 11th paragraph.
Fair and balanced, right?