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No, the ABC didn’t predict New York would be underwater by 2015

AAP FactCheck January 12, 2021

The Statement

A Facebook post suggests Australia’s public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, predicted that New York City would be underwater due to climate change by 2015.

The December 30 post, to the “Get Our ABC Back” Facebook page, features a meme containing an image of clusters of high-rise buildings surrounded and partially engulfed by water.

Below the image is text reading: “FLASHBACK: ABC’s ’08 Prediction: NYC Under Water from Climate Change by June 2015.”

The post’s caption includes the hashtags “auspol” and “defundtheabc”. At the time of writing, it had been shared at least 250 times and attracted more than 130 reactions.

The same post or meme was subsequently shared to several Facebook groups and pages questioning the existence of man-made climate change (see here, here and here).

A Facebook post
 A meme claims the ABC predicted that New York would be underwater due to climate change by 2015. 

The Analysis

While Australia’s national broadcaster has for years been reporting dire forecasts about the impact of climate change, it didn’t incorrectly place the Big Apple beneath the sea by 2015.

The Facebook post and meme suggest the public broadcaster issued the prediction in 2008 without stating where the claim was made.

The post’s hashtags refer to Australian politics and calls for government funding to be stripped from the broadcaster, while the “about” section on the Get Our ABC Back page states: “Australia would like our ABC to be non political and unbiased in its media content. The ABC is funded by the people and should be for all the people, not a percentage of the people.”

However, the purported prediction in the meme appears to relate to the US ABC, the American Broadcasting Company, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.

The text in the meme matches the headline to a June 12, 2015 article on the NewsBusters website from the US-based Media Research Center, a self-described “media watchdog” that has been linked to the conservative movement.

The NewsBusters article contains an embedded video containing footage it said ran as a 2008 US ABC promotion for Earth 2100, a two-hour special presentation that aired on June 2, 2009.

Earth 2100 explored a worst-case scenario for humanity up until the year 2100 due to the effects of climate change. It follows the journey of Lucy, a fictional character who chronicles the effects of climate change during her life, starting in the year 2015.

While the ABC video featured in the NewsBusters article links a number of extreme statements to the year 2015 – such as a carton of milk costing $12.99 – it does not clearly predict New York City could be underwater at that point.

Rather, the video includes a brief animated graphic of Manhattan and surrounding areas being partially inundated with water without attaching any specific claims to the vision (video mark 20sec).

In Earth 2100, a version of which appears here, a scenario in which NYC is catastrophically flooded occurs in 2075 not in 2015 (video mark 56min 42sec).

The Facebook meme includes a different image to that featured in the ABC promotion to suggest a flooded New York. The image in the meme has been used online since at least 2007 (see examples here and here), with one blog post from the time crediting it to Vanity Fair.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation declined to comment on the meme when contacted by AAP FactCheck, however there is no indication the broadcaster has ever made a prediction that New York could be underwater by 2015.

In a 2015 article it did, however, cite a Climate Central study’s prediction that parts of New York and other major cities may eventually be underwater due to global warming.

The article said these rises “could unfold in 200 years, but would more likely happen over many centuries, perhaps as long as 2,000 years”.

New York City skyline
 New York City could one day be threatened by sea level rises due to climate change. 

The Verdict

The post wrongly suggests the Australian Broadcasting Corporation predicted New York City would be underwater due to climate change by 2015. In fact, the included meme relates to the American Broadcasting Company and a 2008 promotion, which itself did not clearly make this prediction.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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