Malfeasant Omissions? German Flagship ARD Broadcasting One-Sided, Drama-Making Sea Level Reporting

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What follows is another example of the tricks the mainstream media use to produce fake drama and urgency concerning sea level rise and climate change – namely omissions – and how geologist Sebastian Lüning held their feet to the fire.

Geologist Dr. Sebastian Lüning puts German ARD broadcasting’s feet to the climate fire. Photo. Die kalte Sonne.

Dr. Sebastian Lüning wrote a complaint to German ARD public broadcasting concerning its December 2, 2018, one-sided reporting of the Indian island of Ghoramara and the sea level rise it is allegedly experiencing. The €6.9 billion euro publicly funded, 22,612-employee ARD is the German equivalent to the UK’s BBC.

What follows is the exchange between Lüning and the ARD editorial staff:
======================================

From: Dr. Sebastian Lüning
To: NDR Rundfunkrat

Date: 3 December 2018

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

On December 2, 2018, you reported on the Tagesschau.de evening news on the Indian island of Ghoramara, which according to your report is “sinking into the sea” due to climate change.

https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/indien-klima-ghoramara-101.html

In concrete terms, the report cites rising sea levels as the only cause. This, however, distorts the facts, as the shrinking of the island actually has a number of reasons. Although the globally rising sea level plays a role, other processes are much more important, which your correspondent Bernd Musch-Borowska fails to mention a single word about and thus ultimately over-dramatizes the role of climate change. This is all the more regrettable because the report appeared on the first day of the Katowice Climate Conference and thus casts the technical robustness of your reporting in to doubt.

In view of the enormous importance of climate change in the public debate, you should make additional efforts to avoid such one-sided and technically unbalanced presentations in your program, e.g. by consulting experts before publication.

The island of Ghoramara lies at the mouth of the Ganges. As in many deltas of the earth, strong currents prevail here, which lead to a constant rearrangement of sediment and a systematic shifting of the islands. Similar coastal dynamic processes can be observed in the area of the East Frisian Islands.

The island of Ghoramara and neighboring islands in the Sundarbans have therefore always been exposed to major morphological changes. In addition, there is a rate of subsidence of several millimeters per year, which is also typical for deltas, an amount which even exceeds the global (eustatic) sea-level rise of 2-3 millimeters per year. In addition, the construction of several dams in the catchment area of the Ganges has led to a reduced sediment load in the river and delta, further exacerbating erosion.

Also activities on the island of Ghoramara have made the problem worse. Strong groundwater removal has led to an additional compaction and lowering of the island. In addition, the islanders have removed part of the protective mangrove vegetation in the process of creating additional arable land, leaving the soil vulnerable to erosion during storms.

If you are interested, I would be happy to provide you with the relevant technical literature.

The Tagesschau article falsely suggests that sea-level rise is the main problem for Ghoramara. This is wrong. What is true is that the shrinking of the island of Ghoramara has a variety of causes, which can be divided into 1) natural, 2) non-climatic anthropogenic and 3) climatic anthropogenic causes. I would therefore like to ask you – at the same place as the original report – to list the complete range of causes so as not to provide a basis for accusations of climate dramatization on the occasion of the current climate conference in Katowice.
Best regards,
Dr. habil. Sebastian Lüning
Geoscientist

But the editor-in-chief of ARD, Dr. Kai Gniffke, finally replied evasively on January 4, 2019. The pdf of the reply can be found here. In the reply, the ARD defended its report, writing: “Unfortunately it is not possible to address all backgrounds and developments in daily reporting.”

To which Lüning responded:

From: Dr. Sebastian Lüning
To: NDR Broadcasting Council [ARD]
Date: 10 January 2019
Dear Dr. Nenz,
Dear Dr. Gniffke,

Thank you for sending the statement. Of course, the answer is not satisfactory, because you reply to my accusation of selective and distorted reporting by claiming that the climate conference and the scarcity of the reporting justify the deliberate omission of important contextual information. The incomplete presentation, however, automatically leads to an artificial dramatization. Ultimately, it is deliberate cherry-picking.

