Hard to tell climate score when AP & WaPo blow the count

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Hard to tell climate score when AP & WaPo blow the count

Postby Kevin » Sun Aug 19, 2012 3:23 pm

The Associated Press headline for a story posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2012, says:

AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low
http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/386c255 ... rc=nl_wonk

PITTSBURGH (AP) — In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

The Washington Post picks up the story and adds a little more:

AP IMPACT: CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low; some experts optimistic on global warming
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/ ... story.html

PITTSBURGH — In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Tracing the source of this alleged exciting trend, we start with the reference given:

U.S. Energy Information Agency: http://bit.ly/MRLOFR

That turns out to be essentially a press release, or self-presented news item, by the Energy Information Agency (EIA).

It has a big headline, "U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in early 2012 lowest since 1992."

That's already a PR inflation of the findings in the underlying report itself - an inflation that should be obvious to any science journalist, since the first sentence of the news item says:

U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from energy use during the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest in two decades for any January-March period.

Note the difference between "U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions" and "U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions resulting from energy use". The first includes many more types of emissions than the second. Thus the conclusion that the EIA's own headline is an exaggeration of the EIA's report.

When we get to the AP headline, saying "CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low, " that first inflation gets trumped two ways.

First we have the additional increase from "U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions" (EIA headline) to "CO2 emissions in US" without any kind of limitation to the energy sector.

This is not just a headline issue. The lead sentence of the story says:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years...

It is simply a false statement, given that the basis for it is an underlying report on "U.S. CO2 emissions resulting from energy use," not a report on U.S. CO2 emissions overall.

Then there's a further level of exaggeration in both headline and story, through dropping the fact that the report only finds lower CO2 emissions (from U.S. energy use) for the first quarter of 2012. The unqualified time frame in the AP/WaPo headline and story, in the context of citing a '20-year low', misleadingly imply a more significant annual comparison.

...has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years

Another entire critique applies to the AP phrase:

...government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Youch, Pinocchio! Twisting that hard hurts my nose.

Politico, among others, receives sponsorship advertising from the gas industry, as in "POLITICO's Morning Energy, powered by America's Natural Gas Alliance". What's the AP's excuse?

There's more to say, but that seems like enuf for now!

Bottom line:

#journafail
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Kevin
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Re: Hard to tell climate score when AP & WaPo blow the count

Postby Kevin » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:03 pm

For more coverage on the continuing misinterpretation and misapplication of EIA emissions data, please see:

Misuse of EIA data on CO2 emissions continues...
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=37685
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Location: Eugene, Oregon


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