Sunday, 27 December 2009

Elsevier’s coverage of Sinninghe Danté’s research

The Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) on it’s website recently gave a little summary of the research of paleontologist Jaap Sinninghe Damsté who did research on the role of precipitation on the snow cover on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The conclusion of the article is (my emphasis) :

Al Gore used the melting icecap of Mount Kilimanjaro in his movie 4An inconvenient truth’ as a proof of global warming caused by human induced emission of greenhouse gasses. That wasn’t the best possible choice. According to Damsté’s research the melt is not solemnly man’s fault. The research shows natural climate variations matter too.

Upon the release of his movie many scientists already pointed out that Al Gore by picking Kilimanjaro did use a bad example to demonstrate glacier melt, so there's nothing new in this statement.

A while after the publication of the article, the NWO published this addendum :

After the publication, we noticed some people interpreted the article as direct proof the message of Al Gore in “An inconvenient truth” is incorrect. Sinninghe Danté wants to express this interpretation is wrong. I agree completely with Al Gore that increasing levels of CO2 will have a big impact for heating up of our planet and that we actively need to reduce CO2-emissions.

Research, including that of my own group, has demonstrated that in geological times with high CO2-levels, oceans were much warmer. I am seriously worried what’s happening with Earth.

All our research has shown is that large changes in precipitation in the past played an important role in the growth/shrinking of the icecap. It does not say anything about the cause of the present melt.

On grounds of recent studies, both increased sublimation as decreased precipitation matter, but the recent trend of lower and more irregular precipitation in that region partly also is a result of anthropogenic climate change. That influence of rainfall affirms our finds published in Nature.

While many Dutch newspapers and magazines covered the story correctly, once again the magazine Elsevier was the exception.

Elsevier already has a bad reputation as it’s the place where science editor and libertarian Simon Rozendaal regularly writes sloppy climate sceptical articles (and he did co-author this book). But it’s not just the climate issue : in Holland Rozendaal also has been loudly criticized for writing too friendly towards the Pharma industry.

Again, The magazine confirmed it’s bad reputation but this time by the interpretation made by Robin Van de Kloor who wrote that

Sinninghe Danté’s research in Nature disproves the story of climate-guru Al Gore. A natural process of climate-variability is the true cause, NWO said last Thursday.

It’s a little creative as the text of NWO (the first quote i gave) clearly did not say what Van De Kloor makes out of it. But what really worries me is that VDK uses words like '”climate-guru” and “climate-hype”. It’s a phrasing you except to read on very low-brow internet blogs, but not in articles of a magazine.

The good thing is Elsevier had the decency to publish Sinninghe Damsté’s complaints. The bad thing is Elsevier’s coverage of climate related subjects systematically is below acceptable.

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