The editorial team is thus in the same line as the former editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Christopher Schrader, who in your program ZAPP openly admitted that in his articles he follows a personal mission and prefers to leave scientific uncertainties unmentioned in order to prevent citizens from becoming unrestful and doubting the energy revolution.

https://www.ndr.de/fernsehen/sendungen/zapp/Von-wegen-Klima-Wissenschaftsjournalisten-wettern,klima302.html

I was also surprised that another mistake had crept into your answer. You wrote that there are “more violent and more frequent storms” in the area of the Indian island of Ghoramara due to climate change. This is also wrong, especially as it is not even claimed in your original article. Studies in the northern Indian Ocean have not found a trend in tropical cyclones for the last three decades. See Hoarau et al. 2012:

https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/joc.2406

It would be really important that you introduce quality assurance measures in your ARD editorial office in the area of climate change reporting in order to avoid such obvious mistakes and distortions. As you may know, this is not the first case. As an example, I would like to mention your reporting on the warming of the North Sea in 2017:

http://www.kaltesonne.de/um-antwort-wird-gebeten-der-fall-nordsee-erwarmung/

For the sake of transparency, I would also like to ask you to allow us to publish your Ghoramara statement on the website www.kaltesonne.de.
Yours sincerely,

Dr. habil. Sebastian Lüning

Again the ARD editors followed by dodging the facts of their poor reporting in a response to Lüning’s message above, even going so far as to deny everything. What follows is their response to Lünings accusations:

From: Dr. Kai Gniffke (Editor-in-Chief ARD-aktuell)
To: Dr. Sebastian Lüning
Date: 25 January 2019

Dear Dr. Lüning,

We regret that our detailed response to your program complaint was not satisfactory from your point of view. As we have already stated in the opinion, we believe that the situation of Ghoramara has been accurately described in the criticized report. In principle, not all aspects of a complex issue can be presented in a single contribution. We understand your comments as a suggestion and have already written that an in-depth consideration, for example in the context of a longer radio feature, is conceivable.

In your reply, you also mentioned our report on the warming of the North Sea in 2017, which you also criticized. We refer you to our corresponding statement, which you had already published on your website. You are also welcome to publish our most recent statement there.

We thank you for your comments and assure you that we will continue to report on climate change and its impacts.
Yours sincerely,

Dr. Kai Gniffke
First Editor-in-Chief ARD-aktuell

Clearly the ARD’s reporting was sloppy and intentionally one-sided with the aim of generating climate urgency. And the reactions by its editors told us us they had no plans to change anything with regards to quality control and its obligations to viewers.

But today, months later, Die kalte Sonne here informs that ARD editor Kai Gniffke has left the ARD. But don’t expect the quality of climate science reporting to improve at ARD any time soon.

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5 responses to “Malfeasant Omissions? German Flagship ARD Broadcasting One-Sided, Drama-Making Sea Level Reporting”

  1. DMA

    “What is true is that the shrinking of the island of Ghoramara has a variety of causes, which can be divided into 1) natural, 2) non-climatic anthropogenic and 3) climatic anthropogenic causes.”
    Number 3 is questionable. As much as I appreciate Dr. Luning’s tenacity and effort to require accuracy of this broadcaster, I don’t think there is any solid evidence of anthropogenic climate change in the sea level data. I recommend Harde 2019 and Berry 2019 for analysis of anthropogenic CO2 on atmospheric CO2. They conclude we have little to do with rising CO2 levels so we must have even less to do with the hypothesized warming from it that is suspected to be causing sea level rise. https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/12/19/co2responsiveness/ is a look at the data and also sees no response in the atmospheric content to changes in emissions rates.
    It is time that skeptics reveal this work rather than accepting the conjecture that we have caused most of the recent mild warming. We haven’t and reducing our emissions will have no effect on atmospheric CO2 or the climate.

  2. sasquatch

    “Unfortunately it is not possible to address all backgrounds and developments in daily reporting.”

    It wasn’t me.

    Carry out an experiment, shut down every coal-fired power plant everywhere and see what happens. Remove all crude oil and crude oil refining products along with it all, just to see what might happen even more. You will then find out in spades.

    It can be an Aesop’s fable, there will be a moral to the story.

    No electricity and people will get restless. No fuel for anything and breakdown will begin within a day.

    The food supply would be threatened, the grocery store shelves would empty and none re-stocked.

    After 24 hours of no coal-fired power plants, no fuel for transportation and industries, it would be all over. You will have a ticking time bomb and it is going to go ‘boom’.

    Mayhem and chaos like you can’t imagine would be the result. One would be ARD would go dark.

    Lots of people would become ornery, angry and mean in no time. They’ll be hangry and will have trouble finding something to eat.

    There will be ‘more violent and frequent storms’ without a doubt.

    It won’t be the climate doing it. You’ll have your emergency.

    There will be a sinking feeling, you can bet on it.

    Maybe forget about the experiment, not live the experience and just let it all happen like it does.

    The lights are on, you can charge your phone and laptop, no need to make things worse, they already are, and it doesn’t get much better than this.

    The daytime high temps so far this summer have been in the low nineties three times. A normal weather pattern would have temps in August at the century mark plus a couple of degrees more. Cooler than normal summertime daytime high temps is what has happened this year.

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