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Ministry of Truth: Independent Newspaper Channels Orwell

The Independent, the British newspaper that published the now infamous article in 2000 proclaiming that Snowfalls Are Now Just A Thing of the Past has entered a surreal and Orwellian world with the publication of an article that seeks to reinterpret what the article was actually claiming.

The article by Steve Connor, who last year claimed the world was running out of helium, says that the story had been unfairly judged by the headline which had been taken out of context. He argues that we shouldn’t take the headline literally as “Headlines are meant to draw people into a story” and therefore cannot reflect the “nuances” of science. To which, you might tempted to respond by asking, well what’s wrong with a headline like “Snowfalls to Become Less Frequent” then?

In what is destined itself to become a much-derided quote in future years, Connor protests that snowy winters are weather not climate and therefore prove nothing, before immediately pointing to Russia’s hot summer as proof of global warming:

The second issue is about the difference between weather and climate. Just as one swallow does not make a spring, one hot summer or cold winter does not prove or disprove climate change. Climate is what we expect over a long period – often too long to be retained by human memory – whereas weather is what we get from one day to the next.

We remember the weather but it’s more difficult to put it into a climate context. Vladimir Putin was once rather scornful of the idea of climate change, saying that Russia could benefit from a warmer world. He changed his tune last summer when record temperatures in Moscow generated fires that engulfed the city in smog.

Steve Connor, Don’t Believe The Hype Over Climate Headlines.

Did you spot the difference there? Hot summers are part of the “climate context” whereas cold winters are not. In other words, all weather is equal, but some weather equals climate change more than others.

And in a truly Orwellian twist, Connor even describes newspaper headlines as not a summary of the story, but rather an “invitation” to read the story:

So a headline saying that “snowfalls are now just a thing of the past” is not a scientific prediction or statement. It is a newspaper headline, and should be treated as an invitation to read the entire story, which in this case clearly pointed out that snowfalls are becoming less frequent in Britain. This is still the case even with the experience of having two snowy winters on the run.

My sources tell me that Connor’s next article will address the fact that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, despite what contrarians suggest.

Haunting the Library, 10 January 2011