Carl Zimmer tells the whole story of how the Washington Post declared that George Will was entitled to his own facts. The latest development since my previous post is that instead of a correction, Will has produced a new column with more misrepresentations of the science. Joe Romm has already critiqued it, but I want to pick out one particular egregious bit of dishonesty.
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.
But the full statement from the
ACRC Polar Research Group was this:
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.
They unequivocally contradicted Will’s claim that “According to the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal those of 1979.”
So Will trimmed that part from their statement and made it look like all they they had written was that they didn’t know where Will got his information from. And yes, they did state that at the end of 1979, global sea ice levels were close to what they were at the end of 2008, but that is not what Will wrote in his column — he wrote “now” and not “two months ago”. His statement is unequivocally false and the Washington Post just does not care.