AERA-L: Politics and Policy in Education Forum
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ABSTRACT: The factual errors in George Will's OpEd denial of global
warming titled "Dark Green Doomsayers" have been discussed by e.g.,
James Hrynsyshyn, Pat Keefe, RealClimate, Nate Silver, and Carl
Zimmer. Even the Washington Post's ombudsman Andrew Alexander has
acknowledged the Post's failure to properly fact check Will's OpEd,
stating that the Post will "recommit to reporting on climate change
that is authoritative and deep. On the editorial pages, it can
present a mix of respected and informed viewpoint." So will the
Washington Post now finally discontinue Will's uninformed editorials
on climate change?
Pat Keefe (2009a), in his PhySoc post "Re: The plausibility of global
warming," pointed to his "Guest Comment: Setting the record straight
on climate change" [Keefe (2009b). There Pat summarized and countered
erroneous claims made by George Will (2009a) in his denial of global
Pat's take on Will's piece is consistent with that of the working
climate scientists <http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?cat=10> of
<http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/about/>. In a
piece titled "What George Will should have written," RealClimate
(2009) wrote [bracketed by lines "RC-RC-RC-RC. . . "; "
We've avoided piling on to the George Will kerfuffle [see Zimmer
(2009a,b,c,d,e)], partly because this was not a new story for us
(we'd commented on very similar distortions in previous columns in
RealClimate (2004, 2007)), but mostly because everyone else [e.g.,
Silver (2009), Hrynsyshyn (2009a)] seems to be doing a great job in
pointing out the problems in his recent columns.
We are actually quite gratified that a much wider group of people
than normal have been involved in calling out this latest nonsense,
taking the discussion well outside the sometimes-rarefied atmosphere
of the scientific blogosphere - see a summary at
Maybe RealClimate has succeeded in its original aim of increasing the
wider awareness of the scientific context? However, like many, we are
profoundly disappointed in the reaction of the Washington Post
editors and George Will himself (though the ombudsman's column today
. . . .[Alexander (2009)]. . . . is a step in the right direction).
It would have been pleasant to see an example of the conservative
punditocracy actually learning something from the real world instead
of resorting to ever-more unconvincing pseudo-legalistic
justifications and attacks on the messenger to avoid taking their
head out of the sand. Nonetheless, in a moment of naive optimism, WE
HAVE ALLOWED OURSELVES TO INDULGE IN A FANTASY FOR HOW A MORE SERIOUS
COLUMNIST MIGHT HAVE DEALT WITH THE ISSUE (my CAPS):
"In my last column, I reported on a statistic concerning sea ice
extent - that global sea ice extent is unchanged since 1979 - that
was trivially shown to be untrue, and for that I apologize. Rather
than throw the fact checkers in my office or at the Washington Post
under the bus, I take full responsibility for the mistake. However,
as with good scientific practice, this provides an example of how
journalism too can learn from its mistakes.. . . . . . . In order for
conservatives to have a voice at those tables, we need to be seen as
serious contributors. Every time we are mislead by amateur bloggers.
. . . .[ Asher (2009)]. . . . , we lose another chance to influence
policy. This may have been useful as a delaying tactic in the past,
but now that there is clear leadership in the White House, this
serves only to marginalize conservatives even further. Unlikely as it
may seem for me to quote President Obama approvingly, it may be time
for us to put aside childish things. "
The Washington Post's ombudsman Andrew Alexander (2009) wrote (my CAPS)::
"The editors who checked the Arctic Research Climate Center Web site
<http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/> believe it did not, on balance, run
counter to Will's assertion that global sea ice levels 'now equal
those of 1979.' I REVIEWED THE SAME WEB CITATION AND REACHED A
DIFFERENT CONCLUSION. It said that while global sea ice areas are
'near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979,' sea ice
area in the Northern Hemisphere is 'almost one million sq. km below'
the levels of late 1979. That's roughly the size of Texas and
California combined. In my mind, it should have triggered a call for
clarification to the center."
