After writing a global warming denialist piece for his Washington Post column back in February that was totally eviscerated for running roughshod over anything actually resembling the truth, it looks like George Will is at it again. Fortunately, Carl Zimmer is already on the case:
Today, George Will is back on the subject of global warming. The occassion for his column is the alleged uselessness of energy-efficient light bulbs. The column is basically a cut-and-paste job on a recent New York Times article on the bulbs-the same newspaper that Will claimed in an earlier column is “a trumpet that never sounds retreat in today’s war against warming.” Somehow, a paper Will knows is nothing but a climate propaganda machine can publish an article related to global warming that he relies on as absolute authority.
Zimmer then goes on to explain Will’s various fallacies. Check out his post for details. What struck me about Will’s article, though, is that it relied on the same New York Times article that I lambasted last weekend for being totally anecdotal, lacking any hard facts, alarmist, and generally irresponsible:
The article gives the reader no idea of what the actual failure rate of the light bulbs are and instead relies wholly on anecdotal evidence to make an alarmist point. Here’s a counter-example: over the last couple of years, I have replaced every conventional light bulb in my house that has burned out with a CFL. None of the CFLs I purchased were defective. And, I have yet to replace a single one. Maybe I should write an article for The New York Times about how amazing CFLs are since, anecdotally at least, they have an infinite lifetime and a 0% failure rate. This would be no more inaccurate than yesterday’s article.
Do I know what the failure rate of CFLs is? No, unfortunately I don’t, although I would like to. And, although my own anecdotal evidence runs counter to that presented in the article, without some valid numbers I can’t draw a conclusion firm enough to satisfy my own interest, and certainly not one upon which I would base an entire article in a major media outlet–especially if it could hamper efforts to fight global warming.
That would just be irresponsible.
On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at all that this is the sort of article Will is using for a source.