Washington Post Further Debunks George Will on Climate Change

Are some writers at The Washington Post now making a point to make up for the bogus information on climate change recently published in a column by George Will? Yesterday they published more information which contradicts his claims:

The Arctic sea ice cover continues to shrink and become thinner, according to satellite measurements and other data released yesterday, providing further evidence that the region is warming more rapidly than scientists had expected.

The data on this winter’s ice buildup came on the day that international ministers gathered in Washington to address issues facing Earth’s polar regions, which have been disproportionately affected by global warming. At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council that the Obama administration will press for greater action on climate change and for passage of the Law of the Sea Treaty in order to help regulate expanded human activity in a warmer Arctic, including shipping, fishing and oil exploration.

Clinton said scientists are still struggling to understand the implications of the changes, “but the research made possible within the framework of the Antarctic Treaty has shown us that catastrophic consequences await if we don’t take action soon.”

After further discussion of the data the article even points out that this information contradicts an item on their op-ed page:

The new evidence — including satellite data showing that the average multiyear wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2005 and 2006 was nine feet thick, a significant decline from the 1980s — contradicts data cited in widely circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979.

Scientists have begun debating how soon the Arctic will lose its summer ice altogether, with some saying it could happen as early as 2015. White House science adviser John P. Holdren told the crowd at the State Department that the total disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic “may be far, far closer” than scientists thought just a few years ago.

Meier said the gradual loss of ice is already transforming the region. “There’s already impacts, in terms of the climate, in terms of the people,” he said.

The loss of sea ice in the Arctic will not directly raise global sea levels, researchers said, but will contribute to an overall ocean warming that could erode the Greenland ice sheet, which would affect sea levels. The disappearance of the polar ice cap could also affect global ocean circulation patterns, and its melting has already imperiled native species such as the polar bear.

Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, painted a stark picture of the climate change in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. “The ice is melting,” Stoere said. “We should all be worried.”

David Roberts of Gist wrote about the response to Will:

I can’t think of another instance when a news story at a newspaper explicitly called out an op-ed writer in the same paper for lying, by name. It’s pretty extraordinary. I can only imagine that something like this got passed up the editorial food chain, from science editor Nils Bruzelius to national news editor Kevin Merida, and perhaps beyond. (The Post will not talk on record about their editorial process; they “stand behind their reporting” and so forth.) [UPDATE: After I put this post up, science editor Nils Bruzelius gave me a call and was quite collegial and open about the story. It was actually him who had the idea to reference Will, since the, ahem, “data” Will had distributed got so much publicity and was on people’s minds. He said he and the reporters agreed, it was a routine news judgment, nothing about it struck him as unusual, and as far as he knows no one above him questioned or was even aware of it. I don’t know how much of that is feingned innocence—I’ve certainly never heard of a similar case—but it seems there was no big process inside WaPo behind this. Cheers to Bruzelius for the transparency.]

Hard to read it as anything but a rebuke from the news team to Post editor Fred Hiatt and his editorial page’s “multi-layer editing process,” which allowed Will to lie and mislead on climate change three times just in the last few months, even after being corrected, publicly, by multiple sources.

Along the same lines, see this new piece on the Post’s weather blog, by Andrew Freeman: “Will Misleads Readers on Climate Science – Again.”

“George Will’s recent columns demonstrate a very troubling pattern of misrepresentation of climate science. They raise some interesting questions about journalism, specifically concerning the editing process. Editors and fact checkers are there to ensure that publications like the Washington Post don’t print factually incorrect information.”

One common meme of global warming deniers is to claim that recent cooling trends in parts of the world contradict the evidence for climate change. In reality, data such as this shows that if anything the problem is worse than many were saying a few years back.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Christopher Skyi says:

    It appears Will mis-interpreted the data, or was selective, however Chris Mooney jumps the gun with this shot:

    “Today, in contrast, hundreds of scientists worldwide participate in assessments of the state of knowledge and have repeatedly ratified the conclusion that human activities are driving global warming — through the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific academies of various nations (including our own), and leading scientific organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.”

    Impressive summary conclusion by Mr. Mooney, but a recent NOAA concludes this:

    “It’s wrong to blame our warming climate on human pollution alone, says a major analysis by U. S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientists who say North America’s warming and drying trend also has important natural causes.”

    http://downloads.climatescience.gov/sap/sap1-3/sap1-3-final-all.pdf

    The lengthy re-analysis of climate data doesn’t dispute that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels cause a warmer climate. But it raises questions about the details: How much warming? How many causes? And why isn’t it the same every-where?