Alexander ended his ombudsman piece with this (my CAPS):
"There is a disturbing if-you-don't-agree-with-me-you're-an-idiot
tone to much of the global warming debate. Thoughtful discourse is
noticeably absent in the current dispute. But that's where The Post
could have helped, and can in the future. On its news pages, it can
recommit to reporting on climate change that is authoritative and
deep. ON THE EDITORIAL PAGES, IT CAN PRESENT A MIX OF RESPECTED AND
INFORMED VIEWPOINTS. And online, it can encourage dialogue that is
robust, even if it becomes bellicose."
Well said, ombudsman Alexander! So will the Washington Post now
finally discontinue Will's uninformed editorials on climate change?
Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.
<[log in to unmask]>
REFERENCES [Tiny URL's courtesy <http://tinyurl.com/create.php>.]
Alexander, A. "The Heat From a Global Warming Column," Washington
Post, 1 March; online at <http://tinyurl.com/aluskf>.
Asher, M. 2009. "Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979." Daily
Tech Blog, 1 January, online at
<http://www.dailytech.com/Article.aspx?newsid=13834>, with 336
comments as of as of 3 March 09:29:00-0800.
Hrynsyshyn, J. 2009a. "The importance of actually reading what you
cite," 15 February, online at <http://tinyurl.com/agn9b7>. See also
Hrynsyshyn, J. 2009b. "In search of George Will's climate-denial
sources," 2 March, online at <http://tinyurl.com/c33bdo>.
Keefe, P. 2009a. Re: The plausibility of global warming, Physoc post
of 1 Mar 2009 09:18:11-0800; online at <http://tinyurl.com/cyvgzk>.
Keefe, P. 2009b. "Guest column: Setting the record straight on
climate change," Daily Astorian, 25 February; online at
RealClimate. 2004. "Will-full ignorance," 26 December, online at
RealClimate. 2006. "Incurious George," 2 April, online at
RealClimate. 2009. "What George Will should have written," 28
February, online at <http://tinyurl.com/c4kkxa> with 143 responses as
of 3 March 09:02:00-0800.
Romano, A. 2008. "Stat Man: Silver in Chicago," Newsweek, 16 June,
online at <http://www.newsweek.com/id/140469>.
Silver, N. 2009. "George F. Will Takes on Science, Loses
Credibility," Five thirty eight, Politics Done Right 16 February;
online at <http://tinyurl.com/dyvwwv>, with 140 comments as of 3
March 09:39:00-0800. Who's this data geek Nate Silver? See Romano
Will, G. 2009a. "Dark Green Doomsayers," 15 February; online at
<http://tinyurl.com/co682o>. For more of the same see Will (2009b).
Will, G. 2009b. "Climate Science in A Tornado" 27 February; online at
Zimmer, C. 2009a, "George Will: Liberated From the Burden of
Fact-Checking," Discover Magazine Blogs/The Loom, 16 February,
online at <http://tinyurl.com/dnc5h6>, with 50 responses as of 3
Zimmer, C. 2009b, "The Sea Ice Affair, Continued" Discover Magazine
Blogs /The Loom, 19 February, online at <http://tinyurl.com/cla3wu>,
with 112 responses as of 3 March 12:21:00-0800.
Zimmer, C. 2009c. "You Call That Fact-Checking?" Discover Magazine
Blogs /The Loom, 21 February, online at <http://tinyurl.com/aek3b2>
with 13 responses as of 3 March 12:05:00-0800.
Zimmer, C. 2009d. "A Wrinkle in Ice (or Not)," Discover Magazine
Blogs /The Loom, 22 February, online at <http://tinyurl.com/awh5yy>
with 60 responses as of 3 March 09:25:00-0800.
Zimmer, C. 2009e. "Unchecked Ice: A Saga in Five Chapters," Discover
Magazine Blogs /The Loom, 27 February, online at
<http://tinyurl.com/cgmmwq> with 58 responses as of 3 March
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