"A Suggested Correction For Will’s ‘Dark Green Doomsayers’ Column"
The following has been sent to Autumn Brewington, op-ed page editor for the Washington Post, Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, Alan Shearer, editorial director of The Washington Post Writers Group, and Andy Alexander, Washington Post ombudsman.
To the editors of the Washington Post:
George F. Will’s column of February 15, 2009, “Dark Green Doomsayers,” contained certain factual inaccuracies despite the “multi-layered editing process” it underwent. Several bloggers have volunteered their time to fact-check Mr. Will’s column. Here is a suggested correction based on their work:
George Will’s Feb. 15, 2009 column
mischaracterizedvaguely characterized a statement by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on the threat of catastrophic snowpack decline in California due to global warming. Chu was referring to an end-of-the century scenario, not a near-term threat.
Will’s column claimed that the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center said that global sea ice levels are “now equal to those of 1979.” Although the
centeruniversity said that global sea ice levels were “near or slightly lower than those of late 1979″ at the start of January, global sea ice levels are now eight percent below their levels in February 1979.
Will’s column claimed the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said “there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade.” According to the WMO, global warming is continuing, with the past decade the warmest on record.
Will’s column cited articles from Science magazine and Science News to imply the authors expected an imminent ice age. The Science article instead predicted an ice age within several thousand years, “ignoring anthropogenic effects.” The Science News article described climatology as an “infant science” and discussed predictions of manmade global warming that have since proven to be accurate.
UPDATE: Will’s column misidentified the source of global sea ice data as the “University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center.” The actual source was a working group of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Atmospheric Sciences, informally known as the Polar Research Group.
The Washington Post and George Will regret the errors.
The very first sentence of George Will’s new column reads: “A simple apology would have sufficed.”
Oh, George, the irony is rich.
After all this kerfuffule–involving a nationally syndicated columnist, the assistants to that columnist, the editors at the columnist’s syndication service, the editors at the Washington Post editorial page, and the Post’s ombudsman — Chapman was refreshed that someone bothered to contact him about his research before writing about it. What a concept. For me, this whole affair has been about the value of fact-checking science, and Chapman’s reply shows just how little checking was carried out by the Post and company.