28 October 2018

Climate change raises dishonesty in the Finnish media

I am amazed because of the dishonesty linked to the climatic change. And this time I do not think here the changes in temperature databases but discussion related to the prevention of climatic warming.

Last week we received a model example on this dishonesty from a professional journalist Minttu Mikkonen in the biggest newspaper of this country, Helsingin Sanomat, who had interviewed Finnish researchers in the field.

In the middle of her story Mikkonen cited a previous story published in the same newspaper and wrote that "all researchers unanimously agree that forest cuttings and increasing harvesting reduces carbon sink and carbon stock of the Finnish forests. Despite that, many Finnish politicians still say that cuttings could be increased".

Thereafter the journalist cited Mari Pantsar, the Director of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, by allowing the reader to understand that she had commented the claim above by saying "if you need to confront scientific and political world on carbon sinks I - as a docent - do believe in science".

The problem is that the earlier story the journalist had cited did not say that all researchers agree on the claim that increasing cuttings and harvesting would reduce the carbon stock of the Finnish forests. Or it said, but continued as follows: "...for decades forward, if we compare to a situation when they are not increased".

In other words, all Finnish scientists agreed on the fact, that the carbon stock in Finnish forests is not reduced by cuttings and harvesting, but only its growth is reduced for the next few decades. One might imagine that understanding this would not be too difficult even to a journalist, so it is obvious that we have here a case of conscious dishonesty, although I do not understand why. Actually, it is even worse, because the story of the journalist points out Docent Mari Pantsar as the source of the incorrectness.

In this context I would like to inform my respected reader that Nature published recently an article, which shows that forest management in Europe cannot be used efficiently to solve the problem of climatic change, and therefore they should rather be managed for resilience in future climate. This was not mentioned by Mikkonen, although it had been pointed out by Professor Atte Korhola recently in the same newspaper, and therefore it must have been known also by its journalists writing on the same topic.

The story reminded also that "an average Finn produces annually more than ten tons of emissions. In year 2030 each resident of the globe could not produce more than three tons on average".

This is also intellectually dishonest, although the facts would be correct (which I believe, and did not check). This can be understood by putting this to an areal perspective. Based on the figures given by Mikkonen we can calculate - based on our population size and land area - that in Finland we are producing 163 tons of emissions/km2, whereas in the whole world the corresponding sustainable figure would be 155 tons/km2.

So Finland is not far from sustainability despite the fact that much of our emissions are due to our cold winters, which make warming of houses obligatory, and therefore forces Finns to use more energy than people in south.

The calculation above shows also how important issue, in regard to avoiding climatic change,  is the rapid population growth. That was not, however, mentioned by journalist Mikkonen, but she wrote only about circulation, vegetarism, carbon pricing, German solar energy, Danish wind power, energetic efficacy of Mexican buildings and stopping the loss of Brasilian forests (the last one of which - unlike the European forest management - does have an effect on global warming as pointed out by the Nature paper cited above).

The dishonest of journalist Mikkonen is not unique in the Finnish press. In contrast, it is extremely common on almost all discussions related to the climatic change. Unfortunately I do not understand why.

That is because I have understood that the threat due to climatic warming is so severe, that we should be honest and find functionally working ways to stop it. Misleading the political discussion - as sen in the story of journalist Mikkonen - only hampers attempts to find working solutions. I cannot believe that would be the aim of media, politician or any of the researchers.

The original story in Finnish:
HS:n Minttu Mikkonen tajosi malliesimerkin epärehellisyydestä