Is George Will the most ignorant national columnist?

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"Is George Will the most ignorant national columnist?"

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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).

But with today’s column, “Dark Green Doomsayers,” Will not only shows that he is the leading conservative media victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS) — he is the Typhoid Mary of ASS.

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:

In that last post, I cite a variety of WMO press releases, including the December 2007, “1998-2007 Is Warmest Decade on Record,” which began

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.

And again “Press Conference by World Meteorological Organization: global trends in climate change and desertification,” which noted:

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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62 Responses to Is George Will the most ignorant national columnist?

  1. john says:

    It is both frustrating and irresponsible for the Post to allow Will and his ilk to misinform the public — Oped writers are entitled to their opinions, but they cannot simply make up facts.

    Ironically, as newspaper circulation collapses, the publishers haven’t yet figured out that it is this kind of crap that hastens their demise.

    It is possible — even probable — that web-based news would eventually render paper obsolete. But the fact that less than a third of people believe that newspapers are reliable and credible is certainly accelerating the transition. And publishing crap like Will certainly contributes to the loss of credibility.

  2. hapa says:

    Fifth, Will reveals the true reason he can accept climate science

    “can’t”?

  3. Will Greene says:

    Yeah, that last paragraph was a head scratcher. Have we gotten to the point where it’s just useless trying to get conservatives on our side? It’s amazing too, both my parents are conservatives, and they think EXACTLY like George Will. Do conservatives all meet up and have a denier-conference each year in Vegas that I don’t know about? Actually my best guess is it’s probably Rush Limbaugh.

    (formerly Romm for Cabinet)

  4. Alex_J says:

    I wonder what the odds are of a clear, concise rebuttal being published on the same page as Will’s nonsense. While we see some climate scientists blogging and so forth, it doesn’t seem like they have the mainstream media connection that people like Will have. So a huge chunk of the American population never gets the REST of the story. Maybe a partial explanation for still-discouraging polls on this issue.

  5. Bryan Walker says:

    It is one of the ironies of the US, to an outsider like me (New Zealand), that it produces such fine scientists whose patient teamwork has revealed the danger we are in and at the same time offers hospitality in prestigious newspapers to such embarrassing ignorance. I’m no scientist, but it’s not all that hard to understand what the science is saying if you do some reading. Will and others like him clearly feel themselves excused from that labour.

  6. Dana says:

    There is one thing conservatives want to conserve – our current way of life. They don’t care if it results in massive environmental damage or catastrophic climate change, or if we make that way of life impossible for future generations, as long as we can happily continue burning cheap fossil fuels in the short-term.

  7. Bill Townsend says:

    Joe, while you are often informative and persuasive…which causes me to read a number of your posts, in an increasing number of cases you are simply being rude and inappropriate in making your point. Regardless of your personal opinions, we don’t need to attach the character or the person of George Will. No doubt you can brush this up however you wish as you will have last the word. Bad form, Joe.

  8. Bob Wright says:

    I had always respected Will’s opinions and considered him a thoughtful commentator, but he should have consulted with scientists before spouting his unequivocal denier/delayer position. He doesn’t seem to realize we aren’t talking about religious, political or economic theories where life goes on no matter who wins the argument. This is the real deal, and he’s doing everyone a great disservice.

  9. James says:

    The sad thing about Will’s adherence to AGW-denialist orthodoxy is that such obstinate unwillingness to draw conclusions from evidence taints his often-sensible writings on other matters.

    And yet, it’s just the mirror image of pundits of other political persuasions, who hop on the AGW bandwagon while steadfastly maintaining their own disconnects from reality in other areas.

  10. llewelly says:

    Read A book, George Will! .
    It’s unfortunate Fred Bortz’s takedown of Will’s denialism (a word Bortz is too kind to use) from nearly 2 years ago is still current.

  11. Dept of Intentional Irony:
    Division of misplaced balance:

    Same newspaper carries the article
    “Scientists: Pace of Climate Change Exceeds Estimates” P A03

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/14/AR2009021401757.html

    No wonder newspapers are going under. This is crazy making.

  12. Gail says:

    Bill Townsend, recently I received an email message from a scientist who prefers, apparently, to attribute empirical evidence of climate change to seasonal variation in weather. He advised me to be more “optimistic” because maybe being a little “cuter” would make my point more palatable.

    So what I said to this pompous douchebag was, this reminds me of arguments I had, long ago, with ex-husband and children who in a chorus, liked to claim the reason they didn’t help wash the dishes/pick up their clothes/take out the trash/feed the dog was because somehow or other, the way I was asking/requesting/demanding/complaining about their lack of cooperation was objectionable.

    BULLSH*T was my answer. It’s not the way I deliver the message – you just don’t want to hear it!

    The kids have since evolved. Ex-husband, no comment.

    Joe, it’s great to educate people but that does not necessarily impel you to suffer fools gladly.

  13. I was planning on re-reading your posting, but I got stuck on the changing photo image… it says so much.

    Thanks !

  14. llewelly says:

    There is one thing conservatives want to conserve – our current way of life. They don’t care if it results in massive environmental damage or catastrophic climate change, or if we make that way of life impossible for future generations, as long as we can happily continue burning cheap fossil fuels in the short-term.

    Ironically, the longer we delay making the necessary changes to our lifestyle, the harsher the necessary changes will become.

  15. Ron says:

    Great post! I have been in painfull stress since reading Will’s column. Your post has relieved me of trying to put together a response, which would not have been nearly as good as this. Have you sent this to him? Any chance that you can get him to read it?

    It is hard to understand how a man of his obvious intelligence can write such rubish.

  16. Alex_J says:

    This from one of George Will’s supposed sources:

    In the 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.

    Sincerely,

    William L. Chapman
    Arctic Research Center
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    But this aside, the summer minimum extent (along with net mass change in land-based ice sheets) seems more important than winter levels, because it’s an indicator of what’s happening with the thicker perennial ice.

  17. Jeff Green says:

    The unreasoning, resistance to all that data and evidence for an ideal that will get us all in hot water if they can drag their feet hard enough.

    Idealism to the extremes, as the destruction picks up its tempo.

  18. john says:

    Bill Townshend:

    Courtesy is all well and good. and I suppose if Will had merely drifted into this topic in an offhand way and made silly comments on one occasion, he would be deserving of it.

    But that is not the case. His ignorance is willful; his anti-science screeds long-standing and extremely detrimental to the country and the world.

    As Bob said, the issue isn’t some qualitative thing like religion which can be debated by the Chowder Society with nothing more or less on the line than ego points. It’s about the friggin’ planet’s health, and the nature of our future existence.

    When you intentionally play Sophist with those kind of stakes, you deserve to be treated like a disease-bearing cockroach: exposed and squashed.

  19. Bill Townsend says:

    Gail, you and I do have completely different life experiences, I am 55 and how one delivers the message, in my world, is often whether or not an opening is made or not to the opposing side. “Of course, it does not win the argument, however it more often than not describes the willingness of the counterparty to listen as well as speak” per my wife of 34 years.

    We each have unique experiences that define how we communicate.
    My experience tells me it is all about leadership, not how persuasive or crafted the argument, nor how capable I am at putting my counterparty on defense. In my experience, while I might win the battle, I never won the war.

    I have lost track of the number of times I have been called something less than desirable from the early years of the climate argument, when popular opinion was not on our side. Just 15 years ago, when the mainline press was not “on board” and the topic was somewhere between snake oil and new age. The facts of science and repetition learning changed that. I never saw a bullish argument change one person in those years. Now, the populist opinion appears to be on our side and, I tell you from experience, “it is a whole lot easier” in every aspect of the argument. I keep a front page article from a major market in which I was interviewed and basically bashed for such absurd thought about our climate.

    Is this about winning over George Will? How absurd. It is about winning over the people who watch the George Will argument. It is not about courtesy, but about our character and our leadership and how we win and lose. This is certainly not an intellectual argument…that “our” smart people are smarter than theirs.

    Again, this is my experience. You may have a completely different compelling way to the hearts and minds of others. I have rarely seen a lasting change in those watching the argument and those participating in the argument, when we deride their character and the person in demeaning terms.

  20. Will Greene says:

    If you read the comments after Will’s article, the guy gets slammed from every direction. Deservedly so.

    “What are you doing on March 2nd?”

    (formerly Romm for Cabinet)

  21. hapa says:

    will has his job to do. his party is in the toilet. their path out of the toilet, as they see it, is to hurl feces at passers-by while shouting, “hey, you democrat, don’t throw feces at passers-by!”

    they’re doing disservice to 99% of their constituents but i guess it’s noble to throw yourself in the wheels of government, to keep it from working for the public good.

  22. Nick says:

    I’m with Richard Pauli….I want to thank George for being so amenable to digital mischief.

  23. Shelly T. says:

    Joe Romm: You are a great debunker. Too bad George Will probably doesn’t read your website. Unfortunately, he’s reprinted all over the country, including in my city’s newspaper, with no counterpoint. Have you ever pursued the idea of getting a national column? You should be read in newspapers all over the country, not just online. I don’t know if you have a newspaper column or not, but you should have one. You should be reaching the same number of people as idiots like George Will, minimum.

  24. Magnus W says:

    Just like the post from NZ I’m puzzled by the US media and climate, it makes no sense… How hard can it be to check the facts? Have the U.S public been so deceived by Conservative/Liberal media that they believe whoever they read? (Living in Sweden.)

    Well any way keep mailing them and be sure to include there bosses in the mailing list… that usually have an effect.

  25. Lou Grinzo says:

    Magnus: The situation is simple. The US media organizations place profits above truth. Keeping this “debate” going is, for them, like being an arms merchant who encourages wars to break out. They don’t care about the lost lives, just their profits from selling weapons and ammunition to both sides.

    Yes, that’s an extreme and offensive metaphor, but I think we’ve now reached the point where it’s appropriate. I can’t believe that it’s simple ignorance on the part of news people that makes so many of them give the deniers so much air time and page space; how could they be so utterly clueless? If they do know what’s going on, then the question is, in this time of extreme economic challenge for the “traditional media” (thanks largely to the Internet, of course), how else to explain it?

