You may recall the Washington Post‘s editorial page editor coming to his senses (briefly) in April 2011, writing, “The GOP’s climate-change denial may be its most harmful delusion.”
But that was apparently no reason for the paper to stop deluding its readers with the umpteenth piece of disinformation from resident anti-scientist George Will. While many studies have shown climate change has worsened wildfires, drought, and deluges, Will mocked the President’s inaugural remarks:
He says that “the threat of climate change” is apparent in “raging fires,” “crippling drought” and “more powerful storms.” Are fires raging now more than ever? (There were a third fewer U.S. wildfires in 2012 than in 2006.) Are the number and severity of fires determined by climate change rather than forestry and land-use practices?
2006? Seriously, George Will — and blinkered editors at the Washpost? If you wonder why in Hell (and High Water) Will just happens to pick the year 2006, you need look no further than the above graph of annual U.S. acreage burned from the National Fire Center (via Tamino).
For Will and the Washpost, the “decline” since the record-smashing 2006 disproves climate change. In Will’s logic, unless ever year is worse than the previous year in all respects, humans are not suffering the effects of global warming.
We have moved beyond a time when such op-eds should be seen as just the outgrowth of a polarized political system. George Will, with the support of the Washington Post, is spreading disinformation whose goal is to delay or stop efforts to deal with climate change. If these efforts are successful, they will cause billions of people to needlessly suffer. As President Obama said, such Willful denial of “the overwhelming judgment of science” can only be seen as an effort to “Betray Our Children And Future Generations.”
Shame on George Will and the Washington Post. While it would be trivial to debunk Will’s entire piece, wasting everyone’s time is a key goal of disinformers like Will, so I’ll just focus on the fires.
Will coyly asks, “Are the number and severity of fires determined by climate change rather than forestry and land-use practices?” The key debater’s word there is “determined.” It should be “increased.”
The goal of disinformers and their media allies is to create a straw man whereby those who accept the overwhelming judgment of science are accused of saying global warming is the sole cause of a given extreme event, rather than an aggravating cause.
Will, a pedant of the worst kind, doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know. There is a large and growing literature that global warming is increasing the number and severity of wildfires in this country — and that it is going to get much, much worse. A 2006 cover story in the prestigious journal Science magazine, “Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity
We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forestssince 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.
Even worse, the wildfire threat is poised to grow, causing a feedback effect that accelerates global warming. The 2006 study concluded: