Day: April 4, 2006

Where there’s a Will??

Let Cooler Heads Prevail

Read the column, take a deep breath and marvel at the utter dishonesty. George Will is supposedly one of the less extreme conservative columnists out there. But I guess when it comes to this issue, he has no qualms about misleading, setting up strawmen, and actually lying. I don’t think I can add any to the rebuttal from Progress Report…

On Sunday, conservative pundit George Will used prime space in the Washington Post and other major papers to suggest that not only is global warming not the result of human activity, but that global warming may not exist at all. There is no evidence to support Will’s claim, so he resorted to distortion.

WILL SUGGESTS GLOBAL WARMING MIGHT NOT EXIST: George Will notes that global temperatures have risen about one degree over the last 100 years, but that “might be the margin of error when measuring the planet’s temperature.” Embarrassingly, the only support Will provides for this statement is a crude analogy. (“To take a person’s temperature, you put a thermometer in an orifice or under an arm. Taking the temperature of our churning planet, with its tectonic plates sliding around over a molten core, involves limited precision.”) There is not a shred of scientific evidence to support Will’s position that the earth is not warming. Science Magazine analyzed 928 peer-reviewed scientific papers on global warming published between 1993 and 2003. Not a single one challenged the scientific consensus that the earth’s temperature is rising due to human activity.

LIES, DAMN LIES, AND GEORGE WILL’S CITATIONS: The highlight of Will’s column is a list of citations from the 1970s of publications that purportedly warn of “global cooling.” (Nevermind that, even if it were all true, it does not function as an analytic rebuttal to scientific evidence of global warming caused by human activity.) The first such citation is from a December 1976 edition of Science Magazine which warned of “extensive Northern Hemispheric glaciation.” The use of this quote is outrageously dishonest. First, the article in question deals with variations in the earth’s climate based on variations in the earth’s orbit over periods of 20,000 years or longer. Second, the article explicitly excludes the effect of humans on the climate. (The article states its predictions apply “only to the natural component of future climatic trends — and not to such anthropogenic effects as those due to the burning of fossil fuels.) George Will is clearly counting on the fact that most of his readers will not have access to a 1976 edition of Science Magazine.

And it goes on to rebut every one of his bromides. Read it! Here’s a media issue that Will brings up:

About the mystery that vexes ABC — Why have Americans been slow to get in lock step concerning global warming? — perhaps the “problem” is not big oil or big coal, both of which have discovered there is big money to be made from tax breaks and other subsidies justified in the name of combating carbon.

Perhaps the problem is big crusading journalism.

Perhaps the problem is utter lack of federal leadership on this issue. To use my favorite “If they can put a man on the moon” line of reasoning, Armstrong did not make it to the moon because a bunch of Americans on the street were “quick to get in lock step concerning the Moon program” (ah, to use Will’s own words). It took a coordinated effort on the part of government to establish clear targets, pump in a lot of money, and marshall the scientific resources towards achieving the target. And this was an engineering problem with a specific target and solution. Deal with the complex, only partly characterized beast that is global climate and even an idiot would conclude that no amount of individual awareness, innovation or market effort is going to be sufficient.

Dealing with climate change requires a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people, it will require individual ingenuity, sacrifice and market forces, but it starts with the will to do it (and the George Will to not stand in the way!), and the will, as has been the case with many projects in the country starts with federal leadership and the injection of the federal dollar.

If the president stood up every day and beat the drum about climate change at half the intensity with which he talks about “Exporting Democracy”, most people would listen and get in “lock step”. In this respect I guess we live in an idea monarchy! It has everything to do with who’s doing the convincing!


The folks at RealClimate rebutted this very same comment from Will in December 2004, so this is an old, recycled lie. When will these pundits realize that in this day and age of a million fact checkers and gotcha people, you can’t really get way with this kind of BS. On the other hand, I guess he does not care.