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Radio-Canada Ombudsman Finds Standards Violations in Inaccurate Reporting on Extreme Rainfall Trends in Canada

November 28, 2020
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By Paul Homewood

 

Robert Muir, who runs the CityFloodMap website has sent me news of his successful complaint against a woefully inaccurate report by Radio Canada International.

Robert, who is based in Toronto describes his site:

 

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His complaint was against this report:

 

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A new study by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) confirms what many have been saying, that climate change has made rainfall events more frequent and more severe and the changes are dominated by human activity. This includes burning of fossil fuels, but also development onto natural green spaces for such things as agriculture and expansion of cities.

The report in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) is entitled, ‘Human influence has intensified extreme precipitation in North America’

Residents near the Ottawa River in Cumberland, a community in Ottawa, shore up their properties against a flood in 2019. Communities all along the Ottawa River were threatened by record water levels. (Judy Trinh/CBC)

 

The study indicates that, “Recent years have seen numerous flooding and rainfall-related extreme events in North America, totaling billions of dollars in damages”;

The report begins with a statement that humans have strongly contributed to the changes noting that while past studies have, “identified an anthropogenic influence on extreme precipitation at hemispheric scales, this study finds robust results for a continental scale. We establish that anthropogenic climate change has contributed to the intensification of continental and regional extreme precipitation”.

The report shows that the so-called ‘one-in-20, 50 or 100-year’ events can be expected to occur with far greater frequency with just a 1-degree Celsius temperature increase over pre-industrial averages, an increase that has already occurred. It notes with that increase a so-called ‘100 year’ event might occur every 20 years.  With a 3-C increase, such extreme events would occur with even far greater frequency,

It also notes a marked increase in claims from extreme weather damage in Canada.  In January last year, Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo in Ontario indicated that Insurance Bureau of Canada payouts for extreme weather claims have doubled every five years since the 1980’s.

Contributing factors to higher claims include higher property values, building onto known flood plains and building over green spaces and wetlands that help absorb rain mitigate flooding. Still experts say the extreme weather and flooding is the main factor says.Natalia Moudrak, director of climate resilience at the Intact Centre.

A sudden intense storm with a possible tornado swept through southwestern Ontarion in September 2019, with record breaking rainfall and leaving broken trees and damage and many without power. (submitted by Steve Biro-via CBC)

 

Moudrak says the study further underlines the need for changes to city zoning laws, redrawing of flood plain maps, change in stormwater management and designs, and for building codes to change to reflect new extreme weather realities, a process she says that has already begun in many cases but needs to continue.

Several experts have said preservation and restoration of wetlands and green spaces should also be taken into future plans for flood controls.

http://web.archive.org/web/20200709234507/https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2020/06/03/climate-change-environment-canada-confirms-rain-and-weather-extremes/

 

The complaint was handled by the Radio Canada Ombudsman, Guy Gendron, and his review can be read here. Below is Gendron’s summary of the complaint:

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Guy Gendron was scathing in his judgement:

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Robert Muir has the full story here.

It really is a credit to the Ombudsman that he was genuinely independent and objective in this matter.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of the BBC’s complaints procedure, which invariably does its best to protect BBC reporters. Even OFCOM, who can hear appeals against the BBC judgement, is little more than an extension of the BBC’s management.

13 Comments
  1. Devoncamel permalink
    November 28, 2020 11:44 am

    The climate debate could do with a healthy dose of objective impartial analysis. Sadly the Establishment is dominated by the green agenda and will have no truck with such terms. Good for Canada I say, whilst us Brits have the BBC et al foistered upon us.

    • November 29, 2020 4:18 am

      We are lucky that the ombudsmen have exposed inaccurate reporting a couple times recently. The Radio Canada Ombudsman ruled on a similar topic in January 2019 – the review was equally scathing: https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2019/01/30/response-to-a-climate-change-story/ – the story said 100-year storms are increasing (so say researches funded by the insurance industry) but data says no.

      And also in 2019 the Canadian Broadcasting Corp’s ombudsman (who handles the english language media) found a story had incorrectly inflated the the cost of a flooded basement: https://cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/ombudsman/reviews/Assessing-the-Damage

      In that review Ombudsman Jack Nagler stated “I have a broader concern that there is a pattern of imprecision in CBC’s coverage relating to flood events.” – his concerns are well founded.

      So if the media misreports the frequency of extreme events, and they misreport their value, we cannot scope the problem, or make informed decisions on adaptation needs..

      I have tried to understand how and why journalists get stories wrong so often. I found psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s work on cognitive biases, or mental short-cuts, helps explain how extreme rain and flood reporting gets off-track so often. I have summarized the typical biases (attribution bias, anchoring bias, substitution bias, etc.) that one can see in so many articles.in a paper called “Evidence Based Policy Gaps in Water Resources: Thinking Fast and Slow on Floods and Flow”: https://www.chijournal.org/C449

      • saparonia permalink
        November 29, 2020 4:04 pm

        Thank you for bringing this travesty into the open, however, the “open” is now closed and few people will see this actual manipulation of truth being evident everywhere.
        The masses are told, from what appears to be multiple sources, that everything is our fault, and the resulting reaction, including for children in school, is that people are traumatised and not able to think critically. It is actually a crime against humanity. There have been many suicides, people from all walks of life losing all hope, it’s major and widespread. Many don’t have the ability to research and make informed decisions as the perpetrators have a monopoly.

