Thursday, February 19, 2009

Science update: Who's giving George Will advice on global warming?


We’ve seen some interesting nonsense lately from the crowd that would like to block limits on global warming emissions. You may recall that earlier this month, Rep. “Smokey” Joe Barton of Texas told his congressional colleagues that “another ice age” was looming:

http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/02/word-from-smokey-joe-barton-another-ice.html

A similar bogus claim has been put into circulation by alleged “pundit” George Will. In a commentary published Sunday in The Washington Post,
and http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/02/hiatt_will_on_global_warming_misinformation_talk_t.php )

One of his most egregious comments:

“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.”

Only a few hours after Will’s column was published the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center shot back seeking to correct the record:


“We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data
shows 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.”

http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/



As you might imagine, this has many activists in an uproar. Some are pushing Will and the Post to run a correction. (The Post’s editorial writer, Jonathan Capehart, has done an exemplary job on this and many other issues. Commentary by “pundits” such as Will apparently don’t go through much of a screening process – even though they end up becoming part of the DC debate. Wait until “Smokey Joe” sends out his next letter…)


Should you want to join their ranks, here is where you can email George Will (georgewill@washpost.com), Fred Hiatt (the Washington Post editorial page editor, fredhiatt@washpost.com), and Andy Alexander (the Washington Post Ombudsman, ombudsman@washpost.com).


But that doesn’t answer the question: where does a guy like Will get his information? (And does he ever get speaking fees from groups with an interest in such matters? His agent notes that his “fees vary depending on event location.” Unlike politicians, I don’t think “pundits” have to disclose who pays them…)

Maybe he will show up at the upcoming kook-fest, “Global Warming, Was It Ever Really A Crisis?” sponsored by the flat-earth society chapter known as the Heartland Institute. http://www.heartland.org/events/NewYork09/sponsorships.html

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