Friday, February 27, 2009

He's Baaaaack

[Update: here's the response that Will should have written, from]

He's at it again.

In today's Washington Post, an unrepentant George Will writes a "defense" of his February 15 column, in which he tried to pass off a grab bag of myths and misconceptions as evidence for his head-in-the-sand contrarian stance on global warming.

In the February 15 column, Will made numerous easily-refuted errors of fact. These were not points of view that depend on whether or not you believe in global warming; they were, plain and simple, wrong. These "facts" were shown to be wrong by just about everyone you can think of including, modestly, me. (If you don't believe me, see a partial list here.)

And here he is today:
The column contained many factual assertions but only one has been challenged.
Whoa there, podner! Only one of your "factual assertions" was challenged? This statement in itself is blatantly false; the column contained, when you analyze it, three basic factual assertions, and all three of them were challenged. The column was picked apart in detail and at length:
  • Challenged: That there was a consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was in for a new ice age.

  • Challenged: That the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center said that sea ice levels hadn't changed since 1979 (the Center found this so wrong that it published its own denial of this particular claim).

  • Challenged: That the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said that there had been no global warming for the last decade.
In those three points, the entire original column is challenged, since it contained no other substantive factual claims.

So here he is today, defending the "one" factual assertion that he seems to think was disputed:
Citing data from the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, as interpreted on Jan. 1 by Daily Tech, a technology and science news blog, the column said that since September "the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down, since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began." According to the center, global sea ice levels at the end of 2008 were "near or slightly lower than" those of 1979. The center generally does not make its statistics available, but in a Jan. 12 statement the center confirmed that global sea ice levels were within a difference of less than 3 percent of the 1980 level.

So the column accurately reported what the center had reported. But on Feb. 15, the Sunday the column appeared, the center, then receiving many e-mail inquiries, issued a statement saying "we do not know where George Will is getting his information." The answer was: From the center, via Daily Tech. Consult the center's Web site where, on Jan. 12, the center posted the confirmation of the data that this column subsequently reported accurately.
Now, if you follow the link to the Daily Tech post, you will indeed see what he says you will see (note that Will uses an "interpretation" of the ACRC data from an electronics magazine's blog rather than the ACRC's own discussion—I wonder why?). But if you follow the link to the Center, where the data came from originally, you will not find the "accurate" reporting that Will claims. Where Will uses this data to show that there is no global warming, what the Center says—in the very post that Will links to—is this:
Observed global sea ice area, defined here as a sum of N. Hemisphere and S. Hemisphere sea ice areas, is near or slightly lower than those observed in late 1979, as noted in the Daily Tech article. However, observed N. Hemisphere sea ice area is almost one million sq. km below values seen in late 1979 and S. Hemisphere sea ice area is about 0.5 million sq. km above that seen in late 1979, partly offsetting the N. Hemisphere reduction. [My trusty calculator says that this is a net loss of a half million sq. km, an area considerably larger than California. I wouldn't call this "near or slightly lower", but that's just me. -ed]

Global climate model projections suggest that the most significant response of the cryosphere to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations will be seen in Northern Hemisphere summer sea ice extent. Recent decreases of N. Hemisphere summer sea ice extent ... are consistent with such projections.


[T]he ice that is presently in the Arctic Ocean is younger and thinner than the ice of the 1980s and 1990s. So Arctic ice volume is now below its long-term average by an even greater amount than is ice extent or area.
So this post says that the sea ice data are consistent with global warming theories. In other words, Will actually tries to claim he's right by referencing a post from the original source of his data that says he's wrong. Well played, sir, well played!

Let's recap the essence of the dialog:
Will: "The Arctic Climate Research Center says there's no global warming."

ACRC: "No, we didn't. Our data are consistent with global warming predictions, and here's how."

Will (pauses): "The Arctic Climate Research Center says there's no global warming."
This is accurate reporting? Seriously? Would a more appropriate phrase be "grossly misleading"?

In my previous post, I posited that, based on the February 15 column, Will had to be either incompetent or a liar; I could come up with no additional explanations. I now see that there is a third possibility: is the man insane?

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