I think nobody has ever been fired for a bad headline. The story is important and informative for the informed, though possibly a bit misleading for the uninformed. So it’s also bad journalism for America, but not as bad as the headline. It’s originally Agence France-Press I think, though the headline was clearly written by somebody who only read the first sentence. So maybe it wasn’t bad journalism in the original. I don’t doubt the French public could do a better job understanding this:
“Our findings will increase our knowledge on the climate system and increase our ability to predict the speed and final height of sea level rise,” said Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, an ice expert at the University of Copenhagen and head of the project.
“If the Eemian was unstable, then the models of future change due to increased greenhouse effect are wrong as they cannot handle sudden changes,” she told AFP by email from the site.
But many Americans are far more dauntless and brave than Frenchmen, and so are able to go from “models are wrong” to “therefore the sensitivity is zero” so quickly and with so much zeal and so little thought that it causes spinal injury. Certainly the rest of the context is likely reduced to invisibility.
Anyway, it’s a good story. And it’s the truth, what Dr. Dahl-Jensen says about the models: if they aren’t accurate, then things are more likely to turn out much worse than the models say than to turn better than they say.
But these days, in the English-speaking world at least, you really have to spell something like that out. You have to say “worse than the models predict”, which I suppose puts you in the terrain of advocate and not scientist! If you just say “models are wrong” you’re pretty much guaranteed to be read as saying “no worries”!
Update 9/1/10: The original link has gone stale. Here is an exact copy. The headline was “Earth’s climate future may be etched in Greenland bedrock” .
The inattentive reading by the editor seems to have been limited to the first paragraph, “Scientists hit Greenland bedrock this week after five years of drilling through 2.5 kilometres (1.6-mile) of solid ice, a 14-nation consortium announced Wednesday.” Of course, they are interested in the ice, not the bedrock.