For reasons that are obscure, George Will has a reputation for being the most intellectual of conservatives. Not for him the cheap theatrics of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter. He’s the thinking man’s conservative, or so goes the CW.
On at least two recent issues, however, Will has shown himself to be just another delusional right-wing hack. In this essay he touts the standard revisionist nonsense about what a big failure the New Deal was. He bases his argument in part on the work of Amity Shlaes, whose work comes in for a well-deserved drubbing from Jonathan Chait in this excellent essay.
And on global waming Will showed himself willing to parrot some of the hoariest cliches of the anti-warming crowd in this column. Now, Will is surely aware that he does not actually know anything about climatology. Yet he is perfectly willing to ride into print on the subject, happily throwing down with the ignorance-peddlers.
Fortunatly, the Washington Post has now published this excellent reply from ScienceBlogs own Chris Mooney. Here’s a sample:
In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.
Consider a few of Will’s claims from his Feb. 15 column, “Dark Green Doomsayers”: In a long paragraph quoting press sources from the 1970s, Will suggested that widespread scientific agreement existed at the time that the world faced potentially catastrophic cooling. Today, most climate scientists and climate journalists consider this a timeworn myth. Just last year, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a peer-reviewed study examining media coverage at the time and the contemporary scientific literature. While some media accounts did hype a cooling scare, others suggested more reasons to be concerned about warming. As for the published science? Reviewing studies between 1965 and 1979, the authors found that “emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then.”
The whole column is so good it is hard to pick out just one short excerpt. Go read the whole thing!
Joining in the fun is Michael Jarraoud, President of the World Meteorological Organization. In a letter to the editor he writes:
It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record — as was done in a recent Post column [“Dark Green Doomsayers,” George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] — and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.
The difference between climate variability and climate change is critical, not just for scientists or those engaging in policy debates about warming. Just as one cold snap does not change the global warming trend, one heat wave does not reinforce it. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Evidence of global warming has been documented in widespread decreases in snow cover, sea ice and glaciers. The 11 warmest years on record occurred in the past 13 years.
Again, go read the whole thing. Good stuff.