Thanks to the Associated Press (AP), the public gets a steady stream of pseudo-scientific “news” meant to scare by misinforming about climate change.
The latest example is an AP article capitalizing on the entirely natural and routine event of an iceberg “calving” (breaking) off of Greenland.
“An iceberg four miles (six kilometers) wide has broken off from a glacier in eastern Greenland,” the article reports.
So far, so good. That’s straight news.
Then the scare tactics begin:
New York University professor David Holland, an expert in atmospheric and ocean science, told The Associated Press that “this is the largest event we’ve seen in over a decade in Greenland.”
That sounds really ominous — until you realize that “this is the largest event we’ve seen in over a decade in Greenland” implies that if you just go back more than a decade—a ridiculously short time in geological terms — you’ll find icebergs as big or bigger calving off of Greenland.
The article then goes on to mention, and link to, a video of the event by Denise Holland, of New York University’s Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. The AP reports that she and others “had camped by the Helheim Glacier for weeks to collect data to better project sea level changes due to global warming.” (The video’s pretty impressive—but keep in mind that it compresses into about 90 seconds what took about 30 minutes to occur.)
So there’s the connection between the iceberg’s calving and global warming. Except that the connection is only psychological, because the two are mentioned together. Global warming — however real and rapid it might (or might not) be, and regardless whether it’s entirely, or mostly, natural or manmade — didn’t cause the iceberg to calve, and the calving of that and other icebergs don’t cause global warming.
But the article isn’t finished creating the subtle, but false, impression that there’s something extraordinary and scary going on. It goes on to report that residents of in another Greenland location were evacuated for fear that another iceberg, temporarily grounded on the nearby sea floor, could flood its low-lying structures by tsunami-like waves it might create when it finally breaks free.
Well, of course, that precaution makes sense, but it has nothing to do with whether manmade global warming is real, or what its magnitude might be, or whether it caused either of the icebergs the article discusses to calve.
In reality, there’s nothing historic, nothing extraordinary, about this event — not even anything scarier than what Greenlanders have faced many times before. The same thing, whether close to human settlements or not, has happened hundreds or thousands of times over the millennia, even before any of your friends started driving SUVs.
“That a large iceberg should calve from the terminus of a Greenland glacier is perhaps newsworthy but not earth-shaking,” says William D. Balgord, a geochemist and President of Environmental & Resources Technology, Inc., and a Contributing Writer with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
“After all, that is what glaciers do. They are the rivers of ice that slowly move snow and ice that accumulates on the interior uplands of Greenland and Antarctica down-slope and ever seaward.”
Without occasional calving, ice on Greenland and Antarctica would just keep mounting higher and higher, far above the current maximum thickness of nearly two miles (10,500 feet) in Greenland and nearly three miles (15,670 feet) in Antarctica. That’s because the temperatures are so cold — almost always and everywhere below freezing — that melting and liquid runoff wouldn’t prevent such massive buildup.
“The ongoing cycle of accumulation and return of water to the oceans is completed through the natural process of the calving of icebergs where the glacier meets the ocean,” says Balgord. “It has been going on ever since the coming of the glacial ages, including in the interglacial in which we now thankfully live, between full-blown glaciations that would threaten civilization will real disaster.”
“This is just one more example of shameless scare journalism on the part of writers who evidently do not know their science,” says Balgord.