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I know what you’re thinking — George Will isn’t even the most ignorant columnist in the Washington Post (see Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown” and Part 2). And of course John Tierney is easily the worst science writer (see here). And take Gregg Easterbrook … please! (see here).
First, he dismisses the science-based warnings of Steven Chu (see Wake up,” America, “we’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California”) without actually citing any evidence whatsoever against Chu’s claim. Really, they’re just handing out Nobel prizes in physics to anyone these days.
Second, and this makes the diagnosis definitive, he spends a long paragraph recycling the long-debunked denier talking point that the scientific community believed in the 1970s that we were headed into another a long period of cooling. I don’t know whether it is more pathetic that Will believes this or that the Washington Post simply lets him publish this lie again and again. As a 2008 review article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society demonstrated definitively (see “Killing the myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus“):
There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.
No surprise that Will doesn’t cite a single scientific paper on his behalf. If anything, Will’s documentation merely proves how bad media coverage of the climate was three decades ago.
Third, Will goes after Holdren for the 30-year old bet with Julian Simon on metals prices. Yes, it was a dumb bet, but it has no bearing on the state of climate science today — a subject that Will doesn’t bother to quote a single scientist against.
Fourth, Will brings up yet another ASSinine red-herring popular with deniers:
As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September, however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.
Nice try. Scientists said that as Arctic sea ice has declined precipitously in the 30 years, and especially over the last several years, that was evidence of man-made global warming. Indeed, a 2008 Geophysical Research Letters analysis by four scientists from the Polar Science Center concluded (see “What drove the dramatic retreat of arctic sea ice during summer 2007?“):
Arctic sea ice in 2007 was preconditioned to radical changes after years of shrinking and thinning in a warm climate.… The Arctic Ocean lost additional (sic) 10% of its total ice mass in which 70% is due directly to the amplified melting….
Scientists have been expecting the Antarctic to add sea ice because it has an unusual climate isolated from much of the rest of the planet (for a good discussion, see “A Few Things Ill Considered : The intricacies of sea ice formation“).
UPDATE: The group Will (mis-)cites — the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center — has become weary of having their data misreported by global warming deniers like Will. They just posted a reply on their website:
In an opinion piece by George Will published on February 15, 2009 in the Washington Post, George Will states “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”
We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km. Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009 than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.
It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information without first checking the facts.
Disturbing, indeed. H/t to Kuni for pointing this out in the comments.
Fifth, Will reveals the true reason he cannot accept climate science:
An unstated premise of eco-pessimism is that environmental conditions are, or recently were, optimal. The proclaimed faith of eco-pessimists is weirdly optimistic: These optimal conditions must and can be preserved or restored if government will make us minimize our carbon footprints and if government will “remake” the economy.
Huh? It is not an “unstated premise” — it is a shout-out-loud, science-based premise (see “Must have PPT #1: The narrow temperature window that gave us modern human civilization“).
The weird thing about conservatives is that they don’t actually seem to care about conserving anything, not energy, not water, not arable land, not even a livable climate. They want radical change — pushing policies that will remake this planet in unimaginably horrific ways for a thousand years (see “Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path“).
But it is ultimately the notion that the government will help us minimize our carbon footprint and “remake” our economy that conservatives just can’t stomach. It is, as I’ve argued, “The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science.”
Believing in climate science doesn’t make one a pessimist. It is Will who is the eco-pessimist, since he doesn’t believe eco-technology can solve our problems. I am not “weirdly optimistic” — I am unjustifiably optimistic, given the blinkered refusal of conservatives to admit there is even a problem:
Because of today’s economy, another law — call it the Law of Clarifying Calamities — is being (redundantly) confirmed. On graphs tracking public opinion, two lines are moving in tandem and inversely: The sharply rising line charts public concern about the economy, the plunging line follows concern about the environment. A recent Pew Research Center poll asked which of 20 issues should be the government’s top priorities. Climate change ranked 20th. Real calamities take our minds off hypothetical ones.
Again, as I’ve shown, the public’s concern about climate isn’t plunging — only conservatives’ concern about climate is dropping because Typhoid George and his ilk spread disinformation and anti-science syndrome to their lemming-like followers (see “Deniers are still mostly duping only GOP voters“). In truth, near term calamities do freeze out media coverage of long-term ones.
Finally, the confirmatory symptom of ASS can be found in Will’s final paragraph:
Besides, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization [WMO], there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade, or one-third of the span since the global cooling scare.
Yes, global cooling.
If only Will actually read WMO press releases, which I personally like to cite since they, uhh, support the theory of human-caused global warming:
- WMO confirms “Overall [Arctic] ice volume was less than that in any other year”
- Sorry deniers, Hadley Center and WMO say 2000s are easily the hottest decade in recorded history
- FHA: Why does the Post let conservative columnists make up climate facts?
The decade of 1998-2007 is the warmest on record, according to data sources obtained by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean surface temperature for 2007 is currently estimated at 0.41°C/0.74°F above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.20°F….
Since the start of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74°C. But this rise has not been continuous. The linear warming trend over the last 50 years (0.13°C per decade) is nearly twice that for the last 100 years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 4th Assessment (Synthesis) Report, 2007, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”
and, previously, from August 2007, “The World Meteorological Organization reports on extreme weather and climate events,” which began
Weather and climate are marked by record extremes in many regions across the world since January 2007. In January and April 2007 it is likely that global land surface temperatures ranked warmest since records began in 1880, 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April.
Speaking to journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Dr M.V.K. Sivakumar, Chief of the Agricultural Meteorology Division at WMO, said there was a clear linkage between the rise in global temperatures, the emission of greenhouse gases and desertification, adding that: “We are seeing an enormous amount of warming, and the projections are that the warming is likely to be around a 0.2°C increase per decade over the next several decades”.
Sorry Krauthammer, Tierney, and Easterbrook, but citing the World Meteorological Organization against the theory of human-caused global warming makes George Will the most ignorant national columnist, if not the most ignorant columnist in the whole globally warmed world.
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