“EXPERTS warn of a coming ice age” declared the headline in a story which appeared in last week’s The Australian newspaper.

In reality, the headline should have read something like this “One solar physicist in Russia who is a member of a climate science denial organisation says we’re heading for global cooling but all the other people we spoke to say he’s dead wrong”.

Not as catchy though, eh?

The story “Emissions debate heats up while experts warn of a coming ice age” was written by the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd and there are some very curious aspects to it.

Lloyd’s only “expert” warning of global cooling is Dr Habibullo Abdussamatov, a Russian solar physicist who has been claiming for at least four years that we’re heading for an ice age and we should all rug up. Abdussamatov says that climate change is all down to solar cycles and that the sun is in a quiet phase that will plunge us all into a deep freeze. Skeptical Science explains why this climate myth – one of the most popular – is wrong.

Lloyd tells readers that he is quoting Abdussamatov via an interview given to Principia Scientific International (Lloyd doesn’t say who they are, but I’ll have more about them in a moment). Here are Lloyd’s quotes

“Mars has global warming – but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians,” Abdussamatov said. “These parallel global warmings – observed simultaneously on Mars and on the Earth – can only be a consequence of the effect of the same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance.”

Here’s the real news. The quotes which Lloyd uses from Abdussamatov are actually more than five years old and come originally from this interview given to the National Post in Canada in January 2007.

Lloyd quotes Abdussamatov as “the head of space research at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in St Petersburg, and director of the Russian segment of the International Space Station”.

This wasn’t accurate either. Principia Scientific International has already issued a correction saying that in fact “Dr Abdussamatov is actually head of space research of the Sun Sector at the Polkovo Observatory and head of the Selenometria project on the Russian segment of the International Space Station.”

Not quite so impressive as being the head of space research or the head of the Russian bit of the International Space Station.

Lloyd then goes on to provide some “balance” on his story leaving the reader with the impression that genuine experts actually are discussing the possibility of a coming ice-age, when they’re not. All they’re doing is responding to crank theories.

Lloyd quotes Frank Hill, a scientist at the US National Solar Observatory in Arizona. Lloyd writes that the quotes from Hill are from “last June”. This is also wrong. The quotes Hill gave were from June 2011 (here they are).

Irrespective of this, Lloyd quotes Hill like this

“We are predicting the behaviour of the solar cycle,” he said. “In my opinion, it is a huge leap from that to an abrupt global cooling, since the connections between solar activity and climate are still very poorly understood.

“My understanding is that current calculations suggest only a 0.3 degree C decrease from a Maunder-like minimum, too small for an ice age.”

Lloyd left out the beginning of Hill’s original quote, perhaps because it was so unequivocal. “We are NOT predicting a mini-ice age,” Hill pointed out, just in case anyone was wondering.

Hill’s understanding on the impact of a low point in the solar cycle reflects a paper published in 2010 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which found that if solar activity did drop to low levels, this would only take 0.3C off any global warming which we will have experienced by the end of the century. Several reports are now saying global average temperatures could be 4C higher or more by the end of the century.

Lloyd also gets a quote from Peter Stott of the UK’s Met Office.

“It is misleading to the public that other theories, such as that most of the warming is caused by solar changes, carry equal weight,” he says.

Except Lloyd probably didn’t get the quote from Peter Stott. Instead, it appears he took it without attribution from this article in April from the UK website Carbon Brief. The article explains just why the claims that we’re heading for a “mini ice-age” are misleading tosh.

Remember the headline at the top of Lloyd’s story? The one about how “experts warn of a coming ice-age”? Even though the first “expert” Lloyd cites does claim this, the other people quoted in Lloyd’s story say exactly the opposite. I should point out that Lloyd would likely not have written the headline.

Now back to our Russian physicist and the source of Lloyd’s story – the article on Principia Scientific International.  Graham Lloyd doesn’t say anything about who this group is, so allow me. PSI promotes some of the most widely debunked theories on climate change that exist on the internet (behind, possibly, magnetism) and it’s chief executive John O’Sullivan does not even accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet.

Terri Jackson, who is credited with writing the story about Abdussamatov, has also written a pamphlet in which he claims that the greenhouse effect is bogus and that carbon dioxide “cools the earth”.

Principia recently got into a row with climate science denial pin-up boy Lord Christopher Monckton. Monckton does at least accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which was seen as a step too far for Principia.

When you are sourcing information from an organisation too fringe even for Lord Monckton that promotes positions which only the dark corners of the internet could sustain, then you know you are in trouble.

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