Yet again, Geoffrey Brown, the official blogger for the Climate Sceptics Party has demonstrated his inability to check the accuracy of what he is posting and an outstanding ability to use really dodgy sources. This time he has posted a couple of quote-mined articles from The Alaska Dispatch, an online news website. I’ll come to the geography problem in a moment, but first to the issue of quote mining and general dodginess. For the uninitiated, there is a good definition of quote mining here.
Geoffrey starts with the title “Ice Free Arctic?” and then goes on with selected sections of the article with quotes allegedly from Captain Stephen Carmel, senior vice president for Maersk Line Limited where he essentially discusses the unpredictability of sea ice making it unlikely the northwest passage will be used by Maersk as a sea route anytime soon. His argument however is based firmly in the world of economics. The idea here, by being selective and using a provocative title is to give the impression that someone in authority is questioning the science behind the melting Arctic. The big problem with this article though is the paraphrasing and attribution employed by the author. There is a mix of direct quotes and paraphrasing mixed in with what could well be his own opinions. Here is an example.
Shippers can’t afford to be knocked off schedule by shifting ice or fog in the Arctic, he said, and both are potential problems. Shipping lanes in the region are opening, but there is still a lot of ice even in the summer. “When we say ‘ice free,’ we mean no ice,” Carmel said.
The only thing we can be sure the captain said is the directly quoted part. It is likely he said the first part but has that been paraphrased? Who said the sentence beginning with “Shipping lanes…”? Anyway, the whole article is like that. I urge anyone to check it out for themselves and makeup their own mind about the overall tone, in particular make note of the references to the Northeast passage.
So, we then move onto part two of Geoff’s post which refers his readers to another article appearing in The Alaska Dispatch, this time from “a month later”. It was actually a few weeks later but I’ll cut Geoff some slack on that one. Sometimes maths can be tricky, but not as tricky as Geography. I started reading and was instantly aware that something wasn’t quite right, thought I couldn’t put my finger on what. Here’s the passage that bugged me. It was the opening paragraph.
Brutal sea ice conditions that northwest Alaska battled all winter haven’t receded in parts of northern Canada. Two resupply ships are stuck waiting at the mouth of Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit because of tough ice conditions. Frobisher Bay is an inlet of the Labrador Sea.
I stopped reading and scratched my head trying to work out why this bugged me. Have you worked it out yet? It took me a few minutes but then it occurred to me. Alaska is in the northwest of North America and the area of Arctic Ocean adjacent is called the Beaufort Sea. The Labrador Sea is between the northeast of Canada and Greenland. Iqaluit is more than 3000km away from the Beaufort Sea and Alaska!
But it’s worse than that. The title of the Article is actually “Brutal Bering Sea ice blocking Arctic supply ships.” So where is the Bering Sea?
You have to wonder if someone in Alaska, writing in an Alaskan news website, can’t even get some simple Alaskan and Arctic geography correct, how can you trust anything else they have written? Apparently Geoffrey can. Anyway, the rest of the article is just about some boats going to various places and about some problems with sea ice.
So why has Geoffrey posted this? I think he and his ilk like to focus on anything they think throws any doubt on anything to do with climate change. No doubt Geoffrey felt that all the talk in these two articles about ice in the Arctic somehow sheds doubt on the knowledge that the Arctic is indeed melting. Perhaps, rather than reading really badly written newspaper articles, he should instead focus on the actual science.