    Again, GW is a complex phenomena and one factor (CO2) is unlikely to explain it all.
    The paper also stresses that we don’t understand climate as well as we like to think, because scientists only have good data from about 1948 onward.
    Policy-makers need to know whether natural changes or pollution is causing local conditions such as the current drought from California across to Texas, the report notes.
    “All regions are not participating [in warming] at the same rate as the global temperature is changing,” Mr. Hoerling said. Some in the West are warming rapidly, and some not at all (the southeastern United States and Atlantic Canada).
    Oceans carry vast amounts of heat, releasing heat and moisture into air, which then travels inland. The re-analysis focused on this fact.
    Some of the changes in North America’s warming trend of the past half-century have been due to shifting ocean currents, the NOAA team found. It estimates the “natural” change is substantial and could be close to half of all warming in North America (though it is still less than the amount caused by greenhouse gases.)
    Chris Mooney thinks it’s an open and shut case, a “slam dunk,” if you will, that “human activities are driving global warming.”
    Not so fast Chris . . .

  2. 2
    Christopher Skyi says:

    correction:

    Chris Mooney thinks it’s an open and shut case, a “slam dunk,” if you will, that ONLY (as his implies) “human activities are driving global warming”.

    Not so fast Chris . . .

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    But that’s not at all what Chris Mooney wrote.  Just another typical straw man argument from a global warming denier while ignoring all the actual evidence.

  4. 4
    Christopher Skyi says:

    “Just another typical straw man argument from a global warming denier while ignoring all the actual evidence.”

    I’m a bit taken aback by your response.  Are you calling me a “denier?”  I’m not following . . . could you elaborate?

    I’ll see if I can make the argument more clear: the conclusion the NOAA team calls into question is that human activities are 100% driving global warming. If they’re correct, that’s a big deal.  Do you agree? Yes? No?

    Where’s the  denial here? I said in a previous comment that a good definition of a GW alarmist is one who knee-jerks rejects anything that contradicts the major thesis is that 1) it’s the end of the world 2) we don’t understand climate as well as we like to think (a direct conclusion from the NOAA research paper) 3) other factors, non-human, that we can’t control, could significantly be driving GW (the whole point of their study).

    NOAA simply concludes that human’s are a part of, but not the whole picture. There’s tons of critical unanswered questions that need be answered before public policy makers can really know what to do.  I’m not sure who or what or how something is being denied here, or what the heresy is.  Are you completely discounting this paper?

    Yes, you are correct — I suppose it’s a matter of opinion, and I can’t read Chris’s mind, but I think it’s safe to assume that he  certainty “implies” that human being are the ONLY real, serious/major factor.  It’s not surpring, and it’s not really his fault because the NOAA paper has just come out.

    And that the point. The story continues to unfold in surpringly and mind opening ways. That’s what science does.

    Do you consider it a “meme” of GW deniners that another set of factors, non-human, could also be significantly driving warming?  What about the sun?  There’s a large ongoing research effort in that direction right now.  Are they too in denial?

    What conclusions from this  NOAA team research report troubles you?  You response to what I thought would be an interesting post for you and your readers surprises me — what exactly has so upset you, other than my assumption about Mr. Mooney’s position (which, yes, I don’t know fully).

  5. 5
    Sammy says:

    I hate how the corporate controlled right-wing media has such a strong role in determining people’s opinions on climate change – stronger even than the science itself.  I just heard an episode of The Joan Kenley Show that ties into this –  called <a href=”http://www.joankenley.com/20090411.html”>The Media: What’s True, What’s Not</a>, here’s a clip from the introduction: “Our 24/7 media cycle is dominated by opinionated news pundits and an onslaught of celebrity or person-of-the-moment headlines. Do we create a false reality from false information? How do our reactions impact our lives – personally and collectively – from politics to war to the economy to and to our planet’s very survival?”

  6. 6
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Well Sammy, members of the Bush administration’s communications office made comments along just those lines to the effect that if they could create their own paradigm of reality in the media than the objective facts would not matter. Their reality would be ‘real.’ Quite a bit of study shows just how willing many in the media were to cooperate in the creation of this paradigm in return for access. The playing down of global warming was a significant portion of the reality paradigm the Bush administration was trying to create.

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