    As for US citizens believing this nonsense, that’s simple, too. There are many people here with a very strong anti-government, anti-authoritarian, leaning. Mix in things like rugged individualism and manifest destiny, and you find there’s quite a segment of the US population that wants to be left alone to do whatever the heck they want, regardless of the consequences to their children or even to themselves. (See the book “What’s Wrong with Kansas” for a treatment of this trend of Americans being convinced to vote against their own best interest.) So, these people have a strong predisposition to believe such utterances from Will, et al.

    I have no idea how one overcomes that kind of deep-rooted ideology, except for outnumbering them at the polls and enacting better public policy against their will (or Will, in this case).

  26. John Russell says:

    It amazes me that, at this juncture, editors at Big Media still hand George Will a paycheck for the confused nonsense he comes up with. As with the demise of the public’s trust in Wall Street, the reality of global warming and carbon build-up is distressing to the conservative mindset. The desire to go back to the good old days of consumption, acquisition and greed dies hard.

    John Russell

  27. Linda S says:

    Bill T, I’m a bit puzzled. Joe did use the term ‘Typhoid George,’ and he did present GW with the ‘most ignorant columnist’ award, but for the most part he merely debunked GW’s points and exposed the fictions on which they are based. I would hardly call that attacking the man or his character. When a national columnist is that loose with the truth and when the future of the world as we know it at stake, Joe’s reaction seems pretty restrained.

  28. Eli Rabett says:

    George Will is the Roger Pielke Jr. of political commentators.

  29. Mark Shapiro says:

    FYI, Nate Silver at FiveTHirtyEight just did a good takedown of this awful Will column at:

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/02/george-f-will-takes-on-science-loses.html

    Silver points to the Peterson, Connolley, and Fleck paper that debunks Will and others. The paper cites a couple columns by Will, the first one from 2004 — just after Crichton’s book came out. It looks like Will’s research came directly from Crichton, which of course is literally fiction.

  30. caerbannog says:

    Bill Townsend Says:
    February 15th, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Joe, while you are often informative and persuasive…which causes me to read a number of your posts, in an increasing number of cases you are simply being rude and inappropriate in making your point. Regardless of your personal opinions, we don’t need to attach the character or the person of George Will.

    ################################

    Check out this column that Will penned back in 2004 — http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20998-2004Dec22.html

    Here’s George Will in 2004 (from the above column):
    “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known.” Which is why 30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling. The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) reported “many signs” that “Earth may be heading for another ice age.” Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned about “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation.” “Continued rapid cooling of the Earth” (Global Ecology, 1971) could herald “a full-blown 10,000-year ice age” (Science, March 1, 1975).

    And here’s George Will now:
    In the 1970s, “a major cooling of the planet” was “widely considered inevitable” because it was “well established” that the Northern Hemisphere’s climate “has been getting cooler since about 1950″ (New York Times, May 21, 1975). Although some disputed that the “cooling trend” could result in “a return to another ice age” (the Times, Sept. 14, 1975), others anticipated “a full-blown 10,000-year ice age” involving “extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation” (Science News, March 1, 1975, and Science magazine, Dec. 10, 1976, respectively)

    It’s been over 4 years, and Will is either too stupid or delusional to learn from his mistakes, or he assumes that his readers are.

    George Will deserves to have his n*ts ripped off with a pair of pliers (figuratively speaking, of course). The guy is either a pathological liar or is utterly delusional (that’s an inclusive “or”, BTW). Why should anyone in the scientific community treat Will with anything other than utter contempt? Asking them to do so would be like asking Bernie Madoff’s investors not to attack Madoff’s character.

  31. NHChemist says:

    Hanson, Mann and other climate warmongers refuse to release their raw data and calculations when they tell us the earth is warming and that the warmest 10 years are the most recent ones. Hanson’s GISS massages the data from Santa Rosa, CA, to go from cooling to warming from 1908 to 2006. See wattsupwiththat.com/…/how-not-to-measure-temperature-part-79-would-you-could-you-with-a-boat for the story.

    GISS also erred in its October 2008 climate report when it used the previous month’s data from Russia. The original report claimed the warmest October ever, but had to be retracted when shown that it was wrong. How many other “errors” has GISS made while trying to demonstrate that Global Warming is occurring?

    Computer calculations are not reality, and as the earlier models failed in their predictions, they were improved, but the bias remained. Until each side can rebut the strong points of the other side, calling each other names will not advance either argument. Yes, CO2 is a green house gas. The trillion dollar question is “How much warming is due to CO2, and how much to pollution, cosmic rays, the output of the sun….?

  32. Dano says:

    NHChemist parrot-squawks:

    efuse to release their raw data and calculations when they tell us the earth is warming and that the warmest 10 years are the most recent ones.

    This trained-chimp line is soooooo 2006. Can’t you cut-paste a newer talking point?

    The trillion dollar question is “How much warming is due to CO2, and how much to pollution, cosmic rays, the output of the sun….?

    You owe me a trillion dollars.

