Reuters:  How to Lie with Facts

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Guest Essay by Kip Hansen —  25 July 2022

Reuters, the international news agency, has somehow involved itself into the murky waters of Fact Checking – and worse yet, apparently Facebook accepts whatever Reuters says without inspection or question.

William Briggs, who is a statistician and an anti-Expertism expert, used an example lately, of a Facebook using a Reuters  Fact Check of one of the oft-repeated  visuals of Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour – photos 100 years apart and yet showing no apparent alarming sea level rise.  

Facebook assures us that the little quip-and-photo thing is FALSE – after all, it has been “Checked by independent fact-checkers”.  Digging in a little we find that the fact-check (and I have resisted using scare quotes though they would be appropriate) has been supplied not by some real fact-checking organization, but by Reuters News Service and is found on the ‘Net in a October 25, 2021 article titled “Fact Check-Side-by-side comparison of two photographs cannot accurately determine sea level change”. 

Let’s do a little Fact Checking of our own:

1.  “Checked by independent fact-checkers”  The fact-check is done by Reuters Fact Check.  Reuters is a partner in the Covering Climate Now propaganda cabal (and I do not use those words lightly, I assure you.)  So the first lie we find is that Reuters Fact Check is labelled as “independent fact-checkers” when in fact they are part of a large news organization which has a openly declared and publicly admitted bias – they are “all-in” for the climate emergency story line.  Reuters, amusingly enough, I guess to bolster their fact-check as independent, refers to another article from the wildly biased Climate Feedback Group.

2.  Reuters boldly states: “It is not possible to accurately measure sea level rise just by looking at two images of the same location at different periods of time.”  This is trivially true (self-evident by definition).  Reuters fails to note that no one had suggested that the photos measure sea level rise.  Rather, of course, it seems obvious that the Facebook bit was simply meant to show that there had not been any large or dangerous sea level rise at Sydney Harbour over the last 140 years – if there had been, it would be visible.    That is also true, though Reuters goes the long-way around before they admit it.

“Between 1886 and 2010, sea-level rise averaged at 0.65 mm per year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”  [ That amounts to:  3.17 inches (80.0 mm or 8 cm). ]

3. Reuters, instead of just showing the NOAA or PSMSL graph of sea level rise at Fort Denison, blathers on with quotes from experts (I have never heard of any of them) about global sea level rise, starting with Global Sea Level Rise from satellites:

Prof Griggs said.: “This rate has averaged 3.42 mm/yr. but over the past decade or so has increased to 4.77mm/yr. over the past 10 years.”

and then proceeds to give not one, not two, but five different figures for sea level rise at Fort Denison – none of which could ever be considered alarming:  in mm/year: 0.93, 0.58, 0.86, and finally 0.65.

Here is the graph for Sydney 2 created from official  PSMSL data:

Another version of the above:

In the first scatter graph above, the variability almost overwhelms the long-term record, So I have included the decadal averages for the first and last ten-year periods of the record.  The month-to-month variability is far greater than the long-term change, which using the decadal averages, comes out to about 3.5 inches  ( 90mm) over the 107 year data set.

The NOAA graph, which blends two different records, which shows 3 inches (75mm) of Relative Sea Level Rise in 100 years:

So, we have to give Reuters two separate TRUE scores:  the  statement “photographs are not measurements” and  Relative Sea Level Rise at Fort Denison, Sydney has not been “0 cm in 140 years”  – but, rather a whopping 3.17 to 3.5 inches (80 mm or  full 8 cm).  These measurements agree with the intent of the Facebook meme  – there has not been not much discernible Sea Level Rise at Fort Denison.

4.  The back-up Fact Check suggested by Reuters:  “Photo meme of Sydney Harbour incorrectly claims no sea level rise has occurred” from Climate Feedback has one expert try to explain away the lack of dangerous sea level rise with an entirely false reference to Glacial Isostatic Adjustment:  “For Sydney, this means that the Earth is lifting up by about 0.3 mm/yr1, which could explain a part of the difference.“  Unfortunately for Climate Feedback, that too is false.  Vertical Land Movement (VLM) at Sydney, at least in the last 20 years,  is downward, not upward – thus adds to apparently sea level rise there:

Now, I hate to kick a man when he is down – or even an assertion once it has been kicked apart – but since VLM measurements began (looks like 2004), Sydney has been subsiding at a rate of ~ 1mm a year.  Relative Sea Level at Sydney has been rising at a long-term rate of 0.75 mm/yr (NOAA graph).  But 1 mm/yr of that has been the land sinking……which means that the height of the sea surface from the center of the Earth — Absolute or Eustatic Sea Level — has been going down by 0.25 mm/yr, not rising, at least since 2004 at Sydney, Australia

5.  So we are back at Reuters “Verdict”

False. It is not possible to accurately measure sea level rise just by comparing two photographs.

Which, of course, is true.

But their pendantic literalist Fact Check is FALSE – it gives false and misleading facts to arrive at a trivial conclusion countering a assertion which wasn’t made.

Bottom Line:

Reuters Fact Checks are not reliable for determining the veracity of information on topics as controversial as Climate Change.  They are proudly biased and use biased secondary sources without any check of the facts offered by them.

Reuters Fact Check does not check the premise or proposal, but makes up its own version of the fact they wish to check.

In this case, they should have checked:  “Has there been substantial, discernible, consequential or dangerous Relative Sea Level Rise  in Sydney Harbour, and if so, what are the causes?” Or even “If not 0 cm in 140 years, how much sea level rise at Fort Denison?” They would have found:  RMSL rise at Sydney has been a barely discernible ~ 3.5 inches over the length of the tide gauge record – an amount not discernible in simple photographs  or through personal experience at the site measured.  The downward Vertical Land Movement accounts for more than 100% of the RSL rise, at least since 2004.  (Tide Gauge up 0.75/mm year, VLM  downward – 1.0 mm year).  Short Form:  The sea isn’t rising, the land is sinking.

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Author’s Comment:

While this canard about Fort Denison – “0 cm of SLR in 140 years” – is not literally true, it is not pragmatically false at all – but rather true in all practical senses.  Tidal Range at Fort Denison is about 1.5 meters, low to high tide, with variability between tides being on the 4 cm range.  No one has noticed, or could have noticed, the 8 cm change over more than a century.

The important thing missed by all – not than any analysis was done by the fake fact checkers – was that the downward VLM exceeds upward Relative Sea Level Rise.

Those who write on the skeptical side of the climate change divide have to be careful not to repeat these types of silly memes that are not strictly true – it works against the cause of spreading the truth.

Thanks for reading here.

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via Watts Up With That?

July 24, 2022