Even as temperatures in South Australia and Victoria soared into the mid-40s today, in north-western Europe they’ve been languishing a similar distance below zero. Last Friday, SBS news screened a BBC report (you can watch the original here) that combined dramatic pictures of the freeze with a discussion of how it has given heart to greenhouse denialists.
The report was generally sensible, but it was marked by a striking omission: no mention of the fact that one of the predictions of greenhouse science is that global warming risks shutting down the Gulf Stream, which helps to keep north-western Europe warm enough to be habitable.
I’m no scientist, so I have no idea if this theory is true or not, but it’s pretty mainstream stuff, not wild speculation. (Those looking for references could start with the Wikipedia article on “Shutdown of thermohaline circulation“.) And something is clearly keeping that part of the world warmer than it would otherwise be: Oslo is at the same latitude as the frozen wastes of northern Canada, and even southern England is as far north as Calgary.
So for those of us who take the threat of global warming seriously, the cold European winter has been no comfort at all, but rather an eerie preview of how some of our worst fears could turn out.
No science reporter worthy of the name could possibly be unaware of this aspect of the story, so why did the BBC and SBS leave it off? Is it a desire to keep complicating facts away from the viewer, or just basic incompetence?