    But you owe your fellow humans an apology for your lack of morality. That is: you ethically and morally fail when you fail to tell us that BAU is much more costly than action. How dare you wallow in your ignorance while telling others these falsehoods.

    Best,

    D

  33. ColinLaney says:

    George Will is notorious for conflicts of interest. He took $200K from Conrad Black while defending Black against criminal charges, and he gets fat speaker’s fees for lecturing industry groups from those industries whose interests he promotes in his columns.

    The Washington Post ombudsman needs to investigate whether Will has conflicts of interests with the energy industry. Contact ombudsman@washpost.com .

    Be polite.

  34. Paul G. Brown says:

    What can we learn by reading George Will’s collected works? That when it comes to climate change, he’s either a fool, or liar. Repeatedly, Will edits an ideologically convenient talking point into something grammatically sound, using an uncommon word or two. Pip, pip! Hurrah!

    In response, people who actually know the science point out that a) Will has his facts wrong, or b) even when he gets the details right he doesn’t seem to understand what they mean.

    Two years later, George Will edits the *same* ideologically convenient talking point into something grammatically sound, using an uncommon word or two.

    Fools and liars deserve derision. The fact that George Will has a perch on the op-ed page of the Washington Post does not mitigate his sins.

  35. caerbannog says:

    It is gratifying to see mostly well-informed folks taking turns ripping Will’s n*ts off (figuratively speaking, of course) in the comment-section over at the Washington Post. The deniers, for the most part, have scuttled off into the shadows.

    Link here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021302514_Comments.html#

  36. Mark Shapiro says:

    OMG – Nate Silver has more.

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/02/will-omitted-key-context-in-ice-age.html

    Will has disgraced himself.

  37. Mark says:

    If anyone has the stomach for it, I wrote a long (and I do mean long) examination of Tierney’s Holdren column when it came out. It took me about two pages to catalog the problems in just one of his paragraphs. You really can’t keep up with the man.

    “A Close Reading of a Paragraph from John Tierney”

    Tierney is the James Joyce of bad science writers. His columns can be as dense and layered with mistakes and distortions as a passage from Finnegan’s Wake is with meaning and wordplay. Joycean scholars can spend thousands of words explicating a single passage of Joyce’s prose; trying to correct Tierney can lead to similar results.

    Though I am not entirely sure I am up to the challenge, here is a detailed, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase explanation of the bad prose, the bad science and the bad logic in a single paragraph from a recent piece from Tierney.

    The rest is at
    http://daddywhatsarepublican.blogspot.com/2008/12/close-reading-of-paragraph-from-john.html

  38. Steve J. says:

    Thanx for taking the time to point out the many errors in Will’s column.

    You can contact the WaPo using this address:

    letters@washpost.com

  39. Ronald says:

    I’ve E-mailed my local regional paper to not carry George Will anymore with the articles from this website and fivethirtyeight one referenced. I know, it’ll take more to do any good, but bad columnists should be dropped.

  40. Terbreugghen says:

    I note that no one has substantively dealt with the comments left by NHChemist. The reaction to the post was in the form of ridicule.

    “this trained-chimp line is sooo 2006.”

    “How dare you wallow in your ignorance while telling others these falsehoods.”

    And so on. Not a worthy form of argument.

    Now I’m on the fence about AGW. I think with our new methods of temperature measurement and our growing awareness of global climate due to satellite and communications technology (that emerged in the 80’s on,) we are getting better information. But in reading widely, I run into contrary arguments, often supported by evidence, and I don’t know what to think. A careful scientist would treasure the contrary argument as an opportunity to test the prevailing theory, not “throw [proverbial] feces” at it like some caged monkey.

    To wit, does anyone have any explanation for the Y2K bug that resulted in false claims that 1998 was the hottest year on record?

    See: http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=8383

    I see that many posters repeat the claim that 1998 was the hottest year and that the 2000’s was the hottest decade. Has the Y2K bug temperature snafu been resolved differently? I was under the impression that the 1930’s turned out to be the hottest decade on record. Has that changed?

    And that’s just one example of the legitimate questions a concerned person might raise before jumping on the catastrophic warming bandwagon. NHChemist points out another real question I have. Is it true that the Soviets turned in September’s data for October?

    Here’s what appears to be a thoughtful statement of the issue:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/11/15/giss-noaa-ghcn-and-the-odd-russian-temperature-anomaly-its-all-pipes/

    Computer modelling, temperature measurement anomalies, CO2 measurement anomalies, there are lots of places to go to find problems, especially since the temperature differences on a global scale are in the tenths of a degree. Do we have long-term data that has that degree of resolution?

    Listen, not all global warming skeptics are people who should have their nuts twisted off with pliers, thank you very much. Some of us when we find arguments that sound plausible but run counter to the prevailing model, try to find out whether those contrary arguments are valid. And if they are, then something is wrong with the model. That’s the way real science is supposed to work, I’ve been told.

    George Will and his publishers should be ashamed of themselves for not fact-checking their statements, or for making statments that are in themselves unverifiable. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important questions that still need answers.

  41. Pilot says:

    I’m with Terbreugghen on this. Does anyone have or know where to find actual observational evidence of man-made CO2 driving global warming? Does it exist?
    Does anyone have or know where to find engineering quality calculations deriving increased global temperatures from increased man-made CO2? Do they exist?
    Why is it that whenever global temperature cools it is because of natural variation. And whenever global temperature warms it is an unstoppable trend? What natural variation is so powerful that it is capable of giving us the coldest winter for 20 years but is not able to prevent global warming.
    I just don’t get it. Please help

  42. cce says:

    1) The “warmest year” globally is either 1998 or 2005 depending on which analysis you use. The “Y2K error” affected only the lower 48 states. GISS never declared 1998 to be the warmest year, unless by warmest you mean “tied with 1934.” 1998 was and is statistically tied with 1934 in the lower 48 sates, which Hansen pointed out in the paper documenting GISTEMP back in 2001. Worldwide, this error resulted in a change of less than 0.003 degrees from 2000 to mid 2007. By comparison, an error in the UAH satellite analysis accumulated to 0.09 degrees from 1979 to mid 2005, leading countless skeptics to declare that the “satellites show no warming.” This error was literally 50 times more significant than the Y2K error, but all we hear from skeptics is how “reliable” satellite data is and how Hansen keeps “adjusting the data.”

    2) The October 2008 error was the result of a duplication of a number of northern hemisphere sites. The October anomaly was posted for about two days before it was corrected. The flaw was worth about 0.25 degrees, quite significant, but again a single month. The RSS satellite temperature analysis contained an error worth 0.15 degrees that lasted all of 2007. They all “adjust the data”, they all have errors, and they all perform corrections, but the conclusion remains the same:
    http://cce.890m.com/giss-vs-all.jpg

    3) There is no difference between “manmade” and “natural” CO2 when it comes to warming. Here are a few papers that derive climate sensitivity from various observational evidence used by Annan and Hargreaves (2006). That evidence is 20th century warming, cooling following explosive volcanic eruptions, and warming since the last glacial maximum (LGM).

    20th Century Warming

    Knutti, R., T. F. Stocker, F. Joos, and G.-K. Plattner (2002), Constraints on radiative forcing and future climate change from observations and climate model ensembles, Nature, 416, 719–723.

    Gregory, J. M., R. J. Stouffer, S. C. B. Raper, P. A. Stott, and N. A. Rayner (2002), An observationally based estimate of the climate sensitivity, Journal of Climate, 15 (22), 3117–3121.

    Andronova, N. G., and M. E. Schlesinger (2001), Objective estimation of the probability density function for climate sensitivity, Journal of Geophysical Research, 108 (D8),22,605–22,611.

    Forest, C. E., P. H. Stone, A. P. Sokolov, M. R. Allen, and M. D. Webster (2002), Quantifying uncertainties in climate system properties with the use of recent climate observations, Science, 295 (5552), 113–117.

    Volcanic
    Wigley, T. M. L., C. M. Amman, B. D. Santer, and S. B. Raper (2005), Effect of climate sensitivity on the response to volcanic forcing, Journal of Geophysical Research, 110 (D09107).

    Frame, D. J., B. B. B. Booth, J. A. Kettleborough, D. A. Stainforth, J. M. Gregory, M. Collins, and M. R. Allen (2005), Constraining climate forecasts: The role of prior assumptions, Geophysical Research Letters, 32 (L09702).

    Yokohata, T., S. Emori, T. Nozawa, Y. Tsushima, T. Ogura, and M. Kimoto (2005), Climate response to volcanic forcing: Validation of climate sensitivity of a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, Geophysical Research Letters, 32 (L21710).

    LGM
    Ballantyne, A. P., M. Lavine, T. J. Crowley, J. Liu, and P. B. Baker (2005), Meta-analysis of tropical surface temperatures during the Last Glacial Maximum, Geophysical Research Letters, 32 (L05712).

    Bintanja, R., and R. S. W. V. de Wal (2005), A new method to estimate ice age temperatures, Climate Dynamics, 24, 197–211.

    Taylor, K. E., C. D. Hewitt, P. Braconnot, A. J. Broccoli, C. Doutriaux, J. F. B. Mitchell, and PMIP-Participating-Groups (2000), Analysis of forcing, response and feedbacks in a paleoclimate modeling experiment, in Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project (PMIP): proceedings of the third PMIP workshop, edited by P. Braconnot, pp. 43–50, Canada, 1999.

    Crucifix, M., and C. D. Hewitt (2005), Impact of vegetation changes on the dynamics of the atmosphere at the Last Glacial Maximum, Climate Dynamics, 25 (5), 447–459.

    Claquin, T., et al. (2003), Radiative forcing of climate by ice-age atmospheric dust, Climate Dynamics, 20, 193–202.

    von Deimling, T. S., H. Held, A. Ganopolski, and S. Rahmstorf (2005), Climate sensitivity estimated from ensemble simulations of glacial climate, Climate Dynamics, (Submitted).

    4) One final point. Do not rely on Wattsupwiththat to give you anything resembling a competent analysis.

