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AERA-L  March 2009

AERA-L March 2009

Subject:

George Will's Uninformed Denial of Global Warming

From:

Richard Hake <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

AERA Division L: Educational Policy and Politics Forum

Date:

Tue, 3 Mar 2009 14:19:18 -0800

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AERA-L: Politics and Policy in Education Forum

If you reply to this long (12 kB) post please don't hit the reply 
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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 
warming.

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 
RealClimate 
<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. . . "; "

RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-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 
<http://www.realclimate.org/wiki/index.php?title=George_Will>.

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. "
RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC-RC

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]>
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~hake/>
<http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~sdi/>
<http://HakesEdStuff.blogspot.com/>


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 2009b).

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 
<http://tinyurl.com/dxuzy4>.

RealClimate. 2004. "Will-full ignorance," 26 December, online at
  <http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/will-full-ignorance/>.

RealClimate. 2006. "Incurious George," 2 April, online at 
<http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/incurious-george/>.

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 
(2008).

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 
<http://tinyurl.com/boo8pw>.

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 
March 12:05:00-0800.

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 
12:50:00-0800.

AERA Division L: Politics and Policy in Education

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