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Thursday, February 19, 2009

George F. Will's Flagrant Dishonesty with regard to Climate Change Science of the 1970s

George Will and the Global Cooling Scare Permalink comment E-mail
By John Fleck
Sunday, 15 February 2009 07:50

George Will is entitled to his own opinions. He is not entitled to his own facts.

This morning's (Sun. 2/15) Albuquerque Journal published a column by Will in which he repeats a canard that has been a common theme in the political debate over climate change - that today's alarm over global warming should not be trusted because scientists in the 1970s predicted a looming ice age. (You can find a version of the column here.)

What follows is a string of quotes, that, if you follow them back to their original sources, do not support his thesis. To give but one example: Will's citation of a 1975 Science News article that predicts "a full-blown 10,000-year ice age." But if you read beyond that phrase, you find that the original also says:

The cooling trend observed since 1940 is real enough, he (C.C. Wallen, WMO) says, but not enough is known about the underlying causes to justify any sort of extrapolation.

And this:

Stephen H. Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that by the turn of the century, enough carbon dioxide will have been put into the atmosphere to raise the temperature of earth half a degree.

The article, rather than predicting a coming ice age, summarizes the uncertainty of the day. Will has cherry-picked a quote to support his thesis while ignoring those that might undercut it.

If Will and the others take this argument seriously, it seems incumbent on all of us interested in the climate change debate to go back to the 1970s, to better understand why scientists might have gotten it so wrong, so we could learn from and avoid their mistakes. But when you do that, you find that it is Will who is getting it wrong.

The evidence is in a peer-reviewed paper published last fall in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. (Disclosure: I am one of the paper's authors.) The paper involved a rigorous review of the scientific literature of the day, in an attempt to move beyond the anecdotes cited by Will and others engage on this point. Here is what we found:

An enduring popular myth suggests that in the 1970s the climate science community was predicting “global cooling” and an “imminent” ice age, an observation frequently used by those who would undermine what climate scientists say today about the prospect of global warming. A review of the literature suggests that, on the contrary, greenhouse warming even then dominated scientists' thinking as being one of the most important forces shaping Earth's climate on human time scales.

When George Will last wrote about this subject, last May, I sent him a copy of the Science News article he misleadingly quoted in the example I used above. I got a nice note back from him thanking me for sharing it.

Link to the above blog post -- click here.

Blogger's note of February 20th, 2009: Ok, so now I have noticed that the Univ. of Illinois-Univ. of Colorado's Cryosphere Today group has weighed in on George F. Will's absolutely incredibly badly researched "opinion" piece published in the Washington Post.

Here, below, is what they had to say (click here for Cryosphere Today's website):

"February 15, 2009
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 show 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."


Anonymous said...

Blimey, you are an idiot who wants to see or wants others to see a conspiracy around every corner.

The volume of Arctic sea ice is not the same as the extent, which is surface area.

Even so, Will was wrong. The sea ice is so bad this year that it is likely to melt completely away if there are any high temperature anomalies again. The Arctic tundra is ready to release billions of tons of methane.

He must have gotten his junk science from that corrupt immoral idiot Marc Morano who lies all the time.

Maybe that is where you get your junk science, too.

You don't need to post any more of your ridiculous comments here because I will just delete them.

I don't permit junk science crap on my blog.

Anonymous said...

This is not a blog for junk science.

If you want junk science and conspiracy theories, go over to Watt's Up With That.

Anonymous said...

I don't really care what you think, daveb.

Junk science and comments by its adherents do not get space here.

Anonymous said...

daveb, the alarmists are more than justified to be alarmed.

I don't know what it will take to remove the wool from your eyes so that you can become rational.

I find this phenomenon so interesting that I initially named this blog Climate Change Psychology.

The evidence is overwhelming and more is coming in every day, yet you cannot see it.

I find this psychological blindness most interesting.

But, like I said before, this blog is for real science, not junk science, so your comments are outta here.