  43. Pilot says:

    CCE
    Thanks for the references. I read them. But this is not really what I was looking for. I am trying to find actual evidence that increased concentrations CO2 are forcing the climate. What we have here are the results of models based on assumptions based on evidence of warming.
    That there has been some warming in the last hundred years ( 0.74c ) is not in dispute. That the climate varies is also not in dispute. Peer reviewed papers that state “Here we present a Monte Carlo approach to produce probabilistic climate projections, using a climate model of reduced complexity” may have some merit in proposing possible cause. But it is not evidence.
    I agree that WUWT does not provide competent analysis of such papers. WUWT does, however, point out that formulating national policy on the basis of assumptions and projections is a risky business. No commercial organisation would dream of spending shareholder capital without thorough risk analysis. Do you think this has been done? Would you bet your mortgage on the results of a computer model? Should the government bet the national mortgage?

  44. opit says:

    Again and again pundits reiterate the same observations – never realizing they are being ‘had’. Someday check the relative length of one’s legs.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/5/9/205251/2950
    Intrigued ? Let’s go WFO
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy
    Nuts ? Maybe. How much did you really understand about the historical foundations of society ?

  45. The real threat of global warming are the computer generated projections. These are what justify the calls for CO2 emission reductions and other schemes to combat global warming. The problem is that these computer models have consistently overstated actual warming. NOAA famously projected that 1998 was the start of an irreversible and accelerating warming trend. In point of fact, current temperatures are almost a degree lower than what NOAA predicted. Other signs that these models are to be reckoned with are similarly troubling, projected troposphere warming patterns are not what was predicted, etc… etc…

    I read these articles and it’s like reading about abortion or capital punishment. Neither side is willing to consider ANY merit which the other side’s arguement might have. They would rather demonize and name call, and then cite their own selective facts rather than say yes, that’s true. The selective culling of assertions from Will’s column is a good example.

    In point of fact we are barely at the point were we can accurately describe our current environment, let alone model change. I think there CO2 plays a role, but so do land use patterns. If we decrease CO2 levels, but cut down the rain forests, I have to feel that will have a much greater effect on climate. Historical variabilty also points to a huge role for the sun, and long oceanic cycles based on salinity, certainly the climate has been all over the place (colder and warmer) without man’s help.

    Finally why aren’t geo-engineering solutions part of the debate. Rising sea levels, absent a complete meltdown of the Antarctic, are addressable by returning the Aral Sea to historic levels and filling the Qattara depression in Egypt, and both would have huge positive economic effects as opposed to the huge job killer that is CO2 reduction.

    I’m not as smart on this subject as I would like to be, but at least I’m open to arguments.

  46. segraves says:

    It’s surprising that there is not a single post at this late date regarding the “degrading’ of the SSMI sensor used by NSIDC to track arctic sea ice extent. The continuing data drop-out has been traced back to at least early January. We now know that the statement you cite above, (“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″ ) is factually incorrect by apparently some 500,000 sq. km or more. The NSIDC’s response criticizing Will was taken down on 2/20 with no comment. Seems NSIDC and CT are not talking much.

  47. cce says:

    Pilot,

    All of those papers that I gave provide estimates of climate sensitivity (i.e. the amount of warming expected given a doubling of CO2 levels) based on observations. The “evidence” that CO2 does what scientists say is based on independent observations using independent methods and measurements. That is how science works.

    “Energy balance models”, “radiative convective models”, and full blown AOGCMs all give the same results. That is, climate sensitivity between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius. If you are waiting for the proverbial exact-duplicate-of-the-earth-and-time machine before you are convinced of the evidence you will wait a very long time.

    Risk analysis? This is what the insurance industry says:
    http://www.ey.com/global/content.nsf/International/Media_-_Press_Release_-_Strategic_Risk_to_Insurance_Industry

    I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on regional results from climate models, but I would bet my mortgage, and the world’s mortgage on the expected global temperature increase which is more than enough to cause concern to any sensible person. What I wouldn’t do is hold up Anthony Watts, someone who doesn’t even believe the CO2 increase is manmade and doesn’t know the definition of “temperature anomaly” as credible on anything except BS. Go over to WUWT and ask if anyone disputes that temperatures have risen about ~0.75 degrees. You won’t even get that out of them.

    sagraves,

    George Will didn’t cite the NSIDC. He cited Cryosphere Today. That was CT’s response. The problem affects CT’s images not their time series.

  48. Pilot says:

    cce

    I appreciate your response and I take it in the spirit it was meant.

    I am a professional pilot and have been for 40 years. The weather models used by the UK Met Office are amongst the most sophisticated on Earth and are running on state of the art supercomputers. These models are using numerous actual weather observations from land, high altitude radio sonde, satellite and oceanic bouys. They are using weather forecasting techniques developed for more than a century. By the definition of the MO itself their forecasts for the next 8 hours are not more than 40% certain. In my experience that is a correct estimate. They are frequently ( ie as often as daily ) 60% wrong.

    As someone who actually works in the atmosphere and has observed it in a 3 dimensional sense on 4 continents for a lifetime I can honestly say that no-one can or will be able to predict

  49. Pilot says:

    Cont . .

    what will happen over the next ten years in my grandson’s lifetime. The claims made by some climatologists for their infant science are just plain ridiculous.

