George Will continues to misuse WMO climate data despite criticism from WMO sec. general

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

George Will misused climate data published by the World Meteorological Organization to claim that global warming may not be occurring, even though the WMO secretary general recently criticized him for similarly "misinterpret[ing]" the organization's data in an earlier column.

In yet another instance of his misusing facts about the climate to call into question global warming, The Washington Post's George Will wrote in his April 2 column that "[r]educing carbon emissions supposedly will reverse warming, which is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization [WMO], there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998." Will presented the WMO data as evidence that global warming may not be occurring despite the fact that WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud recently criticized him for similarly writing in a February 15 column that according to the organization, "there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade." Jarraud called Will's February 15 assertion "a misrepresentation of the data and of scientific knowledge." The WMO and its representatives have repeatedly stated that the Earth remains in a warming trend.

Jarraud responded to Will's February 15 column in a March 21 letter to the editor in the Post, in which Jarraud wrote that "[i]t is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record ... and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects." From Jarraud's letter to the editor:

Data collected over the past 150 years by the 188 members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) through observing networks of tens of thousands of stations on land, at sea, in the air and from constellations of weather and climate satellites lead to an unequivocal conclusion: The observed increase in global surface temperatures is a manifestation of global warming. Warming has accelerated particularly in the past 20 years.

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record -- as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] -- and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

The difference between climate variability and climate change is critical, not just for scientists or those engaging in policy debates about warming. Just as one cold snap does not change the global warming trend, one heat wave does not reinforce it. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit.

Evidence of global warming has been documented in widespread decreases in snow cover, sea ice and glaciers. The 11 warmest years on record occurred in the past 13 years.

While variations occur throughout the temperature record, shorter-term variations do not contradict the overwhelming long-term increase in global surface temperatures since 1850, when reliable meteorological recordkeeping began. Year to year, we may observe in some parts of the world colder or warmer episodes than in other parts, leading to record low or high temperatures. This regional climate variability does not disprove long-term climate change. While 2008 was slightly cooler than 2007, partially due to a La Niña event, it was nonetheless the 10th-warmest year on record.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-sponsored by the WMO, has confirmed through observations and increasingly sophisticated and realistic models that regional variability has increased and will continue to increase as global surface temperatures rise. This is likely to result in more weather and climate extremes, such as droughts, floods, storms and heat waves. Responding to these challenges will require the collaborative efforts of all countries and of scientists in multiple disciplines to develop adaptation strategies to reduce the risk of disaster. This topic is scheduled for discussion at the World Climate Conference-3 beginning Aug. 31 in Geneva.

As Media Matters for America has noted, despite the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is real and is negatively affecting our planet, those who disagree continue to receive a significant amount of attention from the media. Throughout the past year, the media have repeatedly provided a platform for critics who argue that the globe is in a period of "cooling," while often failing to challenge their suggestion that this shows that global warming is a myth. These critics often misleadingly cite the fact that the average global temperature in 2007 and 2008 was cooler than it was in 1998.

But climate experts such as Jarraud reject the idea that the relatively cooler global average temperatures in several of the last 10 years are any indication that global warming is slowing or does not exist. Scientists have identified a long-term warming trend spanning several decades and attribute recent relatively cooler temperatures to normal climate variability -- including short-term variations in climate due to events like El Niño and La Niña. According to the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre website, the WMO "requires the calculation of averages for consecutive periods of 30 years," chosen "as a period long enough to eliminate year-to-year variations."

From Will's April 2 Washington Post column:

"Fervently" is how America will henceforth engage in talks on global warming. So said the president's climate change negotiator Sunday in Germany, at a U.N. conference on reducing carbon emissions. This vow was fervently applauded by conferees welcoming the end of what the AP news story called the Bush administration's "eight years of obdurate participation" in climate talks.

Reducing carbon emissions supposedly will reverse warming, which is allegedly occurring even though, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998. Regarding the reversing, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has many ambitions, as outlined in a working group's 16-page "information note" to "facilitate discussions."

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
George F. Will
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