  2. Robert Christopher permalink
    November 28, 2020 11:44 am

    “Sadly, the same cannot be said of the BBC’s complaints procedure, which invariably does its best to protect BBC reporters.”

    It’s worth repeating, and was my initial, and continuing, thought!

  3. cajwbroomhill permalink
    November 28, 2020 12:12 pm

    One of many scandals in the AGW and related matters is the derision and hateful scorn shown to sceptics and “climate deniers” and near-banning of publicity for their stated analyses and conclusions repudiating the Establishment’ received opinion.
    Perhaps, re the UK’s negligible proportional output of CO2 to the rest of the world’s CO2 and all greenhouse gases release, officialdom ignores that very straightforward basis for ending the financial and scientific catastrophe of decarbonisation.
    One would expect goverments (and even “Princess Nut Nuts”) to welcome the potential cost savings from dropping such policy’s insanities, especially now the UK are in horrendous debt.

    • November 29, 2020 4:34 am

      As the ombudsman noted in last year’s complaint (https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2019/01/30/response-to-a-climate-change-story/), the journalist I was trying to help admitted that he decided up front that he was “not going to give the complainant (me) and inch” – absolutely close-minded and had it in for anyone who questioned weak reporting. Well, he got put in his place again.

      I have lived some of that hateful scorn professionally too. When I asked questions of those hyping stories of more extreme rain I have been let go from professional engineering committees and standards development working groups – sadly, many professional engineers are not putting in the work to understand basic facts and guide important decisions, and are blind sheeple scared to swim upstream and stand for something that is unpopular but right.

      When I started speaking up on this topic, and “stuff” started hitting the fan, my thesis supervisor shared this quote “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life”

  4. Bill Scott permalink
    November 28, 2020 1:10 pm

    CBC (Canadian Biased Corp) is, unfortunately, a clone of the Beeb. Strong left-wing woke bias, lots of “sob stories” about minorities, anti Trump – parroting CNN, pro everything Green, pro Liberal/Democrat, I gave up on it years ago.

    • alexei permalink
      November 28, 2020 5:30 pm

      Ditto for NPR (National Public Radio) in the US, which has daily slots allocated to the BBC, often uses BBC journalists and masterminds local radio stations in various parts of the country.

  5. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 28, 2020 1:24 pm

    I did note the story that the BBC is now reckoned to be less impartial than Channel 5. It also seems to be suffering a continuing decline in audience numbers, particularly among younger generations who never get into the habit of watching. Flagship Question Time now gets a derisory audience. Perhaps we will reach a point where propaganda broadcasters will be mostly ignored.

  6. Broadlands permalink
    November 28, 2020 2:07 pm

    This paper was published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, an organization that has been taken over by Marcia McNutt, the President and former Editor of SCIENCE magazine, a AAAS publication. They are completely devoted to climate change and CO2 from humans. She wrote an editorial in SCIENCE with the title “Time’s Up CO2”. August 2, 2019.

    From this paper itself…

    “This result may be partly due to masking of the observed response to volcanic forcing by internal variability, such as El Niño–Southern Oscillation (33, 34). While internal variability is largely removed in the signal when averaging across a large ensemble, its influence will still be present in the observed series. Additionally, the use of 5-y means will damp the effect of volcanic forcing in both observations and the model response. Regardless, human influence can be separated in the presence of natural external forcing. This provides a clear indication that human influence has intensified extreme precipitation in North America.”

    That’s their evidence for human influence. The belief that CO2 from humans can be separated out from natural variability which nobody can predict very far in advance. Hardly a compelling paper, esp. from the PNAS.

    • November 29, 2020 4:41 am

      I did reach out to PNAS when this paper was published to say they confused extreme rain from a climate model perspective (higher 1-day max rain) and from an urban hydrology perspective linked to flooding (higher intensity short duration rain from durations of minutes to hours). And I shared that our Engineering Climate Datasets show no change in extreme intensities – but there was no response. We don’t get flooding for 2-year storms but that is what the paper implied, conflating more wet days (which means more mushrooms growing on our lawns) with severe rainfall causing extensive flood damage.

  7. Gamecock permalink
    November 28, 2020 3:46 pm

    I assume it was the ombudsman’s last day. One way or the other.

  8. Duker permalink
    November 29, 2020 2:05 am

    Been finding other breaches of ‘journalistic standards and practices’
    https://honestreporting.ca/radio-canada-blames-israel-for-gazas-plight-in-fighting-coronavirus/

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