    For instance.

    The UK MO forecast a milder than usual winter in September 2008. We have had the coldest winter in the UK for a decade and the heaviest snowfalls for 18 years. An experience repeated all over the world.

    [JR: Not factually true. So far it has been an extremely warm winter globally.]

    If the MO concentrated on their core task and stopped politicking, I, as a professional consumer, would be much happier – and so would my passengers.

  50. Rich Berger says:

    You say-

    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:

    I checked your link and did not find the reply you quoted. Where is it?

    [JR: Interesting. They moved it. I’ll have to look for it.]

  51. Rich Berger says:

    JR –

    You may want to read this – http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf

    They didn’t dispute Will’s claim – they argued (rather gently) that the decrease in Northern Hemishpere ice was more significant. Factoring in the correction in the ice extent of approximately 500 km2, the decline, even in NH ice is relatively miniscule (approximately 3-4%) compared to 1979.

    [JR: I read it — and cited it and their later critique of Will.]

  52. Melty says:

    NHChemist Says: (on February 16th, 2009 at 1:36 pm): “Hanson, ….”

    Who is Hanson? There’s an highly-respected climate scientist call Jim Hansen who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan — but I’ve never heard of an “Hanson”. NHC continues… “Mann and other climate warmongers…”. Oh I see. Axe to grind, so never mind data, interpretations, nuance, uncertainty, 30+ years of research, thousands of scientists, consensus: we’ll just go with the good old ad-hom. George Will would be proud.

  53. stas peterson says:

    What a collection of self-conceited uneducated, although you think you are, self-conceited oafs i have never seen.

    Does a single one of you actually have any scientific degree or does your basket weaving, journalism, legal or ecology degrees, qualify you, as in any way educated?

    You all seem to accept the preachings of a Southern Fire-and Brimstone spouting televangelist and who doesn’t even believe his own horse manure. Else why would he buy a mega million dollar mansion at sea level as it is soon to be buried under 20-60 feet of seawater? The hayseed from Tennessee, who never passed more than one Science course in his life and even flunked out of Divinity School.

    I unlike you hold advanced science degrees, have actually read the genuine Science papers and publications on the subject and detest the dumbed down,contradictory, fear-mongering, popularization propaganda being spewed about, that is about all that you could possibly understand.

    Mr. Will is quite correct.

    Global polar ice is at the same level, as it was, as the previous warming cycle phase commenced, in 1978. The World is cooling in this periodic cycle, has been doing so for 11 years, and will continue to do so for several decades, before the World turning warmer once again.

    AGW appears to be a global political hoax, and tax raising scam. The Clueless One, in Way over his Head, proposes an 600 billion dollar annual tax increase to disipense eco-indulgences, for no reason, and you all cluck knowingly, approve, and buy the horse manure like eager horse flys at a repast.

  54. larrydalooza says:

    Shame on those that would try to end this glorious period of CO2 prosperity… Ending this horrible CO2 drought marks an era plant life plethora. Claiming CO2 has any direct relation to the heating of the Earth is cultish. Now drop it before your AGW takes to sacrificing chickens.

  55. Ken Fabos says:

    With some of the richest industries for vested interests willing to back any science based “it’s not our emissions” theory for climate change all the denialists can give is the same old recycled and debunked talking points? If that’s the best they’ve got the debate is over. It does still surprise and dismay me that someone who claims to be a scientist will accept Wills version over the corrections provided by the Arctic Research Centre. Global cooling, then or now, that no world class climate study group agrees with? Wow. Am I using ad hom when referring to such people as ASSes. I’ll go on taking the output of the world’s leading climate research institutions as our best understanding of what’s happening to climate.

  56. wfmgeo says:

    I am thoroughly disgusted by Will’s comments. Does he think for one glacial/interglacial cycle that truth matters? Who does he think he isn’t? Personally, I have no future progeny in the balance so I can utter truth til the cows do not come home (due to the miles thick ice sheets that will never come again) (that’s called a double entendre). Irregardless of the fact that this interglacial, the Holocene Epoch, is the sixth interglacial since the Mid Pleistocene Transition (MPT), sequenced amongst the seven ice ages dating back the last 800,000 years, resulted in sea levels which arguably rose to as much as 170.6 feet above present sea level, mathematically, this was less than one eighth the predicted rise in anthropogenic sea level scientifically ascribed to Dr. Gore. Dr. Gore’s equivalent rise in earth’s temperature of 2C is also almost 8 times larger than the 16C rise in temperatures known from proxy records to not have occurred since the last interglacial, the Eemian, when H. sapiens first set foot on the planet. And the 2C rise in earth’s temperatures that will occur by 2100, making it an order of magnitude faster than the typical 8-10C rises (the 16C rise was just an outlier) which happened in just a few years to no more than a decade 24 times since that first H. sapiens footfall.

    The problem is that the vast majority of mankind (that would be 88.9%) simply do not understand facts! The facts are that predictions are reality. They will occur sometime in the future. We have at least 20 IPCC models that predict this! Facts are things which have been predicted to happen, not to be confused mathematically with things which actually have happened. I have not been preparing you for this since I did not begin this non-comment.

