A Valentine’s Day headline at The Daily Mail blazed: “Climategate U-turn". But Phil Jones, the scientist in question, says the paper is misusing his statement, and he wants the world to know that the Earth is definitely not cooling.
Jones — director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the organization at the center of recent controversy over hacked e-mails — was interviewed by the BBC on Feb. 13 about climate change data.
Among the questions — many of which were posed by climate skeptics — was “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically significant global warming?”
Jones, who stepped down as CRU director after some of his e-mail discussions with colleagues on climate change were hacked and released online, replied, “Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95 percent significance level."
"The positive trend is quite close to the significance level," Jones continued. "Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.”
It was this statement that The Daily Mail, a British news source, used to claim that Jones was saying the Earth is not warming. But Jones says that he was merely answering a very narrow question about the increase in temperatures over 14 years, and that it’s difficult to achieve a high level of significance in any trend for such a short period of time.
The Daily Mail did not include a later statement in the BBC interview, in which Jones said that based on a century of data, “I'm 100 percent confident that the climate has warmed.”
A backgrounder on global temperatures from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) backs up Jones’ statements to the BBC:
“Over the last century, global average temperature has increased by more than 1°F (0.6°C). While the record shows significant regional differences in warming, the long-term global upward trend is unambiguous.”
“Over the last 25 years, Earth’s global average temperature has been increasing at more than twice the rate of the last century. In fact, nine of the warmest years on record have occurred in just the last 10 years. This warming has been accompanied by a decrease in very cold days and nights and an increase in extremely hot days and warm nights. Additionally, the oceans reached their highest recorded temperature in the summer of 2009. Oceans have absorbed much more heat from global warming than the air at the Earth’s surface because water is much better at retaining heat.”
According to the UCS, this isn’t the first time The Daily Mail has twisted a scientist’s words to support anti-climate science claims. A Jan. 10, 2010, article reportedly misrepresented the work of meteorologist Mojib Latif to claim that the Earth was going to cool.