All the News That’s Fit to Make Up: The New York Times Eats Its Words on Global Warming

Finally someone has brought the climate change debate back down to earth

Global Warming Fibbing Inspires David Letterman Mockery


Click here to read theTop Ten Signs the New York Times is Slipping


The New York Times had egg on its face August 29 when the Old Gray Lady was forced to retract an alarmist front-page story of August 19 that flatly stated the North Pole is melting. Not true, as the paper was later forced to concede. But readers on August 19 were treated to a scare story that led with this sentence: “The North Pole is melting.” The photograph that ran with the above-the-fold article was captioned: “A lecturer on a tourist cruise captured this view of open water at the North Pole, a sight presumably never before seen by humans.”


Times reporter John Noble Wilford asserted that open water appeared at the pole this summer for perhaps the first time in 50 million years, a fact that turned out to be off by 49,999,999 years. As the Times would write in its correction, the original article “misstated the normal conditions of the sea ice there. A clear spot has probably opened at the pole before, scientists say, because about 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean is clear of ice in a typical summer.”


The Times,which has long prided itself on being the paper of record, engaged in a bit of sloppy journalism in its original story. It unhesitatingly retailed the claims of Harvard Professor James J. McCarthy without consulting any Arctic experts (such as the “scientists” alluded to in the follow-up correction). McCarthy, as it turns out, doesn’t know what he’s talking about, though that didn’t stop the Times from using him as its principal source for the story.


But rather than graciously acknowledge its mistake, the paper tried to save face the day of its correction by running another article by Wilford, this on page 3 of its “Science” section, attempting to cloud the whole issue. Wilford asserted that regardless of his little mistake, the Arctic has warmed by 11 degrees in the last 30 years.


The temperature data tells a different story, one that the fact checkers at the Times (if they still employ any) may want to consult. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Second Assessment Report, the Arctic has warmed, not by 11 degrees, but by 2.7 degrees F in the last 30 years.


Moreover, the article looked at the past 30 years because 1969 was conveniently the coldest year since about 1920. The Arctic was warmer in 1935 than it is now. Over the past 70 years, the temperature trend has been essentially zero (see Virtual Climate Alert #29 at


The editors at the New York Times no doubt would have preferred for the fewer people the better to spot its correction. Sadly for them, it didn’t excape the notice of David Letterman, whose Top Ten List on the August 30 Late Show pilloried the paper for getting it wrong.


Click here to read theTop Ten Signs the New York Times is Slipping