    Pseudoscientists are easily recognizable as those that are nine times more susceptible to fact as opposed to rumor. This is readily proven by the simple question “Which is mankind’s incorrect religion?” Be sure to inform them that they may not use extinct religions such as Zeus and the pantheon of gods which did not co-exist on Mount Olympus, or the non-existent extinct Egyptian non-religion which did not worship Rah, the non-sun god, or the non-cohort of lesser non-gods such as Isis or Horus.

    H. sapiens did not evolve from non-larger braincased protohominids such as Homo neanderthalensis, H. heidelbergensis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. rudolfensis, H. habilis, Australopithecines afrikanes and Paranthropus boisei. We actually popped onto the scene 6,000 years ago, with nary a change in braincase size as all the aforementioned fossils were actually intricately and emmaculately executed scams that never suffered an abrupt climate change event.

    And these non-events did not occur quickly. In contravention of known fact, the melting that rocketed us out of the last ice age did not occur in less than a decade. And since nothing existed prior to 10,000 years ago (in fact not less than not 6.000 years ago), the cave paintings which do not record our lack of written communication skills are not to be found littering non-caves of Europe to this very day. This is a rumor, which like science, you are only likely to be 11.1% susceptible to.

    Oh, in case you are not interested, I actually do not have this here bridge that I would rather not sell you. If you are uninterested be sure not to respond.

    Otherwise, reverse the vast majority of it all and fail to enjoy!

    The non-price for the non-bridge is not negotiable.

  57. Richard says:

    For those interested in how the Arctic Sea Ice is doing this winter of 2008-2009, please see the raw data at: http://www.nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews

    It appears the maximum 2008-2009 Arctic Sea Ice already exceeds the maximum from 2006-2007.

  58. NHChemist says:

    So I misspelled Hansen’s name. I guess it was Freudian. In the movie Slapshot, the Hanson brothers tried to beat their opponents to a pulp, just as Dr. Hansen is trying to do now to those who point to facts that don’t support his theories. I apologize to those who are offended by my misspelling, but not to those who can’t accept that there are many scientifically reviewed articles that contradict the current IPCC theories on global warming/climate change.

  59. Gary Pearse says:

    With all the screeching about G.Will’s column I searched it out to see what the fuss was about and found that it wasn’t as bad as most journalist’s writing on scientific topics whether for or against AGW. The issue seems to boil down to a modestly exaggerated statement about the arctic ice extent in January – which AGW supporters have to admit was several million square kilometres more than they had expected. As far as Will’s point goes, had he gone back to newspaper reports from the 19th Century to now, he would have noted that the warming-cooling scenarios have alternated about every 40 years or so.

    Why are scientists on the AGW side so abusive and testy? I have been shocked that scientists in this day and age would use the religiously freighted term “deniers” to brand those who dispute a hypothesis – this is better suited to a Medieval Synod of Bishop’s branding of Galileo. Might it be that we have had (at least up here in Canada and Northern Europe) two very cold winters in a row after Dr. Hansen predicted a new world record for high temperature sometime in the next 2 to 3 years and many others, the disappearance of arctic ice in the very near future. Another cold winter or two followed by cool summers and it might be necessary for safety sake for skeptics to wear a suit of armour.

  60. pilot says:

    JR

    You corrected my remark about the cold winter being experienced all over the world by saying :-

    [JR: Not factually true. So far it has been an extremely warm winter globally.]

    I presume this was from noaa.

    You must be aware of their latest :

    http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mqt/?n=lake_superior_ice

    If North America, Europe and China have had an unusually cold winter – where was the warm bit?

    Australia doesn’t count btw – it is summer down there.

    [JR: Seriously, you need to pay attention to climate science, not local weather. January is the 5th warmest on record according to NASA. 8th by Hadley. So the answer is, it was warm all over. And yes Australia counts. Since when do you ignore a whole continent?]

  61. Screwbill says:

    You people are nuts. Read “Red Hot Lies About Global Warming” and see how foolish you are.

  62. Screwbill says:

    There is overwhelming evidence that you “global warming” extremists are wrong. You are following a politician on a crusade. Oh look, some more kool-aid. yum. Yea thats it. You like that don’t you. Yea. Drink the Kool-Aid. Gooood.

    [JR: My comments’ moderation policy is simple. Everybody can post without moderation until they start posting multiple ad hominem attacks, twisting my or others’ words to attack strawmen, or, most importantly, repeating long-debunked disinformation from denier talking points. So I’m putting you on moderation on the basis of your first three comments, one of which I have already excised due to its flaming irrelevance.

    My apologies to all my readers for needing a moderation policy at all, but as I’m sure most of you know if you frequent the blogosphere, websites without a moderation policy, quickly get taken over by deniers.

    Also, as I have explained previously, if I allow people to post long-debunked misinformation, but then don’t debunk it for the umpteenth time, new visitors would be left with the impression that it is a credible argument. But if I do debunk it, then I end up wasting valuable time, so the deniers succeed anyway.]