Lashing out at critics, George Will spreads more falsehoods in new global warming column

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

In a column obtained by Media Matters in advance of its publication, George Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he "accurately reported" on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center document on sea ice data. In fact, while Will suggested the ACRC data undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing global warming, the document actually states that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models.

In his forthcoming column -- obtained by Media Matters for America in advance of its publication -- George Will doubles down on his previous global warming distortions, once again misusing sea ice data to falsely suggest that the data undermine the overwhelming evidence that humans are causing global warming. In his new column, Will falsely claims that in his February 15 column, he "accurately reported" on the contents of an Arctic Climate Research Center (ACRC) document when, in fact, the document he cited rebutted the very argument he was making. The ACRC document that Will relied on actually stated that the sea ice data are consistent with the outcomes projected by climate-change models. In the words of TPM Muckraker's Zachary Roth, Will's new column "amounts to a stubborn defense of the amazing global warming denialist column he published earlier this month, that was ripped apart by just about everyone and their mother."

In his February 15 column, Will suggested that the ACRC data undermine the case for the existence of "man-made global warming":

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.

Responding to widespread criticism of his distortions, Will's new column cites and provides a hyperlink to a January 12 ACRC document that he claims to have "accurately reported" on in his prior column. As he did in his February 15 column, Will once again falsely suggests the ACRC data undermine the "global warming consensus ... in the media-environmental complex."

From Will's new column:

The [February 15] column contained many factual assertions but only one has been challenged. The challenge is mistaken.

Citing data from the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, as interpreted on Jan. 1 by Daily Tech, a technology and science news blog, the column said that since September "the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began." According to the center, global sea ice levels at the end of 2008 were "near or slightly lower than" those of 1979. The center generally does not make its statistics available, but in a Jan. 12 statement the center confirmed that global sea ice levels were within a difference of less than 3 percent of the 1980 level.

So the column accurately reported what the center had reported. But on Feb. 15, the Sunday the column appeared, the center, then receiving many e-mail inquiries, issued a statement saying "we do not know where George Will is getting his information." The answer was: From the center, via Daily Tech. Consult the center's Web site where, on Jan. 12, the center posted the confirmation of the data (http://arctic.atmos.
uiuc.edu/cryosphere/global.sea.ice.area.pdf
) that this column subsequently reported accurately.

The scientists at the Illinois center offer their statistics with responsible caveats germane to margins of error in measurements and precise seasonal comparisons of year-on-year estimates of global sea ice. Nowadays, however, scientists often find themselves enveloped in furies triggered by any expression of skepticism about the global warming consensus (which will prevail until a diametrically different consensus comes along; see the 1970s) in the media-environmental complex.

But Will did not "accurately" report on the January ACRC document in either of his columns. As Media Matters and others noted when Post ombudsman Andy Alexander reportedly cited the same document in response to complaints about Will's February 15 column, that document actually says that the ACRC data are consistent with global warming predictions and that it is important to distinguish between sea ice in the Northern and Southern hemispheres when discussing global warming. The full document states that "[a]lmost all" climate models project that human-caused global warming will result in decreased sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere, but that some recent studies have suggested that warming might initially cause sea ice to increase in the Southern Hemisphere, and that these projections are consistent with observed sea ice data.

In addition, Will's claim that his sea ice distortion was the "only" assertion from his February 15 column that has been "challenged" is itself false. For example, Media Matters and others "challenged" Will's assertion that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization [WMO], there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." Will did not cite a source or provide a quote to back up that claim. In fact, as recently as January 7, Agence France-Presse quoted WMO secretary general Michel Jarraud as saying, "The major trend is unmistakably one of warming." Similarly, the WMO issued an April 4, 2008, statement saying that "[t]he long-term upward trend of global warming, mostly driven by greenhouse gas emissions, is continuing" and quoting the following statement from Jarraud: "There has always been and there will always be cooler and warmer years, but what is important for climate change in the present context is that the trend is still upwards; the global climate on an average is warming despite the temporary cooling brought about by La Niña."

Rather than provide evidence to support his claim about the WMO, Will simply asserts in his new column that "the last decade ... passed without warming":

[New York Times] Reporter Andrew Revkin's story was headlined: "In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall." Regarding exaggeration, the Times knows whereof it speaks, especially when it revisits, if it ever does, its reporting on the global cooling scare of the 1970s, and its reporting and editorializing -- sometimes a distinction without a difference -- concerning today's climate controversies.

Which returns us to Revkin. In a story ostensibly about journalism, he simply asserts -- how does he know this? -- that the last decade, which passed without warming, was just "a pause in warming."

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Person
George F. Will
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